What about a Gap Year? (with LeAnn Gregory)

LeAnn Gregory Gap Year Guide Homeschooling High School Teens Homeschool Conversations podcast
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Have you wondered if your teen should take a Gap Year after high school? What are the benefits of gap years and are there any disadvantages to a gap year? LeAnn Gregory has written a Gap Year Guide to help parents and teens navigate when, why, and how to take a gap year after high school. She joins us today on the podcast to tell us all about it. If you’re homeschooling a high schooler, or plan to homeschool high school one day, this is a conversation you won’t want to miss!

Be sure to check out all the other interviews in our Homeschool Conversations series!

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Who is LeAnn Gregory

After 2 decades of mentoring college students with the campus ministry of CRU, LeAnn saw the need to help younger students prepare for life after high school graduation. In 2016 she wrote a curriculum to address many of the issues she had observed while working on college campuses; delayed graduation, lack of career direction, and the accumulation of paralyzing student debt.

While teaching the “5 Major Steps” curriculum in live seminars and online she became interested in how gap year programs could also help students mature in significant ways before entering college. Having worked in Christian ministry for 25 years, she was particularly interested in a new generation of faith-based programs. In 2017 her oldest daughter participated in The World Race gap year through Adventures in Missions and in 2018 she helped launch the first CRU gap year program. In 2019 her son was selected to be a fellow in the Impact 360 program and her youngest is planning her gap semester for Spring 2022.

LeAnn and her family love to travel, having lived in Europe for 12 years. Between the 5 of them they have visited every continent and over 25 countries. Their favorite will always be Croatia.

LeAnn Gregory Gap Year Guide Homeschooling High School Teens Homeschool Conversations podcast

Watch my interview with LeAnn Gregory

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Amy Sloan: LeAnn, thank you much for joining us today on the podcast. I am really delighted to get to chat with you. Could you just start by telling us a little bit about yourself and your family and why you began homeschooling?

LeAnn Gregory: Sure, thanks for having me. It’s great to talk to you. I was a missionary with Cru, from the time I got out of college till just a few years ago, actually. My husband and I met on the mission field with the Cru in Croatia. We were there for a total in the end of 12 years. We met as we were single. We were there for a year, we decided both go back long term. We ended up getting married. We had three kids. We were living there on the mission field and working with Cru. As a result, homeschooling was the best option for our lifestyle at that time. My kids are now 22, 20, and 17. That was a while ago.

We started homeschooling our daughter there and our son. We ended up moving back to the States in 2006, note 2006, it’s been so long, 15 years. We moved back and my husband works at Samaritan’s Purse in Boone. We really wanted to still have the flexibility that we had with homeschooling. We wanted to be able to pick up and go if God called us somewhere else through Samaritan’s Purse, or however he might do that. We really kept homeschooling, a big part of that, was for flexibility. I also love to teach and I love educational philosophy and reading all the books, and so, partly, it was a really fun job for me and I enjoyed everything that was involved in teaching the kids and picking curriculum and all that.

It also lets me stay involved with Cru. I worked at App State with the Cru team there part-time and had a lot of college students in and out of our house, which was fun with my kids there more. They got to be with college students, get to know them and they were a great influence. It just provided a lifestyle that fits with both our worldview and with our lifestyle, the kind of life we wanted for our kids. Now, all that to say, I did homeschool and I still have a daughter that is 17 and she’s homeschooled. We did other things, too. We’ve done different co-ops, different college model schools with the kids where they go to school two days a week and work off the syllabus the other days.

Then we’ve even done public school in high school with a couple of our kids, for a year for one of them and one of them went the whole time in high school.

We’ve done a lot of things, we’ve homeschooled and then other things, and that’s been good, humbling, and helped us to learn and grow and trust God more.

Amy: That’s one of the things I love just about homeschooling, in general, but you can really customize it to your family and it doesn’t have to look the same for every child or even for every family. Know we all figure out what’s going to work best for our unique families.

LeAnn: Exactly, yes, I would say that played a big role. That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve learned as I’ve been older now. It’s been 22 years since I started homeschooling. I definitely have learned there are different ways to the same goal. I don’t think we should ever change our goal for raising Godly children or whatever your educational goals might be. At the same time, I think I used to think there was only one path to get there. Now I see there are different ways to get to the same goal and you need to be a student of your children.

So many factors go into that, but now, with a little more age and maturity, I realized there’s not really a one size fits all approach.

LeAnn Gregory Homeschool Conversations high school gap year

Growing in humility

Amy: That’s one of the things that you’ve learned over the years of homeschooling. Has there been anything else that you changed or grown in, in your homeschool approach or philosophy over the years?

LeAnn: I would say that’s probably the biggest thing right now is just I think being young and idealistic in my 20s, early 30s. I’m a passionate person and I can see things really black and white and become very dogmatic [chuckles] about things and feel like my way is the right way and everyone else is confused. I think now I see that that isn’t the case. Obviously, there are pros to being passionate and being strongly convicted about things. The way I agree the most is just in humility and learning more about that there are other situations other family dynamics that people have. They’re just other ways and things that work. My way isn’t always the best for everybody.

That’s the one thing, I guess, I appreciate about aging is that it does help us to maybe not see things as black and white, not give up our convictions, but realize that some things don’t need to be on the conviction level, but more a persuasion or opinion or what works for us and not something on the conviction level. There’s plenty of things we do hold on that conviction level, which homeschool curriculum should not be one. Unfortunately, when we start out, our passion for doing it can become something that we hold more as a conviction that really should be just persuasion or an opinion.

Amy: Yes, definitely. That’s a perspective as a second-generation homeschooler that I can bring into my own homeschooling. I’ve seen many different ways of families doing things and I’ve seen that they’ve all been good ways for those families. Sometimes I just can’t go into Facebook, homeschool groups, or whatever. I just have to mute them all because everyone comes and they’re just intense about their particular approach. I’m like, “I think there’s more than one way of doing this.”

LeAnn: That’s the blessing of age. [chuckles] It just takes years of seeing and watching people do different things and choose different options for their kids. Even, I know some people are very against public school, but even public school, there are times that there are many factors involved as far as family dynamics or a single mom. There are just lots of things involved.

We need to be gracious enough to let people choose what’s best for them without being judgmental and looking down our noses that we somehow have it all figured out.

I also think that in the beginning, it was easy for my homeschool experience to be really self-centered, really more about my success than my kids. It’s like, yes, I would say it was for my kids, for the glory of God, but it could be really self-centered. I wanted to succeed at homeschooling. I want to prove myself, I want to be completing this curriculum, or I want my kids to do speech and debate or whatever.

I could have all these goals that could, if we’re not careful, they can be about us more than they have been about our kids. Instead of looking at each child and thinking, “What can I do to help us develop them,” and not just “How can I complete my curriculum? How can I do my educational philosophy?” I want to do this method. Even if it doesn’t work, I’m going to succeed because it’s about me.

That was unfortunate, I wish somebody older and wiser would have come along and said– I think I adjusted along the way. I did change, but we do always need to check ourselves that it’s not about us and about accomplishing what we want to accomplish and making ourselves look good, making a name for ourselves in the homeschool community, or whatever. It’s, really, the focus stays on what’s best for our kids and to the glory of God, not to the glory of me. [chuckles]

Amy: I don’t know if you know Missy Andrews from Center for Literary Education, but when I interviewed her previously, she called that performancism and just talked about how that is destructive to the relationships with our children, let alone our relationships with the Lord. That’s a good reminder, for sure.

LeAnn: Yes, I have to listen to that one. [chuckles]

Missy Andrews Center for Lit My Divine Comedy interview

Homeschooling teens and preparing for college

Amy: Now, you have these teens and these graduates. You have this perspective. Is there anything that maybe you were worried about homeschooling teens or sending teens to college as a younger mom, that now, looking back on it from this direction, you realize you didn’t have to worry about much?

LeAnn: Yes, of course, in the early years, I worried about what everyone does, curriculum choice, and all that. Then, in high school, when you settled more on that or are in a lane or just know what’s available better. I was afraid of going anywhere outside the box of homeschooling. I know when I first tried the college model school that my kids did in seventh and eighth grade, I was terrified to let my kids go outside of the home to do anything.

I wouldn’t consider us to be super, super conservative, but I still had heard just too many of those talks at homeschool conventions about institutionalizing my kids and I call it the yellow school bus, the hell approach like, heaven forbid that you would ever make a choice other than homeschooling. It blinded me to even see what’s really best for my kids and to believe that there could potentially be an option for different reasons that putting my kids in a two-day a week school might be a good idea.

It was something I had to trust God with, and we did it and it was a great option and my fears were not realized. Everything didn’t fall apart. I say, my oldest also ended up wanting to go to public high school for a year. That was terrifying because I just heard so many terrible, terrible things and that’s probably the most scared I’d ever been, and really had to trust the Lord. With that, it was fine. She was there for a year. She decided she didn’t like sitting in a classroom eight hours a day and didn’t want to stay there and came back home and dual-enrolled in a community college for the last two years and got her associate.

Now, she’s a student at Moody Bible in Chicago and spent time on the mission already. It’s important to bring all these decisions before the Lord and consider all the factors, all the dynamics, all the life circumstances that children’s need, and not say “never will I ever” because we can’t do that with God. We can’t tell Him we’re not going to– We don’t know where he’s going to lead us, and despite our strong opinions, we have to submit those fears to Him and be willing to let Him change our direction if He wants to because we can’t homeschool out of fear. We can’t just constantly, I’m so scared of what’s going to happen if I do this.

That’s just not a way that any of us need to live or want to live in. It’s not a spirit-filled life to walk in fear and just homeschool out of fear all the time. We just have to continually submit every area to him, including that how we raise our kids, how I school our kids, and not let pride or fear be the engine that drives our train.

LeAnn Gregory Homeschool Conversations high school gap year

Should my high school graduate take a Gap Year?

Amy: That’s really wise. Let’s transition and talk about what comes after high school. I’ve heard you speak and you write often about gap years. Before we start talking about gap years, let’s just big picture, can you define what is the gap year? Is it something more than someone just sitting at home on a sofa for a year and just not going anywhere? What do you mean when you talk about a gap year?

LeAnn: I know a lot of people think you’re taking a year off and playing video games or something on the couch. That didn’t even come into my mind when I knew about gap years because my idea for gap years came from the European idea were in Great Britain and other countries, it’s very common for students after they spend the year between their exams and entering the university doing something and they call that their gap year.

A lot of times it’s an international experience or some kind of humanitarian work and it’s kind of a common concept there. Whereas in the States, it’s not, but I don’t think of it as a year off. I think of it as a year on that is meaningfully planned.

It needs to be intentional, that’s my keyword. To me, a gap year has to be intentional. It can’t just be I’m going to take a break.

I don’t see it as a break. I see it as an opportunity for a student to develop some practical, professional, personal awareness areas of their life.

This could look different. It’s not going to be the same type gap year for every person but it still needs to have a goal and be intentionally planned, just like their education and our curriculum choices and all that.

It needs to be something that’s meaningful for that student to help meet their need where they are and get them to the next place they want to go. For example, when my daughter finished high school, she really wanted a break from the classroom. She didn’t want to go somewhere and sit in a classroom again right away. She’d always been interested in missions. She’d grown up partially on the mission field and she wanted to get out there and experience the world hands-on and get our hands dirty.

We started looking into options for gap years and found some programs where she could do that. That was a great choice for her. She came back. She ended up going to college. Like I said she’s in Bible college now and it’s great, that experience only enhanced her experience now in her desire to learn and her interest in studying the Bible and knowing more about it and how to study it, how to teach it better.

Had it not been for that experience, it could have just been, go sit in a classroom and more words coming at you and just finish it because you need to, but now, she really has a hunger to learn that and to understand things in a way she didn’t before.

Benefits to taking a gap year after high school

Amy: One benefit I’m already hearing about a gap year is it gives you a vision and a purpose for where you’re going next. Are there other benefits to taking a gap year? Then on the flip side, are there kind of counter reasons why that might not be the best fit for a particular teen?

LeAnn: Sure, yes, definitely. There’s a lot of benefits. I would say, spiritually, for your listeners, a lot of them are concerned probably with their children’s spiritual development, and a gap year can help with that and help our students help start to own their beliefs. That it’s not just mom and dads, it’s not just what I learned at home, but it can challenge their beliefs and make them have to reevaluate and think through, what do I really think and how do I as an individual believe?

I know, in 2018, I think it was Barna. A Barna report said that Gen Z, and that’s children born between 1994 and 2012, they’re leaning more toward relative truth. They’re not involved in the church or moving away from the church and some of these trends we see, we need to think, how can we mitigate some of these things? I think a gap year can do that because it takes students out of their comfortable, familiar environment with their parents or family and it puts them in more challenging situations or circumstances where their faith is challenged every day. They need to own their faith, and not just rely on mom and dad’s beliefs. I think if we’re intentional about the programs we choose, those things can happen.

I also think people maybe aren’t interested only in spiritual development, it’s a great personal development tool. It can help students understand themselves better, have a clearer sense of their gifts and their natural abilities and passions, that maybe when they were studying and really immersed in academics during high school, they didn’t have as much time to develop those things. It could help them dive into some hobbies and interests that they had that they didn’t have time to pursue all the way.

It can also help develop emotional intelligence, just their self-awareness, their self-regulation, their motivation, their empathy, social skills, I mean, a lot of gap years, you’re going to be on a team or with other people. You have to learn to communicate and people you don’t agree with or maybe don’t enjoy their personality, somebody outside your family where you’re forced into a relationship with them that you can’t just escape by, I don’t want to hang out with those people and avoiding them, but you’re in a community situation where you need to learn those things and problem-solving.

I know that most when you look at– I also do some career counseling and I talk to people and hiring managers that say what they’re looking for. They’re not looking just at GPAs and where you studied and what you study, but they need people who are mature, who are confident, who can solve problems, and who have good communication skills. Those kinds of things aren’t always developed just in a typical school or homeschool environment.

Of course, I think a lot of homeschool kids are very mature and confident and those are some of the benefits of homeschooling, but getting them outside in with other people where their beliefs are a little more challenged, I think, can be really helpful.

LeAnn Gregory Homeschool Conversations high school gap year

Reasons why you might not want to take a gap year

Now, on the flip side, of course, being the idealistic dogmatic person I am, at first I thought everybody should do a gap here. I thought about it. I realized there are people that it might not be the best choice for.

One thing is, I would say if a student is struggling emotionally and they’re coming from a place where even after this pandemic, they’re not doing well emotionally, maybe struggling with depression or anxiety or things like that, then a gap year is not a solution to go have their problems fixed and that’s not the kind of emotional baggage you can bring into a teen situation, especially, internationally. You get out in the middle of Africa and have these issues that you don’t have professional counselors there that can help you. You don’t have your family who knows you really well. I definitely don’t think it’s great for someone who’s struggling like, oh, let’s do a gap year and help them get better before they go to college.

The best place for them to deal with those issues is with their family who loves them, who knows them well, and who can set them up with the help they need. I have seen people choose gap years and not really be emotionally in a place where they needed to be, and then have to come home. It’s a burden for the team. It’s a burden for the people they’re working with and it’s dangerous for them.

There are other students who really need momentum just to carry their education. They need the momentum to keep going.

If they get off the train, they just might never be motivated to get back on it, which may be okay, but if it’s imperative to the parents that they go to college and they want to keep them on that train, then maybe they need to go straight into it and just keep the momentum going. If the parents are open to maybe college isn’t for them, maybe they would do a gap year and decide they want to get a certification in welding, if you’re open to that, then that could be a good choice. As we know our students and the goals of if they need to go to college and that’s something we feel strongly about, sometimes maybe we need to keep them on the train.

Another student I met that I wouldn’t recommend a gap year for is someone who knows they want to do something like medicine that is a long road. They’re going to have a lot of schooling in front of them. They already know that’s what they want to do. They might want to just go ahead and dive in because they’ve got a lot of years of schooling ahead. The extra year may or may not be a good idea, but I would think a little harder about taking a year to do a gap year.

Last group I would say would be missionary kids potentially. Their whole life has been a gap year. They’ve lived a lot of the things and gained a lot of the maturity in these areas that maybe our kids who grew up in America haven’t. In fact, for them, a good gap year would be maybe work in a Chick-fil-A in America, just being in American culture and understanding American culture and having a job in America could be that’s the type of gap year they need.

That’s a lot different than what my kids need, but for missionary kids, I think their needs are different. There are 3rd-culture kids who’ve maybe grew up in one country, and then, are going to maybe go to college in America because a lot of them do, but they might need a transition time before they jump into college. They could do some a gap year that is designed just for those needs.

Do gap years have a negative impact on college applications or scholarships?

Amy: Some of these students, if they are planning on going to college after taking a gap year and, of course, college isn’t the be all end all. If that is their plan or their goal, are there any negative effects of taking a gap year for scholarships or college applications?

LeAnn: I get asked that a lot. People are worried about that. My answer, in general, is no. A lot of schools encourage gap years, Harvard, Princeton, these Ivy league schools for years have encouraged gap years, UNC in North Carolina encourages gap years. They even have a gap year fellowship where they give, I believe, it’s $8,000 to students to design their own gap year and encourage them to take a year before they start studying. A lot of these schools see the value of a gap year, especially some of the higher-end schools.

Now, some of the smaller colleges, maybe haven’t heard of it or aren’t as familiar and you have to educate them on that and just explain that it’s not sitting on your couch for a year and help them understand, but armed with the right information, most admissions offices would agree that it’s a good idea.

Financial aid, I get asked that a lot. Financial aid, you have to apply for every year anyway. Unless your family situation is going to change dramatically in the year you’re gone, and then you wouldn’t qualify for financial aid anymore. That really wouldn’t be an issue because even if you started college, then that would be the same issue the next year of college. You reapply and your family situation changed. To me, financial aid is never really a good reason not to take a gap year and some of the gap year programs even accept financial aid. If the gap year program offers more than 24 hours of college credit, then you can apply for financial aid for that to help pay for the program. That’s just a perk.

The other thing I’m asked about is lottery scholarships. There are about eight states who have these lottery scholarships like Georgia, Florida. They have scholarships that are funded by the lottery that, generally, give almost free tuition, if you have a certain GPA. They’re pretty broad scholarships and a lot of people qualify for them. They’re worried they don’t want to lose that, which I totally understand that. Out of the eight, and this is when I researched for my book which was a few years ago, there were about three that required immediate enrollment after high school. The others you could defer for 16 months or 12 months. You could defer your scholarship and still get that money.

There are a few states and a few programs where they need you to go right into college to get the money. That’s something, it changes a lot every three years so you need to research and check that, but I would never let it be a hindrance until you’re sure that– Don’t assume that it’s going to be a hindrance because, in most cases, the financial aid, the scholarships are all still available.

Amy: I think with a lot of these things, it’s just so important to do our own research about, especially when it comes to college applications and things like that. Don’t go ask people on the internet. Just go do your own research. [chuckles]

LeAnn: Yes. It changes a lot. I wrote my book two years ago and things in there have changed. Fortunately, we have the internet and you can just go and look and see you got to dig a little bit, like for these lottery scholarships, you do need to dig a little bit to get the right information, but it’s out there, it’s accessible.

Different types of gap year programs

Amy: You mentioned a gap year program where you could get college credit. You’ve mentioned things that are more service or admissions-oriented. Can you give a few other examples of the different kinds of gap year programs there are?

LeAnn: The exciting thing is that gap year used to be more something that the elite colleges did and wealthy people did and they went and saw the world and went on a world tour before they went to college. There are still those programs. I’ve been to gap year fairs where those are the predominant programs. It seems like these luxury vacations, [chuckles] basically, for a year. That’s not the gap years that I’m talking about.

When I wrote my book, I decided just to focus on this new type of programs that are coming into vogue with people like us and they’re Christian programs, faith-based programs. Those are the programs I know the most about. There’s a lot of information about all the other type programs out there on the internet as well, but the programs I researched are primarily faith-based programs.

Now, that, of course, can get tricky with different theology and different approaches. That’s something you have to research and think of for yourself. Some that I mentioned in my book, maybe they’re not my favorite theologically, but I put them there for other reasons. I will say in that regard that two of my kids have had experiences with programs where I was like, I’m not sure, I’m not totally on board with that theologically, but it actually has been a huge blessing because it has given them the desire to research those topics that they weren’t sure about that maybe, yes, this isn’t what we were taught growing up about that.

They were actually motivated to read and study about those things and sharpen their faith in a way they wouldn’t have been if they had just stuck with something that was exactly along the same lines of everything we had taught. I’ve even seen benefits to that, obviously, you have to be careful and we’re not talking about anything that’s heresy or things like that. We’re just talking about some basic things that Christians disagree on, that we all can agree to disagree on.

I’ll highlight, I would say that my three favorite, I have a lot of good ones, but the ones I’m most familiar with and my favorites that I would highly recommend people going on their website and checking out, get your kids if you want them to become interested to look at them on social media. A lot of these are good at showing kids what it’s all about because sometimes the kids are like, “What is this? What’s a gap year? What would I do?”.

Impact 360

I would say the first one is Impact 360. That’s in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

That is a program my son did two years ago. It is unbelievable. I would do it if they would accept me. It’s a more academic program so compared to the program my daughter did, which was very hands-on. She was on three continents, six countries over the course of a year, his was academic. Impact 360 was started by one of Truett Cathy’s children, Cathys of Chick-fil-A.

There was a missionary overseas for many years and came back with a burden for students to develop spiritually before they go to college were their faith is really challenged and they come up with some professors and people that are really challenging their belief system. She wanted to find a place to solidify their faith and teach them, let them spend some time studying the word and being with other believers and being mentored.

They built this beautiful campus in Pine Mountain, Georgia, that they do this program on. When my son did it, they were accepting about 60 students per year, which is 30 girls and 30 boys. Now I think it’s up to 70. I think it’ll get up to about 90 students. They have college-age students that are grad students, basically, that participate as well, that then mentor the kids and grade their papers. They bring in some of the best speakers in the world for them to hear.

Someone will come in for a week and speak about, for example, Christopher Wan, if you know who he is. He wrote a great book. He’s a Moody grad and he came there for a week, they read his book the week before, then he comes in lectures for a week. They eat meals with them. They could ask some questions. Some of the greatest thinkers that you and I would love to sit down with. They gave him great opportunities, train him in some ministry skills. They take him to Brazil for a month in January to work at WinShape Camps there.

It’s an amazing program. I have nothing but good things to say about it. I can’t imagine anyone not loving it. Even kids who don’t love to read and study, they read a lot of books, but they’re somehow able to motivate them because they’re with these peers and they are able to motivate even the slower students who don’t want to read and study as much to study and to really debate these topics. I think what I love about it is they also say, their goal is not to tell them what to think but they want to teach them how to think about these things and they’re not there to say, “Here’s what you have to believe.”

They want them to really evaluate their beliefs and using wise thinkers and good literature and the Bible, they want them to evaluate their belief system before they go off to college. It’s just a phenomenal program. It starts accepting applications now really early. It has an interview process and it’s going to become more and more prestigious and difficult to get into, but right now, it’s still relatively open for students to get into it.

That’s called Impact 360. That’s amazing.

CRU

When my daughter wanted to go overseas, I immediately, of course, thought, “Cru surely has a gap year program.” I’d worked with Cru for 15, 20 years at that time and I thought, “Of course, have a gap year program.” They didn’t so I decided to convince them to start one. I was like, “I’m going to take all the things that I love about Impact 360, and then about these other more experiential programs, and how would I combine all the things that I’ve seen, the strengths and weaknesses of other programs into a really great program.

They already have all the things in place to have a great program. They have missionaries to work with overseas. They’re already there in established ministries and they are going to continue to be there after the team would leave. They have great training. They just really had all the pieces. It was just putting them all together into a program. We came up with a Cru gap year program a few years ago and have sent teams.

Our first team spent part of the year, three months, in Orlando, getting trained at some of the best training in the world at Cru headquarters. Then they went to Ecuador for three months and worked with an established ministry there that we had with Cru High School. Then they also went, after that, to Africa for three months and worked establishing a new ministry, but working with missionaries that are already on the field. That was important to me that you’re not just going out and randomly working, but you’re actually doing something productive and that is helpful to the missionaries.

In the process of developing the Cru gap year, we surveyed all of the missionaries that Cru had with the high school ministry out there on all the continents that said, “Who could use a team of six or eight people to help bring energy to your ministry or to serve you in some way who could effectively use them?” Those are the countries that we chose and each year we evaluate so that it’s a really win-win for both sides, not just the gap year students having a great experience but, actually, being a benefit on the mission field.

The Cru gap year is great for combining good training and teaching by established, mature believers with work on the field, with established, mature believers in countries that Cru is establishing. I really like that. That’s a great program. They’re recruiting right now for next year and it’s going to be, I’m not sure which countries, but it’ll depend on COVID but they’re going to go next year and they’re excited. It’s a growing program, hopefully, continue to grow.

OneLife

The last one I’ll mention is OneLife. OneLife is a program that has four different campuses around the country that they are working in. It’s a great program. Derek Melleby is one of the directors and I’ve met with him and his vision and mind we’re very aligned with what a gap year should do. It’s a little bit more like Impact 360. It’s a residential living on a college campus or the most exciting thing, they started a new campus that’s at a– I don’t know what you’d call it, like a place, not a nursing home, but a living facility where older adults live. It’s not a nursing home but–

Amy: Like a retirement community?

LeAnn: I guess it’s a retirement community, a little more advanced retirement community, but they have the students living there with these people and ministering to the elderly people that live there, which is a win-win for both sides. That just started this year, that campus, and they have three other campuses. They live together, they’re disciples. They do teaching and training together in discipleship. They take six or seven road trips during the year, I think most in the United States, but I think they also go overseas. That’s a really great community building. They have great intentionality with just their programming and what they’re teaching the kids and want them to learn and skills to develop, even to physical fitness.

They have physical fitness every day or they teach them about finances or just life skills, in general. It’s a great, very intentional program.

I would say all of those are really intentional, which is my keyword with the gap years, it needs to be intentional and not just a year off. There you can see some amazing results. It’ll really pay off when they move on to college, or if they decide not to move on to college and do trade school or whatever else they decided to do, the benefits are well-worth the investment of time and money because the programs obviously do cost money.

Some of you can raise support for the Cru when they train you to raise support so you raise all the money yourself. Impact 360 offers some great scholarships to students to help mitigate the cost and OneLife as well. OneLife and Impact 360 offer college credit, OneLife I think is 30 hours of college credit, which is a full year. Basically, you’re not getting behind at all. Impact, I believe, it was about 24 hours when my son did it. There are programs that offer good college credit. You’re not getting behind, you’re getting ahead, in my opinion.

In my opinion, you get ahead even if you don’t get college credit because you’re getting ahead, because you’re learning so much about yourself and your strengths, and in the long run, when you do go to college, knowing yourself better is only going to help you when you’re choosing a major and you’re trying to decide on career direction.

The better you know yourself, you’re going to avoid some of these mistakes kids are making when they go to school and change their major three times and end up graduating, six years is the average graduation right now. If you can get out in four years because you chose your major knowing yourself well and understanding yourself, you’re going to save a lot of money and time. You’re really getting ahead and not behind.

Amy: If there’s anything we know as homeschoolers is, it’s not just always about the credit or the title on the book. It’s about true learning, true education, which is much bigger.

LeAnn: Yes, wanting the students to really want to learn and to learn. I think a gap year can whet their appetite to want to learn in a way they haven’t before. Like I said, with my daughter, she didn’t feel like maybe that her gap year program did enough training, threw them out there so we’re like, “Oh, no, that’s terrible.” Really, it wasn’t terrible because she came back wanting to be trained, with a desire and sensing the need for training that she didn’t sense before she left. It turned out to be a good thing and really whet her appetite for her education.

Homeschooling for College Credit Jennifer Cook-DeRosa Homeschool Conversations podcast interview homeschooling teen high school dual enrollment CLEP AP

How can we help our teens make good decisions for their futures?

Amy: While we’re talking with our teens, and we’re helping them think through options, whether that’s gap year or a future career, where they’re moving as they’re leaving home, and they’re moving on and out, how can we help them evaluate, their own passions, their skills, to make these big decisions? It can feel so overwhelming as a mom. You want to help them and lead them and it can feel really big.

LeAnn: Yes, I agree. My biggest advice would be, to be a student of your student. We need to be a student and help them to see what they’re good at. Sometimes they can’t see it, but point out what you see in them and you know what careers those kinds of skills can be attached to, they probably don’t. Say, “Gosh, you’re so attentive to detail and you’re so good at this particular task.” They don’t have the life experience to connect those skills and gifts with careers.

I would say then give them opportunities to pursue some things if they show some interest in something. Find a way for them to informational interview or job shadow someone in a career field that they maybe have shown interest in. There’s probably someone in your realm of contacts that could talk to them. On my website, I have an interview form they can use to talk to someone and ask intelligent questions about their career and what things they need to know before entering into that. What kind of education they would need and just what the lifestyle is like and things like that.

I think it’s important to give them opportunities and push them to do those kinds of things, ask a lot of questions and research a lot of things by talking to people. They can also use the Occupational Outlook Handbook to find more about different careers and the salary potential.

Really, the big thing they need to understand is the opportunity potential. If a job is dying, that’s not a career field that’s worth investing your $100,000 of education in because it’s going away. They need to see the job growth rates and use some really solid research to make these decisions. A lot of kids are making decisions because they watched the TV show and they saw somebody who was an ER doctor and it seemed like fun. That’s not the best way to make a career decision. Unfortunately, a lot of students, that’s what they’re doing.

Then they go to college and they realize, “Oh, gosh, I have to take biology to be a doctor. I didn’t know that. I hate biology.” You’re like, “Okay, that’s something we could have known before we spent the money for your freshman year of college.” That’s an easy fix. We know you’re not good at biology and you don’t like it. Medicine might not be for you. We have to consider their interests, their aptitudes, and their opportunities.

I know that for some kids here are like, “Oh, petroleum engineers make a lot of money. That’s a good career.” It is a good career if you’re good at math and science but also if you want to live in certain places in the United States because you can’t live in Boone, North Carolina, and be a petroleum engineer. They’re not thinking that way. We need to use our life experience to help them understand some of those things and help them learn to research those things. I think that can give them the guidance.

I know Jennifer Cook-DeRosa says, “We are our child’s best guidance counselor.” I believe that because we’re going to be able to give them the best advice. We just need to be sure that we’re doing that and we’re helping guide their career choice with wisdom and maturity and things that we know that they just don’t have the life experience yet to know. We want them to make the decision but we need to arm them with the right information.

Amy: I hear it just going back to what you brought up many times this idea about being intentional. Being intentional as our children’s guidance counselor, being intentional as they make choices, being intentional about their gap year, a lot of it comes down to thinking carefully, and then moving forward with the intention it sounds like.

LeAnn: Homeschool moms are good at that. We like that. It’s the same as choosing curriculum. You’re just trying to look at your child and figure out what is the thing that’s going to help them to succeed the most? Maybe it’s a gap year, maybe it’s not a gap year, maybe it’s going straight into college, maybe it’s studying this, maybe that. We’re in a position that we can really speak into that and that we should speak into that. It doesn’t need to be about us and we need to be willing to say like, “Okay, if they don’t want to go to college, that doesn’t mean I failed as a homeschool mom when people hear that my son didn’t go to college.”

We need to be humble enough to be like, “Okay, that’s what’s best for him and I’m not going to worry what people think when they hear he didn’t go to college.” That’s fine.

Because if it’s about us, we’re going to be like, “Oh, get into the best school you can so it looks like I did my job well and we can prove all the naysayers wrong about homeschooling and about how great our kids are and how smart they are.” God can defend his own reputation. We don’t need to try to prove that we’re doing the right thing, but we need to look at our kids to be like, “What’s going to be the best for them and the most God-glorifying who did God create them to be and how can I help them to reach that potential?”

Amy: Not letting our pride get in the way.

LeAnn: Which is easy.

Amy: It is. LeAnn, this has been so helpful. Thank you for talking to us today about gap years. My mind is whirling thinking about my oldest is heading into the end of his high school years. Thinking through the next steps.

What LeAnn is reading lately

Here at the end, I’m going to ask you the questions I’m asking all my guests this season. The first is just what are you personally reading lately?

LeAnn: I have a whole table full of books that I intend to read that I order– Every time I listen to a podcast, I end up ordering a book which is dangerous. I have a whole stack. I’ll say the one thing I recently re-read as a result of podcasts, was re-read Nineteen Eighty-Four just because I’m sure I read it in high school, but at that point, it was 1984. At that point, I didn’t have a life experience to interpret it [chuckles] as I do now. It was really eye-opening. It’s just a scary book to read right now, but helpful [chuckles] to help us understand the world and where we may be headed. That was great.

I have another book I bought because of a podcast, which is called The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman. I have a lot of those types of books [chuckles] that I need to dive into. Then another more practical book I’m reading is called Mother and Son by the guy who wrote Love and Respect and just talking about some of the love and respect principles that apply to mothers and their sons.

My son is 20 now and so just the changing relationship you have from being right there in the trenches with them and then they’re going off to college, letting go and just the need for respect between– The same kind of principles that he taught for marriages, but just applying that more to mother and son relationship. That’s been really helpful for me where I find myself right now with my son.

Amy: That sounds like a really excellent one. I’m like you. I’ll listen to a podcast or now I will be talking to people from my podcast and I end up with way too many books and they stack up.

LeAnn: End up ordering all the books.

Amy: Exactly. Our family right now, I read aloud is actually Animal Farm.

LeAnn: That’s a good one.

Amy: We have a six-year-old and some other younger kids. They’re not quite ready for Nineteen Eighty-Four or some of that content, but Animal Farm it’s been a really fun, a really fun read-aloud that we can all enjoy at our own level.

LeAnn: At your own level.

LeAnn’s best tips for helping the homeschool day run smoothly

Amy: My final question is just what is your best tip for helping the homeschool day run smoothly?

LeAnn: Now that I don’t have a lot of homeschoolers in my house, I will say that the thing that I’m the most grateful for at this point is, I feel like developing independent learners is important when you get towards the high school years. I think I tried it a little too early with one of my kids. I gave her a math book and I was still involved with the older ones that I was just like, “Okay, I’m sure she’s doing the math book.” At the end of the year, I looked at the math book, and I was like, “Oh, [chuckles] she wasn’t doing it.” She wasn’t actually doing the math book. She was writing in the math book. She was a little too young to be as independent and I needed her to be at that point.

As my kids got older and in high school and middle school, just their ability to make us look at the work they have for the week and map it out has been awesome. My daughter that’s a senior in high school right now, she maps out everything for her week and to get all of her assignments done, and just is able to really independently manage her time.

I think that’s a great life skill. It also, obviously, helps a homeschool day runs smoothly. It’s not me reminding people what they need to do.

I’ve seen that as my kids get into college, that ability has really helped them for their college experience to run more smoothly. It’s just to understand how to think their time, how to manage their time, and figure out when they’re going to do assignments and put it in a schedule. I’ve been really proud of my son and even my daughter as if they’ve had to do that. They’ve been really successful at doing that. It’s been great. That, definitely, makes all education run smoothly is when you can develop these independent learners and people who know how to manage time.

Amy: Yes, and the good reminder of make sure you inspect [chuckles] along the way.

LeAnn: Also, check, especially when they’re in third grade. At this point in high school, I’m like, “It’s on you if you don’t do the assignment.” They’re accountable to other teachers.

I’d be like, “It’ll come back on.” In third grade, you need to be checking the work. [chuckles] I know we got a little behind that year.

Find LeAnn Gregory Online

Amy: It all evens out. LeAnn, where can people find you all around the internet?

LeAnn: I have a website that the address is 5 the number, not spelled out. 5majorsteps.com. I have a career curriculum that I developed for students to help them make career choices and start thinking through those things in high school. That blog is at 5majorsteps.com. Then I also have a Facebook group by the same name where I often will post articles either from that blog or just other interesting things I found on the internet about gap years or programs that are deadlines coming up, things like that. That’s just under 5major steps on Facebook. It’s a Facebook group. Those are the best ways.

My book, The Gap Year Guide, is on Amazon.

If people are interested, it’s really helpful and just thinking through what a gap year is, What are the elements you’re looking for if you’re designing your own or looking for a program? It even has stories from students who’ve been on those gap years that they report how their year went, what they learned. I think it’s a good way for parents may be to get a view of what we’re really talking about, what a gap year really is, not a vacation but a really intentional gap year. That’s available on Amazon.

Amy: I will have links to all of those things in the show notes for this episode over at humilityanddoxology.com. Thanks, LeAnn. Have a good rest of your day.

LeAnn: Thank you, Amy.

Check out all the other interviews in my Homeschool Conversations series!

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