When your graduate doesn’t know the next step


Leah with acoustic, German-made violin

Leah with acoustic, German-made violin

Yesterday our granddaughter Violet asked our youngest daughter Leah if she has homework.

Leah said no (never one to expound on things!), and I explained that she had graduated and doesn’t have homework any more.

Violet said, “You’re lucky!”

She then asked if Leah was going to college and Leah said she didn’t know yet. 

Leah has been saying, “I don’t know,” since she graduated in 2013.

I am  like a racehorse rarin’ to go, running out of the starting gate. I’m very much a fast action taker (married to Ray who is like a turtle). I have big dreams and definite goals. So for me to have a child who seems, for lack of a better word, aimless, drives me up the wall!

What are parents to do when their child doesn’t know the next step after graduation?

Ray doesn’t think we should push Leah hard about making a decision about college, vocational school, or even working a part-time or full-time job! Leah is intelligent, spiritually gifted, and as our youngest and only child at home now, I don’t think he’s in any hurry to have her move out of our house any time soon (neither am I!). 


Leah at The Nutcracker Ballet
with our friends

But I want her to take some kind of step and make a decision to do something!

Here’s some tips for you that I’m using on myself:

  • Pray. This is the best thing you can do. For control freaks like me, you really have to just surrender the situation to God. I can’t physically make Leah enroll in online college classes or fill out job applications. I can’t force her to make some kind of decision for her life, barring kicking her out of the house, which I won’t do. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:18 NLV, “You must pray at all times as the Holy Spirit leads you to pray. Pray for the things that are needed. You must watch and keep on praying. Remember to pray for all Christians.” God hears your prayers as a parent. He loves and knows your child more than you do. He will lead and guide her/him. He has a good plan for your child’s life. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • Encourage. Let’s face it, criticism, nagging, and threatening don’t work very well with teens or young adults (or anyone!). Encourage your graduate about her/his spiritual gifts, talents, skills, and strengths. Call them to attention. Let your not-in-a-hurry-to-decide graduate know that you believe in her/him. Say, “You have so much to offer the world. You’re such a great artist.” (singer, musician, writer, or whatever he or she is good at). That she (or he) can do anything and nothing is impossible with God. Share about interesting looking college or community classes or job opportunities.
  • Motivate. Leah takes Suzuki method violin lessons from her wonderful instructor, Emily. She was inspired to learn how to play the violin by Lindsey Sterling playing Crystallize. Lindsey is just flat out anointed by God playing this song. For Christmas, we bought Leah a beautiful, acoustic violin (expensive!) that was made in Germany. She practices playing her violin every day and is self-motivated to go to her lessons each week. You may need to use whatever is important to your graduate to light a fire under him/her. If she wants to go to violin or piano lessons, she can get a part-time job to help pay for them. If she/he wants to use the car, she/he can work to put gas in the tank or help pay for the car insurance. If she/he wants to eat….just kidding. Find something that matters to your graduate to motivate her/him to work or to pursue further education or training. What really matters to her/him the most? What’s important? 

    Leah with her violin instructor Emily

    Leah with her violin instructor Emily

  • Educate. Leah was always homeschooled, and is now graduated, but I see no reason for the learning to stop. No matter if your child was homeschooled, went to public school or private school, and how long it’s been since graduation, you can still cultivate a learning atmosphere in your home. Buy your graduate her or his favorite fiction books and other books they can read to continue learning. Go to art museums. Travel new places. Do fun things together that are also educational. I always have a stack of books in our front entry room that I’m reading, I regularly attend webinars, telecalls, and other trainings, and I enjoy traveling to learn new things, try new foods, and meet new people. I believe that learning should be life-long; every day affords an opportunity to learn and expand your mind. Encourage your graduate to continue learning new things every day. 
  • Influence. Hang around successful people who can impress and influence your graduate, and perhaps even speak into her/his life. Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Who is your graduate friends with? Who does she/he hang around? What does he/she read, what music does he/she listen to, what YouTube videos does he/she watch, where is he/she surfing online, what are his/her hobbies, interests, and activities? I study successful women entrepreneurs (speakers, writers, coaches, women with online businesses) because that is my career now, and I desire to be extremely successful. Your big dreams and achievements and others’ can impact and inspire your graduate. At the very least, your career may show your graduate that is what she/he does NOT want to do! (Leah, being very shy, has no desire whatsoever to be a women’s conference speaker like me…and she dislikes writing as well, so we’ve ruled that out for her life!) I encourage her to hone her skills on the violin and in art on her graphic art tablet (she’s an amazing artist). For Christmas, we bought her a mandolin, which she is now teaching herself to play. She also plays around on the guitar. Music is Leah’s “language.” I encourage her to listen to good musicians and study great artists, as these are the areas she may pursue later as her career/ministry.

Applying these tips may help your graduate to take at least one small step. Leah finally applied for a couple of jobs and had her first job interview. She was really nervous about this, and she didn’t get the job, but she did it. It was a major milestone for her since she is so shy. One step leads to another.

Heather, me & Leah, 2014

Heather, me & Leah

You can read 10 Powerful and Inspiring Graduate Speeches at Personal Excellence (Be Your Best Self, Live Your Best Life) by clicking here. I liked what Bono said in his 2004 graduate speech:

“For four years you’ve been buying, trading, and selling everything you’ve got in this marketplace of ideas. The intellectual hustle. Your pockets are full, even if your parents’ are empty, and — and now you’ve got to figure out what to spend it on. … So my question I suppose is: What’s the big idea? What’s your big idea? What are you willing to spend your moral capital, your intellectual capital, your cash, your sweat equity in pursuing outside […]?” – Bono

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Life After Homeschooling

:Leah and her sister Eden's cat

Leah and her sister Eden’s cat

You may be wondering what Leah has been up to since she graduated from our homeschool.

She’d probably tell you, “Blissfully nothing!” with a big smile on her face.

She has done the following:

  • gone to bed way too late most nights (despite my reminders to go to bed earlier)
  • slept in the next morning
  • draws daily with her graphic art tablet that Ray bought her several years ago
  • plays video games
  • helps her friend David with a video game that he’s creating and programming, by drawing people and objects for it
  • chats with her friends Nicholas, Nicole, Morgan, and David on Gmail
  • watches Star Trek or other sci-fi movies with Ray when he is home from work.

In other words, she’s living a completely carefree, irresponsible life!

To be fair, Leah has to help me with household chores each day. She has to help with her own laundry, keep her room clean, and occasional dusting, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, and washing dishes.

One of her “perks” for getting her driver’s license is running errands in town for Ray and me. Ahhh, this is what children are born for! (Just kidding. But it does help us out immensely!)

Every Sunday we attend a small group Bible study, where we worship God together with contemporary songs and hymns on YouTube videos, have a Biblical teaching on using the spiritual gifts and other topics for spiritual growth, talk and pray with our friends, and occasionally have potluck dinners or other activities together. The teen group has become solid friends, and Leah loves going there to hang out with them.

As you can see in the picture below, they like to have fun. Aaron is the one with the sock on his head. Next to him is his brother, David. Second row are Annabelle (Leah’s niece), Alex, Rachel, and Mariah. Third row, Violet (Leah’s niece) and Abi.

Leah and her friends at small group

Leah and her friends at small group

For Bible reading, she and I have been reading through Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence*** devotional each day.

Leah with her pretty roses on Valentine's Day

Leah with her pretty roses on Valentine’s Day

Ray has also challenged her, as he has each of our daughters, to read Les Miserables. If Leah accomplishes this, she’ll be the first to do it because Heather and Eden dislike reading. (It’s a 1,260-page book!) She has started reading it, but I’m not sure how far she’s gotten.

But Leah does often read books on her own, even though she’s not homeschooling any more. This makes Ray and me happy because we are voracious readers, and believe reading is important. She prefers fiction such as Into the Wild (Warriors, Book 1) ***, but reads other genres of books, too.

Art is her passion. On January 1, 2013, she set a goal to do a “365 art challenge,” drawing art of some kind every day for the entire year. Primarily she uses her graphic art tablet.

Leah doing a special art project for me

Leah doing a special art project for me

Leah also is my personal assistant in my Speaking, Writing and Coaching Business at BethJones.net. She’s often the unseen videographer for my videos on YouTube and helps me with other administrative tasks. Pictured above, she’s working on a special art project for me for our RELEASED Women’s Conference.

She went on a family vacation with Ray, me, Heather, and Heather’s girls Annabelle and Violet to St. Louis, MO, to see the arch.

My dad bought Leah some brand new luggage for a graduation present, a tradition that he started when I graduated. Then he bought Heather some, and now Leah. Looking back now, I realize it was a prophetic gift, because my desire and my anointing and calling is to go to the nations for God’s glory. Heather has a missions calling as well.

Leah doesn’t want to travel to as many places as we do, but she does want to go to Ireland and Australia. She was able to quickly use the new luggage when she went on a road trip with Ray for his pastor’s ordination ceremony in Texas under River’s Edge Church’s covering and to visit her mimi, Judy (Ray’s mom), and Ray’s stepdad Leonard for a couple of days.

Leah's graduation luggage

Leah’s graduation luggage

But the biggest thing Leah has been doing since graduating is learning how to play the violin!

Here’s how it started

You probably think it was my or Ray’s idea. Nope. It was Leah’s.

Actually, I believe it was God’s. I believe He put this desire into her heart to learn to play an instrument.

I believe Leah has dormant gifts that she hasn’t even begun to tap into yet, and God is beginning to draw them out Himself.

To my surprise, for Christmas Leah asked for either an electrical violin or keyboard for her gift.

She said she wanted to learn to play the violin and the piano.  Like Mary, I treasured and pondered these things in my heart. (Luke 2:9)

Leah researched violins and pianos, read all the reviews on Amazon and YouTube, and sent me links for the top 3 she wanted the most.

She was inspired to play the electric violin by the incredibly gifted Lindsey Stirling, who plays classical music with a modern hip-hop/pop twist. I LOVE Lindsey’s video Crystallize! She is flat out anointed to play the violin. I get chill bumps every time I watch it.

We ordered Leah a violin for Christmas, but she didn’t know if we’d bought her the keyboard or the violin. She thought it was the keyboard, from the shape of her polka-dot-wrapping-paper box, so it was a surprise. She had the biggest smile on her face when she opened it.

Leah opening her Christmas 2012 gift from Ray and me

Leah opening her Christmas 2012 gift from Ray and me

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear

As soon as Leah told me she wanted a violin, I immediately began praying for the right instructor. We had never covered music in homeschooling, other than a general overview study of the classical musicians like Beethoven and Mozart. I don’t know how to play any instrument or read music, and I knew we’d need to find someone – and I wanted someone GOOD.

I also asked God if it were possible, to help us find a Christian instructor.

I was having Mexican lunch with my friend Diane Bishop one day, and at the end of the conversation, I asked Diane if she happened to know of anyone who taught violin lessons.  She did! Years ago, her stepdaughter Hannah had taken lessons from a public school teacher, Emily.

I messaged Hannah on Facebook to ask her if she knew Emily’s number, then called Emily and she called back promptly. Emily has been teaching students for 15 years. (She doesn’t look old enough to have done that! She’s beautiful and so sweet, and she looks like a young adult herself!) She not only teaches lessons, but plays very well herself. Leah began her lessons right away.

Leah's violin instructor Emily and Leah

Leah’s violin instructor Emily and Leah

She’s been taking the lessons for about a month and really likes it. Emily is teaching her music theory as well (how to read notes). Leah has to practice every day. It sounds like beautiful music to me!

Leah and her electric violin

Leah still isn’t sure what she wants to do career- or ministry-wise with her life. Ray says we shouldn’t push her, but has exhorted her that she needs to start setting other goals for her life. She will either have to go to college, vocational training school, or work eventually. I’m also encouraging her to create a bucket list – making a list of all the things she’d love to do throughout her life.

We are talking to her about signing up for at least one art class at a community college. She is an amazingly gifted artist.

But I’m so proud of her for beginning violin lessons and so excited she’s learning to play!

What is something you or your child has always wanted to do? Don’t wait! God wants you to use the gifts that are inside of you for His glory.

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