How to gently start the process of Career Exploration for Eighth Graders.
How to do Career Exploration for Eighth Graders
One of our 7th Sisters was asking about Career Exploration with her middle schooler. Should she start the process? How should she handle Career Exploration with a tween or young teen?
Those are such excellent questions. Here is a thought to help: Career Exploration has already been happening with your homeschoolers their entire lives. Just through life, they have been noticing:
- The pastor at church doing his job
- The doctors, nurses and dentists they visit doing their jobs
- The cashiers at the grocery store and other retail stores doing their jobs
In watching these people work (and watching your reactions to them) they learn to think favorably or respectfully about those careers.
Many young people begin to think more seriously about careers in middle school. For better or worse, our American culture has been pushing “Career Pathways” in eighth grade in many public school settings.
As these young people start deciding which high school they hope to attend, they will often need to choose a “Pathway” (such as a specific trade vocation or sciences or arts). Some high schools will offer the chosen Pathway, some will not. At high school level, each student will have specific courses each year in that pathway.
We homeschooling families will usually handle Career Pathways in a more subtle way when our kids hit eighth grade. We start deciding:
- Does our young person seem college bound, military bound or vocation bound?
- This determines the kinds of courses we will start planning for high school.
- Does our young person have noticeable interests or skills we need to develop?
- These help determine courses or extracurricular activities we can work on now and plan for in high school.
- Does our young person have specific struggles or disabilities we need to help them deal with or overcome?
- These inspire us to look for the resources that our young person needs now and will need in high schoool.
All of these are Career Pathways or Career Exploration questions!
Many eighth graders, however, have never given any real thought to a career. They are busy being kids. In my opinion, this is a wonderful thing. I feel like we Americans are too often rushing our kids through childhood.
- We feel pressure to push them into more rigorous academics in elementary and middle school so they are “prepared for high school”.
- We push them through more and more rigorous academics so they are “prepared for college”.
While these ideas can be good (and necessary for highly bright kids), we can induce anxiety in our kids with all this pressure to be “prepared”. Why not, instead, actually allow middle schoolers to “Explore” during middle school rather than feel pressure to decide on their future?
With that in mind, here are some ways we 7Sisters have handled Career Exploration with our eighth graders:
Career Exploration is just that, exploring. An explorer never knows what they will find- it’s part of the adventure. Career Exploration for your eighth grader can be:
- Having the opportunity to explore many different careers in a light-hearted manner.
- They can be having fun, watching a career in action without stressing about it, or just gathering information without stressing about it.
- This is about showing your homeschooler the vast variety of careers, not trying to get them to settle on one right now.
- Having a variety of life experiences (not necessarily career oriented, just richness of experience).
- Different experiences allow young people to build resilience and understand themselves better. This is good infrastructure for career choosing.
Here are ideas:
Explore and Inspire
- Watching movies or television shows that show people doing various careers (see list of suggestions below)
- These, of course, are glorified versions of the different careers, but the point is just getting the idea of the variety of jobs in the world.
- Watch YouTubes of different people doing their careers
- Read biographies
- We are big fans of Janet and Geoff Benge’s biographies. Have you heard our interview with them on Homeschool Highschool Podcast?
Explore and volunteer
- There are some opportunities for volunteering in the church or community.
- Any volunteer opportunity builds that mental infrastructure and self-awareness that your homeschooler will need when it is time to make career decisions.
- Some of our homeschoolers during eighth grade have volunteered at
- Church nursery, VBS, Sunday school, cleanup and set up for events
- Food bank (with the family)
- State park cleanup days (with the family)
- Historical reenactments (with the family)
Explore with new experiences
- Field trips of any kind are Career Exploration of sorts.
- Learning new crafts, home economics or home maintenance skills are a kind of Career Exploration.
- Joining sports leagues or youth groups, if it is not to the point of exhausting your tween (remember, they still need time to be kids).
- The more experiences young people have, the more they know what they like and do not like.
Explore and provide role models
If you have the opportunity to talk about family careers, or careers that respected role models have, this is a good experience. Or:
- If there is a “Take Your Tween to Work” day, take advantage of those opportunities.
- If your tween has an interest, see if a shadowing or interview can be arranged (that is, if it does not freak your tween out to do so). Also, talk through this freebie questionnaire.
- Just for fun, have you tween look at the “role models” from the Bible with this freebie.
Explore and discuss
Occasionally after events, field trips, reading a biography or watching a movie, have a relaxed family discussion about the jobs that they observed.
- What did they notice about the job(s)?
- Did the person seem to enjoy their job?
- Did your tween think that looked like a pleasant job or not? Why?
Explore and be self-aware
Help your tween to notice and appreciate gifted and to explore interests.
- Allow time for hobbies that your tween already loves.
- Gently point out things they are good at (being kind, drawing, singing, football, building, etc). Provide opportunities for them to build on those skills.
- Try not to take the joy out of interests and giftings by pushing too hard (unless your tween is a born competitor). Keep it fun and gentle.
Movies are a gentle way to explore careers
We asked our 7th Sisters and friends to share their favorite movies that featured a career. Here is what they suggested (note: I did not vet the list; you know what will be best for your family).
First off, check out this marvelous list of character-building bio-pics from our friend, Samantha at Learn in Color.
- Akeelah and the Bee
- All Creatures Great and Small (1975 movie or original tv series- the new series has less about the veterinarian work but is still interesting)
- All the President’s Men
- Apollo 13
- Big Hero 6
- Hidden Figures
- It takes Two
- Mr. Holland’s Opus
- The Miracle Worker
- October Sky
- Second Hand Lions
- The One Hundred Foot Journey
- The Pursuit of Happyness
- Remember the Titans
- To Sir with Love
What would you add to this list? Help your 7th Sisters out by sharing in the comments.
YouTube short videos and Facebook Watch can be a good way to see careers at work. Here are a few:
- Women at NASA series on Facebook
- Jungle Jordan on Facebook (for instance: How to Become a Zookeeper)
- Athletic Equipment Managers on YouTube
- FutureReady on YouTube
- Motivation to Study Series on YouTube
Eighth graders who are more determined to specifically learn about Career Exploration can take a high school course
Some eighth graders are serious about wanting to narrow down their career ideas. They do not want to wait until high school to do Career Exploration. These young people will love 7Sisters Career Exploration Workbook. (They can revisit in high school in ninth, tenth or eleventh grade. For a review of the curriculum, check BJ’s Homeschool.)
The Career Exploration Workbook helps young people explore:
- Understanding God’s will
- and More
Your eighth grade homeschooler can enjoy a gentle but intentional Career Exploration process and/or a more “official” Career Exploration Workbook (and the Career Exploration Freebies). There’s not ONE right way to homeschool!