Awards and Honors: Homeschoolers at Their Best
Happy New Year! We pray that the Lord brings you refreshment to begin 2011. If when flipping your calendars you find a month already filled with activities, events, deadlines, doctor appointments, and more, we understand. We flipped our calendar page too.
As we present possibilities for your teens' involvement, we encourage you to remember that no one is expected to try out all of the suggestions. In fact, you may want to file this newsletter away for another day (or another year!) and concentrate instead on the full plate in front of you. On the other hand, if your energy allows and your teens are gung ho, then read on.
There are many potential avenues to involve your children in competitions and organizations that provide opportunities to recognize, reward, and promote their achievements. Each of your teens has been gifted in a unique way. Not all of them will excel in the same way, so seek out areas where your teens' traits and qualities can shine.
Calling All Homeschoolers
Did we catch your attention? We hope so; because as homeschoolers, you have unlimited flexibility to dream up occasions to showcase your teens' strengths.
Let's say that your teen is gifted with a merciful heart. Put that trait to the Lord's use by encouraging her to set up a tutoring service for needy youngsters whose parents can't afford private tutors. These young people may be found in your church, your neighborhood, or at the local homeless shelter. Although your teen's motivation should not be reward, nonetheless, her efforts will attract recognition from others and may one day result in a letter of recommendation, a note from a thankful child, or a skill that will serve her well after high school graduation.
Your son's passion for sports could lead to his coaching a community, church, or homeschool team while exhibiting a godly role model to the youth. Perhaps your son could further use his leadership skills to coordinate the team to collect food for the food pantry in your town, or to donate gently worn clothing to disadvantaged youths. Your son will gain valuable experience in managing people, converting idle time into productive time, and helping to mentor children into responsible young adults.
Don't feel as if you must send your teens to public or private schools to participate in school clubs to gain activities for post high school applications. In a homeschool environment, teens can achieve leadership positions by forming a club, electing officers, assigning tasks, motivating others to join, and coordinating events that the group finds worthwhile. Homeschool parents can act as advisors for the club, encouraging the teens to shoulder the majority of the responsibilities. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how conscientious and reliable your teens can be when provided the chance to be in charge.
If you would rather not start from scratch, search out opportunities such as Generation Joshua's student action teams and clubs. GenJ will help your teen form a club in his area to pray for our nation, carry out civic and community duties, communicate truth (spiritual and political), and be ready on short notice to help campaigns of pro-family, conservative candidates. Teens can also step it up a notch and participate in the Benjamin Rush Awards program that offers many exciting prizes and scholarships to participants!
Contests and Competitions
It is amazing the number of contests and competitions that your homeschooled teen can enter. We've collected a sampling of them on the HSLDA High School website to give you a starting point for your own exploration. A new contest we added recently, Doodle 4 Google, especially mentions "including homeschoolers."
Be sure to take into consideration the eligibility requirements and deadlines associated with each opportunity. Many times, the essay or project required may take much time to prepare, so don't wait until the last minute to decide.
In the event that you run into a situation where a competition, contest, or scholarship excludes homeschoolers from participating, here are some suggestions. Contact the sponsor to inquire about the reason homeschoolers are excluded, and then graciously offer a rationale for changing the policy. This gives you an opportunity to promote and inform others about the benefits of homeschooling.
In many cases, sponsors do not deliberately exclude homeschoolers but simply haven't given them a thought. For example, a sponsor may list the criteria that an entrant must currently be attending public or private school without thinking to include the "homeschooled" category.
In other instances, a scholarship committee may be unfamiliar with homeschooling, and not realize that it is legal in all 50 states, or that the federal government recognizes homeschooled diplomas when considering federal financial need, or that the military accepts homeschooled diplomas. In these circumstances, the majority of homeschoolers can present objective evaluation of their academic level with test scores, grades from outside classes, and letters of recommendation from others who can attest to their academic abilities. Most sponsors, when offered this information, have no problem allowing homeschoolers to apply for an award or scholarship.
Organizations to Check Out
Organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America, 4-H, Toastmasters International, and others welcome participation by homeschoolers. Your teens may distinguish themselves by winning awards, ribbons, and medals for their involvement individually or through group projects.
The Congressional Award is another option open to all students ages 14-23 years. Your teens are honored for "achieving their own challenging goals." Adjustments are also made to include those with physical or mental difficulties.
Honor Societies for Homeschoolers
Even though the National Honor Society does not accept homeschoolers, there are societies that provide an alternative for your teens. These organizations are recognized by colleges and others so participation is considered an honor . You may find Erin McRee's article helpful as she highlights the advantages of investigating and joining honor societies.
HSLDA's Bright Spots may remind you of ways your teens can distinguish themselves or stir up your creative juices to think of other areas for them to excel. We hope that you are encouraged by the breadth of opportunities available to your homeschooler.
The Final Reward
Although it's nice for your teen to have awards and honors to list on college applications and job resumes, remember that in the big scheme of things, the only recognition that counts for eternity is a life spent glorifying the Lord with the talents and gifts that He has bestowed. Be sure to keep this thought in mind when the award or honor comes and give thanks to the Giver of all good gifts.
Next month, join us as we look at ...waiting. Intrigued?
Looking forward to one day casting crowns before Him,
Becky Cooke and Diane Kummer
HSLDA High School Coordinators
This resource is an article from the Homeschooling Thru Highschool newsletter (1/6/2011), and is provided by the Home School Legal Defense Association as a service to the homeschooling community.