Do you have a high schooler? Or a middle schooler and you are wondering what to expect the next few years? I am here to help. My high school survival kit for parents is a labor of love. It’s all the things that I wished we would have had when our older kids went through high school. Read on to find out more about what to expect, and I hope that this can help!
High school with your child is like riding a roller coaster.
Some days you feel like all is well. Then, one day your kid comes home and is freaking out over grades, friends or maybe just really despondent over any number of things. The range of emotions a family goes through can be intense and overwhelming at times. So, strap on your seatbelt, you’re in for a ride! *This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.
Let’s start at the beginning, before high school starts.
Transitioning from middle school to high school is an exciting time for everyone. You, as a parent, feel a little proud that your child is starting high school. I know I was! Your teen is growing up and you know the next four years are going to be challenging.
Looking back on high school, (hopefully, yours was a good experience), you know it’s about to get interesting. Before each of my boys started, I was really interested in waiting to see how each of my sons was going to navigate it all. If your kids are anything like mine were, your child is probably excited, but at the same time anxious as this is the time when many things can, and will, change.
Maybe some friends are going to a different school. That sense of security can be gone for some, and the thought of starting a new school without their best friend is frightening. And then, of course, there is actually starting school and handling all the new expectations and coursework because now grades count towards college acceptance!
My shoulders just tighten up thinking about all the things high school kids have to do. I also remember thinking, what am I supposed to do? How can I help?
Well, I survived it as did my boys (at least 2 so far). And, you will too. But, knowing what I know now, I wish I had been better equipped. That’s why I have created a survival kit for parents.
Your high school counselors may say, it’s time to start letting go and let your child “figure it out”.
Believe me, I agree with this philosophy with a BUT. My opinion is that our kids are inundated with school work, extra-curricular activities, jobs, a social life etc.
So, I do think they need to “figure it out”, but with some over-arching guidance. Not that we do the work, but have an open conversation with your child about what needs to happen concurrently. At the end of high school, there will be questions asked by colleges and scholarships such as: “What did you do during your high school experience?”, “Did you play sports, play an instrument, volunteer, have a job?”, “What are your hobbies?” etc.
The blog post I wrote to accompany the book, with a few freebies is here!
High school survival kit for parents
If you’re a freshman parent, you’re in a perfect position to start tracking now. If you’re a senior parent, don’t worry, download your survival kit and start writing down what you and your child remember.
Why? Well, if your child decides to pursue college, the above information will be asked on college and scholarship applications. If your child is applying for a job, similar questions will be asked. Two great scholarship systems for help in knowing what to do and where to start are here and here!
To Do List – A list of 7 items to accomplish over the school year.
Activity/Volunteer Tracker- Begin writing down ALL the activities your child participates in school, volunteer hours or anything “extra”.
Potential Colleges- begin exploring potential colleges or vo-tech programs. Why do they sound interesting?
A Yearly Calendar- Each kit comes with a yearly calendar to keep track of school/family activities. There is a space to write down a goal for the month and helpful suggestions each month.
Parents, all of these are available for FREE. Click here to download your specific grade or download them ALL.
I wish I had this information when my older boys were going through high school. I would have felt more organized and secure knowing I was helping them be prepared to apply to college or their first job.
Cinco de Mayo means fifth of May. It is important for one area of Mexico, and has become a fun American tradition to celebrate. Here is information about the holiday and many ways we can celebrate Cinco de Mayo with teens.
What is Cinco de Mayo?
Originally celebrated for the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, this holiday is celebrated in parts of Mexico and the United States in honor of a military victory in 1862 over the French forces of Napoleon III. It started in Puebla where this unlikely victory occurred, and has spread as a fun excuse to celebrate with parades, food and drinks.
The reason for the attack was Mexico was having trouble paying back war debts to European countries, and France had come to Mexico to collect that debt. France, at that time, was the largest military force, and they were looking to build up their empire, since they had just sold a huge portion of it to Thomas Jefferson in the Louisiana Purchase. Napoleon also wanted to have this base for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War-this might have resulted in a different outcome for the south had it not taken so long to win this war in Mexico.
France lost this particular battle, but eventually won the war after a few years. For five years, this area was until French control.
Things to know
It’s actually not celebrated that much in Mexico except for in the state of Puebla. A couple of things to remember when and if celebrating this holiday are: be aware of the historical significance and don’t use Spanish vocabulary inappropriately, (ie. Cinco de drinko.)
This holiday actually has been celebrated in the US since the 1860s. It started in southern California when Mexican immigrant citizens used the holiday as a way to celebrate their heritage.
Your teen can help to plan and cook
This is a fun holiday to celebrate with teens because who doesn’t love Mexican food and drinks? And, what better way to get your teen into the kitchen than food and drink for a party! So, plan a fun party for Cinco de Mayo with teens now! *This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.
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Here are some fun ideas for ways to celebrate this Cinco de Mayo with teens!
Have you saved enough to pay for college? If yes, I applaud you. If not, maybe you’re just like me, hoping to find scholarships to help offset the cost and future debt for your kiddo. Paying for college is no small feat. Read on to find out where you can find money!
I hear many of stories of how people pay for 100% of college with grants and scholarships. I am in the midst of trying to figure out this process with my sons who are currently in college. Paying for college is ridiculously expensive. For the amount it costs today, I could have gone to college 5 times over. It really isn’t fair to our kids but, unfortunately, it is the reality.
So, here’s our story. My husband and I have some money saved to pay for college, but we are hoping we have enough for all three of our boys. We pay for tuition, and the boys are responsible for the rest. They both have part-time jobs. Our sophomore is enrolled in community college, and his older brother is at a nearby small private college. (We spent years paying off my husbands schooling, so this limited the number of years that we have had to save for the boys’ college.)
We knew that we had to help them try to look for scholarships or we would burn through our savings pretty quickly. So, we started digging around the internet. Our sophomore son is an average student, so merit aid would not be an option. My guess is that this is the case for most American families.
Not everyone is cut out for AP classes in high school, and not all kids are skilled at taking standardized tests. So, the game is on, and I’m here to tell you what I’ve discovered. Hopefully, this will help you and your child!
FINDING SCHOLARSHIPS IS HARD, BUT YOU CAN DO IT!
First, let me say that finding scholarships is HARD WORK. It’s tedious, so be ready and be patient. There are a lot of scams out there, but there are also a lot of people trying to help by telling their stories of how they’ve found money.
There are some common threads among “the experts”. Since paying for college is such a huge burden, I’m sharing what I’ve learned here. *This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.
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There’s a lot of information out there. Some good and some not so good. The more organized you and your child can be and work TOGETHER– the more success you will have.
I think this is really important. You and your child need to work as a team because the responsibility can’t be on them entirely. They are busy with school. Besides, we are smarter than they are, right? Ha! I do think our kids need to have some “skin” in the game and understand how this all works. So, have that money conversation! Here’s my blog post about how that has worked for us so far.
How to get organized? You need a tracker of course! Simple, but useful. Below is what I am using right now to track the scholarships I find for my boys for which they qualify.
I’m sure by now that you are probably pretty organized after surviving elementary and middle school. But, I would suggest a separate binder/notebook or folder to keep your scholarship information. Check out my parent toolkit for staying organized all through high school! All of this will help your teen be organized when applying for scholarships, filling out applications, etc. It all helps pay for college!
(Click image to download.)
You may have heard – the best place to start is LOCAL. Have your student visit their guidance office for local scholarships. Check with your employer, too. If your employer doesn’t have a scholarship, ask if they could create one!
Also, research your child’s current or future college. Check their financial aid website. Most likely they have scholarships ready for you to apply for now and have other resources/suggestions. My son applied for one at his community college last fall. He didn’t receive anything, but you never know until you try!
Here are some other places to look: Chamber of Commerce Library- they have scholarship books to check out Local businesses- Call your favorite business and ask or visit their website Financial Institutions Local Community groups or clubs (Rotary, Kiwanis, church) Alumni Associations Educational Organizations Civic Organizations
DIY Road 2 College– Debbie Schwartz does a lot of the groundwork for you. I signed up for her newsletters and they are chalk full of info on colleges, tuition costs, what to look for in colleges, FAFSA, college prep etc. She used to work at a financial institution and now helps parents figure this college thing out.
How 2 Win Scholarships Monica Matthews is a former teacher and a stay-at-home mom of three boys. She’s a mom who worked with her son to earn enough scholarships to attend college for free. She has parent, as well as student guides which are extremely useful and worth the $27.00. I’ve signed up for her newsletters and she’ll let you know when to apply for scholarships. She always has up to date information on her blog.
The Scholarship System– Jocelyn Pearson. She has a free webinar you can register for here. She paid for 100% of her college expenses through scholarships. Jocelyn has definitely done her homework and has created a 2018-2019 Scholarship Guide. I liked her webinar. Very honest and tells it like it is. I took her course, and it has been really helpful over the years since my oldest son started college.
DIY College Rankings– Michelle Kretzchmar. She’s another mom who did her homework and started her own site. VERY thorough and detailed in her information. Really worth signing up and/or use her site as a resource.
JLV Counseling– Jessica has 10 years experience as an admissions officer. Her website has information on scholarships, college essays, test prep and has a newsletter you can subscribe to. I like how her site is easy to navigate.
“Scholly was created by Christopher Gray who won $1.3 million in scholarships through hard work, grit and determination. Realizing how broken and time consuming this process was, he and his team created Scholly to make things a lot easier for you.
Whether you prefer the mobile or web app, Scholly helps you fill out 8 simple parameters, and then our comprehensive and constantly curated scholarship database delivers a verified and personalized list of scholarships. Our platform also gives you access to management tools and scholarship essay resources to help you manage deadlines, track progress and win the money you deserve.” There is a monthly fee.
“Scholarship Owls is an innovative platform designed to dramatically speed up your scholarship application time. All you have to do is fill out one application, and they will do the rest. They will match you with the award opportunities that best match your personality, grades, lifestyle, and more. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, they will take the information from your initial application and put it into the appropriate places on the scholarships of your choice.”
TUN TUN stands for The University Network. It is a fairly new website. What I like about their scholarship tool is that you can search by GPA, scholarships to apply to by month, state, student interest and what year your student is in school. They also have information on student jobs, a textbook save engine, career advice etc.
It’s easy. “Once you complete your profile you’ll have access to their database of more than 1.5 million scholarships. That’s $3.4 billion dollars in funding – all available to students like you! They’ve made it simple to keep track of your scholarship search. You can indicate which scholarships you’d like to apply for, which you’re not interested in and those you’ve already completed.”
MORE SEARCH ENGINES
College Board Scholarship Search “Use this tool to find scholarships, other financial aid, and internships from more than 2,200 programs, totaling nearly $6 billion. Scholarship information is based on the College Board’s Annual Survey of Financial Aid Programs. Not only does it help you search for scholarships, but also provides loan information, calculators, and information for high school students and the college application process.”
FinAid Scholarship Search “FinAid was created by Mark Kantrowitz, a noted financial aid and college planning author. Mark was also publisher of FastWeb, the largest and most popular free scholarship matching service. Previously, he was a research scientist at Just Research, the US software laboratory for Justsystem Corporation of Japan. Mark has earned the praise of numerous college administrators, journalists and students and families for his dedicated work on the FinAid site; also, not surprisingly, he managed to fund his own schooling without spending a single cent of his parents’ money.”
“U.S. Department of Labor Search more than 7,500 scholarships, fellowships, grants, and other financial aid award opportunities. You can: Look through the whole list of scholarships arranged in order of closest deadline, you can narrow your list with “Search by keyword.” or enter a keyword about the type of award you’re looking for and use the filters to see only awards for certain award types, locations, level of study, and more.”
The Scholarship Workshop
“The Scholarship Workshop LLC, founded in 1991, is an educational service from Marianne Ragins, $400,000 scholarship winner, best-selling author, and motivational speaker. She provides services and resources for parents, students, counselors and youth leaders such as The Scholarship Workshop presentation, online classes and scholarship webinars, motivational speeches, and a range of presentations about scholarships, college, and other educational topics.”
I suggest you bookmark each of these sites but if you’re a paper person, here’s a username and password tracker you can use. (Click image to download.)
Books to Read
I highly recommend, as do “experts”, the Ultimate Scholarship Book 2020. I am going through this now and found 4 in about 30 minutes. What I like about this book is that it is broken down by state, interest and there’s a huge section of just “general”.
I flagged them with post-it notes and added to our scholarship tracker. I write down the name of the scholarship, when they are due, and the amount my sons could earn. Yes, this is a lot of work, but free money works for me!
If you managed to read all of this, you can see that working with your teen and/or college student is all about teamwork. Come up with a schedule of when you both can work on finding scholarships, applying and completing applications. In the beginning, it feels awkward, but once you go through the process a couple of times, it becomes “old hat” and exciting to wait for the results.
So, let me know how it goes! Comment below. I’d love to hear your success stories and of course, please let me know if you have any questions. I’d be happy to help!
Every little bit helps when you are trying to pay for college! I will keep you posted on how my boys and I do with our own search.
Here is the best graduation gift guide that I put together with some help from recent grads!
Are you wondering what to give to the graduate in your life? There are so many ideas out there. I asked my two older sons who graduated from high school within the past few years which of their graduation gifts they appreciated the most and/or have used the most. I also asked my nieces who have all graduated in the recent past as well.
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I also asked 12 other recent graduates, both guys and girls. Here is what I found out with direct quotes about their favorites to make the best graduation gift guide… *This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.
Gifts for Guys:
1. Money or gift cards to local eateries- “Who doesn’t love free money and food?!”
2. College hat – “Great to already have when I got to school.”
3. Shower caddy filled with supplies- “I liked having a caddy already filled so I didn’t have to think about it.” This would take a little research to find out their favorite brands to fill it with, but such a useful gift!
4. MacBook— “My mom got this for me. I have used it every single day for college and jobs.” A bit more of an expensive gift, but all students will need some sort of computer.
5. Headphones– “I wish that I had asked for these when I graduated. I had to buy them myself later.”
6. Microwave– “Have used everyday in my dorm and then my rental house because it didn’t have one.”
7. Reading pillow– “I didn’t think that I would use this thing, but I did, and my friends all wanted one once they saw mine!”
8. Amazon Prime for students– “This has been great for ordering books and watching movies when I probably should have been studying. But, my grades have been good, so I guess it’s okay.”
9. Slammo game– “My brothers gave me this game. It’s been fun out on our campus lawn. Taking to my frat next year.”
10. External battery charger– “This thing is great. I always have it in my backpack. Been a couple of times that I was really glad I had it!”
2. Keurig– “Can’t. Live. Without!” Great for coffee of course, but also hot chocolate, hot tea, soup…
3. Toolbox with little handy items such as: hammer, screwdriver, tape, different sizes of batteries… “I didn’t think that this was a good gift, but almost every week either I have used this or a friend has!” Since this is a soft-sided bag, lot’s of other little things could be added like batteries, tape, string, Command hooks, even a deck of cards!
4. Monogrammed towels– “I love my pretty towels. I got them in my school colors, and I still use them.” This takes a little time to get the towels and find someone to do the embroidery, but I know even my son loves his!
5. Overnight/gym bag– “I had a bag already, so this was great because I could dedicate one for the gym, and then I had one to pack real quick to go away for a weekend!” Bags are great because they can always use them for extra storage in small dorm rooms or apartments as well.
6. Lap desk– “I never had one of these before, and I always wanted one. I use it all the time although not always for studying. I do my nails and even eat on it when we order food.”
7. Water bottle– “I got 3 of these, and I use them all the time. When one is dirty, I grab another!”
8. Toiletry bag– “I love that it lies flat, but then scoops up all of my stuff. It’s great to grab for running to my friend’s for the night or a weekend trip.”
9. Pretty jewelry– “My grandma got me a pretty bracelet that said, ‘Love you to the moon and back’. I wear it all the time.” You can never go wrong with jewelry!
10. Catch-all dish– “My sister got a great little dish for her room that is great for keys, glasses etc. I wanted one, too, so I ordered one myself for my dresser. I can’t wait to take it to college.”
Graduation gift research done for you!
I hope my graduation gift guide helps with these next few weeks full of high school and college-ending events. It’s an exciting time for our kids, and the graduation gifts on this list will give them a head start with their new life!
Good luck shopping, and let me know if you have any other good ideas.
P.S. My son got the best little book for graduation, and I had to share the link with you all! It’s called Assume the Worst The Graduation Speech You Will Never Hear by Carl Hiaason and illustrated by Roz Chast. It is really great! It cuts through to the heart of what kids really need to hear about life in a hilarious way, and the pics are great. Grab one for your favorite graduate:)
Your student should try Amazon for College Students!
When it comes to loving on your teen, you wouldn’t think that talking would be a good way to do this, but it really can be great! Communicating with teenagers is key to your relationship with them. But, in order for it to be a loving act, there are a few things to think about.
As a mom, I know that I have so many things spinning in my head that I want to talk to my boys about. I can overwhelm them if I’m not careful. Here are some tips to help you as you parent your teens.
When is the best time to talk?
First, keep in mind that there are better times than others to talk with your teens. This means that you need to do some homework as a parent. Pay attention to when your teen is at their best, or at least better than most times.
Watch to see if your teen prefers mornings for a chat or is your teen a late-night owl?
After school is a usually a terrible time. They have been talked to all day long. They are tired, and probably need some time to decompress. However, it can be a good time, after they have had a snack, and some time to just hang out.
Think about yourself, and remember that there are times that you prefer company, and other times that you would rather be left alone! Let these tips help improve communicating with your teenagers.
Once you have decided when is best to have a conversation with your teen, here are some ways to keep the lines of communication open. This can lead to improved relationships for your family, and you can get creative with other ways to show your teen some love! *This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.
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Have you read my book? It’s all about talking with your teens to prepare them for their future: college, jobs, life… Here’s the link to the blog post.
5 Easy Ways To Improve Communicating with Teenagers
Keep it short.
Our teens dread big talks with us. That truth might hurt, but it’s a good one to remember. There are a couple of ways to help them not to dread these times. One is to make sure that you keep the time short, no more than about 30 minutes-no matter what! Sometimes, a quick check-in is even better. Let them know you’re thinking of them, remind them of maybe one topic that has been a concern, and be done.
Realize that teens won’t “get it” right away.
In other words, what you are saying may not be what they want to hear right now. Some discussions need to occur in increments depending on your teen and/or the topic. Some examples would be: money management, future plans like college or next year’s schedule, or even the evolution of different rules as they get older.
Many topics are too massive to think that one conversation is enough… So, again, don’t overwhelm. This is why you can’t give up. Communicating with teenagers might be the biggest challenge that we face as parents, so DON’T give up!
Listen more than you talk!
One thing that many teens complain about is that their parents just don’t listen. They feel like they are lectured to, yelled at, and otherwise talked at more than they are listened to. If you want your kids to talk to you, then you have to listen.
Start by asking open-ended questions. Discuss a a game that you both recently watched. Talk about their friends and find out what has been happening. Give them time to think and talk. Sometimes being quiet together is really nice. Remember that when communicating with teenagers, it definitely needs to be a 2-way street.
I know that I am guilty of questioning my boys to death, and I have to remind myself to just wait for their answers and be okay with some non-answers–super hard for me!!
Remember that silence is golden, sometimes they just need to vent and move on. Let them!
Choose 2-3 topics, no more!
This goes along with listening. Don’t overwhelm your teen with too many topics, another thing that I am so guilty of! Choose just a couple of the most important topics to address, then put the rest on hold. Sometimes one topic will lead to another, but don’t force the issue.
Let your teen know that there are other concerns or topics to cover, but not today. They will appreciate this, and together you can schedule another conversation based on the urgency of what needs to be discussed.
Here is a link to a post about some possible topics to discuss. Most you will have thought of, but just in case…
Sometimes, like their senior year, there will be many conversations! Warn them ahead of time, that this will be happening, so they will be expecting it. This will be true no matter whether they are headed to college or into a job because there is just so much!
Other times, there are not so many things to talk about, but always stay in conversation with your teen. Communicating with teenagers is a balancing game, so try not to tip that balance.
Know that our teen’s lives are complicated.
This cannot be forgotten. We have no idea about their lives. We know how are our teenage years were, but their lives are even more complicated by all the social media. We cannot understand because even if our teenage years were difficult, (and who’s were easy?), we didn’t have that to deal with!
Empathy and staying in communication with our teens is the best way to help them through. Don’t be pushy about this. But, don’t let them push you away either. If they aren’t in the mood to talk, tell them it’s all right for a bit, but before the day is over, you want to check in and talk even for just five minutes.
This will give them space, but also know that there is a deadline for their solitude. Start this when they are a younger teen, so that they get used to the fact that they cannot shut us out indefinitely. There will be ups and downs throughout these teen years, but going for more than a few hours should be unacceptable.
Grab a cute poster to download and print off for girls here. And, here’s a link to a poster of encouragement for anyone!
Parenting is not for the faint of heart.
If you have a teen, then you need to know that these years are long and short. Long because the teenage years last for seven years. Short because they will fly by so quickly! As a parent, you will have so many opportunities to mentor and guide your teen.
Don’t give up. If a conversation goes south, apologize if needed, and move on. Try again later. Communicating with teenagers is key to your relationship!
Your teen needs privacy, but don’t let that prevent a relationship from thriving. Your teen needs you now more than ever! Don’t let their moods dictate the state of your family-forgive and forget. You got this!
One more thing, get yourself a support group. Friends, family, co-workers. People that can listen to you vent, cry, complain. People who can give you advice and be a sounding board. I have found that for me, it’s been great to have someone with kids just a little older who have been through whatever stage already before.