by Lee Binz
Unleashing the Fun Factor
Turn “Fun” into high school credit
You know your children are going to goof off. At some point, you’ll be wishing they were doing something productive, but instead they are just having fun.
But wait! Isn’t that what homeschooling is all about? One of the big benefits of homeschooling is having fun while learning at the same time! Having FUN during school hours can be a meaningful and significant way to learn important (although sometimes elective) subjects.
When kids are homeschooling and having fun, that’s awesome! Now let’s learn how to translate that fun factor, and maximize their transcript and career planning!
Identify the fun
When writing a homeschool transcript , start with the easy subjects. Begin with subjects that use curriculum, or require your attention: English, math, social studies, science, foreign language, PE, and fine art. Once you get to the end of that list, many parents feel stumped. Now what? That is when you ask yourself the first big question:
What do they do for fun?
When I’m helping parents with a transcript, that one question can open the floodgates! How does your child spend unstructured time? When they are supposed to be working on school, or emptying the dishwasher, what are they doing instead? That can be a great indication of their Fun Factor.
If they enjoy their fun for more than one hour a day, you may be able to translate that into high school credits. Anything involving music, band, handcrafts, or theater can be a fine art credit. Children who love starting or working with a small business, from yard work to online marketing, may earn a credit of occupational education. Children who love creating or fixing computer hardware or software can get credit for computer technology. If children love something that makes them sweat, give them PE credits – whether it’s dance, gym membership, team sports, or individual athletics. Kids who love speech and debate may get a credit each year. Some children will love a specific THING, like mushrooms, birds, or horses. Others will love a specific IDEA, like economics or politics.
Public schools offer fun classes too. The only problem is their fun classes are fun for the teacher. In high school I took a class called “Polynesian History” because my teacher liked to travel to Hawaii every year. Sure it was fun, but it wasn’t my “thing.” It was my teacher’s interest. It’s a lucky student who loves the same elective as their teacher.
In a homeschool, the equation is different. The fun classes are based on what the student decides is fun, not the teacher. That’s great news! It means you don’t have to like it yourself, and you don’t have to teach it yourself. Your job is to scoop up those high school credits so they don’t get lost. Your mission is to find value and a future in the areas your child loves.
How it's done
Estimate how many hours they spend on their Fun Factor. Is it one hour or more each day, most of the school year? That is enough for a 1 credit class. I think it’s helpful to keep their love to just one credit per school year. If their Fun Factor has two distinct skills, and they spend many hours per day, then it can make sense to have two classes.
If you are stuck on a class title, do a little research. Do they take a class or lessons from an expert? What is that class called? If you need more help, try to find a college that offers a class in the subject. What is that class title? For example, when you search for “horse community college” you can find classes called horsemanship, equine fitting and grooming, equine facilities maintenance and mechanics, equine anatomy and physiology, etc. Look at the descriptions for each class to find the one most similar to what your child does. It can provide both the name of your class and the beginnings of a course description.
For some students, their favorite pastime may make them famous. A singer may envision becoming the next American Idol. A golfer may be determined to make the Masters. A computer geek may imagine himself the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates (depending on if he is a Mac or PC, of course!) These pastimes turned famous have one thing in common: money. Huge amounts of money. Sure, it may not be likely, but you can still use the possibility of a lucrative career in guiding your child. Instead of denigrating their potential, take it out for a test drive. Talk to your child about what they will do if they strike it rich with their Fun Factor.
What if they strike it rich?
They will need to manage their money, manage their business, market their skills, and avoid being swindled or taken advantage of. All of these things are related to one college degree: business. A business degree is a common degree at most 2 year and 4 year colleges. They require a variety of classes, but not an excessive amount of math or science. Regardless of their interests, a business degree can help them manage the day-to-day process of turning a profit, while giving them the knowledge they need to advance their career.
What if they don’t strike it rich?
A business degree is also useful for something else, though. If something happens, and they don’t become famous, or they change their mind or become unable to complete their dreams, a business degree is a great safety net. Many entrepreneurs and corporations search for business generalists – the students who can adapt in many job descriptions. In the meantime, beginning college as a business major can be an excellent spring board for other degrees.
Not every career requires a college degree. But in the battle between college and dropping out to form a band, there is a middle ground: business school. If you want your child to go to college, and they want to focus only on what they love, I can suggest a conversation like this….
“I see your talents in this area, and it’s possible you might become famous. I want you to be prepared. Many famous people get cheated or swindled, and I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. Consider getting a degree in business. You will learn how to handle your money, read a contract, and make money with your skills. Get more information about it. Go to a college fair, and tell them what you are interested in doing. Ask if they offer scholarships. Colleges may give you scholarship money, paying you to go to college and practice your skills. Instead of paying for a teacher or mentor, waiting years for the chance to play, you’ll be performing or competing right away. And then after college, you’ll be able to use the degree to further your career.”
It seems like I spend lots of time helping parents find the Fun Factor in my Gold Care Club conversations and transcript consultations. I begin with a simple question. “What does your child do for fun?” That question alone can usually generate the electives category. No curriculum is required, we just work together to scoop up learning for fun. When that question doesn’t bring a huge response, then often a second simple question is required. “What does your child do that drives you crazy? And what annoying thing do they do instead of schoolwork?” If the “fun” question doesn’t work, the “annoying” question is usually fail-safe.
Don’t be embarrassed
I was helping one mother with her transcript, and she hesitated when we got to the “fun” question. I could tell she felt embarrassed about something. Finally she blurted it out. “MMA – he loves Mixed Martial Arts. He is training and taking lessons and has already completed a class in boxing.”
Her response of embarrassment was so common among parents. First of all, we just don’t understand how our kids can love something that we don’t love. After all, God has called us to do something, and it’s easy to assume that means that our children have the same calling – but they don’t. Secondly, it’s easy to feel that our child has fun in a bizarre and abnormal way. While that may sometimes be true, it’s usually not. And third, many parents worry that I’ll be judgmental. I’m not. I’ve had boys. I’ve had homeschooled teenagers. I understand there are some things you can control and other things…. Not so much!
That’s when I had to confess my understanding of MMA. You see, my husband is a fan. While I’m reading “The Help” or a Jane Austen book, my husband watches mixed martial arts. Sure, I’m not happy about it. As a nurse, I can’t believe that people are intentionally trying to cause brain damage. But as a wife, and as a mother of boys, I can understand how that happens. I know that GSP has a fleur de lis tattooed on his right calf, that Brock Lesner used to wrestle in the WWE and that Chuck Liddell is not famous because of Dancing with the Stars. I may not enjoy it myself, but I can understand it. That’s so true for many other things as well. Don’t be embarrassed. It’s OK.
My mission is to help all parents homeschool high school. I don’t judge your homeschool or evaluate children. I come alongside, as a friend, willing to help in the context of your situation.
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Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's FREE Resource Guide "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School" and more freebies at www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com/freebies.