By Connie Overlock
Within each of us is a dream just waiting to burst forth and blossom into reality. For some, it is a dream that has been growing since childhood. For others, it is a dream that is just taking shape in their imaginations. Some haven’t decided yet what that dream may be. For many, dreams change as they get older.
Whatever your dream is, you need to decide if college is a good fit. So you may find yourself with these questions: How do I make my dream a reality? How do I figure out what my dream is? Will I need to further my education in order to make my dream a reality?
For starters, it’s never too early to start looking to the future. Take advantage of your middle and high school years by exploring the many different possibilities that are out there. You just might discover a passion within you that you never knew existed.
Volunteering not only looks great on a resume and sets you apart to potential employers, it helps fill a need in your community. Local libraries, food pantries, animal shelters, nursing homes, and other non-profit organizations all have needs and don’t always have the funds to hire employees. Even some local fire departments allow students as young as 16 to volunteer. Volunteering can help you discover new interests or abilities that you didn’t know you had. My daughter volunteered in Sunday School, Children’s Church, and a local Good News Club. From there she went on to work as a summer missionary for CEF and has since decided to take some classes that would help her focus on ministry to kids. Volunteering may lead to a career or it may help you decide that you want some additional education to pursue this new found interest. For more on the topic of volunteering, read Make Volunteering a Part of Your Homeschool by Michelle Collomy.
Market a Skill
Do you have a marketable skill? You can be an entrepreneur and start your own business. Do you love kids, like to be outdoors, enjoy gardening? You may have a neighbor who needs childcare, gardening, or their lawn mowed. If you are old enough, they may trust you to house sit while they are away on vacation. Babysitting can turn into a career such as a nanny or au pair and gardening/lawn mowing to landscaping or caretaking. Find a need in your community and find a way to meet it. From the time they were very young my children picked and sold strawberries to earn summer spending money. They had to figure out how much each quart cost to pick, the cost of gas for me to drive them to and from the strawberry field, and the cost of the quart containers. From there they determined the value of the strawberries and set up a roadside stand to sell them for about 10 days each summer. My oldest, when he was in high school, took it even further. He hired two friends to help him pick strawberries, paid them a certain amount for each quart they picked and then sold the strawberries in the local grocery store. In the course of a very short season he was able to earn more than $2000. For other ideas on becoming an entrepreneur and any taxes that having business may incur, read Making Entrepreneurs of Your Homeschoolers by Ruth O’Neil. Another great blog on this topic is Turn Your Homeschool Experience into a Business by Carol Topp.
Join a Club or Organization
Clubs such as 4-H, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Trail Life, and Keepers of the Faith, teach skills that you can use to create your own business, care for your family or provide a need in your community. 4-H teaches you critical thinking, decision making, goal setting, record keeping, planning/organizing and so much more. By joining a scouting program, Keepers of the Faith, or Trail Life, you will have the opportunity to learn skills like automotive design, robotics, public speaking, jewelry making, digital movie making and other skills in STEM, the outdoors, and entrepreneurship. When my son was in 4-H he learned public speaking, how to document a project and see it through to completion, how to work as a team, and other skills such as animal husbandry, horticulture and sustainable agriculture.
Does your mom or dad have a job that you find fascinating? Perhaps your neighbor, aunt, uncle or other extended family member has a job that you would be interested in finding out more about. Ask about job shadowing. Many employers are happy to have students learn first hand the skills needed to complete a job in their organization. Some employers may even offer paid internships. More and more employers are seeking out homeschool students for positions in their companies because they understand that homeschool students tend to have greater flexibility, a stronger work ethic, and good communication and interpersonal skills. Homeschoolers of Maine offers internships in their office to students looking to learn more about the inner workings of an office including data entry, community outreach, graphic design, as well as the use of different office machines and programs. My daughter was the first office intern for HOME and continues to work as needed assembling orders, assisting with inventory clearance and community outreach. My oldest son took on an internship with his uncle who was a computer technician. For two years of his high school career, he learned the inner workings of a computer, then started his own computer repair business. Along the way he learned bookkeeping, business management skills, computer repair and more.
Maine hosts more than 20 vocational technical schools that train high school students in many areas from auto repair to nursing, carpentry to engineering, and culinary arts to welding. Many of the programs are two year programs that give you the skills to enter a profession right out of high school. One of my sons took the culinary arts program and became the youngest personal chef to a prominent businessman in our area who had a café on his property for his staff. From there he became head chef at a local summer camp. He also worked with a local caterer and ended up saving money by catering his own wedding. (Something I do not recommend.) Another son took the engineering program and designed the new EMS building that was housed at the vo-tech school that he attended, as well as a bridge at a local hiking trail, all while earning high school credit. A family friend took the welding program and had several offers of jobs as soon as he graduated from high school.
Try Something New
Watch for advertisements in your local newspaper or on community bulletin boards for opportunities to serve in ways that you hadn’t thought of before. A local farm offers a farm hands program several times a year. I signed my youngest son up. His only question was “If I don’t like it, do I have to go back?” I assured him that he didn't. He fell in love with halter training the calves, learning to care for the livestock and even mucking stalls which they call “picking tickets.” He ended up finishing up his farm hands program and volunteering on the farm for another four years, even completing an internship there for his junior year of high school. This same son, started bowling in a youth league about the same time and found his true passion. Now he is one of only a handful of employees at a local bowling alley and is quite often left in charge of the entire operation, being responsible for everything from repairing the lanes when they break down to doing nightly and weekly cash outs at the end of the business week.
Some dreams may take time to grow. They may take money to purchase equipment, property, or general supplies to get it going. In this case, find a job, even one that you may not love, and start working, being sure to put away a portion of your pay into your “dream account.” That way you can begin building capital to make your dream a reality.
Once you’ve discovered your dream, you can further evaluate what it will take to make that dream a reality. Some dreams, like becoming a doctor, engineer, or CPA, will definitely require a college degree. However, there are many professions that you can also pursue that may only require an internship, a few classes at a trade school or a simple desire to work hard, learn the trade and jump in with both feet.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart and never give up. If you can dream it, you can do it!
Connie Overlock is a veteran homeschool mom of five and gramma to four. She homeschooled her children from kindergarten through high school and several of them graduated from college. Connie has a passion for supporting and encouraging homeschool families in their journey and now works as the office manager for Homeschoolers of Maine.