Preparing Your High Schooler for College

Getting into college is the culmination of all a student’s hard work in school. It also requires a well-thought-out plan. My son’s interests and goals for the future are not as clearly defined as were his sister’s. Preparing him for college is a little more complicated.

Throughout his middle school years, I have enjoyed watching him discovering his passions as well as his personal strengths. Homeschooling has allowed him the freedom to pursue his interests and follow meandering paths.

Now that he is in high school, college – if he chooses it – is only a few years away. The self-directed learning skills he learned during the grammar and logic stages will continue to serve him well.

Customizing Your Homeschool

When homeschooling the high school years, there are so many things to keep in mind. Honors courses, electives, GPAs and transcripts … Oh my!

For the past few years, I have focused on helping my daughter prepare for college. She has always known she wanted to pursue a career in engineering. Her courses have thereby always included a lot of math and sciences.

As a dual enrolled student – she has been able to take full advantage of the STEM classes available at the community college. Now that she has been accepted to the university of her choice, my attention shifts to my youngest.

My son’s interests and goals for the future are not as clearly defined as his sister. This takes a more concerned effort on our part to ensure we make choices that will provide the best option for him in the future.

Depending on his career path, college may not even be the best course for him. Currently a sophomore in high school, it is really too early to tell.

Dual Enrollment

Regardless of why he may choose, it is our goal as a family to provide the best platform from which he can launch. We want to ensure he is ready to go in whichever direction he chooses when the time comes.

He is presently considering two very different paths – aviation or music. Unfortunately, there are few opportunities for either where we currently live. We’ve sought out a private teacher for music but there is not a youth orchestra or classical ensemble whereupon he can gain experience playing with others.

Like his sister, he is dual enrolled at the community college. We have even used a similar forecasting plan to help outline the courses he will take at the high school and those he will take at the college.

We chose this avenue because will provide him with a solid foundation in mathematics and English language skills – writing, public speaking, etc. He will be able to fulfill high school graduation requirements while simultaneously completing baccalaureate core or undergraduate courses.

Though aviation courses are not available and even the offerings in the music department has been severely reduced this past year, he has been able to take significant strides towards completing an Associates Degree. In all likelihood he will finish his associates long before earning his diploma.

The dual enrollment approach is not for everyone. It was the best choice for us first and foremost because I knew both kids were mature enough to handle the college atmosphere. We were also able to receive tuition reimbursement from a charter or umbrella school so the financial benefit was huge – essentially two years of college for free.

I received a copy of Homeschool High School with College in Mind by the author, Betsy Sproger, in exchange for an honest review. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

Preparing for College

When my daughter started high school, Betsy’s book, Homeschooling with College in Mind, provided a great starting place. She shared tips and success stories based on her own experience homeschooling her daughter during these later years.

I am delighted that her book has now been revised and updated just as my son embarks on his own journey. It’s been a great tool as I refresh my approach to homeschooling high school.

While college may not be a consideration for all students, Betsy’s guide is a great start for families homeschooling this final stage of the trivium. Most families find homeschooling these later years to be daunting simply because of the record keeping involved. Betsy provides templates to make these tasks manageable.

She gives tips for handling stress, how to earn credits, and walks readers through the process of creating a transcript. Her ideas for the college application essay and the section on the Common App are especially helpful.

I appreciate that she outlines several ways students can earn credit: the textbook method, the hours method, and the mastery method. We have used a little of each in our homeschool and her guide to translating this onto a transcript is easy to follow.

Homeschooling with College in Mind is available in both paperback and for the Kindle. Her conversational tone provides a relaxed, encouraging approach to the often stressful high school years.

With Betsy as your guide, will feel confident and motivated to continue your homeschooling journey through the high school years and prepare your children for college.

SESEY 2018: Summer Experiences in Science & Engineering

My daughter has been interested in engineering for as long as I can remember. She’s taken part in a numerous STEM workshops for girls over the years. Last summer, she had the amazing opportunity to take part in a summer intensive workshop (SESEY) at the university where she plans to enroll.

SESEY was created to encourage traditionally underrepresented groups to explore the world of engineering and to consider careers in its variety of fields. Initiated by Oregon State University in 1997, SESEY is coordinated by the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering.

Working in the lab as part of her summer intensive workshop at Oregon State University

Participants have the opportunity to interact directly with university students – to ask questions about campus life and how to balance their course load. Presentations and tours of each department are provided to help students better understand the diverse options in engineering.

Learn how to encourage girls in STEM careers with these fun activities.

Best of all, participants have the unique experience of taking part in an authentic research project. Working in small groups, they apply the inquiry method to real life issues. At the end of the week, they present their findings in poster format at the annual DaVinci days celebration.

My daughter was overjoyed to be assigned to the one environmental engineering project this past year – Bioremediation of Chlorinated Solvents Using Aerobic Microorganisms. Here’s a peak at her poster:

The program – especially the professors and university student volunteers who collaborated to make it happen – has cemented her desire to pursue a career in chemical and environmental engineering. She will be applying for admission soon.

You might also be interested in the engineering unit I developed, World’s Tallest Buildings. This short unit study includes a timeline project, integrated writing assignment, and an oral presentation.

Have your teens taken part in summer learning experiences or weekend intensive courses? I would love to hear about opportunities in other parts of the country.

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?

Study.com Offers Online Courses to Earn College Credit

With two teens, one entering high school this fall and another in her sophomore year already taking college courses,  I  am constantly seeking out online courses and materials that align with their interests and future career goals. For the past few years, my daughter has been contemplating earning credit by examination.

Study.com seemed like a great opportunity to look into. As I delved farther, I knew the video based lessons would be beneficial to my son and the text based lessons would be most appealing to my daughter.


We received access to the Study.com online learning library in exchange for an honest review. I also received monetary compensation for my time spent in reviewing the product.
All opinions expressed are true and completely our own. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

 

Study.com is a company that provides high school and college level educational opportunities in the form of online courses, videos, text transcripts, quizzes, practice tests, and a personalized study plan. Students can take courses on a wide variety of subjects through the site – there are presently over 4,000 exclusive courses offered – and gain actual credit hours that can be transferred to thousands of colleges and university programs.

The website was initially launched to accommodate a boom of students looking for flexible supplemental resources online which they could use to study for exams or to learn for fun. Over time, the company learned their lessons were being viewed by both youth and adults – college students were using the website to help study for exams and high school students were even using the resource to prepare for the SAT & ACT.

Study.com Features

Test Prep Courses

The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) offers over 30 exams that can help students earn real college credit. With the increased interest in credit by examination, Study.com has created numerous online courses aimed at helping students pass these CLEP exams for about $80 per course.

The practice quizzes allow students to see what areas they know well and what areas they need to improve. No need to get caught in the mire, slogging through review content. Students can simply jump to the topics of need.

After taking enough of these general education courses, students can possibly test out of their first two years of college in a fraction of the time and a fraction of the cost compared to traditional colleges and universities.

What I love best is that the course materials are presented in several different ways. In this way, my children can work at a pace that best suits their individual learning styles. My daughter finds the text transcripts helpful to review the material whereas my son – a visual/auditory learner – prefers the short, engaging videos. I can rest easy knowing the concepts are taught well.

The beauty of the program is that your child can customize the delivery and use it in the way that works best for him or her!

No matter what the dominant learning style of your child, however, I recommend students watch the videos and read the transcript of the video. Students can take notes from the transcript on the screen or print it out and highlight key facts to help them remember the information. Best of all, they can create their own study plan with the aid of the tools provided.

image of Praxis Biology course on Study.com

Screenshot of Professional Development course – Praxis Biology

Professional Development 

Study.com is not just for my kids, though. I was delighted to discover that it also provides teacher certification exam preparation materials and other professional development and corporate learning courses.

I am strongly thinking of adding a high school science endorsement or even English as a Second Language to my teaching certification.

Additionally, teachers can use the platform to flip their classroom, assigning the videos and accompanying quizzes as homework, which thereby allows the teacher to track the progress and understanding of their students via the quiz scores. Others can choose to show students the videos to supplant the main lesson plan and introduce the day’s lesson to students.

The Nitty Gritty

Though Study.com is not free, there are three subscription based options beginning at just $39.99 per month providing unlimited access to the website’s full library online courses – both video lessons and transcripts. For just $59.99/month, a Premium Edition subscription provides access to the practice quizzes and tests, personalized coaching, certificates of completion, and more!

The exclusive courses are accepted for credit by the American Council of Education (ACE). Students can take these courses at a flexible pace. Upon completion, students take a proctored exam, and if they pass, can submit their scores to thousands of accredited colleges for transfer credit.

Discount

20% off your first 3 months of Study.com’s CLEP test prep product with coupon code HOMESCHOOLFORCLEP. Valid through May 31, 2018 for new members only. HOW TO REDEEM: Click the “Have a Coupon Code?” link on the last page of the registration process, input the coupon code HOMESCHOOLFORCLEP, and click the “Apply Coupon” button.

Don’t Miss the Giveaway!

Five winners will receive a 6-month subscription to Study.com’s CLEP test prep product (each subscription valued at $359.94).

Scholarship Opportunity

Not only that, but Study.com also offers scholarships to students pursuing CLEP credit with the following awards:

First Prize: $500
Second Prize: $250
Third Prize: $250

You can learn more about the scholarship opportunity here.

High School Forecasting: Coordinating Schedules, CLEP Exams, and College Courses

Fall term is nearing an end. Many students are preparing for final exams as well as forecasting with their advisors and thereby registering for winter term. My daughter, Geneva, is amongst them.

She has really enjoyed taking dual enrollment courses on the college campus these past few months and has worked very hard to assure she completes two consecutive courses within the 10-week term. Come winter term she will enroll in two courses – Intermediate Algebra (Math 95) and English Composition (Writing 121).

high-school-forecastingHigh School Forecasting

Her goal is to complete the degree requirements for an Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer Degree simultaneously with her high school diploma. While no easy feat, it can and has been done by homeschoolers and public school students across the state.

As at least one of the courses she will take winter term is transferable to a four year university, it is important that we work alongside an advisor to ensure the courses are counted for dual enrollment. We’ve made an appointment and look forward to sharing the four-year plan we have put together.

Course Load and Schedules

I opened our forecasting discussion by first describing the degree requirements for the transfer degree as well as the course list for a degree in engineering (a field in which she has expressed interest since she was a young girl). She then shared the goals she had for herself and what she hopes to accomplish over the next four years.

This FREE customizable spreadsheet provided the skeletal structure for her four year plan. Thank you, Heidi!

High School 4 Year Forecasting Plan

Together, we looked at the course descriptions for each of the classes she was interested in and thereby narrowed down her choices. In addition, we read the prerequisites carefully to ensure there would be no surprises along the way.

Four courses chosen from at least two disciplines including at least three laboratory courses in biological and/or physical science are required for Science & Mathematics.

With the prerequisites and an engineering degree in mind, her choices include a year of General Chemistry, a year of Physics with Calculus (must be taken concurrently), and two terms of Geology. We thereby plugged each of these into the four-year plan assuring that she would take no more than two courses per term at the college.

In addition, the course load during her senior year in high school is relatively easier than the preceding two. This will provide a little cushion and time for scholarship essays and other unforeseen hoops she may have to jump through.

Foreign Language Requirement

In Oregon, there is a foreign language requirement for admission to a four year university:

[Transfer] students who graduated from high school in 1997 or later must meet a foreign language requirement with either two years of high school level study in the same language or two quarters/semesters of college level study with a minimum grade of a C- or better.

While she is fluent in Mandarin (having studied the language since she was 5 years old), as an independent homeschool, Academia Celestia is not an accredited institution. She will thereby be expected to take a foreign language course at the college or demonstrate proficiency by passing an exam.

While she hopes to someday learn additional languages (and may yet decide to take a college level course), she will most likely choose this option. Her ultimate goal is to study abroad in China and earn a minor in Asian Languages and Culture.

CLEP Exams

In addition to the course work and requirements described above, there are several foundational (Writing, Communication, and Health & Fitness) and Cultural Literacy requirements.

Four courses chosen from two or more disciplines are required for Social Sciences. Three courses chosen from two or more disciplines are required for Arts & Letters.

For Social Sciences, she selected a fascinating Anthropology course and a course suggested for Engineering students, Economics. To earn addition credits (9) for History 201, 202, and 203 she plans to take the CLEP exam in United States History.

While English 104, 105, and 106 are not required for the AA degree (she chose alternatives in Art and Philosophy), she may also choose to take the English Literature CLEP exam to earn credit (9) for these courses.

Life of Fred: Math Curricula for Middle & High School

As a homeschool parent, I want to challenge my children. I want to provide them with opportunities not available to students in brick-and-mortar schools. I spent a lot of time researching and seeking out course work and math curricula that was engaging and challenging.

Years ago, a homeschool colleague shared with me that her 14 year old daughter had taken the college placement exam and had enrolled in Math 111. I immediately wanted to know what math curricula she had used. “Life of Fred,” she replied. “Chloe worked through the Pre-Algebra series and Beginning Algebra on her own.” 

math curricula review

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which generate commissions when you purchase through that link.

Each Life of Fred text is written in the style of a novel with a humorous story line. This was very appealing to my oldest, an avid reader. Each section tells part of the life of Fred Gauss,  a five year old who teaches math at KITTENS University in Kansas.  The story shares how, in the course of his life, Fred encounters the need for the math and then learns the methods.

As she progressed through the books, she gradually transitioned away from direct instruction whereby I was teaching concepts to her and began to rely more on her own reading. She became an independent learner.

Never again hear the question which many math students proclaim: “When are we ever gonna use this stuff?” or “Math is boring!”

Life of Fred makes this possible not only through story but with tons of solved examples. Each hardcover textbook contains ALL of the material – more than most instructors cover in traditional classroom settings.

We meet with Fred daily and have really enjoyed his adventures. I thought I’d share our experience with Life of Fred since people often have a lot of questions about it.

What I Love About Life of Fred Math Curricula

I love the story nature of the text and real life problem approach. Fred encounters a need for the math and then uses it, usually within the context of a humorous situation.

It encourages a different approach to attacking a problem. Students are encouraged to think.

Less drill and more complex problems. This lessens boredom and fatigue and leads to increased accuracy.

The texts are non-consumable; I can use them with both kids. I’ve never been a fan of workbooks; I love that they work out the problems on ordinary notebook paper.

The cost is budget friendly. The middle school texts are just $17 and the high school texts start at just $28 at Educents. You can’t go wrong even if you just wanted to try it out.

 

math curriculaLife of Fred Math Curricula for Middle School 

My kiddos had completed the Singapore Math curricula series for elementary and middle school, so this is where we actually started. They were immediately hooked on Fred’s story and have loved to read about his humorous antics.

Once you know:

  • the addition tables
  • the subtraction tables
  • the multiplication tables
  • long division

… you are ready to start Life of Fred Fractions, the first book in the Pre-Algebra series.

Who is it for? 5th – 9th grades

Concepts covered: Savings and Expenses, Sectors, Comparing & Reducing Fractions, Roman Numerals, Least Common Multiples, Improper Fractions, Commutative Law, Decimals, Functions and Inverse Functions, Pi, Sets and Subsets, Union and Intersection of Sets, Rules of Divisibility, Bar Graphs & Pie Charts, Prime and Composite Numbers, Consecutive Numbers, the Goldbach Conjecture, Conversion between Percents/ Fractions/ Decimals, Square Roots, Ratio, Ordered Pairs, Negative Numbers, Elapsed Time, Probability, and more!

Titles in this series:  Fractions, Decimals & Percents, Pre-Algebra with Physics, Pre-Algebra with Biology, Pre-Algebra with Economics

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LifeofFred Math Curricula

Life of Fred Math Curricula for High School 

My kiddos were already familiar with Fred’s style and approach to problem solving as they had previously completed the Pre-Algebra series.  They loved that they weren’t required to do a bunch of drill-and-kill problems. When they struggled with a concept, they simply re-read the chapter.

My daughter is currently using the Advanced Algebra text. When she was about mid-way through the text, she actually made the decision herself to begin it again. We had been doing a lot of traveling and she hadn’t been going through the lessons regularly. Repeating the textbook helped to clarify the concepts that were previously foggy for her or that she didn’t recall from earlier readings.

If you …

  • have finished the Life of Fred Pre-Algebra books
  • have used another algebra program
  • have used Saxon Math Algebra 1 and/or 2

… you are ready to start the first book in the high school series, Beginning Algebra.

Concepts covered: Division by Zero, Venn Diagrams, Cramer’s Rule, Inequalities, Imaginary Numbers, Variation, Laws of Exponents, Four-dimensional Geometry, Non-Euclidean Geometry, Sines, Cosines and Tangents, Conditional Trig Equations, Functions of Two Angles, and much more!

Titles in this series:  Zillions of Practice Problems: Beginning Algebra

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