The Importance of Quality Adult Mentors for Youth

Kids need adult mentors in their lives. Adults with whom they trust and share common interests. Sometimes mentors can be a family member – an older sibling or an uncle. A mentor can also be a family friend or teacher within the community.

When we lived in Redding, my daughter developed a strong relationship with an elderly woman, Karen Scheuerman, who volunteered her time to lead nature outings for the youth in the community. In the beginning, we looked forward to these weekly excursions – a component of our Roots & Shoots club – because it was a chance to get outside and discover a new part of the local ecosystem.

Enjoying a walk near the lake on one of our many weekly nature outings.

Adult Mentors

As time progressed and we got to know Karen more, a mentor relationship developed that helped to foster my daughter’s interest in the natural world. Though we have since moved away, the lessons she imparted have stayed with us. Their connection fostered a passion for service and protecting the environment for my daughter.

Take a peak at one of our most cherished memories with Karen, Ladybugs Ladybugs Ladybugs!

Sadly, we recently learned that Karen has passed away. As we reflected on all that she taught us about caring for animals and caring for the environment, I began to realize just how important mentors are in the life of a child.

I also realized that Karen had special qualities that epitomized a great mentor relationship. She was of course friendly and outgoing but she had something special.

What are the qualities of effective adult mentors?

What qualities stand out to you in a mentor who is ultimately able to make a difference in the lives of youth? Below, I have outlined six important features of successful mentor relationships:

Be a friend

The successful mentors are the ones who can be a positive adult role model while focusing on the bonding and fun of a traditional friendship. It can be difficult for youth to befriend an unknown adult.

As a mentor, your goal is to help the relationship evolve into one of closeness and trust—but if you sound like you think you know everything or act like a parent and tell him what to do and how to act, you are likely to jeopardize your ability to build that trust.

Karen Scheuerman, mentor and wildlife conservation advocate in Northern California

Have realistic goals and expectations

Strong mentoring relationships do lead to positive changes in youth. These changes tend to occur indirectly, as a result of the close and trusting relationship, and they often occur slowly over time.

Have fun together

Sharing your expertise on a subject is of course educational and rewarding in itself. Having fun together also shows that you are reliable and committed. It is always possible to weave educational moments or real-life learning into the most “fun” activities. This is the kind of learning that youth tend to enjoy. It is learning with an immediate purpose and an immediate payoff; often they don’t even realize that they are learning.

Role models are highly important, helping to guide us through life during our development, to make important decisions that affect the outcome of our lives, and to help us find happiness in later life.

From my earlier post, Mentors & Role Models: The Positive Influences of Adults.

Give youth a choice

Giving your mentee voice and choice about activities will help build your friendship. Allowing them the freedom to choose or suggest activities demonstrates that you value their ideas and that you care about and respect her or him. The process can also help the child develop decision-making and negotiation skills.

Be positive

One of the most important things a mentor can do is to help develop self-esteem and self-confidence. Be encouraging and supportive; not criticizing. Many youth appreciate being able to bring up issues and having an adult who responds primarily by listening.

Listen

Just listening gives kids a chance to vent and lets them know that they can disclose personal matters without worrying about being criticized.

Respect the trust placed in you

As your relationship develops into one of closeness and trust, there might be times when the youth discloses something that causes real concern. As a supportive adult friend, you may be able to express that concern, but deliver your message in a way that also shows understanding and an ability to see her perspective.

Youth Activism: Don’t Silence Their Voices

At our weekly Scout meeting earlier this week we talked briefly about how we, as individuals can make a difference. If you do your duty, then you can make a difference and though you are just one person, together youth activism has the power to impact the world.

Youth activism is youth engagement in community organizing for social change. Youth participation in social change focuses more on issue-oriented activism than traditional partisan or electoral politics.

As hard as it seems, it’s possible to make a difference. All it takes is one idea and the right mix of determination and willpower to effect change at the local level. Start with one thing you’re passionate about and find small, local ways to organize and find solutions to the problem. 

Image of youth activist Greta Thunberg with her sign "Skolstrejk for Klimatet"

GRETA THUNBERG

By now, everyone has heard of Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist focused on the risks posed by climate change. She began her school climate strike only a year ago. This past week, she inspired over 4 million people to take a stand for climate.

“Everyone is welcome. Everyone is needed.”⁣⁣ ~ Greta Thunberg⁣⁣

Greta is great. However, if we center our attention and lift up only the white youth leaders on an international scale, we risk recreating the exact same dynamics of instilling a culture of white supremacy that is present in modern, adult organizing spaces. We risk silencing the voices of black, indigenous, and people of color .

Indigenous youth and adults have been tirelessly leading the fight for climate justice for millennia and yet their voices have not received the same recognition. Let’s celebrate a few of these amazing young activists!

Image of youth activist Autumn Peltier

AUTUMN PELTIER

⁣Autumun Peltier, Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory in Canada, was appointed chief water commissioner for the Ashinabek Nation and was recently nominated for the 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize, awarded annually to a child who “fights courageously for children’s rights.” She was only 13-years-old when she addressed the UN General Assembly and told world leaders to “warrior up” to protect water.

Image of youth activist Isra Hirsi

ISRA HIRSI

Isra Hirsi, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, is the co-founder of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike. She helped launch the U.S. movement the same month her mother, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, took office. She says the climate crisis “is the fight of my generation, and it needs to be addressed urgently.”

Image of youth activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

XIUHTEZCATL MARTINEZ⁣⁣

Earth Guardians Youth Director Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is an indigenous climate activist, hip-hop artist, and powerful voice on the front lines of a global youth-led environmental movement.⁣⁣ He has fought for climate protections and spoken to large crowds about the effects of fossil fuels on the Indigenous and other marginalized communities since he was six years old. In 2015, Martinez and 21 other youths filed a lawsuit against the US Federal government, Juliana et al. v United States et al. They argue that the federal government is denying their constitutional right to life, liberty and property by ignoring climate change. 

ROOTS & SHOOTS

Are you a young person interested in making change, but don’t know where to start? Or are you an adult who is inspired by the recent wave of youth activism in the U.S. and want to help out? Consider Roots & Shoots; join an established group in your area or start a new group for your homeschool community or at your school.

Roots & Shoots, a program of the Jane Goodall Institute, is a global movement of youth who are empowered to use their voice and actions to make compassionate decisions, influencing and leading change in their communities.

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ~ Jane Goodall

Founded by Jane Goodall in 1991, the goal is to bring together youth from preschool to university age to work on environmental, conservation, and humanitarian issues. Roots & Shoots is a movement for youth just like Greta, Autumn, Isra, and Xiuhtezcatl …. just like you or your children.


Homeschool Science for College Bound Students

As a former elementary science specialist, science has always been a major part of our homeschool. During the grammar and logic stages, I taught each of the kids together following a three year cycle (life, earth, and physical sciences) emphasizing hands-on labs and outdoor experiences.

As the kids have matured and their interests have developed, I have begun to customize their coursework to align with college in mind and their individual career goals. As a result, the courses they have taken (or will have taken in the near future) are unique to each.

*Make sure to enter the giveaway at the end of this post for an online homeschool high school science course. Giveaway ends 8/30/19!

Disclaimer:  I was compensated for my time for this review. All opinions are honest and I was not required to post a positive review.

Options for Homeschool Science

Providing a quality science education through high school is a common concern amongst homeschool families. Considerations like budget, time, and even your own level of comfort are frequent topics of conversation at co-op or in online forums.

There are many different avenues available for teaching science in your homeschool. While traditional textbooks, lab kits, and literature based instruction remain popular, online courses and dual enrollment are gaining momentum.

Dual Enrollment

In our homeschool, we opted for the dual enrollment option. This was the best choice for us for a multitude of reasons but primarily cost. Keep in mind, it is important to take into consideration the aptitude and maturity of the student prior to making this choice. It isn’t for everyone.

Additionally, the grades the student earns in college courses will forever be on their transcript. It is also critical to research the local regulations and admission guidelines of the universities to which your child intends to apply. Not all schools accept dual enrollment credit.

Another related option is credit by examination. Students may earn college credit through examination by passing standardized exams in numerous subjects including biology, chemistry, and natural sciences. Taking an accredited AP course is NOT required. Students may study independently using textbooks, online courses, or even tutors of their choice.

Online Courses

There are a growing number of companies that provide diverse online educational opportunities for students around the world. From computer programming to local ecology, the choices are endless.

Online classes are not just for kids. There are a wealth of courses and materials available for adults providing both personal enrichment and professional development.

College Prep Science

One provider that stands out is College Prep Science. I am impressed by the acumen of the author. He has worked as a college professor, has more than twenty years of experience teaching homeschooled students, and he’s a homeschool dad!

The course offerings are diverse, here are a few that will be offered September 2019:

  •  Biology – College Prep (9th-12th) – Two Semester Class
  • Chemistry – College Prep (10th-12th) – Two Semester Class
  • Physics – College Prep (10th-12th) – Two Semester Class
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology (9th-12th) – Two Semester Class
  • Exercise and Sports Physiology (8th-12th) – One Semester Class

Like most public and private schools, College Prep Science uses a virtual lab service with all classes that allows students to perform very realistic labs online. Students are able to virtually pour liquids and chemicals, light burners, move things in the lab, weigh things, measure temperatures, record results, etc.

The courses provided by College Prep Science are Christ-centered.

Students are instructed on how to produce quality lab reports and they turn-in formal lab reports which are graded. Emphasis is placed on students understanding scientific inquiry, the scientific method, and the resulting science lab reports.

“We focus on building critical thinking skills and developing a research and inquiry mindset with the resulting quality lab reports and thinking skills that affect every area of academics and life.”  ~ Greg Landry, College Prep Science

Summer Camps & Weekend Intensives

Often you can also find incredible summer opportunities at your state university. A year ago, my daughter took part in a week long intensive engineering camp where she was able to take part in authentic research, connect with professors in her prospective field, and make friends with other teens with the same goals.

College Prep Science

College Prep Science offers two day Biology and Chemistry Lab Intensives in 15 locations nationwide. Parents may issue school credit for these as they deem appropriate. According to their website, each two day intensive is the equivalent of a full school year of labs.

They also provide online bootcamps for ACT prep and CLEP Biology prep. For students planning to be science majors in college, doing well on the “science reasoning” section of the ACT is especially important. 

Online Science Class Giveaway

To enter this amazing giveaway of an online science class ($680 value) from College Prep Science, you’ll need to subscribe to their newsletter. One winner will be announced in their newsletter on August 30, 2019.

Teaching homeschool science with college in mind does not have to be overwhelming. I hope these options can help you successfully navigate high school science. Best wishes with the giveaway!

SESEY 2018: Summer Experiences in Science & Engineering

My daughter has been interested in engineering for as long as I can remember. She’s taken part in a numerous STEM workshops for girls over the years. Last summer, she had the amazing opportunity to take part in a summer intensive workshop (SESEY) at the university where she plans to enroll.

SESEY was created to encourage traditionally underrepresented groups to explore the world of engineering and to consider careers in its variety of fields. Initiated by Oregon State University in 1997, SESEY is coordinated by the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering.

Working in the lab as part of her summer intensive workshop at Oregon State University

Participants have the opportunity to interact directly with university students – to ask questions about campus life and how to balance their course load. Presentations and tours of each department are provided to help students better understand the diverse options in engineering.

Learn how to encourage girls in STEM careers with these fun activities.

Best of all, participants have the unique experience of taking part in an authentic research project. Working in small groups, they apply the inquiry method to real life issues. At the end of the week, they present their findings in poster format at the annual DaVinci days celebration.

My daughter was overjoyed to be assigned to the one environmental engineering project this past year – Bioremediation of Chlorinated Solvents Using Aerobic Microorganisms. Here’s a peak at her poster:

The program – especially the professors and university student volunteers who collaborated to make it happen – has cemented her desire to pursue a career in chemical and environmental engineering. She will be applying for admission soon.

You might also be interested in the engineering unit I developed, World’s Tallest Buildings. This short unit study includes a timeline project, integrated writing assignment, and an oral presentation.

Have your teens taken part in summer learning experiences or weekend intensive courses? I would love to hear about opportunities in other parts of the country.

Our AP Exam Experience: Chinese Language & Culture

In Oregon, students entering a four year university must have completed at least two years of a foreign language. As a homeschool, we are a non-accredited provider and therefore the language learning that my children have done with their private instructor is not recognized by four year institutions in Oregon. They must prove competency through examination.

Typically, there are multiple avenues or choices for credit by examination. The two most popular options are Advanced Placement® (AP) and the College Level Exam Program® (CLEP) – both of which are subject-specific credit-by-exam programs offered by The College Board.  Keep in mind, each university determines what tests are accepted and the qualifying score required.

Though my daughter will most assuredly apply to multiple institutions, her top choice is Oregon State University (OSU). It is an in-state school and both her father and I are alumni. Most importantly, the degrees she seeks (environmental and chemical engineering) are intertwined within the same college or department, rather than separate programs as is common at other universities.

OSU will accept either exam option. However, as there is no CLEP exam available for Mandarin Chinese, the AP exam is the best choice. The score required to prove competency on the Chinese Language & Culture AP Exam is a 2. If she scores a 3+, she would be awarded 15 credits and permitted to begin with upper division language courses.

Sophomore Year

We partnered with an umbrella school in the fall of the 2017-18 school year. While our reasons were varied (I’ve outlined them here), the school we partnered with promised it would make it possible for her to take the AP exam in the spring. None of the other area schools offered the Chinese exam – though any would likely be willing to secure it, I wanted an assurance.

The AP exam is offered only once a year on a predetermined date in May. In October, we began to communicate her intent to take the exam in the spring by both email and telephone. When April’s showers began to bring May flowers, we had given up hope that it was going to happen at all. We had received no confirmation of registration.

The week of the exam, we received a phone call that a make-up exam had been scheduled for the following week. Surprise!! We had no idea this was even a possibility. The school apologized and explained that this was the first AP exam they had the opportunity to administer (it is a relatively new charter school) and thus there was a bit of a learning curve.

We drove over to the school with few expectations. She had not taken a standardized test since grade school so our goal this time around was simply to gain some familiarity with the testing format.

Upon our arrival, we are informed that the “testing room” had just used been used to heat press t-shirts which accounted for the chemical odor that lingered. They opened a window but that only served to intensify the loud ruckus of students on their lunch break.

When I picked her up a few hours later, she complained of a headache and nausea. She is a strong test taker and yet was disappointed. “The fumes and noise made it difficult to concentrate. I began to feel queazy soon after we started but there was nothing I could do.”

Needless to say, she did not pass. No big deal. She could take it again the following year (she only submits . She and her Mandarin instructor began a focused effort immediately, using Barron’s AP Chinese study guide to prepare.

Junior Year

Since we first began Mandarin language instruction years ago, we have scheduled two classes each week. During this two hour block of time, each of the kids works with Shawn for one hour. Periodically, he incorporates cultural or cooking lessons whereupon it is a combined class but generally they work with him independently.

Over the course of the year, she would often have a focused two-hour block to work specifically on AP exam prep. With a familiarity of the testing format, she knew what she needed to do the second time around.

I also communicated more effectively our disappointment in the testing atmosphere to our umbrella school. While taking AP exams provides many benefits to students, it also reflects well on the school. I was certainly willing to overlook the concerns I had last year but did expect them to make improvements.

All her efforts were rewarded last month when we received her score report from the College Board. She passed! Her score was sent automatically to the community college where she is dual enrolled and 12 credits were awarded free of charge! Well, not exactly free. The cost to take the exam in the US is $94 – but that’s certainly much less than tuition.

Benefits of AP Examination

As I mentioned briefly above, taking an AP exam provides many benefits for students. I can’t recommend this option enough.

1. You save money on tuition

2. You will have greater flexibility in college and can potentially graduate early

3. AP classes impress college admissions officers

4. AP classes help develop college-level academic skills and increase your chances for merit aid

To clarify, taking an AP class is NOT required in order to register for and thereby take an AP exam. Whether you are working with a tutor or studying independently, you can still take the exams by simply arranging to test at a participating school or authorized test center. Learn more at I’m homeschooled. How can I take an AP Exam?

Becoming World War II Time Travelers with Home School in the Woods

We traveled to Washington, D.C. a couple years ago and while there, visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum. We took our time in the exhibit halls to absorb the messages communicated through the artifacts and stories. Later that evening as we processed what we had seen, the kids recalled visiting Norway’s World War II Resistance Museum in Oslo many years prior. 

Their continued questions and maturity have now convinced me it was time to look into World War II in more depth. As any parent or teacher can tell you, nothing engages a child in the learning experience like hands-on activities. Home School in the WoodsAmerica in World War II (from the Time Travelers series) provides the perfect resource. 

Teen using Home School in the Woods' timeline figures and notebook to create a visual timeline of World War II
I received access to this product in exchange for a review. I was compensated for my time and was not required to make a positive review.

Time Travelers: America in World War II

The CD includes 25 lessons that cover Hitler and the Nazi party, the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, the war in the Pacific and Africa, battles and conflicts across the European continent, and so much more. After looking over the material, we decided it was a topic interesting enough and the materials extensive enough to make it into a year long history study. 

Timelines and maps provide the “when” and “where” while 3-dimensional projects, drama or history dress-up, cooking, and living books transport us back through time. These hands-on activities bring history to life for students and engage them in meaningful learning. 

Bring history to life by coordinating a living history museum for students.  Portrayed here are Irena Sendler and Arnold Mærsk McKinney Møller.

There is also a supplement page full of recommended books, videos, audio files, and more to explore the subject to its fullest potential. There are so many enrichment activities, I know we will have a rich and varied unit study all through the coming year. 

WW2 History Timeline Projects & Schedule

Like all the titles in the Time Travelers U.S. History series, a calendar style overview of all 25 lesson plans is provided that lists the activities and projects for each. We decide how frequently a lesson is introduced and how deep we explore each topic. We can do a lesson a day (choosing minimal projects) or a lesson a week (choosing a different project each day). The schedule is very flexible.

The project pages and activities for each lesson vary according to topic but all lessons include penmanship practice, figures for a timeline, and a short writing assignment (newspaper style article). Other project masters include maps, songs, recipes, and historical facts such as culture and people. 

Teen using Home School in the Woods' blackline maps to geographically depict the battles of of World War II
Using blackline maps from Home School in the Woods to visualize the War in the Pacific

Our favorite activities include the timeline and maps which allow us to visualize the expansion of German and Japanese power over the course of the war. Conflicts through battles, conquests, and attacks are displayed clearly and concisely.

It was refreshing to find a unit of study that went into great depth without feeling like we were just skimming the surface. The format also encourages children to explore deeper the parts in which they are most interested. 

The material is well written and affordable. However, I must admit it can be a little confusing at first to organize and print out what you need. It just took a little time to familiarize myself with how everything was organized. Access to a printer and ink is certainly a must, too.  

The US History Time Traveler series has many different historical eras to choose. Other great products include our favorite timeline trio which includes the “Record of Time” timeline notebook (we’ve been using it since my kiddos were in grade school) and Project Passport for world geography studies.

Join their educational community and get a free unit study on famous authors, too!

An Ultimate Giveaway

Enter the giveaway today! This is one you don’t want to miss. One very lucky winner will receive The ENTIRE COLLECTION of both Project Passport (5) and Time Traveler (7) products—$311.90 VALUE! The winner can be anywhere in the world because this is a digital product.