Gap Year for Homeschoolers
Is a Gap Year Year Right For Your Homeschooled Teen?
In general, the expectation for college-bound high school graduates is that they bid their parents adieu and go off to begin their collegiate studies the fall after high school graduation. While this remains a solid choice for many families, there is always the option of taking a gap year between the end of high school and the beginning of college. A gap year is an increasingly popular option among homeschool families, especially if a child is graduating young or in a timeframe outside the standard schedule (e.g. graduating at Christmas instead of in the spring).
In this article, we will review four reasons you may want to consider a gap year for your teen before they begin their post-secondary education.
One of the most basic reasons your child might need a gap year is simply to rest—they’re tired. They’ve just wrapped up what was essentially a twelve-year educational program that they likely began when they were too young to remember. Graduation itself is a huge milestone, and senior year, in particular, can be especially grueling with all the loose ends to be tied up.
Your child may simply be burned out and need a break from academics. Would you want a break if you’d just completed a twelve-year commitment? A gap year for rest allows your child to dip his or her toes into other aspects of life (part-time job, hobbies, or even dating and relationships) and also allows them to reset their mind so they can approach college fresh and rested. So, if your child seems tired and burned out from school, a gap year could be just what the doctor ordered.
We also have to take into account maturity. The fact is, not all high school graduates are mature enough to move right into college life. This is especially a consideration in situations where your child is graduating ahead of her peers, as often happens in homeschooling. My own daughter completed her senior year of high school at 16; she was just turning 17 right around the time we had her graduation party. While some children that age may be ready for college, many are not. It’s simply too young.
The mere fact that your child completed high school does not mean they are ready to transition into college. College life presents a whole new set of challenges. Besides academics, a child must keep track of finances, acclimate to living on their own, and in general get situated living in a new environment away from home for the first time—and that’s not even counting navigating the social mileux of college as well.
College is a very big transition, and your child may simply need another year to grow in maturity before taking it all on. There’s no hard and fast rule here. Only you and your child can answer the question of maturity, but it is a question that nevertheless needs to be asked. If you think your child may some more growing up to do, a gap year provides the needed space.
I always envy graduates who know exactly what they want to do with their life and have a clear-cut plan for getting there. I never did. I had no clue! If your child has a well-defined plan for their post-graduate academics, fantastic! But if not, there’s really no hurry carting them off to college. College is a considerable investment. Even if you are fortunate enough to get the financial side covered, it’s still a huge time commitment.
Why should a child make a four year commitment towards a goal they are uncertain of? If your child seems ambivalent about their career plans, a gap year allows the time to research different career paths and deliberate what course of action is best, not only in terms of which college program is best, but also whether college is in the cards at all.
Finally, as Catholics, we must always leave space for discernment. Every young Catholic ought to spend time in serious reflection about their state in life. Is God calling you to the priesthood? Do you believe you are suited for marriage? Could there be a religious vocation in your life? It is difficult for a person to give weighty prayer and reflection to these questions when he or she is consumed with college prep tasks. A gap year offers time for such discernment. Your child can make pilgrimages, attend discernment retreats, learn about priesthood and religious life, and spend time praying about the matter.
Many children are fine going right to college out of high school, but it’s not going to be right for everybody. There’s really no rush to get your kids off to college immediately after high school, especially if they graduated on the younger side.
Taking a gap year has all kinds of benefits. I would also encourage you to listen to your children in this regard; ask them their opinions on the subject and have a frank discussion about it. It sometimes happens that high school graudates who are internally torn about college will go along with college plans they are not committed to because they feel like “this is what my parents want.”
While family opinion should certainly be considered, it is important that your children choose their college plan because it is what they want. Otherwise, their commitment will be lackluster and may result in wasted time, money, and hurt feelings. So I encourage you to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your child about this, get a sense of where their mind is at, and offer guidance in a spirit of respect and support.
If your homeschooled teen needs help discerning their life’s vocation, Good Counsel Careers (GCC) is a good resource for you to research. GCC is a Catholic company brought to you by the same people who founded Homeschool Connections.
From their website: “Good Counsel Careers focuses on transforming students from uncertainty in their direction to young men and women confident in their vocational path. No longer aimless, students will assess their strengths, weaknesses, and desires and forge ahead, identifying opportunities God has placed on their hearts. By providing access to models of Catholic leaders, Good Counsel Careers will show students that what was once possible is now quite probable.”