Growing a Leader - Updated

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This week was all about college midterms for my daughter.  Recently, she just finished up last midterm and now is working on a 7 page essay.  I am so glad that we did a lot of work on essay writing during her high school years, as that has prepared her well for college writing.  She is excited to be president of her jazz/modern dance club on campus now.

My previously very shy daughter, is taking on leadership opportunities at college!  I think that the electives that she had done, during high school, helped to prepare her for that. Through her high school activities, she built up confidence and leadership skills, too.  And now she is going to be doing public speaking and aiding a city councilperson…

I had no idea that my daughter would want to do that, when she was young.....

Today, I'd like to share, and look back, on how my kiddo grew into a leader, starting with her early explorations, when she was little.

One of our biggest reasons for homeschooling, was to help our daughter discover her God given gifts.  We could follow her interests, and help her to explore them, and grow them, one day at a time.  Through the years, my husband and I worked to support her interests, in whatever way that we could, following her lead.  Isn’t that what’s homeschooling is about, anyway?

 Note – Since my daughter is an only child, we had more time than larger families to do extracurriculars and outside activities, just a thought, as you read our story.  And we didn’t know that we were growing a leader, even…that was a nice surprise…

It all started with making things using lots of cardboard and tape.

Growing a Leader

Fun with cardboard and tape.

Above is one of her big cardboard projects, but she started making little things, always with cardboard and tape, when she was just a preschooler.  I could never buy enough tape!  This was our daughter go-to activity during preschool and into the primary years, too.

We worked to support her in her efforts, in making things, doing things, and exploring things.....starting with preschool.


First it was all about art.  There were tons of art projects to be made.  Painting, fingerpainting with pudding, and coloring were her go to favorites.  Then, as a preschooler, she asked if she could learn ballet.  She had seen a story about ballet in a book from the library.  

I found a ballet class for little ones nearby. We were able to work that into our week, so she began soon.  She loved going to her class.  It was so cute.  None of the kids really knew the routine, but their efforts were glorious and that was all that mattered.

We often went to the park afterwards, or with our homeschooling friends on park day.  

What better way for a preschooler to discover and develop, than through homeschooling?  


Amid many art projects at home, we soon found a wonderful contest, called Creative Kids (Many other states have these, too) It was sponsored by our annual Spring Fair, which included competitions in animal care, cooking, art, writing, photography, and even knitting.  My daughter entered it starting in 3rd grade, and ended up continuing all the way through 10th grade.  

It became a very supportive environment for her to try out her new skills, and get feedback from other adults than mom.

She started with an entry in art the drawing of a toucan above.  It gave her chance to get feedback on her projects, a big step in getting out in the world, for a young child.  My daughter entered this picture the first year, and was thrilled to win second place.  They also gave her a little paragraph about her artwork, which she treasured.  She loved getting feedback for her work. 


She went on to enter many projects in the Creative Kids contestincluding essays, photography, knitting projects, and then one year she to entered a knitting contest.  hey competed as to how fast they could knit!  (how funny!)  To do this, she was up in front of an audience...This was held at our local spring fair, and included a lot of 4H activities.  Does your area off one of these contests for kids?

Later, she entered a poem, and when they asked the kids to share their poetry aloud, she decided to participate. This was her first experience in public speaking.  Little did I know that she would come to want more. Then she got interested in science...

My daughter loved watching her Science DVD's. And elementary science projects were very popular at our house ....

She wanted to learn about marine science, and spent a lot of time at our small marine science museum.   Then, in middle school, her interest in science centered around aviation.  There were lots of trips to the Museum of Flight, which became a long standing favorite.  

At home, most of her essays that year were geared toward aviation, the history of it.  And many of her reports were written on  the different types of airplanes.  This was easy to accommodate in our homeschooling, as I just geared her English assignments to her interest!

HIGH SCHOOL - Volunteering

Volunteering can be a great way to build confidence and leadership skills, as we all know.  We just geared our volunteering to my daughter's interests.  Sometimes as a whole family, other times, with a group of homeschooled teens, at a food bank, humane society, or making christmas boxes, etc.

In 9th grade, my daughter had a chance to help out in an elementary science class.  She jumped at the chance to help out as it was science.  She loved setting up the science labs, and got to lead a lesson once a semester.  

After a few years of assisting, she had gained so much in confidence...but decided that teaching was not her calling.  But this was still a wonderful experience for her.  She knew, however, that she wanted to become a leader somehow.  And when she needed a college reference, she had one!  (And that helped her get into college.)

Discovering Leadership

At Youth Mock Legislature, 2015

Then, in high school, we heard about the Youth and Government program. (This link is to their WA program, but most states also have one, through their YMCA.) My daughter started it in 9th grade, then ran for office in 10th grade. This gave her a lot of chances to develop her leadership skills in another setting.  

This program teaches about state government, where the teens actually enact the work of the legislature, each choosing a role to play, such as Page, Legislator, or Senator, etc.  They even write their own Bills!  

She found her niche here, realizing that she liked leading groups of her peers, such as committees, or serving as VP to her delegation.  And she can't wait for the state meeting in May, where she gets to be a mock youth court justice!   
And, for my daughter, this all started with projects at home using tons of cardboard and tape....

Isn't it fun to see how your kiddo grows.

 Leadership Activity Ideas  

....offering middle and high school competitions & tournaments, and much more! They are also on Facebook

-Joining a Parks Department Teen Board
-Volunteering as a Teen Leader in Scouts, 4H, Parks, or YMCA ----Volunteering at Church, in youth programs, day camps, etc.
-Paging at the State Legislature
-Volunteering at an animal shelter
-Participating in a Play/Drama
-Helping in a class at Co-op

Learning at home gave my daughter a supportive anchor, that allowed her to step out and explore the world, one day at a time. 

....And then, returning home for quiet time with family, and for my daughter, that always included our pet cat!

It is so important for our kids to have a soft place to fall....that they know they will be loved, no matter what. Isn't that part of why we homeschool?

What are your children exploring these days?  Link up, and share your story...  I appreciate connecting up with you, through comments!    It is such a pleasure to hear from you.

If you like this post, you will also probably like my pinterest board on high school.

Have you seen my book yet, called Homeschooling High School with College in Mind

Get my best tips on college from a homeschool perspective! 

"Betsy's book is a terrific resource for homeschooling parents who are planning to send their teens to college.  As a homeschool upperclassman advisor, I can attest that the information is spot on.  Also the book is chock full of resources with links and lots of helpful forms.  Be sure you are ready to take notes while you read!"

........Vicki Tillman, from

Thanks for stopping by,


Betsy is mom to her 20 year old daughter whom she homeschooled from day one.  She blogs at BJ's Homeschool, about the early yearshigh school & college and wrote the book - Homeschooling High School with College in Mind.   She offers free homeschool help through messages at BJ's Consulting

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