High school experiences are incredibly varied, depending on your child’s interests, strengths, and long-term goals. As they move through grades 9-12, they’ll be mastering independent study habits and conquering greater academic and social challenges. Of course, they’ll also be thinking ahead to what comes next, whether that’s college, a technical training program, or a job. As their trusted grown-up, these years are about helping them figure out those goals and make a plan to reach them.
What to Focus On
Thinking & Learning
Making the Leap to High School
If middle school was like riding a bike with training wheels, high school is the real deal. Your high schooler will have to be even more independent and juggle more complex academic, extracurricular, and social priorities. Helping them thrive during freshman year can set them up for success in the years to come. What should families focus on during this important transition?
What to Expect from High School English
Exactly what your high schooler studies in English will depend on their school and their interests. What should you expect and how do you know they’re making the progress they need?
What to Expect from High School Math
The exact sequence of high school math depends on your child’s school, but eventually they should engage with a few core areas of math, like algebra and geometry. Here’s what to expect.
What to Expect from High School Science
Many high schools will follow a similar path through science courses, but your high schooler will likely also have quite a bit of choice when it comes to advanced courses. Here’s what you can expect as they snap on those safety goggles.
What to Expect from High School Social Studies
Your high schooler will probably spend a year on US History and a year on World History. After that, they’re likely to have options for different electives. Here’s what you can expect them to get out of high school social studies.
Planning That Post-Graduation Life
So you’ve got a high schooler! If it seems like you’re aaaaalmost done guiding them through their school experience, well…that’s true! But they also have important decisions to make about what’s going to come after high school.
Getting a Real Job
Before high school, your child might already have earned their own money in one way or another—maybe babysitting or doing yard work, that kind of thing. Once they’re over 14, they can start to work at a “real job.” Here’s what you need to know about your minor on the job.
How to Help Your Teen
3 Ways to Support Your Child’s Development at Home
Start talking about what happens after high school. Seek out opportunities for your child to see what different kinds of career paths can look like, whether that means following you or a neighbor to work or striking up conversation with others in your community. And make sure they have exposure to a variety of post-high school paths, including two- and four-year colleges and job training programs in different professions (from traditional trades like plumbing and cosmetology to healthcare roles like medical and dental assisting to newer fields like information technology). The more options they have exposure to, the better, so they can start considering what might be the best fit for their goals.
Find ways to hold onto some family time when you can. It can feel impossible, with so many busy schedules, phones beeping, friends calling. Make a plan that works for your family, whatever that looks like. It might be phone-free meals (even once a week!), weekly ice cream stops on the way home from a sports practice, or an activity everyone likes to do together, like playing board games, riding bikes, or shooting hoops at the park.
Stay connected to school. This gets harder as your kids get older. But building those connections is still useful, because it’ll allow you to have a sense of how your child is doing during the school day and where or when they might need support. Especially if your child has their eye on college, their grades matter more than they ever have before. High schools tend to be big places where kids can sometimes fall through the cracks—especially kids who need extra support. Even if you won’t meet every teacher, try to get to know their guidance counselor, homeroom teacher, or someone else in the building who’s looking out for your child, so you have a touchpoint you can return to as needed.
It's time to
Consider Taking College Entrance Exams
If your student is considering applying to college, it’s likely they’ll need either the SAT or the ACT (or both). Taking the PSAT or PLAN (also known as the Pre-ACT) during their junior year can be a good idea for a few reasons: For one, these “practice tests” give your student a chance to familiarize themselves with the real tests with no pressure, since colleges won’t see these scores. Your student’s scores can help them guide any test prep they want to do for the real deal. And the PSAT in particular can help your student qualify for National Merit scholarship opportunities.
All Teen Resources
How to Talk to Your Teen About School
Which College Majors Make You the Most Employable?
What Parents Need to Know About Assessments
What Are All These Tests, Anyway?
What Parents Need to Know About Dyslexia
What Parents Need to Know About Student Loan Forgiveness
What Parents Need to Know About "Summer Melt"
How to Help Our Kids Process the Hard Stuff
A Few of Our Favorite Sites for Living Life with Kids
Own Your Own Future
This website offers a slew of tools for parents and students on planning ahead for college, but it also offers great resources and good ideas for alternatives to college.
Our first stop for anything related to learning differences. This is a great place to look for initial guidance if you have questions about your child’s social-emotional development or their learning needs.
This site offers a lot of no-nonsense advice about financial planning, and offers tools to help young people set and work toward their own financial goals.
Learning Heroes Paths to Success
Get tools and information for helping your high schooler choose classes, stay on track, and explore career options in this all-in-one resource from Learning Heroes.
What's Next For Your Child's School Journey
Life After High School
Whether your (almost grown-up) child is off to college, heading into a professional certification program, or going straight into the workforce or military, they'll still need your love and support. And occasionally even your advice.