Creating an educational plan

In 2005, Harris Interactive polled over 1,200 eight to seventeen year olds. This survey revealed that our youth believe having goals is important to achieving success. Unfortunately, one-third of them do not feel prepared to develop a plan to achieve their goals. The obstacles they reported were:

Planning is an important part of school, work, and life. Yet there are few situations in which your children are actually taught what a plan is or how to plan. Even students who have personal or career goals often move from middle school to high school to postsecondary education and work without a well conceived plan. Plans help connect the present with the future; and research has consistently demonstrated that connecting school to one's future has positive consequences for young people.

Oregon now requires that all students have an education plan in order to graduate from high school. This requirement recognizes that planning helps students succeed in school and out. It encourages students to explore who they are and where they want to go, and set a course consistent with those goals. It is at the heart of personalized, active, and meaningful education.

As a parent, you can help your children develop plans to achieve their goals and support those efforts in their schools.

Middle school plans

Middle school is time for exploring. The education plan during middle school supports your children's examination of themselves and their options. It sets in motion, through short-term goals and action steps, a process of discovery, investigation, and reflection.

As noted in Ingredients of Career Planning, career plans answer five basic questions. Your middle school child should approach these questions with the following emphasis:

  1. Who am I?
    Middle school children are in the midst of major changes - they are rapidly developing physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. They need affirmation and approval, yet independence, from you. Their energies are internally focused, and this can help them reflect on their talents, interests, values, and beliefs with curiosity and attention. Their education plan should identify who they are now and what they want to do to expand that self-awareness.
  2. Where am I going?
    Middle school is a time for dreaming about the future - life seems full of possibilities to most youngsters at this stage of their lives. Help your children articulate their dreams. Then help them explore those dreams through experiences and research. Their education plan should describe actions they will take to clarify their dreams.
  3. How do I get there?
    By exploring how they can reach their dreams, your children will begin to develop concrete connections between now and the future. Their education plan should begin to lay out the various paths they could take to reach their dreams. If they have many dreams, encourage them to look at all of them and identify the commonalities.
  4. What are my next steps?
    Once your children can visualize a path into their future, they can work on the here and now. Their education plan should set some realistic short-term goals that help them move toward their dreams. Since they will be entering high school after completion of eighth grade, the plan should include a list of courses and other activities that they will pursue when they move onto high school.
  5. Where am I now?
    Your children need to revisit their goals at regular intervals. Have they changed? Do they have new dreams? Did they achieve their short-term goals? Should they change their plan or take some new action to move toward their goals? Their education plan should invite ongoing reflection and revision. The plan should grow and develop as they grow and develop.