Our AP Exam Experience: Chinese Language & Culture

In Oregon, students entering a four year university must have completed at least two years of a foreign language. As a homeschool, we are a non-accredited provider and therefore the language learning that my children have done with their private instructor is not recognized by four year institutions in Oregon. They must prove competency through examination.

Typically, there are multiple avenues or choices for credit by examination. The two most popular options are Advanced Placement® (AP) and the College Level Exam Program® (CLEP) – both of which are subject-specific credit-by-exam programs offered by The College Board.  Keep in mind, each university determines what tests are accepted and the qualifying score required.

Though my daughter will most assuredly apply to multiple institutions, her top choice is Oregon State University (OSU). It is an in-state school and both her father and I are alumni. Most importantly, the degrees she seeks (environmental and chemical engineering) are intertwined within the same college or department, rather than separate programs as is common at other universities.

OSU will accept either exam option. However, as there is no CLEP exam available for Mandarin Chinese, the AP exam is the best choice. The score required to prove competency on the Chinese Language & Culture AP Exam is a 2. If she scores a 3+, she would be awarded 15 credits and permitted to begin with upper division language courses.

Sophomore Year

We partnered with an umbrella school in the fall of the 2017-18 school year. While our reasons were varied (I’ve outlined them here), the school we partnered with promised it would make it possible for her to take the AP exam in the spring. None of the other area schools offered the Chinese exam – though any would likely be willing to secure it, I wanted an assurance.

The AP exam is offered only once a year on a predetermined date in May. In October, we began to communicate her intent to take the exam in the spring by both email and telephone. When April’s showers began to bring May flowers, we had given up hope that it was going to happen at all. We had received no confirmation of registration.

The week of the exam, we received a phone call that a make-up exam had been scheduled for the following week. Surprise!! We had no idea this was even a possibility. The school apologized and explained that this was the first AP exam they had the opportunity to administer (it is a relatively new charter school) and thus there was a bit of a learning curve.

We drove over to the school with few expectations. She had not taken a standardized test since grade school so our goal this time around was simply to gain some familiarity with the testing format.

Upon our arrival, we are informed that the “testing room” had just used been used to heat press t-shirts which accounted for the chemical odor that lingered. They opened a window but that only served to intensify the loud ruckus of students on their lunch break.

When I picked her up a few hours later, she complained of a headache and nausea. She is a strong test taker and yet was disappointed. “The fumes and noise made it difficult to concentrate. I began to feel queazy soon after we started but there was nothing I could do.”

Needless to say, she did not pass. No big deal. She could take it again the following year (she only submits . She and her Mandarin instructor began a focused effort immediately, using Barron’s AP Chinese study guide to prepare.

Junior Year

Since we first began Mandarin language instruction years ago, we have scheduled two classes each week. During this two hour block of time, each of the kids works with Shawn for one hour. Periodically, he incorporates cultural or cooking lessons whereupon it is a combined class but generally they work with him independently.

Over the course of the year, she would often have a focused two-hour block to work specifically on AP exam prep. With a familiarity of the testing format, she knew what she needed to do the second time around.

I also communicated more effectively our disappointment in the testing atmosphere to our umbrella school. While taking AP exams provides many benefits to students, it also reflects well on the school. I was certainly willing to overlook the concerns I had last year but did expect them to make improvements.

All her efforts were rewarded last month when we received her score report from the College Board. She passed! Her score was sent automatically to the community college where she is dual enrolled and 12 credits were awarded free of charge! Well, not exactly free. The cost to take the exam in the US is $94 – but that’s certainly much less than tuition.

Benefits of AP Examination

As I mentioned briefly above, taking an AP exam provides many benefits for students. I can’t recommend this option enough.

1. You save money on tuition

2. You will have greater flexibility in college and can potentially graduate early

3. AP classes impress college admissions officers

4. AP classes help develop college-level academic skills and increase your chances for merit aid

To clarify, taking an AP class is NOT required in order to register for and thereby take an AP exam. Whether you are working with a tutor or studying independently, you can still take the exams by simply arranging to test at a participating school or authorized test center. Learn more at I’m homeschooled. How can I take an AP Exam?

Homeschooling High School: GPAs and Transcripts

My daughter is a junior in high school this year and has begun to apply for scholarships and is considering early admission to the university. As the year begins to wind down, we are giving more thought to her high transcript.

Teen girl holding hands in shape of peace symbol with text overlay "GPAs and Transcripts", magnolia tree in bloom in background

Many homeschool families get stressed by this aspect of homeschooling and fear the university will not accept a “homemade” transcript. The process of calculating your child’s GPA and creating a transcript is not difficult. There are many tutorials online to help guide you through this process.

Through our research – talking to local high school teachers and admissions counselors at our state universities – we have found it is best for high schoolers to use an unweighted GPA. In other words:

  • A’s receive a 4.0
  • B’s receive a 3.0
  • C’s receive a 2.0

I strongly suggest that the course be taken over again if the student earns anything lower than a C. Though our preference is to keep it simple, you can use half-points or quarter-points if you want to use a plus/minus grade system.

However, as many of the courses my daughter has taken are dual-enrollment course at the local community college, I opted to not use letter grades on her high school transcript. Instead, we will use a mastery approach. We do not consider a course complete until the material is mastered at the appropriate level.

The Core Courses

To apply for admission to a university in Oregon, the courses that students must have completed are outlined as:

  • Language Arts – 4 years (12 trimester credits)
  • Math – 3 years (9 trimester credits)
  • Science – 3 years (9 trimester credits)
  • Social Studies – 3 years (9 trimester credits)
  • World Languages – 2 years (6 trimester credits)

In a future post, I will share more details about the language requirement and different avenues by which to fulfill it as homeschoolers.

What About those Electives?

In addition to the student’s GPA, admission requirements also assess student preparedness and academic potential by looking at the unique context of each student’s personal experience.  Academic performance is not the sole criterion and successful applicants demonstrate a wide range of passions and life experiences.

Teens have many different interests and as they pursue their passions, homeschool parents often wonder how they might translate these hours onto a transcript. I previously wrote a post detailing the ABCs of High School Electives and provide a peak into how this can be done easily.

Academic Rigor

Often homeschool families and/or high schools will weight the GPA because they want to show that students with a weighted grade have completed an academically rigorous course (as in 5.0 for a rigorous course instead of 4.0).

However, it is much easier and more effective to show academic rigor by simply including the level of rigor in the title of the course on the transcript. For example, if your homeschool high schooler completed an honors level language arts course their senior year, the transcript might say: English Language Arts IV (Honors).

Please note that the College Board owns the term AP, so all courses that call themselves such must have approval. However, students may prepare for and take AP exams without having completed an approved AP course. It is important to confer with the university of choice whether they will accept AP exams for university credit.

For more information on homeschooling high school transcripts, two of my favorite resources by fellow homeschoolers are:

The Ultimate Guide to Creating an Unschooling High School Transcript from Joan Concilo at Unschool Rules

Do You Make This Big Homeschooling High School Transcript Mistake? from Heather at Blog, She Wrote

The ABCs of High School Electives: Translating Passions on Transcripts

As the academic year comes to a close, you may be thinking of nothing more than your summer bucket list. Many students however, like my daughter, have their eyes set on pursuing opportunities that can better prepare them for their career choice or expand their extracurricular experiences.

image of teen girl giving an oral presentation or speech

This past summer my daughter attended a week-long engineering camp at the university. This opportunity not only provided her with insight into her field of interest but also connected her to key personnel in the department. She emerged with a greater understanding of the skills she will need to succeed in her field. She also collaborated with another teen on an engineering project and gave a presentation at the conclusion of the course.

Summer camps like the one I described and short courses in art or sailing provide youth with hours that can be used for elective credits. Unlike required courses, electives are classes the student chooses based on her interests. It is the perfect way to customize a child’s education.

ABCs of High School Electives

While most high schools offer electives that cover a wide variety of topics, homeschoolers have the opportunity to craft a transcript that is unique and the most reflective of a student’s interests and future career goals.

This past year for example, my daughter has been actively involved in the Debate Club at the local community college. While it is an informal group (they haven’t competed against other schools), they are engaged in forensic experiences. The hours she attends and the research she invests in preparing her speeches can be applied to her transcript.

The possibilities are endless. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

A – Art & Graphic Design, Aeronautics, or Architecture

B – Birding (Ornithology) 

C – Culinary Arts

D – Drama, Drones (Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems)

E – Electronics 

F – Forensic Science

G – Game Design (Coding)

H – Homemaking

I – Interior Design

J – Journalism

K – Kinesiology (Sports Science)

L – Languages

M – Music (Performance & Theory)

N – Naturopathy, Nursing, or Nature Studies

O – Oceanography (Marine Science)

P – Psychology

Q – Quilting (Fiber Arts)

R – Robotics

S – Sociology

T – Toastmasters (Public Speaking and/or Debate)

U – Urban Studies

V – Venturing (Scouting)

W – Web Design 

X – Xeriscaping 

Y – Yearbook 

Z – Zoology

It would be impossible for any single school – public or private – to offer every elective on this list; there are simply too many. Schools are forced to choose which electives to offer based on a number of factors including location, student population, resources available, teacher expertise, and student interest. Homeschools, on the other hand, are not restricted by these factors.

Translating Elective Hours on the Transcript

Translating the hours a child has invested in a particular area can be done with ease. Simply keep an activity log as documentation of the hours invested. Click on the image below to download a FREE copy for yourself.image of an activity log used to track hours of instruction

In Oregon, 1 high school trimester is equal to 1 high school credit hour. This translates to approximately 55 hours of seat time/instruction. Thus, the 61 hours my daughter volunteered at the art museum last summer earned her 1 trimester credit.

These hours can be accumulated by watching instructional videos, TED talks, attending local seminars, reading informative texts, taking a specialized course (either in person or online), or any myriad of things related to the field of interest.

Use the course descriptions provided by local schools as a guide as you write your own. Keep in mind that electives can have different names depending on the school offering them, even if they cover essentially the same topic (for example, a culinary arts class could also be called cooking, foods, or something similar).

On a related note, forensics has long meant the art of speechmaking and oral presentation. Debate clubs, on the other hand, involve students in researching a pre-selected topic and then trying to convince people of their position. It’s a cousin of forensics but not the same thing.

To add to the confusion, Forensics Clubs and courses in Forensic Science are popping up in many modern schools, inspired by popular television shows. Using an optional course description can help to alleviate any confusion.

Finishing Strong #150: Transitioning to College

Welcome to Finishing Strong ~ a weekly link-up dedicated to families homeschooling middle & high school kids. Each Wednesday, moms just like you share their best tips, encouragement, advice, and more for teaching older kids at home.

Finishing-Strong-500x500I am delighted that families homeschooling middle and high school age students are coming together and finding inspiration in one another. That has been the goal of Finishing Strong since its inception. Thank you!!

Finishing Strong is hosted by me here at EvaVarga along with my friends – Heather from Blog She Wrote, Megan from Education Possible, and Heidi from Starts at Eight.

I know you will find the posts that have been shared with us inspiring! Grab a cup of tea, kick back, and take some time to check out the wonderful posts shared below. What are your favorites?

My VIPKID Experience @EvaVarga.netWorking From Home

When I talk with my friends and family about our choice to homeschool, many have commented that they would love to homeschool but financial worries hold them back. While everyone’s financial situation is different, there are many ways you can earn an income while working from home. One of the most rewarding that I have found is VIPKid.

I started working for VIPKid a few weeks ago and have had a fantastic time getting to know my Chinese students while also learning more about teaching ESL. It has been both challenging and a lot of fun.

While getting up at 4a.m. each day is grueling, the smiles I see on their faces when their camera turns on make each yawn worthwhile.

Finishing Strong

We hope you’ll take some time to check out the amazing posts that have been shared with us. We are so thankful to all of our readers and contributors who help make Finishing Strong a key resource for everyone homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

The top posts shared last week

Below are a couple of the posts I most enjoyed from last week. The first post is the one that received the most clicks. You won’t want to miss it! high-school-forecastingHigh School Forecasting

from Me here at Eva Varga (Academia Celestia) ~ Learn how to compose a four-year plan to guide your student through each academic year – everything you need to know to coordinate schedules, CLEP Exams, and College Courses.

Responding to Questions About Homeschooling High School

from Heidi at Starts at Eight ~ While the numbers of families choosing to homeschool continue to rise. Homeschooling high school is still an anomaly in many areas of the country. Heidi shares tips for responding to the queries we are often asked in regards to our schooling choice.

How to Navigate the College Selection Process

from Heather at Blog She Wrote ~ Heather’s post is perfect timing for us. My daughter is now a sophomore in high school and she is just beginning to give thought to which university she may like to attend. While she is leaning towards the state university (both her father and I are alumni), we are encouraging her to keep her options open. I love Heather’s perspective and insight – she’s graduated one already who will be attending Purdue! – into the process of selecting the right college.

@ @ @

As always, thank you for helping us to make Finishing Strong a key resource for families who are homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

What are you going to share with us this week?

Guidelines:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  2. Please no advertising, individual Pinterest pins, Facebook, Twitter, or other link-up links!
  3. Grab our button to add to your post after you link it up. Each week we will be choosing our favorite posts to highlight on all 4 sites. If you were featured, we would love for you to use the “I was featured” button.
  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

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Finishing Strong #139: Transitioning from High School to College

Welcome to Finishing Strong ~ a weekly link-up dedicated to families homeschooling middle & high school kids. Each Wednesday, moms just like you share their best tips, encouragement, advice, and more for teaching older kids at home.

Finishing-Strong-500x500I am delighted that families homeschooling middle and high school age students are coming together and finding inspiration in one another. That has been the goal of Finishing Strong since its inception. Thank you!!

Finishing Strong is hosted by me here at EvaVarga along with my friends – Heather from Blog She Wrote, Megan from Education Possible, and Heidi from Starts at Eight.

I know you will find the posts that have been shared with us inspiring! Grab a cup of tea, kick back, and take some time to check out the wonderful posts shared below. What are your favorites?

 

High School Forecasting

When I was in college, one of my earliest advisors provided me with a chart and asked that I map out all the courses I would need to achieve my academic goals and graduate with the degree I needed for my career. Every term I made adjustments based on what courses were available and to reflect my progress. This map or forecasting sheet was an invaluable tool and one that I continue to use today as I guide my daughter along her academic journey.

high-school-forecastingShe’s dual enrolled. This means she is taking a full course load of courses at the local community college. These courses fulfill both high school graduation requirements and are applicable to her college degree.

When she met with her academic advisor at the start of this term, she shared the forecasting sheet that she and I mapped out together. Her advisor was impressed and remarked that she was already more aware and more prepared than students who had already completed high school – a big boost to her confidence!

Learn more about High School Forecasting and find the link to download the free customizable spreadsheet I used to map out her courses – it was created by fellow Finishing Strong co-host Heidi from Starts at Eight (Thank you, Heidi!).

 

Finishing Strong

We hope you’ll take some time to check out the amazing posts that have been shared with us. We are so thankful to all of our readers and contributors who help make Finishing Strong a key resource for everyone homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

The top posts shared last week

Below are a couple of the posts I most enjoyed from last week. The first post is the one that received the most clicks. You won’t want to miss it! alt title
Homeschooling High School Q & A

from Ann at Annie & Everything ~ To be honest, the issue of a diploma has been eating at me so when I read, “A diploma can be purchased. Nobody NEEDS to look at it. Colleges only look at transcripts … future employers won’t ask to see it. In short, nobody cares about this but you.” I immediately felt a weight lift off my shoulders.

 

Must Have Supplies for High School

from Heather at Blog She Wrote ~ Heather provides an in-depth look at everything your high schooler will need from lab equipment, office supplies, organizational tools, and technology.

BJ’s Guide to the Common Application

from BJ at BJ’s Homeschool Encouragement ~ Applying to college can be overwhelming. BJ walks you through the common application including important changes to facilitate the process and help you in the transition from high school to college.

 

@ @ @

As always, thank you for helping us to make Finishing Strong a key resource for families who are homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

What are you going to share with us this week?

Guidelines:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  2. Please no advertising, individual Pinterest pins, Facebook, Twitter, or other link-up links!
  3. Grab our button to add to your post after you link it up. Each week we will be choosing our favorite posts to highlight on all 4 sites. If you were featured, we would love for you to use the “I was featured” button.
  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

Please Share!

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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years


Finishing Strong #138: Girls & Boys

Welcome to Finishing Strong ~ a weekly link-up dedicated to families homeschooling middle & high school kids. Each Wednesday, moms just like you share their best tips, encouragement, advice, and more for teaching older kids at home.

Finishing-Strong-500x500I am delighted that families homeschooling middle and high school age students are coming together and finding inspiration in one another. That has been the goal of Finishing Strong since its inception. Thank you!!

Finishing Strong is hosted by me here at EvaVarga along with my friends – Heather from Blog She Wrote, Megan from Education Possible, and Heidi from Starts at Eight.

I know you will find the posts that have been shared with us inspiring! Grab a cup of tea, kick back, and take some time to check out the wonderful posts shared below. What are your favorites?

STEM

Girls in STEM

My daughter has been interested in engineering, sciences, and mathematics since she was just a wee little one. I thereby seek out opportunities and experiences to challenge and inspire her to pursue these areas as a possible career.

I’ve shared several tips and activities to encourage girls in STEM. Take a few minutes to browse the materials available here – Encouraging Girls in STEM – as well as learn more about upcoming events.

The annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day will be here before you know it (it’s February 22nd) and events are being planned across the nation. In preparation for this annual celebration of Girls in STEM, there is an opportunity to take part in a webinar (Wednesday, November 8th at 12pm EST) to help make this the best Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day yet!

Sign up for the free webinar and you’ll get ideas to help jumpstart your planning and:

• Learn about new resources and programs
• Hear two Girl Day Role Models share their experience
• Discover how you can make a difference in a girl’s future
• Get Inspired!
• And more!

Finishing Strong

We hope you’ll take some time to check out the amazing posts that have been shared with us. We are so thankful to all of our readers and contributors who help make Finishing Strong a key resource for everyone homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

The top posts shared last week

Below are a couple of the posts I most enjoyed from last week. The first post is the one that received the most clicks. You won’t want to miss it! alt title
Boyschooling Homeschool Curriculum for 5th and 12th Grades (2017-18)

from Cindy at Our Journey Westward ~ Cindy coins the term, boyschooling … I love it! Hop over to learn more about the curriculum choices she has made for each of her two boys.

What Some Days in a Girl’s Year 7 Look Like

from Carol at Journey and Destination ~ Carol provides us with a little peak into “a day in the life” of her daughter as they work through Ambleside Online Year 7.

Fall Nature Walk – Scavenger Hunt Lists & Resources

from Heidi at Starts at Eight ~ Nature study is near and dear to my heart. I really miss doing it with my kiddos and need to carve out more time in our week. Heidi shares a great list of resources and materials to implement nature study in your homeschool.

@ @ @

As always, thank you for helping us to make Finishing Strong a key resource for families who are homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

What are you going to share with us this week?

Guidelines:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  2. Please no advertising, individual Pinterest pins, Facebook, Twitter, or other link-up links!
  3. Grab our button to add to your post after you link it up. Each week we will be choosing our favorite posts to highlight on all 4 sites. If you were featured, we would love for you to use the “I was featured” button.
  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

Please Share!

Add our button to your post.

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

Were You Featured?

Grab an “I was featured” button!

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years