Blog Posts

Posted in Uncategorized

The College Credit SWEET SPOT

“When should my child start earning college credit?”

“How old do they need to be to take a CLEP exam?”

“Are college classes too mature for my kid?”

“How can I know they’re ready to earn college credit?”

These are the questions that get asked every day in our Homeschooling for College Credit Facebook groups.  (find your state group here) 

It’s hard to answer anything other than “it really depends on the child” which is true…. but not helpful.  So, in this post, I want to help you find your “sweet spot” which is to say the time when most of you are probably ready to inject college credit.

Keep in mind these are general suggestions, you know your child better than I do!

CLEP Exams / DSST Exams (10th Grade +)

the best part of earning college credit through a CLEP or DSST exam is that you can take them at any age.  As a result, you’ll often see parents reporting that their very young teens have earned college credit this way.  If your teen is younger than 13, you’ll need to fill out a waiver. With the exception of the English Composition exam, all CLEP exams are multiple choice exams, lending themselves to being among the most “passable” college credit options out there.  I recommend starting CLEP exams as soon as your teen can read, understand, and recall information from an 11th grade or higher high school textbook.  Failed CLEP or DSST exams are private and have no repercussions on future college enrollment.

Advanced Placement Exams (11th Grade +)

AP Exams are different than CLEP exams in that the answers are written, not multiple choice.  So, like CLEP, your teen should be able to read, understand, and recall information from an 11th grade or higher high school textbook, but they ALSO must be able to express themselves using short response/essay.  Their writing must be a solid 11-12th-grade level to pass an AP exam successfully.  AP exam scores are all saved on one transcript, so both passing and failed scores are available to college admissions.

Dual Enrollment ON CAMPUS (mature 12th Grade +)

Dual enrollment courses taken on a college campus will take place in a classroom with adults.  The course discussions are not filtered and may be very graphic or “adult” in content. This is especially true in controversial or very sexual classes like Psychology, Human Growth and Development, Family or Marriage Studies, Sociology, and Health.  Your teen will not only be an observer in the class, but may be expected to write about these topics as well. See if you can preview the course textbook and syllabus to assess whether or not your minor is ready for the class.  When in doubt, switch to online or wait.  Classes like math, science, and history don’t usually have the same issues.  Dual enrollment grades are part of your child’s transcript FOREVER.

Dual Enrollment ONLINE (mature 11th Grade+)

Though only slightly less so, online class discussions will be a bit less spontaneous than those on campus. Online courses generally require discussions and communication through a forum or discussion board, allowing your teen time to digest and think about the subject.  Keep in mind that when your teen attends “online” you can see the “discussion” as well.  This isn’t a more filtered way to take a course, but it does allow more supervision.   Classes like math and science may be harder to learn online for this very reason- fewer opportunities to interact with peers and the instructor at the moment. Dual enrollment grades are part of your child’s transcript FOREVER.

ACE Courses (13 and older)

With our yonger sons, we’ve used a lot of ACE courses very successfully, mainly because they were too young to qualify for college courses and weren’t quite ready for credit by exam.  ACE courses (Studycom, Sophia, Saylor Academy, Straighterline, ALEKS, etc.) are generally self-paced and online. The curriculum may include videos, textbook passages, or documents.  With only a few exceptions (psychology) I’ve been happy with the “black and white” content presented in the ACE courses we’ve used.   Keep in mind that some of these courses may require homework or writing (all require tests or quizzes) and all will require a proctored exam via webcam.  I’d suggest waiting until age 13 to avoid any privacy issues.  ACE courses, passed or failed, are confidential and up to you to decide if a future college sees them.


You may also be interested in:

Take a CLEP for free!

Thomas Edison State University

7 Ways to Fail Your CLEP Exam

Creating an ACE Account for your Homeschooled Teen

Posted in Uncategorized

U.S. Government Credit

I have a great resource list for those of you planning a U.S Government course this year!  govt

These resources are MORE THAN ENOUGH to DIY a full year program. If you only want 1 semester, you’ll have to pick and choose.

Beyond high school credit, there are 2 exams you can take (not both- choose 1) that yield 3 college credits in the U.S. Government.

Most colleges consider these duplicate courses, so if your target college accepts both, I recommend choosing the CLEP for these 3 reasons.

(1)  you can currently take CLEP for $0 using the Modern States voucher (see below) and AP will cost about $100.

(2) CLEP is strictly multiple choice whereas the AP exam requires essays / free response.

(3) You can take CLEP anytime you’re ready – the AP is only offered once per year (May) and you have to find a local high school willing to let your teen take it.

If your target college doesn’t accept both exams, choose the one they do accept.

9-page downloadable lesson plan for AP Govt.

8-page downloadable Vocabulary Booklet

2-page downloadable list of Court Cases

Modern States Free Online Prep Course – complete this and receive a voucher that pays for your CLEP exam

13-hour video course on The Constitution (free)

Sparks Notes for American Government / Politics

Khan Academy AP US Govt. Video Course

Official website of the USA Government


If you’d like more help choosing between AP and CLEP, check out my resource pages below:

Advanced Placement Exam (AP)

College Level Exam Program (CLEP)


Posted in Uncategorized

One Bite at a Time

You’ve heard it asked “how do you eat an elephant?” and the punchline “one bite at a time” reminds us that most huge accomplishments are simply a series of smaller, more manageable goals.

Graduating from college with a degree is a huge goal- one that about half of all people don’t finish. But let’s look at some of the ways you can eat this elephant one bite at a time!

  1.  Most people don’t start college until they’ve graduated high school. If your teen earns even one college credit in high school, he’s ahead!
  2. A typical bachelor’s degree will consist of 120 credits, which is about 40 classes.  If that feels too overwhelming, consider starting with an associate’s degree which is only about 60 credits (20 classes).
  3. Many parents report that their teen is more successful when they study one course at a time instead of trying to study 5-courses at once each semester.  If your teen studies one course per month for 10 months, that’s the exact number of credits (high school OR college) that they’d study in a formal program.
  4. If they are ALREADY studying college prep or honors level material, there’s no reason they shouldn’t also try and pick up the college credit using one of the college credit exams available to them. (CLEP, AP, DSST, UExcel, TECEP, etc.)
  5. If they’re ready for college-level work, consider enrolling through your local community college NOW.  Colleges call this “dual enrollment” because they’re earning college credit with the college while also earning high school credit (that you award at home). It’s the ultimate way to gain traction!


You might also like to read:

What is the College Level Exam Program (CLEP)

Taking Your 1st CLEP

How to take a CLEP for free!

Posted in Uncategorized

Math at Khan Academy

Khan Academy is getting so good!!  They’ve really evolved through the years into a robust curriculum, well beyond their early years as a youtube channel.  When I needed to show college credit in statistics as a prerequisite for graduate school, I taught myself stats using Khan Academy and earned college credit using the DSST exam.

I wanted to take a minute to highlight some of the math courses that Khan Academy offers.  These courses can serve as your curriculum as you prepare for CLEP, DSST or AP exams, and best of all? Yep- you can take them for free!

The trick to using Khan successfully – watch EVERY video, work EVERY problem.

Khan Academy Math

Before Algebra 1

CLEP Algebra (includes Algebra 1 & 2)

CLEP PreCalculus 

AP Calculus AB

AP Calculus BC

AP Statistics

DSST Statistics

Khan Academy doesn’t offer a specific sequence that aligns perfectly with the CLEP College Mathematics exam or the DSST Mathematics for Liberal Arts, but you can pick up any info that you don’t already know by putting together your basic Algebra with some of the statistics and probability tools.  We have a separate post dedicated to preparing for either one of those exams.   DSST Math for the Liberal Arts vs. CLEP College Mathematics

Other posts you might like:

Math Success 4 Math Averse

Take a CLEP for free!

#18 The Institutes for Statistics Education (ACE)  (inexpensive degree option in statistics)

#7 ALEKS Corporation—McGraw Hill (ACE)  (Math curriculum worth college credit)


Posted in Dual Enrollment, High School, Uncategorized

Are 4 college classes too many?

If you’re using dual enrollment in high school, you’re probably faced with the problem of figuring out how many college credits vs high school credits your teen can balance and still pull good grades.  This is no small problem because college classes leave a paper trail!  In short- it’s part of their permanent record.

My sons can’t handle many more than 4 classes at a time (homeschool or college) without being stretched too thin, so I’ve used this little scheduling trick to help them from becoming over-loaded but still taking advantage of earning about 30-45 college credits per year in high school.

Understanding College Lingo

Taking 12-15 credits is considered “full-time” in college lingo.  That amounts to 4-5 classes, and for young students, that course load is really heavy (let’s be honest, it’s heavy for MOST students of any age).

Earning college credit in high school either buys you a lighter schedule in the future, or a shorter path toward a degree – both amazing opportunities.

  • If your student takes 12 credits per full semester (Fall / Spring) it will take 10 full semesters to complete a bachelor’s degree (5 years).
  • If your student takes 15 credits per full semester (Fall / Spring) it will take 8 full semesters to complete a bachelor’s degree (4 years).
  • Your teen can add extra credit by homeschooling for college credit in high school through dual enrollment, summer sessions, CLEP, and AP exams.

If your community college is typical, their courses will last for 16 weeks in a full semester.   In this case, 2 homeschool classes and 2 college classes might look like this:

  Semester 1


Semester 2


period 1 High School Class

Spanish 1

High School Class

Spanish 1

period 2 High School Class

Piano 1

High School Class

Piano 1

period 3 College Class

English 1

College Class

English 2

period 4 College Class

Amer. Govt.

College Class


There’s nothing wrong with this schedule! It’s a normal approach, and earning 12 college credits in a year is an accomplishment!!!  This sample student is earning dual enrollment credit for 4 courses this year, so remember to award them high school credit for each college class too!

  • 12 college credits (4 courses)
  • 6 high school credits
    • 1 high school credit in Spanish
    • 1 high school credit in Piano
    • 2 high school credits in English (3 college credits = 1 high school credit)
    • 1 high school credit in American Government
    • 1 high school credit in Psychology

Now…. let’s resourcefully plan

A newer option is to offer 8-week sessions in addition to the 16-week sessions. If you’ve noticed these at your teen’s college, I want to show you how they can fill a schedule without requiring more sessions per day.

While it seems like these shorter classes “should” be double the work or twice as fast, that’s not been our experience. My very average sons were able to manage 8-week sessions at multiple colleges in dozens of classes and still earn A’s and B’s with average effort. Still, I always knew that I could slow down or stop our homeschool classes if necessary.  It’s not a bad idea to have a plan in place like we did…just incase.

This schedule makes the most of your student’s time (still 4 periods) but they’ll earn a lot more high school & college credit!

  Semester 1

First 8 weeks

Semester 1

Second 8 weeks

Semester 2

First 8 weeks

Semester 2

Second 8 weeks

period 1 High School Spanish 1 High School Spanish 1 High School Spanish 1 High School Spanish 1
period 2 High School Piano 1 High School Piano 1 High School Piano 1 High School Piano 1
period 3 College Class English 1 College Class English 2 College Class American Lit College Class English Lit
period 4 College Class

Amer. Govt.

College Class


College Class

US History 1

College Class

US History 2

  • 24 college credits (8 courses)
  • 10 high school credits
    • 1 high school credit in Spanish
    • 1 high school credit in Piano
    • 2 high school credits in English (3 college credits = 1 high school credit)
    • 2 high school credits in Literature
    • 1 high school credit in American Government
    • 1 high school credit in Psychology
    • 2 high school credits in US History

If your teen has access to free or reduced tuition for dual enrollment, you only have a few years to take advantage of that savings- so a simple schedule adjustment can make a big difference to your budget, and it just takes a little resourceful planning.


You might also like to read:

Math Success 4 Math Averse

Free Associate Degree for Union Worker Families

30 Ways to Earn College Credit

Posted in Dual Enrollment, Free Tuition

Dual Enrollment Advice from Parents

I recently asked the parents on Homeschooling for College Credit’s Facebook page to share their experiences with dual enrollment, and any advice they might have for parents considering it for their teens.

Dual enrollment is enrolling in a college credit course, usually through a college, and counting it also as a high school course.  Popular dual enrollment courses include English 101, College Algebra, United States History, and others.

Parent comments: 
Mark Mandel We are wrapping up Maecroeconomics with certell and have applied for dual credit through Colorado. It’s pretty cool program and well recommended.
Karen SidurFirst class just finished. We are trying to sign up for another but are waitlisted. They don’t make it easy that’s for sure.
  •  Jennifer’s comment:  at most colleges, dual enrollment students are the bottom of the pecking order, and preference will go to the college’s regular students.  My only advice is to try and register the first day you’re allowed, and even consider a second college to use as your “back up” provider.
Sarah Burns Weiser My daughter is finishing 7 credits at Messiah College. Very positive experience but expectation of a high level of writing skills. She had excellent preparation from a co-op class she had taken so it was ok, but would be a shock for people not prepared for the writing. The other students and professors were very welcoming and inclusive.
Heather JonesMy DD14 completed college algebra at the local CC. She was already familiar with the content, but had to learn time management and how to do quality work even when bored. I’m thrilled we could rent the textbook, rather than buying it, and hope to rent for future classes.
Kristy Hassler Huddle For us it was a huge success. It was his first semester and he did extremely well.
Mary Lynn StimpsonMy daughter just finished her 3rd semester of community college for dual enrollment (they call it concurrent enrollment at her college). She did really well and will graduate in may with her high school diploma and her associate’s degree at the same time. I highly recommend it if it’s not too stressful for your child. I don’t think the courses were much more difficult than high school courses. It’s much more economical than a 4 year college (which I hope she will transfer to complete her bachelor’s).
  • Jennifer’s comment:  Good point about dual enrollment having more than one name.  I’ve found dozens of different names, and usually, a state tends to call it the same thing.  For instance, if you’re in Georgia, your state calls all dual enrollment “Move on When Ready” and if you’re in North Carolina, it’s called “Career and College Promise.”  If you can’t find “dual enrollment” for your state, it might be called something else.
Lori Trentanelli17 yr old just finished Intro to Japanese. Big success, especially for a person who took her time sampling various foreign languages. She organized a study group, which plans to continue meeting.
Teresa CavenderI have 2 dual enrolled high schoolers.
On campus is much more engaging than online.
Spread out heavy reading/writing courses.
Apply/register early.
Get as much face time with the professor (even with online courses, if possible).
Don’t get overwhelmed with the process /paperwork from registering. It boils down to a few documents, but the email and explanation can seem daunting!!
Don’t pass it up. It will save you THOUSANDS of dollars in the end. Like getting a scholarship without the essay. Lol!
  • Jennifer’s comment:  Thousands! That’s right.  In a handful of states, dual enrollment opportunities are FREE tuition, in a couple you even get free books and fees.  If this applies to you, the can mean your costs for 2 years of college = $0
  • For students that have to pay dual enrollment tuition, you’re paying the community college rate, which is typically 1/4 to 1/3 the cost of a typical 4-year college rate. In addition, your teen is living at home, so the living expenses associated with 2 years in a dorm are eliminated.
  • A far-reaching benefit, but for those edu-nerds like myself, an important one:  you get a better return on investment (ROI) when you complete college credit in high school.  Every credit your teen earns early puts them in the industry one year sooner.  For students in high-paying professions like nursing, medicine, engineering, etc. that means an extra 1-2-3+ years of full salary ahead of their peers.

Karen Dutton Realize that your child will be in regular college classes with adults, and that topics, assignments, and discussions will not be altered because of your child’s age, so they should be both academically and emotionally ready. The average age of a student in classes at our community college is 25. The student needs to be able to handle interactions with the professor on their own as you probably won’t have access.

Leah Johnson Stanford Daughter currently in her first semester of dual enrollment. We settled on online due to local university doesn’t allow until senior year and local cc have no price break for homeschoolers. She is taking Eng 101, American Government, and Fine Arts this fall. So far positive, but the work load is intense. Best advice watch due dates and work ahead when possible. My daughter is getting assignments turned in early to allow more free time to have extra study time to prepare for tests.

Lori Andersson Dual enrollment was the best decision we ever made. My high schooler will be nearly finished with his AA by the time I issue his high school diploma, and every core class he takes, I also count toward high school credit.

Lisa Tatum Ga is very de friendly for homeschoolers. We get free tuition and free books. Most colleges also waive the additional fees. My son has taken 7 de classes so far.



Parents and teens have to decide which subjects make sense, and choose carefully.  You can’t duplicate credit, so taking US History as a dual enrolled student means you can’t also get AP credit for US History – you have to choose.

Posted in Uncategorized

CLEP Literature Exams

There are 3 ways to earn college credit in literature through CLEP. Each exam is a bit different, but if you have a strong reader, this set is really the trifecta!

1.  American Literature (3 college credits)

The American Literature exam deals with the prose and poetry written in the United States from colonial times to the present. You’ll need to know specific work, specific authors, dates, titles, and characters.

When to take:  alongside American History

Official Exam Page

Free American Literature Prep Course for CLEP

Jennifer’s favorite resource for this exam is out of print, you’ll have to do some digging: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to American Literature (1999)


2.  Analyzing and Interpreting Literature (3 college cr.)

A reading comprehension exam includes questions on passages taken from American and British literature as well as some simple literature and poetry terms.  You do NOT need to know specific works, author, or dates.  This is a reading comprehension exam.

When to take:  anytime.   Many students take this as their 1st CLEP exam.

Official Exam Page

Free Analyzing and Interpreting Lit Prep Course for CLEP


3.  English Literature (3 college credits)

The English Literature exam is primarily concerned with major British authors and literary works. You’ll need to know specific work, specific authors, dates, titles, and characters.

When to take:  Take this as your last literature exam.  It’s a bit harder than American, and a little more specialized since English literature uses less common language.

Official Exam Page

Free English Literature Prep Course for CLEP


You might also like:


Take a CLEP for free!

My Top 10 CLEP Prep Tips for PARENTS

Posted in CLEP, Uncategorized

2 CLEPs to take in 10th grade

10th grade is a great time to plan a first CLEP if you have a teen who studies well and retains information.  While I consider 11th and 12th grades to be the “sweet spot” to homeschool for the most college credit, CLEP exams can be taken in any grade and at any age – and these two exams fit perfectly in almost every homeschool in 10th grade.

Continue reading “2 CLEPs to take in 10th grade”

Posted in Uncategorized

Three Credits for Summer

Have you been slow to jump in and get your teen’s feet wet? Are you still intimidated at how much there is to figure out and too much to study for?  Worried that it won’t be perfect? Well, in this quick post, I’m going to give you a QUICK action plan to earn 3 college credits this summer! Right now!

Continue reading “Three Credits for Summer”