Posted in Uncategorized

MIT: Courses you can take right now

If you’re not a regular stalker of the MIT Open Courseware page, that’s ok, I probably stalk them enough for both of us.  I found a few great courses you might want to use in your homeschool this summer or fall.

Open Courses are easy to use- you simply sign up. Think of them as a library of curriculum- but without a teacher.  If you want to award your teen high school credit (strongly suggested) you can simply do that when they’ve finished.  You can also use them as part of another class you’re already doing with your teen (aka “enrichment”)

The really great thing to note, is that these courses were the real deal – real MIT courses.  Some of these were offered SPRING 2018!  So, they are very recent.  As each course happened, the lectures were recorded, and now the content (lectures + more) is placed online for anyone to watch for free.

Did you catch that? Free! That’s the second really great part – you don’t have to pay for anything.

What’s the downside? You won’t get college credit or a grade, but you can give them high school credit and roll this into your college credit program any way you like.

Here are a few new courses that caught my eye this week:

Creole Language and Caribbean Identity

Caribbean Creole languages result from language contact via colonization and the slave trade. In this course, we explore the history of Creole languages from cognitive, historical and comparative perspectives. We evaluate popular theories about “Creole genesis” and the role of language acquisition. Then we explore the non-linguistic aspects of Creole formation, using sources from literature, religion and music. We also look into issues of Caribbean identities as we examine Creole speakers’ and others’ beliefs and attitudes toward their cultures. We also make comparisons with relevant aspects of African-American culture in the U.S.  Sign up

Reading Poetry

How do you read a poem? Intuition is not the only answer. In this class, we will investigate some of the formal tools poets use—meter, sound, syntax, word choice, and other properties of language—as well as exploring a range of approaches to reading poetry, from the old (memorization and reading out loud) to the new (digitally enabled visualization and annotation). We will use readings available online via the generosity of the Poetry Foundation and the Academy of American Poets. We will also think collectively about how to approach difficult poems. Sign up 

Introduction to Computer Science and Programming in Python

Intended for students with little or no programming experience. It aims to provide students with an understanding of the role computation can play in solving problems and to help students, regardless of their major, feel justifiably confident of their ability to write small programs that allow them to accomplish useful goals. The class uses the Python 3.5 programming language. Sign up

Physical Chemistry

This course is an introduction to quantum mechanics for use by chemists. Topics include particles and waves, wave mechanics, semi-classical quantum mechanics, matrix mechanics, perturbation theory, molecular orbital theory, molecular structure, molecular spectroscopy, and photochemistry. Emphasis is on creating and building confidence in the use of intuitive pictures. Sign up

American Dream: Using Storytelling to Explore Social Class in the United States

This course explores the experiences and understandings of class among Americans positioned at different points along the U.S. social spectrum. It considers a variety of classic frameworks for analyzing social class and uses memoirs, novels, and ethnographies to gain a sense of how class is experienced in daily life and how it intersects with other forms of social difference such as race and gender. Sign up

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You can access the entire MIT catalog of Open Courses HERE.

Using MOOCs in your homeschool


Posted in ACE, Free Tuition, Self-Paced Learning, Sophia, Transfer Credit

Sources of Free College Credits

BONUS:  currently, the Modern States Online Test Prep Program is offering a voucher to anyone who completes their online CLEP course.  The voucher will pay for your exam cost and reimburse you for your testing center fee if you have one.  You can take an UNLIMITED number of CLEP  exams right now for $0.  When this voucher program ends, or if you don’t use a voucher, CLEP exams cost about $100  each.  Read more.


Besides the current CLEP promo- there are classes that are $0 and award college credit.  This fantastic list was put together by a couple members of the InstantCert forum community.  I encourage you to visit the forum if you’re considering distance learning boy1colleges for your teen- it’s the single best resource on the web.

As a homeschooler of high school students, here’s what you should know before you read on:

ALL (but one) of these freebies awards ACE credit.  As such, their transfer is very limited.  If your teen is several years away from high school graduation and selecting a target college, you may want to use these just for fun, and if he gets credit later- that’s a bonus.  You can bundle these together into high school electives too.  But, if you’re getting close to enrollment or you’ve already selected a target college, you’ll want to confirm that they accept ACE credit before investing too much time in these.

That said, since they are free, many parents have their teens complete some anyway.

See my previous posts on colleges that accept ACE courses for college credit and setting up your teen’s ACE account.

Understanding expiration dates:  whenever a course or exam is evaluated for college credit by ACE, they set a date range of usually a few years.  During that time, completing the course or exam allows you to earn college credit.  When a course or exam has “expired” that means the window for college credit has closed.  Frequently, a course or exam is renewed, and the dates will extend out another few years, but occasionally we have seen courses permanently expire.  AS LONG AS you complete a course and get it onto your ACE transcript before an expiration date, the credit is good and you can use it at any point in the future.

I keep a close eye on expiration dates- you’ll see this page updated accordingly.

Saylor Academy (over 100 college credits)

Saylor is 100% free if you can find a local proctor to administer your final exam. If you have to use Saylor’s online proctoring service, the cost is $25 per course.

More about Saylor Academy

Courses consist of optional reading modules and links to videos and a final exam (proctored).  Approximate time needed to complete the course: NA

Sophia – (2 college credits)

Sophia offers a number of paid ACE-approved courses that are fairly expensive. team2However, they do offer 2 free 1 credit courses:

  • Developing Effective Teams (1 credit)
  • Essentials of Managing Conflict (1 credit)

You can sign up for the courses at

The courses consist of video-based modules and short quizzes followed by an online exam.  Approximate time needed to complete one course and exam:  less than 1 day

The Institutes (2 college credits) 

The American Institute For Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters (commonly referred to as “The Institutes”) offer a free ethics course that is ACE recommended for 2 credits. (deadline to participate 3/31/2019)

Course consists of reading modules followed by an online exam.  Approximate time needed to complete the course and exam:  less than 1 day

  • 312N-H Ethics and the CPCU Code of Professional Conduct (2 credits) – an upper-level ethics/philosophy course that meets TESU‘s General Education “ethics” requirement. (it meets 2 of the 3 credit requirement – you might have to ask for an exception to be made for the last credit, but typically this is automatically granted. The 3rd credit can be made up as a general ed elective).

To signup, use the following link:

Select the FREE option. You should not do the $5 option. The paid option is for “Continuing Education credit,” which is different than college credit. The free version is ACE approved for college credit.

FEMA Independent Study (over 40 college credits)

  • NOTE: FEMA is NOT ACE evaluated for credit.  As such, FEMA IS courses are only acceptable as transfer credit at Charter Oak State College and two other small 2-year colleges.  IF you’re planning to attend COSC, you can still apply some FEMA courses to your degree, but COSC hasn’t set an official limit – at least not one that they’re sharing with the public. I’m hearing between 3 and 9.  Cost:  $0 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency operates an online Independent Study program offering approximately 197 courses online for free. Anyone can take FEMA courses for high school credit or for fun, but only the following courses are approved for college credit:

The current list of  FEMA courses worth college credit can be found here.

The courses consist of reading modules followed by an online exam.  Approximate time needed to complete each course and exam:  1 day

TEEX Cybersecurity (1-11 college credits) 

Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) offers 10 ACE-approved courses recommended for college credit. These are DHS/FEMA funded and therefore free for the general public to take.  This program expires 11/30/2021

In February, TEEX and ACE did a switch-up on how these courses are evaluated for credit.  If you’ve already taken TEEX (before December 2018) you can possibly take them AGAIN and opt for the 10 credit option.  If you take them now, you can choose to take 1 or all 10 courses.

Old TEEX Method, New Credit

3-10 credits

Even with the change, I’m leaving this older section here because it is actually still an option, but if you complete the TEEX courses this way, you can only earn 6 credits (see below).  This method uses the umbrella course names (Cyber 101, 201, 301) on your ACE transcript instead of the individual course names.

  • Cyber 101 – Cybersecurity for Everyone (was 2 credits –> now 4 credits)
    • Must complete all 3:
      • ARW168 Cyber Law and White Collar Crime
      • ARW174 Cyber Ethics
      • ARW175 Information Security for Everyone
  • Cyber 201 – Cybersecurity for IT Professionals (was 2 credits –> now 3 credits)
    • Must complete all 4:
      • ARW138 Network Assurance
      • AWR139 Digital Forensics Basics
      • ARW173 Information Security Basics
      • ARW178 Secure Software
  • Cyber 301 – Cybersecurity for Business Pro (was 2 credits –> now 3 credits)
    • Must complete all 3:
      • ARW169 Cyber Incident Analysis and Response
      • ARW176 Disaster Recovery for Information Systems
      • ARW177 Information Risk Management

New TEEX Method

1-11 credits (1 upper level)

Complete each course individually and submit to ACE for college credit.

  • ARW168 Cyber Law and White Collar Crime, 2 credits
  • AWR174 Cyber Ethics, 2 credits
  • ARW175 Information Security for Everyone, 1 credit
  • ARW138 Network Assurance & AWR 139 Digital Forensics Basics, 1 credit
  • ARW173 Information Security Basics, 1 credit
  • ARW178 Secure Software, 1 credit 
  • ARW169 Cyber Incident Analysis and Response, 1 credit
  • ARW176 Disaster Recovery for Information Systems, 1 credit
  • ARW177 Information Risk Management, UPPER LEVEL 1 credit

To signup, use the following link and make sure you complete each mini-class in each main class before submitting to ACE. 

After you are enrolled, use this login URL to take the classes:

Course consists of reading long modules and taking many quizzes.  Approximate time needed to complete EACH course:  1 day-3 days.



Courses under this line have been worth college credit in the past but are currently not worth college credit.  These courses are still available to take, but beware that if you take them while they are expired, you will NOT receive college credit.  If any of these courses are renewed, I’ll update it asap.


National Fire Academy (1 college credit) 

  • Q0118 Self-Study Course for Community Safety Educators  (1 credit)

The National Emergency Training Center/National Fire Academy (NFA) offers one free course that is ACE-recommended for 1 credit. To signup, use the following link and find Q0118 on the list: National Fire Academy Course List

After you are enrolled, use this login URL to take the classes: NFA Login


Posted in Uncategorized

Español – 9 college credits, please!

Español – 9 college credits, please!

Many of your teens have picked up Spanish because your family is bilingual, your community has a lot of Spanish-speaking members, or they’ve taken a Spanish class for homeschool.  If you’re not sure whether or not to push forward with learning Spanish formally, let me tell you: YES!

After a few years of high school Spanish, your teen can attempt the CLEP Spanish exam and pick up as many as 9 college credits!  This exam costs under $100 (currently $0 when you use a Modern States voucher)  and is one of the most widely accepted CLEP exams they can take.

Even at full price, your teen can earn college credit for about $11 per credit!

Barbara from our FB page writes “Check the school the student attends. My daughter’s university offers up to 12 credits for all four semesters!!!!  It is one of the cheaper public university’s school to attend, but per credit hour is $364. ”

Thank you Barbara! 

12 x $364 = $4,368 in tuition SAVED by using this one exam.  That’s more than some scholarships

The Spanish CLEP exam is about 100 questions in 90 minutes and tests 2 major areas:

Listening & Reading

Knowledge and Skills Required

Questions on the Spanish Language exam require test takers to comprehend written and spoken Spanish. The subject matter is drawn from the abilities described below. The percentages next to the main topics indicate the approximate percentage of exam questions on each.

Section I (15%)
Listening: Rejoinders

Listening comprehension through short oral exchanges. Choose the response that most logically continues or completes each conversation. You’ll have 10 seconds to choose your response before the next conversation begins.
Try sample questions

Section II (25%)
Listening: Dialogues and Narratives

Listening comprehension through longer spoken selections. You’ll hear a series of selections, such as dialogues, announcements, and narratives. Each audio selection is accompanied by a graphic or picture and is followed by one or more questions.

The questions have various formats. Some questions offer four possible responses, each with an oval to click to indicate your answer. Other questions ask you to select part of a graphic, fill out a table, or put a list in the correct order. For some of these questions, you’ll have to click in more than one place to complete your response. Be sure to follow the specific directions for each question.

You’ll have a total of 12 minutes to answer the questions in this section. Note: The timer is activated only when you’re answering questions.

In this section, you may adjust the volume only when a question is on your screen. It will affect the volume of the next audio prompt you hear. You can’t change the volume while the audio prompt is playing.
Try sample questions

Section III (60%)

16% Part A: Discrete sentences (vocabulary and structure)

Each incomplete statement is followed by four suggested completions. Select the one that is best in each case by clicking on the corresponding oval.
Try sample questions

20% Part B: Short cloze passages (vocabulary and structure)

In each paragraph, there are blanks indicating that words or phrases have been omitted. When a blank is shaded, four completions are provided. First, read through the entire paragraph. Then, for each blank, choose the best completion, given the context for the entire paragraph.
Try sample questions

24% Part C: Reading passages and authentic stimulus materials (reading comprehension)

Each selection is followed by one or more questions, incomplete statements, or commands. For each question or incomplete statement, select the best answer or completion. For each command, click the appropriate area of the screen according to the directions given.
Try sample questions


A survey conducted by CLEP found that the following textbooks are among those used by college faculty who teach the equivalent course. You can purchase one or more of these online or at your local college bookstore.

  • Armen, Abriendo Puertas: Lenguaje (McDougal Littell)
  • Gill et al., En Contacto (Heinle)
  • Gilman et al., Nuevos Horizontes (Wiley)
  • Iglesias and Meiden, Spanish for Oral and Written Review (Heinle)
  • Kiddle et al., Perspectivas (Heinle)
  • Knorre et al., Puntos de Partida (McGraw-Hill)
  • Siskin et al., Entrevistas: An Introduction to Language and Culture(McGraw-Hill)
  • Valdes and Teschner, Español Escrito (Prentice Hall)


Online Spanish Class 

We are currently loving these Udemy Spanish Classes taught by Peter Hanley.  At our pace, we’re using each level for 1 semester (1/2 high school credit).   He also has a Facebook group you can join and practice with others.

(super affordable at only $10 per level when purchased on sale – which happens often)

Spanish for Beginners Level 1  (you can watch a sample video)

Spanish for Beginners Level 2

Spanish for Beginners Level 3

Spanish for Beginners Level 4

Simple Spanish TV

Unlike the more racy TV options, these are fun “children” episodes through Georgia Public Broadcasting.  Favorites like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or Monster Mayhem – all in Spanish (like Sesame Street).  These are fun with a simple vocabulary that makes picking up the story a little easier for our teens – even if they are targeted toward a younger audience.  I enjoy them and I’m <cough> a bit older.

GPB Salsa TV

Live Tutoring

Preply connects real people via Skype to arrange tutoring from home.  There are so many great people offering their services (like the student in Peru who will tutor your student for $5/hour to earn money for college or the retired school teacher who loves to teach) but I’d suggest sitting in with your teen until you’ve found the right fit – these are all independent contractors so you might have to kiss a few toads before you find a prince.

Preply Skype Tutoring


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Posted in Uncategorized

Universal General Education

I answered an email this morning asking about “Universal General Education” courses.  The parent wanted to know if such a set of college courses exists that will satisfy the general education degree requirements at every college.  While you won’t find a universal list of general education requirements, I have a list of 10 courses that will almost certainly be part of any general education list you find.  This plan will get you really close until you can narrow your target college list and choose the exact courses your teen needs.

What are the “general education” courses?

This is a list of classes, usually, 15-20 of them, required of everyone who attends a specific college.  For students in that college, it applies to all the majors and all degrees, assuring that everyone who graduates from that college has ticked specific boxes in many areas.  In other words, you can’t randomly take 20 math classes, or 20 music classes –  general education courses happen first, building you into a “well rounded” college student.  Since each college feels strongly about what courses are on their list, you’ll find differences, making it confusing for many of us.

Why general education in high school?

It just so happens that most dual enrollment courses (and CLEP or AP exams) are meant to hit the general education requirements of colleges.  This isn’t an accident!  It also just so happens that these courses will look a lot like the high school courses your teen is already doing (English, math, history, etc.) so completing the general education courses while simultaneously completing a high school diploma moves your teen a lot closer to the goal post (a degree) while resourcefully planning and saving a lot of time and money.

Since the general education courses aren’t “in” the field your teen wants to study, many students grumble at taking these courses, and statistically, more students drop out of college during their general education courses than once they hit their major- this makes sense considering students start with general education courses at most colleges.

Improved transfer:  Classesonline

If you don’t have a target college picked out, and your teen may attend a private university or one of your state university’s flagship locations, you’re going to improve your chances of transfer by completing your general education courses through dual enrollment program instead of credit by exam (CLEP, AP).  Dual enrollment courses (taken through a college) simply transfer better.  In some states, tuition is waived, but others here won’t have that benefit, and thus dual enrollment can be expensive.

Save more money: Credit by Exam

If your primary motivation is having enough money to get your kids OUT of college with a degree (I’m in this category) then saving money on general education courses is a slam dunk. I used CLEP exams in my own degree, completing my college’s entire general education requirement this way- but I had a target college picked out FIRST and knew that I could use CLEP to do so. Not every college is super CLEP-friendly, so to take this approach means deciding that you’ll pick a college based on their CLEP policy.  Many people do this (we did) and thus guaranteeing the credit transfers.

CLEP is more readily available and is lower cost than AP, but AP is accepted by a few more colleges- still both are accepted for college credit by half the colleges in the country.  If your teen is too young for dual enrollment, dual enrollment is not free in your state, you want to save the most money, and you’re comfortable choosing a college that allows credit by exam, you can hit all of the gen ed requirements through CLEP and AP exams.  Currently, the Modern States voucher program pays for CLEP exam costs, so the cost for college credit through CLEP is literally $0.

If you plan to use a community college first

A community college has already developed a specific program that should transfer into your state’s public colleges and universities.  One of their main reasons a person would complete an associate degree at the community college is to complete the full general education core (at a fraction of the cost).   In almost every case, your community college’s AA degree will match your state’s general education list perfectly.  If this is the case in your state, this is the best way to get a list you can work from (for dual enrollment now, and finishing the general education courses after).


For everyone else

Start with 4 Core Courses

The following 4 core courses are almost always on a college’s general education list and also work well as high school classes during 11th or 12th grade.  As such, if you’re not sure where to start, these 4 courses will help you build a plan that will most certainly align with most colleges.  Notice I said courses, not credits, because I think that these 4 give you the best return on your investment if you can arrange these as dual enrollment courses instead of CLEP or AP.  Not only is their transfer potential higher, but these 4 are the foundation courses your teen will draw from for the rest of their degree, so proficiency is really important.

The last 6 represent the courses you’re almost certainly going to find in every degree except for an Associate of Applied Science degree (which will have the fewest general education requirements of all).  If your teen is planning a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science, these 10 are

  1. English 1 (aka English 101)
  2. English 2 
  3. Speech
  4. Math (College Algebra is the best bet for the most degrees)
  5. Social Science – Psychology or Sociology
  6. Social Science – American History or Government
  7. Humanities – Literature
  8. Humanities- Art or Music Appreciation
  9. Science- Biology with Lab*
  10. Science- Chemistry or Physics


*Lab credit can’t be earned through credit by exam

Extra Credit

Many colleges ask for 2 years of high school foreign language as an admissions requirement, while others may ask for 2 years of a college foreign language as a degree requirement.  If this applies to you, they can kill 2 birds with 1 stone by earning their college language requirement in high school.  Unlike some subjects, even colleges with strict CLEP or AP exam policies often encourage credit by exam to demonstrate foreign language proficiency.  If your teen is able, follow their high school foreign language courses with the following exams to earn high school and college credit.

CLEP- French, Spanish, or German

Advanced Placement (AP)- Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, or Spanish

Read more about earning Foreign Language Credit by Exam


If your teen completes the list of 10 courses and earns credit by exam in a foreign language, they’ve accumulated ONE YEAR of college credit.  Congratulations!!!

At this point, it’s prudent to pick a target college.  Credit beyond the first year is unlikely to fall into place and fill the slots of multiple colleges, so at this point, you need to plan and choose your courses more carefully.  Some parents stop here- and that’s fine too, after all, you’ve just completed a year of college at home in high school, and that’s a huge accomplishment and cost savings!



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Posted in Curriculum, edX, MOOCs

Free Shakespeare courses this fall HarvardX

EdX is a site that hosts a university’s public courses for free. This fall, HarvardX (Harvard University on EdX) is hosting a series of 3 Shakespeare courses your teen can take!  These are open to anyone, and carry no cost – but also carry no direct credit.  In other words, these are curriculum you can use, and you’ll award the high school credit.   The courses have a start date but no ending date, so they are entirely self-paced.  Recommended completion for all 3:  9-12 weeks. Continue reading “Free Shakespeare courses this fall HarvardX”

Posted in Uncategorized

Regional Accreditation

I often make the suggestion that your teen only pursues credit through a college that is Regionally Accredited. Before I decided to buckle down and actually learn about accreditation (yawn), I encountered the worst-case-scenario.  My associate’s degree from the top culinary school in the country didn’t transfer anywhere!  I couldn’t understand why, so my education into accreditation began.  I won’t bore you, this will be short and sweet.  Get through this quick “need to know” post and you’ll be fine.

Continue reading “Regional Accreditation”

Posted in College Admission, Community college, Dual Enrollment, financial aid, Free Tuition, Tuition

$2000 Bachelor’s Degrees in NC

“My son is taking all his classes for 12th grade at the community college, he will be graduating in May with both his high school diploma from our homeschool and associates degree from our local community college” 

-Jayne L., North Carolina homeschooling parent.


Updated for 2019

The topic of today’s post is targeted toward our North Carolina families, but the takeaway isn’t that you should relocate to North Carolina, it’s that in almost every state there are some strategies you can build around the resources you have available to you.  I know many non-NC adults who “hacked” their education and earned AA or BA degrees for pennies on the dollar (I’m on that list!)  For the motivated, there are a lot of ways to save money, but this post is my deconstruction and then reconstruction of the resources in NC, assembled in a way that maxes out the benefits available to parents. Continue reading “$2000 Bachelor’s Degrees in NC”

Posted in Uncategorized

Equifinality and a Degree

Ooooh, do you ever hear a new word and just fall in love with it?  As a middle-aged woman, I’ve got a decent vocabulary, so when I hear a word for the first time my ears perk up.  Last week I heard the word equifinality used in a sentence.  It wasn’t in my dictionary (a 1913 Websters hand-me-down from my mom) so I turned online to look it up.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this word is worth a thousand ideas.

WOW!  Yes! I love this word.  Continue reading “Equifinality and a Degree”