anxiety, change, devotional, grief, lessons learned

Plan B

My life lately looks like a season of Well, That Didn’t Go as Planned. But here’s the thing. I. Love. To. Plan. Everything.

Perhaps you have this problem, too?

The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.

Proverbs 16:9 ESV

I’ve learned to write in my pretty planner with erasable pens (they’re the bomb), but my stickers don’t always cooperate with being moved. Kind of like their owner.

Right now, my Plan A is for the purchase of my townhome to happen on a particular date. I’ve got a sticker for the movers on that date in my planner and friends with strong backs and muscles lined up, too. But yesterday, I received an email from my lender saying that the date would most likely be pushed back eight days. 

For four years, my baby girl has dreamed about and planned on going to Italy to study abroad this semester. (You already see where this is going, don’t you?) She had been happily ensconced in Rome for two months, racking up the steps on her FitBit when a teeny, tiny little virus spread like wildfire around the globe, aided by the media. 

Her dreams of spending five months traveling and learning around Europe fell like rose petals from a rejected lover as she was rushed back with the rest of her classmates to the “safe” zone of New York City. Platitudes of health and safety aren’t comforting. Now she’s quarantined (yet healthy) in her dorm and wondering how and when her classes will continue in a different country with different professors.

I can relate. I wish I had more comforting words. But I don’t. I wish I could hug her in person. But I can’t. All I can say is, “I’m so sorry, baby, but it will be ok. Eventually.” 

God comforts us when we’re on Plan B (or C or G or M or …) with this:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28 ESV

Everything—even the bumped moving date and the disrupted study abroad plans—is for our good, even if we can’t immediately see it. We just have to trust that God knows what He’s doing.  

I love the insight and inspiration of this article by Sandra Peoples: “Your Plan B Is Still God’s Plan A.” Peoples’ life didn’t go as planned, and she looks to a number of biblical examples of others whose lives didn’t go as they planned either. 

Above all, God is sovereign. Sometimes I just have to repeat that over and over to myself. Sometimes I need to remind myself of other times when my unwanted Plan B really did turn out to be so much better than my Plan A because it was God’s Plan A all along. When we surrender to God’s Plan A (even if it’s our Plan C or D), that’s when God gets the glory. And that’s what life is really all about: glorifying God. 

What’s your Plan B? Suspended travel plans? A child’s rejection? An unwanted diagnosis? A divorce? An unexpected death? A job loss? Remember that it’s still God’s Plan A for your life, and it will be better than your Plan A (eventually).

college, high school, homeschool

The Applications: College Search, Part 8

It’s time. Time for what? Time to start filling out those college applications! After you’ve narrowed down your choices to the top 3-5 colleges, start filling in those applications by mid-summer to early fall of the senior year.

It can be a long, drawn-out process; many colleges have multi-page, complicated applications, with many required components, including essays. Many also require recommendations from teachers, pastors, and/or bosses. Don’t forget to budget for the applications; most colleges charge $25-$50 (and more) for each application.

My daughter’s number one college choice had a 2-page, paper application in the folder she received when we arrived for the visit. She actually filled it out on the spot, but I am positive that the majority of colleges are not that easy. She will be filling out other applications later this summer and into next fall.

This is the conclusion of the College Search series, mostly because this is all the further we’ve gotten. We’re looking forward to the next stages in the process.

Q4U: Do you have any college application tips?

college, high school, homeschool

Consider a Community College First: College Search Part 7

So, what if you’re not quite ready to send your little darling off to the big, bad university that’s hours away from home? A good stepping stone in the college process is a local community college.

The community college isn’t for everyone; I’m sure we all know those high achievers that get full-ride scholarships to Ivy League schools. I’m talking about the rest of our kids here.

Community colleges are waaaaaay more affordable than 4-year universities. They’re close to home, so students can live at home and save expenses that way. And, they’re a good middle ground; kids can still get a little guidance from mom and dad, but yet be away from home for actual classes.

We actually chose to go the community college route with my older daughter. She was just too young (16) to be sent away, we felt. And, the checkbook manager (aka her dad) wanted to save money. If she goes to a 4-year school here in NC, which is very likely, she will be able to transfer in all of her CC classes. I think she will get her Associates, which will then transfer as a block for all of her general education requirements at the university. That’s the current plan, anyway. She attends college classes with other college kids and interacts with them; that’s given her a measure of freedom. But, she still lives at home with us and freely discusses her classes and other college affairs–the good, the bad, and the ugly. We’re still here in person to give her guidance along the way.

Q4U: Do you think community college might be in your teen’s future?

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Process the Visits: College Search Part 6

Now that you’ve visited a bunch of colleges, it’s time to process all of the information. I know even visiting one college can put you on overload–at least it did for me!

We used a blackboard and made 3 columns: college name, date of visit, current rank. I intentionally my daughter to be able to change her mind about which college was in first place–or last place. Here’s another confession: this list is out of date. Oops.

Anyway, using the college visit score cards created at each visit (see the previous post), kids can rank the colleges currently on their lists. It will probably fluctuate, depending on their moods and what they’ve just seen. That’s not only okay, it’s also expected. Don’t rush the process; kids need time to process all of these possibilities.

One other side note that I should have put earlier in this series is that the junior year of high school is the perfect time to start going college shopping. Don’t wait until your senior year!

Q4U: What are your best college-shopping tricks?

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Prepare for the Visits: College Search Part 5

OK, you’ve (hopefully) narrowed the list of to-be-visited colleges down to a manageable number. We visited one about a year and a half ago (that was the top pick for a while), one last spring (also a past top pick), one last fall, and four last week. Just off hand, don’t plan on visiting four colleges in one week unless you have a lot of energy! We will probably be visiting one more in a few weeks.

If you plan to do one visit at a time, start with the most likely candidate (if there is one). If you’re going to do several on a road trip, plot them on Google maps so you can visit them in a logical order. No sense doing more driving than you have to.

Again, take a look at the college websites to make sure that the date(s) you want to visit are available. Most websites have online forms for setting up visits. Some will only have tours available on certain days at certain times. When in doubt, call the college and ask to speak with the visit or tour coordinator. If possible, download a map of the campus so you can more easily find the admissions office when you arrive.

Wear comfortable clothing, but don’t wear anything too scruffy. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes; you will be doing a lot of walking all over the campuses.

Prepare a written list of questions to ask such as the following:

  • Do you have an honors program? What are its requirements?
  • What kind of scholarships do you offer?
  • Do you have work-study jobs available?
  • Is chapel mandatory?
  • How many Bible classes are mandatory?
  • What are the visitation rules in the dorms?
  • How is the on-campus security?
  • Do you have a transfer program?
  • Do you have a study-abroad program?
  • Do you have any mini-mesters (J-term or May-term)?
  • What are your entrance requirements?
  • What is an average class size?
  • What is your retention rate?
  • What accreditations do you have?

Copy this list, put a college name at the top of each one, then fill in the answers while you’re actually at the college.

Also, have your student take notes on her impressions of the college. While we may not be too worried about the dorms, our kids most certainly will be! Have your teen write down what she thinks of the dorms, the campus in general, the distance from home (write it down), the class size, and other thoughts. Make sure you do this as soon as you get in the car to go home or go to the next college. After the first college visit, they all start to blend together and you’re likely to forget which college had the dorms with the private bathrooms and which college had the best cafeteria food.

As an aside, don’t skip visiting colleges just because of distance and/or time constraints. The ambiance can feel completely different when you’re actually there than when you just look at a website. That happened to us just last week. We visited a college that looked fabulous on the Internet, but the girls absolutely hated the atmosphere when we got there. It’s off the list now.

Q4U: What else would you want to know when you visit a college?

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Consult Experts: College Search Part 4

As homeschoolers, we don’t have the luxury of a full-time guidance counselor in an office down the hall. We’re already so busy juggling schooling, housekeeping, other kids, and maybe a job (and grad school) that we don’t have the time or the resources to keep up with all the latest college entrance requirements, financial aid, and scholarships.

Scholarship consultants are here to fill in that gap for us. They know what colleges offer which majors; they’ve got statistics at their fingertips; they’ve got all the latest information on scholarships, and they even know what the FAFSA is.

If you live in the Carolinas and want to meet someone face-to-face, I highly recommend Elizabeth Hartley of Scholarship Gold. Her office is in Lake Wiley, SC. We (my hubby, my daughter, and I) met with her for 2 1/2 hours last fall and it was money well spent. Elizabeth listened to what my daughter was looking for in a college (majors, size, location, Christian, etc), and then listed a bunch of colleges to look at. She also gave us a log of helpful information about scholarships, as well as scams to avoid. In addition, she’s only a phone call away for a follow-up chat. We also came away with a binder filled with helpful forms and websites for the entire college process. She also works with traditional school students.

If you’re not in the Carolinas and/or don’t want to take the drive, then I highly recommend Lee Binz, The Home Scholar. Lee’s two homeschooled sons got scholarships to top-ranking colleges, so she practiced what she preaches. She has different books, DVDs, webinars, phone consultations, and more to help you through the college scholarship search. She also has a bunch of resources to help you prepare your student’s transcript. In addition, she has free resources, so there’s no excuse not to check out her site!

Q4U: Have you used a consultant? If so, how was your experience?

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Online Previewing: College Search Part 3

When I was in high school, a musical group from a Bible college came to sing at our church. The guys were really cute, and I liked their music, so I decided that I wanted to attend that college. Oh, the college also had the major that I was interested in :-). I sort of half-heartedly took a look a a few other colleges, but my fate was sealed when my number one choice offered me early admission. I think I had applied and been accepted before my parents realized fully what that meant. So, I went to college and graduated four years later with no debt (thanks, Mum & Dad!).

All that to say that I have no idea what I’m doing with daughter number one right now. I do remember that my brother had quite a different experience in choosing a college. I vaguely remember that he had stacks and stacks of catalogs in his bedroom, and we visited quite a few colleges before he settled on one.

Instead of stacks and stacks of catalogs, we now have the Internet. Thank goodness! Today’s college search tip is to utilize the wealth of resources available at the tips of our fingers. Start by checking out local colleges and other colleges you’ve heard about online. Look at the websites with your college-bound teen to get a feel for what’s offered and what the campus might be like.

When your child takes the SAT or the ACT, if s/he creates an online account, which I highly recommend, s/he will start receiving postcards and information from colleges that match her/his profile. Check out those college websites, too.

Look for college fairs in your area. If you belong to a homeschool e-loop, chances are that someone will post information about a local college fair. Attend, be open, talk to the admissions counselors. Oh, and take your student.

Here are some general college prep websites to check out:
College Board
ACT Student site
Peterson’s College Search
U.S. College Search

Q4U: What are your best online college search tips?

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When I Grow Up: College Search Part 2

When I grow up, I want to be a storm chaser, a meteorologist, a horse trainer, a missionary, a writer, and a teacher. Yes, all at once. This is what I heard from my older daughter. Now she’s narrowed it down to teaching English in high school with a (very large) side of creative writing. Of course, that’s subject to change.

What do you do when your teen either has no idea of what she wants to do (my younger daughter) or has too many things she’s interested in to decide (my older daughter)?

First, let your teen pursue some of her interests, even if you think she might not want to stick with it. I knew that meteorology had way too much math for my older daughter, but I signed her up to take a 1/2 credit, online class when she was in 9th grade. Sure enough, she was over the whole meteorology thing before she even finished it. Let your teen shadow someone her field of interest. Get some extra workbooks at a curriculum fair or education store. Check out the plethora of online offerings. Have her volunteer in a variety of settings.

Second, have your teen fill out personality and interest surveys. We used The Complete Career, College, and High School Guide for Homeschoolers, by Jill Dixon. We found it to be very helpful in pointing out different types of careers that suited my daughter’s interests. You can also check online for many other kinds of inventories and tests. For younger children, be sure to expose them to a wide variety of careers and possibilities.

Another resource we found helpful was Homeschool, High School, and Beyond: A Guide for Teens and Their Parents, by Beverly Adams-Gordon. It’s a time management, career exploration, organization and study skills course. It’s worth 1/4 credit; I had my daughter do it at the beginning of 9th grade as we were plotting out her four years of college. She didn’t end up following it exactly, but at least it was a starting point.

You may also find Senior High: A Home Designed Form+U+La, by Barbara Shelton, to be helpful. I looked at it and incorporated a few ideas, but we did not use all of it.

One last resource is Homeschoolers’ College Admissions Handbook, by Cafi Cohen. I must confess that I have not read this book (yet), but it is sitting in my to-be-read pile. It looks helpful :-).

Third, don’t panic if your teen still doesn’t know what she wants to do, or if she changes her mind as often as she changes her hair style. That’s perfectly normal. In fact, I read a statistic recently that said 78% of students change their majors during their college experience. (Don’t shoot me for not remembering where I saw that number!)

Q4U: Do you have any other tips for helping your teen choose a career?

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Learning Styles: Resources (Part 6)

Our discussion the past few weeks barely scratches the surface of learning styles, but they give you a starting point. I don’t pretend to be an expert on learning styles, so instead I’ll recommend some resources below. In addition, merely Googling “learning styles” nets a plethora of definitions, quizzes, and websites. 

The Way They Learn, Cynthia Ulrich Tobias
Every Child Can Succeed, Cynthia Ulrich Tobias
Carol Barnier, author and speaker, http://www.carolbarnier.com/
Personalized homeschool curricula advice online by Cathy Duffy, http://homeedexpert.com/nav.aspx
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Learning Styles: Orderliness (Part 5)

So, what does orderliness have to do with learning styles? Quite a bit, actually! For instance, I personally can’t focus on learning anything if my environment is a mess. What about you? What about your kids?

We all know about the messies and the neatniks, but let’s put these into an academic context. On the one hand, we have the sequential/concrete learners (mostly the neatniks). On the other hand, we have the global/random learners (usually the messies). Sequential learners need to learn things one at a time in an orderly fashion. They’re building their foundations one brick at a time. The concrete part means that they need to see, hear, feel, or touch it. Abstract concepts are usually difficult for the concrete learner to grasp.
            Global learners prefer to see/know the whole picture all at once. While they may still get from point A to point B, they usually don’t take the most conventional route. Their minds jump randomly from one thought to another. Abstract concepts are much more easily grasped for this type of learner.