Thursday, May 16, 2013

High School Prep Genius: An Academic Guide to Excellence - Review

I am often asked "What are you going to do about Transcripts for your girls?" Since we educate them at home, this question comes up more often than you would think. Thankfully, we have several friends with older students, so I wasn't panicking yet. 

Then, a terrific answer appeared in our mailbox. Emily and I have been reviewing the book High School Prep Genius: An Academic Guide to Excellence by Jean Burk and Judah Burk, from the people at College Prep Genius. Even if your children go to a school building (public or private), you're going to want to spend the $29.95 on this book once you understand an inkling of all that it entails.

This meaty, 440 page book, is divided into 4 main sections, and also includes 5 appendices. Each part has something for the student to do, and something for the parent to do, and things to do together. It is a roadmap to use, whether or not your child is planning on college or career after High School. It has suggestions for students beginning in 7th grade. (Emily is in her first year of High School, but this summer, we're planningon using some of the younger student suggestions for Arlene.)

The first section is rather long, but OH SO IMPORTANT- the Introduction! Now, unlike other books' introductions, this is not optional. This section lets both the parent and student understand what they need to record, how to choose classes and actvities, and it is full of charts to give you ideas of how to keep your records...not only transcripts, but volunteer hours, book reading, course descriptions, and a host of other things you don't want to miss. It contains detailed instructions on how to organize a 'College and Career Notebook' and specific lists of what the student *should* be doing each summer and school year. 

Before you become overwhelmed, let me make two key points: 1- The authors remind you that it is never too late to start the process of planning for life after High School, it is just easier to work on it a season at a time, and 2- Our family is not the super-strict check the boxes, do all the worksheets, cover everything type, and we still found it quite helpful! This book is not designed to convey guilt for what you or your student hasn't done, but rather, it encourages you to take a few extra steps and choose wisely: courses, activities, record keeping, etc.

Don't let your student, or yourslf, get bogged down in section one. It is a work in progress, designed to cover 4 (or more) years. I am rather slow when making spreadsheets, so I'm glad it doesn't all need done at the first!

Section two "Foundation For Personal Success"starts really talking to the hearts of the students. It has lots of pondering questions, and includes space for the students to record their answers. What are your interests, what kind of person do you want to grow up to be, what are your beliefs, are you taking care of your health, how do you deal with change, and do you have a support system? are just a few of the topics covered. Each of the six chapters in section one have homework for the parent to do, to help, encourage, and guide their students.

Section three "Foundation For Academic Success" has six chapters that focus on the nitty-gritty details of being a responsible High School student. Topics covered include 'Effective Studying, Tests and Papers, Getting Organized,' and more.

The six chapters in Section four "Foundation For Future Success" help the student (and their parents) understand the choices that are coming up, like the differences between the SAT and ACT, and help the student learn how to prepare to make real-life decisions about college, career, and possible military service.

Having this book as a guide can save you SO many hours of research, and give you a solid path to follow as you navigate High School and beyond with your student. Even if you have a "transcripts" program or book, I think you'll want this one as well. The personal and academic development sections help your student understand how to grow from being a child to being an adult. When you work on this together, you help your adolescent grow, and you help yourself learn how to gently let go.

Emily is currently working on chapter 12. She has been reading, and answering the questions as she goes along. We have started discussing the sections, but she is much farther through the book than I am. In my defense, I'm the one making most of the spreadsheets to record her information on for the College and Career Notebook.

Now, when friends, or strangers, ask what we're going to do about transcripts and college, we have solid answers. We recommend this book! For good friends, I might even loan it to them...for a few days. But they're going to have to get their own copies, our will be well-used- often!


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