I love making schedules for our homeschool – I actually love making them more than I like following them. But, in reality, I think most of us get a sense of satisfaction when we check things off of a list. I often have a few “leftovers” that get pushed to the next day, which makes me feel so unaccomplished. If that ever happens to you in your homeschool (can you say 7 out of 10 Lifepacs?) I would suggest you are careful planning your teen’s CLEP schedule. It’s so easy to get carried away. (16 CLEP exams next year? Yeah, that’s too many.) Additionally, if this is your first year injecting college credit into your homeschool, whatever you were thinking about adding…. cut it way back. Early success will be like rocket fuel later. Early failure will be like sugar in the gas tank.
Jennifer’s recommendation: no more than 2-3 CLEP exams during your first year of earning college credit – no matter what grade your teen is in.
My guinea pig (AKA oldest son) helped me learn that my knowledge and motivation about something is not enough to push everyone to the finish line. I share my mistakes so you can hopefully prevent them with your own kids. A quick story: I had just finished CLEP-testing out of an Associate’s of Arts degree. Over the course of 6 short months, I averaged one CLEP exam every 10 days – while homeschooling my kids- I had a schedule that worked perfectly (for me) and I was ready to implement CLEP tests into our homeschool immediately. They weren’t really that hard. But, my enthusiasm was tempered with homeschooling reality:
LEARNING TAKES TIME
So, before we dive into a schedule, I want to tell you the difference between my CLEPping out of an exam, and the experience of my teens CLEPping:
As an adult, I’d already attended and graduated, from high school. I had 4 years of slow learning – learning that included lots of reading, writing, researching, quizzes, studying, critical thinking, group discussion, reflection, and TONS of test-taking experience. I also had about 30+ years of life experience that helped me pass many exams. (Heck, I was present for some of the content on the US History II exam!) An adult going into a CLEP exam prep process is pretty straight forward: memorize, recall, use the process of elimination and life experience, choose the best answer. It was simple. But, NOT that simple for my son, and probably not for yours. (I’ll spare you the disaster that resulted in a lot of frustration, tears, yelling, and a failed exam.) So, when I started our schedule for my son’s second year of homeschooling for college credit, it went SO MUCH BETTER, because I followed a VERY SUCCESSFUL model used in high schools all over the country. I first learned this model as a high school student back in the 80’s, and it’s still in use today. I followed the Advanced Placement model.
Advanced Placement (AP), is a class followed by a college credit exam available to high school students. Not surprisingly, it’s written by the same makers of the CLEP exam. Students take it in the spring after about 2/3 of that year’s curriculum has been covered. The student takes almost an entire course before they ever think about exam prep. And, students who aren’t successful in the course don’t even have to attempt the exam if they don’t want to. The exam, if the student takes it, has nothing to do with their AP course grade or high school credit earned. In fact, AP credit by exam grades don’t even come in until July – well after the student has received their course grade. So, whether or not the student takes, passes, or fails the AP exam has nothing to do with the course grade or credit that led up to that moment. It is that model that I follow in our homeschool and one that I’d encourage you to consider as well.
100% curriculum + CLEP test prep = Success
WRITE YOUR HIGH SCHOOL SCHEDULE FIRST
Don’t worry, you can change it – but this really is where you should start. If you have no idea whatsoever of the subjects you’re going to plan for high school, you can use this very general rule of thumb* as a starting point. This plan doesn’t include any technology, electives, or other fun stuff – but this is a good starting point. Adjust as you see fit.
4 years of English (ex. Language Arts, Composition, Literature)
2–4 years of Math (ex. Algebra, Geometry, Consumer Math, Statistics, Trigonometry)
2–4 years of Science (ex. Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Science)
2–4 years of History (ex. American, Western Civilization)
at least 2 years of a Foreign Language (ex. Spanish, German, French)
*if your state has a specific high school graduation requirement or subject taught laws, you’ll want to follow those instead. Some states also distribute a “college-bound” suggested course of study.
CHOOSE YOUR CLEP EXAMS
With a generalized high school schedule, you can start picking specific subjects within each subject area. This is the point where you may want to match your teen’s high school subjects with CLEP subjects! Here is a current list of all 33 CLEP exams:
English & Literature Exams
History and Social Sciences Exams
Foreign Language Exams
It’s worth noting that some learning is singular, while other learning is cumulative. To give you an example, singular learning starts and stops within the subject. You and I could learn everything we needed to know for Introductory Psychology without any prior exposure to the subject. On the other hand, if we wanted to take the Calculus exam, we would have had to complete all of the math levels leading up to and including Calculus. That exam requires significant foundational knowledge before learning that subject. As you select subjects for your high school plan, you can use singular subjects anywhere you want, but cumulative subjects would be saved for later. The exam links above take you to that exam’s content page so you can peek at what each test’s makeup.
History of the United States I
History of the United States II
Human Growth and Development
Introduction to Educational Psychology
Principles of Macroeconomics
Principles of Microeconomics
Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648
Western Civilization II: 1648 to the Present
|Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
College Composition (w/ essay)
College Composition Modular (w/o essay)
Social Sciences and History
French Language: Levels 1 and 2
German Language: Levels 1 and 2
Spanish Language: Levels 1 and 2
A NOTE ABOUT FOREIGN LANGUAGE EXAMS: even though it says “Level 1” and “Level 2” it is only one exam that you take one time. When you take the exam, the strength of your score determines the number of college credits awarded, so don’t take this exam until AFTER you have significant fluency – multiple years of study.
SAMPLE 9th GRADE SCHEDULE
|Subject Area||Semester 1||Semester 2||CLEP Exam|
|ENGLISH||9th Grade English||9th Grade English||(N/A)|
|MATH||Algebra 1||Algebra 1||(N/A)|
|SCIENCE||Survey Science||Survey Science||(N/A)|
|HISTORY||United States History||United States History||U.S. History 1
U.S. History 2
|FOREIGN LANGUAGE||Spanish 1||Spanish 1||(N/A)|
In this sample, we are laying a foundation for future exams in English, Math, Spanish, and Science….but we’re not there yet. We are going to allow some foundational learning to happen first, and then we’ll inject college credit when our teen is better prepared. Instead, in this year, we are using a full year curriculum for United States History, and taking the U.S. History 1 exam at the half-way point, and then U.S. History 2 at the conclusion of the school year. These two exams work perfectly together!
SAMPLE 10th GRADE SCHEDULE
|Subject Area||Semester 1||Semester 2||CLEP Exam|
|ENGLISH||10th Grade English||10th Grade English||(N/A)|
|MATH||Algebra 2||Algebra 2||(N/A)|
|HISTORY||World History||World History||(N/A)|
|FOREIGN LANGUAGE||Spanish 2||Spanish 2||Spanish -maybe?|
In this year, we continue to develop English and Math skills but are attempting two very big CLEP exams. Both Biology and Spanish cover a full year of content, so we’ll play this by ear. If our teen isn’t a solid “A” student, we may wish to eliminate the exams from our plan or wait until later to attempt the. Spanish is a tough call because if you’re only allowing 2 years of study, it’s now or never. On the other hand, a 3rd or 4th year of Spanish would be ideal since we’re aiming for a high score (Level 2). On the other hand, if we stop now, we have time to learn a second language. As we go into 11th grade, we may have the added option of taking college courses through dual enrollment, which throws a monkey wrench into things a bit. For the purpose of this sample, we’ll assume you’re only using CLEP.
SAMPLE 11th GRADE SCHEDULE
|Subject Area||Semester 1||Semester 2||CLEP Exam|
|ENGLISH||11th Grade English||11th Grade English||(N/A)|
|MATH||College Algebra with PreCalculus||College Algebra with PreCalculus||College Math
|HISTORY||Western Civ. I||Western Civ. II||Western Civ. I
Western Civ. II
|ELECTIVE||American Literature||American Literature||American Lit.
Analyzing & Interpreting Lit.
|ELECTIVE||Music Appreciation||Art Appreciation||Humanities|
We are experiencing major traction now. In fact, while the CLEP exams all align perfectly to the subjects on the schedule, it may be too aggressive for all but the most motivated students. I included them anyway so you could see how it fits together. If you’ll take a moment to look at the SCIENCE row, the Natural Science CLEP exam would be perfect at the close of the 1st semester because that exam is 50% biology (taken last year) and 25% chemistry – a student with solid knowledge of biology and a cursory knowledge of chemistry can pass this exam without addressing the physics segment. Chemistry, as its own exam, is difficult and should only be considered after a full year of robust chemistry study. If I could also draw your attention to Humanities, that exam requires knowledge of music and art, but also a lot of the Western Civilization knowledge intersects with this exam, making it a perfect fit for this schedule.
NO SAMPLE 12th GRADE SCHEDULE
At this point, my advice is that you’ll select remaining courses and exams that align with a target college. College policy, awarding of credit, and accepted exams should all make their way into the conversation when selecting a college. It’s reasonable that a college might not take all your teen’s hard work, but if a college doesn’t accept most of it, you may want to reconsider! An encouragement to choose wisely comes from my friend Carol. She allowed me to share her story with you. We just saved $96,780
And by the way, were you keeping count? How many potential college credits does the 11th grader in the sample have?
Our teen also took a total of 13 exams (I included Spanish) over the course of 3 years. Since CLEP exams cost about $100 each, the total financial investment was about $1300. Since a family can pay as they go, it allows most people to budget and plan for a good portion of their teen’s college education well ahead of time! Not to mention the savings associated with books, meals, dorms, etc. that happen later.
Assuming the sample student attends a college that accepts all 60 credits, our sample student will have 2 years completed toward their bachelor’s degree, may have already earned an associate’s degree. (We still have 12th grade left, and can fill in courses for a degree if we want)
For those wondering about the cost savings, you may want to revisit my post listing the current Cost of Tuition in the United States and calculate your potential savings based on the kind of college your teen may attend. In general, if a college credit costs $325, your teen earned 60 of them for $1,300 over 3 years instead of paying (or borrowing) $19,500. Now THAT’S something to get excited about!