Posted in Blue Collar, High School, working

Blue Collar Homeschool

Today’s post features a homeschooling site (and Facebook group) run by a friend of mine and a long time friend to Homeschooling for College Credit- Cindy LaJoy.  Her page is called Blue Collar Homeschool, and I’m so excited to share it with all of you.

But wait, doesn’t the notion of “blue collar” conflict with earning college credit?  Heck no! In fact, injecting college credit into a homeschool program doesn’t mean you only focus on a certain type of education.  One thing I’ve learned by meeting thousands of parents my Facebook page is that trying to “define” what successful homeschooling looks like is a fool’s errand.

First, let me introduce you to Cindy and her homeschool family:

“We are “Team LaJoy”!  We believe that the family that works together AND plays together, stays together!  All of our kids have experienced public education, either in the United States or in orphanage schools overseas.  All love learning at home, and the cindyability to work at their own pace.  In our homeschool we have done a wide variety of experiential and traditional learning, with our kids doing such things as studying interior design, purchasing and refurbishing a home that was bank owned, learning about Profit and Loss statements as they help with our businesses, traveling the Lewis and Clark trail, building sheds, pottery, flying planes, and volunteering at the animal shelter, the library, the food bank, the homeless shelter and our local nursing home.  We have been out in the world, as well as dedicated to class around our kitchen table! “

Cindy is one of those fantastically enthusiastic people with a lot of passion.  When we first spoke, she told me her children had challenges.  The topic of our conversation wasn’t homeschooling,  but I underestimated HER challenges.  Her children include a mix of Dysgraphia, English as a Second Language, Central Auditory Processing Disorder, Gifted and Talented, suspected Dyscalculia, Sensory Processing Disorder, Developmental Delay, Executive Function Disorders, and Speech Impairments.

Moving into high school with our kids and thinking about their futures, it was easy to see that there was an underserved group, and that was families like us…families who had kids not destined for college, who had access to few resources that truly “fit” their child’s needs.  Few homeschool online groups speak to those parents of kids whose career aspirations do not include a degree, leaving us feeling inadequately equipped, and as if we are somehow underachievers.   I began to develop a passion for helping our kids see the wide variety of career possibilities, not at the sake of eliminating college, but for seeing there were even more choices.”

If I can take a moment to distract you from Cindy’s specific story, I want to caution you against making the mistake that professional guidance counselors make all the time. They “track” students into paths based on early test scores and grades.  In my own past, I was “guided” into food service from the moment I set foot in high school. My test scores were average, clearly not “college material.”  After learning about Advanced Placement (AP) I had to get special permission to take an AP course in 10th grade (which required my parent’s signature to go against professional advice).   My point is that it’s easy to default into the old idea that underachievers go to vocational school and “smart” kids go to college.  We have an entire population of kids with part of a college degree who are unemployable because they can read Latin but can’t put together an Ikea bookshelf.

We need “smart” kids in trades too!

If you’ve never heard of Mike Rowe, he’s the champion of blue collar.  His own liberal arts education (BA in Communications from Towson University) and career as an opera singer make him an unlikely advocate for the trades, but you might know him better as the host of Dirty Jobs.

My ALL TIME FAVORITE youtube interview is Dirty Job’s Mike Rowe on the High Cost of College (full interview below).  Mike Rowe explains how he thinks we’ve gotten off course by encouraging every child to attend a 4-year college.

 “if we’re lending money that we don’t have, to kids who really have no hope of paying it back, in order to train them for jobs that clearly don’t exist, I might suggest that we’ve gone around the bend a little bit.”  -Mike Rowe


If you want to incorporate some blue-collar classes into your curriculum, or maybe even help your teen select a career in one of the trades, I’m going to list a combination of resources that Cindy pulled together as well as a few of my own.  (and some of them are even for college credit!)

Apprenticeship in the USA

Considering a Gap Year? List of resources

High School Curriculum – electives

Research any career using REAL DATA

Vocational Schools and Training Resources

Pages on Homeschooling for College Credit you might also like:

HELP! My high school graduate doesn’t want to go to college.

Say YES to Home Economics

Working During College: Yes or No?

Trending: Non-College Learning

Math Success 4 Math Averse

 

Posted in Curriculum, High School

Getting Ready to Write in College

Writing for Visual Thinkers: A Guide for Artists and DesignersLet’s talk about writing in college – not “I want to be a writer” writing, but the kind of writing everyone has to do to get through their degree.  I think it’s pretty common to spend a lot of time in our homeschools emphasizing creative writing, when in fact, only some of our teens will ever have to do creative writing in college.  What skills does the college expect your teen to have, and what will they learn while in class? In this post, we’ll look at the expectations of non-writing college majors and how you can prepare your high school student.


So, what pre-writing skills does your teen need before college?

Typing

I remember taking a typing class in 9th grade, but I haven’t seen “typing” class on a high school transcript since then. Perhaps typing is considered intuitive for our teens? Still, if your teen hasn’t developed the ability to type relatively well by now, it’s time to develop this skill.  Cathy Duffy has a handful of keyboarding and typing curriculum suggestions on her site, but I like the free online game called  Typing Club that is a super-organized curriculum open to anyone.

Word Processing 

Computer based typing using word processing software like Microsoft Word will be required almost 100% of the time. Writing in college is almost always done electronically because colleges use plagiarism software to scan the entire internet-universe for violations.   If you don’t have Microsoft Word, you may want to download a similar (free) product called Apache Open Office.  Once your teen is enrolled at the college, they may be eligible to purchase Microsoft Word (and the entire suite of products) at a significant student discount.  I used Apache Open Office for years, it is nearly identical to Word.

Basic computer functions your teen needs to know asap:  open a file, save a file, change a docx to a pdf, attach a file to an email, transfer a file to a zip/thumb drive.

Basic Word functions your teen needs to know asap:  modify margins, use italics/bold/underline, indent, change single/double spacing, insert citations, create headers and footers, run spell check, and create a bibliography page.

If there are gaps in your teen’s understanding in any of the above, there is a free computer class that a lot of the members here (adults and teens) have used with great success called Jan’s Illustrated Computer Literacy.  It’s a perfect 1-semester curriculum and covers all of the essentials they need.

Rewording without Plagiarizing

You can bet that your teen’s assignments will be run through plagiarism software.  It’s the norm today, and the software will calculate a “similarity percentage.” Teachers and professors look at the similarity percentages, and you can expect consequences when plagiarism matches at 20% or better.  This isn’t to scare parents but be aware that plagiarizing can be a serious offense, even when it’s on accident.  At the very least a student may receive a zero on an assignment, but significant infractions can result in expulsion.   The most common software teachers use is called Turnitin.  If you’d like to see examples of what would cause a flag, Turnitin has a nice infographic on their website.

Your teen will receive thorough instruction about what constitutes plagiarism in their English 101 class, but the sooner they start to understand plagiarism, the easier it will be for them to comply with the guidelines.  Turnitin has a nice tutorial to help you understand plagiarism in depth.

Basic Grammar

There won’t be time to learn basic grammar in college, the professors will assume your teen can compose a clear sentence from the start.  While you may be surprised that most of what you learned through 8th grade will be sufficient, that doesn’t make it less important.  Developing good habits, like using spell check every time, will help with this.

There is a new app on the market called Grammarly.  You can download it for your PC or phone and it runs a grammar checker at all times in the background of every program you’re in.  The free version will catch spelling and word choice errors, there is a premium “pay” version that helps you improve your writing.  Grammarly also sends you a weekly report with your top errors too.  It’s by far my favorite app of 2017, and I’ve got it on all my kid’s computers.  teen-2


What will the college teach my teen?

In all 50 states, your teen will take at least one English Composition course (assuming their college is accredited) and the majority will take two.  English Composition is commonly called English 101 and is taught as the first course (assuming no developmental courses are needed).  The second course in the series, where required, will vary by college.  The second English course is usually a research course, technical writing course, or business writing course and may be called English 102 or similar.

For your information, I’m including links to a few actual college websites for English Composition.  The more of these you visit, the more you’ll find that they all teach roughly the same thing.

Boise State University English 101

University of South Carolina English 101

Harvard University English 101

Liberty University English 101

Heartland Community College English 101

In general, the goal of English 101 is to teach the student the 4 common writing styles, and how to craft a 5-paragraph essay.  Expect the English course to contain significant amounts of short to medium length written assignments (under 750 words) using a variety of styles.

  • Expository – Writing in which author’s purpose is to inform or explain the subject to the reader.  When your student learns academic-style report writing, it will be this type.  Expository writing also carries over into business writing, research papers, white papers, lab reports, and discussion board requirements.
  • Persuasive – Writing that states the opinion of the writer and attempts to influence the reader. When your student must defend an argument, present their opinion, or create sales and marketing content, they will use this type of writing.  Persuasive writing is the ability to argue a side or position, which may or may not be your opinion.
  • Narrative – Writing in which the author tells a story. The story could be fact or fiction.
  • Descriptive – A type of expository writing that uses the five senses to paint a picture for the reader.

Depending on the college’s requirements, the second English course will usually be a research course that introduces the student to academic style formatting.  Narrative and descriptive writing are “full” or wordy, and paint a picture with words- this is frequently the opposite of the concise academic-styled writing called for in most classes.  Academic writing leaves behind Narrative and Descriptive writing and hits squarely on Expository and Persuasive writing styles.  In general, from this point forward, Expository and Persuasive writing styles will dominate the rest of a typical college student’s experiences.

Of the 4 common categories, you can expect expository and persuasive writing will be the backbone of most college assignments after English 101.  If your teen is not headed into one of the writing careers, their time in high school is best spent honing their ability to write both expository and persuasive papers from now until graduation.

I think it’s over-kill to teach academic stylized writing in high school, but if you want to owllook ahead, your teen will be required to use the writing style customary for their field or major. I’m copying the resource page from the BEST academic writing resource guide on the internet: Perdue OWL.  Seriously – it’s the best.

Professional, Technical Writing

These OWL resources will help you conduct research and compose documents for the workplace, such as memoranda and business letters. This section also includes resources for writing report and scientific abstracts.

Writing in Literature

These OWL resources will help you write about literature and poetry. This section contains resources on literary terms, literary theory, and schools of criticism, as well as resources on writing book reviews.

Writing in the Social Sciences

These OWL resources will help you write in some of the social sciences, such as social work and psychology.

Writing in Engineering

These OWL resources will help you write in a wide range of engineering fields, such as civil and computer engineering. This section contains resources on conducting research, working in teams, writing reports and journal articles, as well as presenting research. This section also contains the material from the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) – Purdue Writing Lab Workshop Series and the material from the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) resources.

Creative Writing

These OWL resources will help you with the basics of creative writing. This section includes resources on writing poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

Healthcare Writing

These OWL resources will help you write in medical, healthcare, and/or scientific contexts. This section includes original research articles and samples of the healthcare writing produced for a more general, lay-population audience.

Journalism and Journalistic Writing

These OWL resources introduce the basic concepts of journalistic writing. This area includes resources on the Associated Press style of format and writing, as well as resources on how to organize journalistic writing.

Writing in the Purdue SURF Program

These resources were designed as part of a live workshop series for undergraduate science, engineering, and technology students in the Purdue Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) Programs. SURF participants engage in summer-long research projects under the direction of Purdue faculty and graduate students.

Writing in Art History

These OWL resources provide guidance on typical genres with the art history discipline that may appear in professional settings or academic assignments.


Writing expectations after English 101

General Education Courses

100 and 200 level introductory courses taught as a foundation or before your major. Expect literature, humanities, and social sciences to be writing-heavy, while science, technology or math will contain little to no writing.  Expect online courses to conduct all of their activities by writing. A typical writing research assignment may be 2-5 pages. Science teachers often ask students to write and illustrate lab reports either from scratch or using a standard template.

Courses in Your Major

300 and 400 level courses in your major will usually require the most writing.  Humanities and social science majors will produce significantly more written work than science, technology or math majors.  Expect increased number of papers, but not necessarily increased length.  Rather than a single research paper, courses in your major may require 2-4 papers.  It is also not uncommon to write a thesis or complete a capstone as a final activity in your major.  An undergraduate thesis is a summary document about a single topic- it’s usually very robust in content and length.  A thesis may range from 15-30 pages.


Writing for Hire

In 2014, I posted an ad on Craigslist hoping to generate a little extra money for our family. I had a good deal of experience writing corporate newsletters, white papers, blog posts, business letters and recipes/menus as an employee.  I’d also just finished a master’s degree, so I had significant experience in academic writing, original research, and the like.  I’d read it was easy to land freelance writing gigs, so I decided to try one or two.   My ad was something to the effect of

” Fast freelance researcher/ writer for hire.  $20/page.

Original content – references available.”

Oh. My. Gosh.  I had no idea of the avalanche about to happen.  Within 24 hours, my inbox had 3-4 requests.  Within the second day, another 3-4.  By the end of the week, I had no less than 20 “gigs” requested.   How many newsletters?  None.  How many resumes or cover letters?  None.  How many blog posts? None.  How many menus? None.  How many white papers?  None.  100% of the gigs were sent by college students asking me to write their assignment for them!  Some of these assignments were simple 2-3 page opinion pieces that would have taken me about 30 minutes to complete.  Others wanted to know if I could guarantee a score of 90 or better. Another asked if I could complete his discussion posts for his online class.  Obviously, I had significant ethical issues with writing papers for students to pass off as their own- this was NOT the kind of work I wanted.  I pulled my ad, but the requests still poured in. A standout was the DOCTORAL CANDIDATE who wanted a quote on writing her 250-page dissertation for her Ph.D. in Education.  (Was I willing to come down from $20/page to $15?)    I declined.

Prior to this experience, I had no idea this was going on.  I’d taught for a long time at the community college, but this never came up with my colleagues.  I decided to share this experience with you because I want you to know that writing for hire is a HUGE business and not at all what I thought.  College students are absolutely hiring out writing.  Why?  I’m not totally sure.  Maybe they don’t have the time or the skills, or maybe they think since “everyone is doing it” that they should too?  Maybe they think they need a certain grade to maintain a scholarship.

Whatever the reason, it’s worth mentioning here so you can talk with your teen about it ahead of time.  Though I’m not sure, I would suspect that purchasing written work and turning it in as your own would probably result in significant consequences, perhaps even expulsion.


Composition Curriculum

In my homeschool, I ended up with was a merger of 2 distinct approaches.   The first approach came from a decade of using The Robinson Curriculum (RC) and the second from using  Institute for Excellence in Writing  (IEW) when my kids were young.  In RC, your child writes a page every day.  In IEW,  they teach you to grade your child’s STYLE, not their CONTENT.  (Sadly, the rest of IEW made my brain melt after 1 year).  So, I made my kids write every day, but never graded it.  They wrote a page and put it away. Every day.  For years. Occasionally I read it, but the point was to help them get over themselves, and not to treat writing as a precious activity that needed to produce a masterpiece every time they put pen to paper; rather that it be more natural and casual.   If your teen suffers from “analysis paralysis” and over-thinks every writing assignment, you could give it a try.  Writing was the only aspect of our homeschool that was truly unstructured, but by the time my kids hit 10th grade, they were all ready for English 101 and were proficient writers.    Still, most parents want more structure.

There is no better curriculum resource than CathyDuffyReviews.  I link to her page all the time because her site is like the Consumer Reports of homeschool curriculum. No matter what variety of curriculum you’re looking for, she’ll have a review for it!

Her list of WRITING curriculum with reviews:

For your “visual learners” and creative students, you might try Writing for Visual Thinkers: A Guide for Artists and Designers by Pearson.

Posted in CLEP, Credit by Exam, High School

Sample High School CLEP Schedule

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 timeArts 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

Math Exams

Science 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.

Singular Subjects

Cumulative Subjects

American Literature

English Literature

Biology

Chemistry

American Government

History of the United States I

History of the United States II

Human Growth and Development

Introduction to Educational Psychology

Introductory Psychology

Introductory Sociology

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)

Humanities

College Algebra

College Mathematics

Precalculus

Calculus

Natural Sciences

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

9th Grade
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)
ELECTIVE Typing Photography (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

10th Grade
Subject Area Semester 1 Semester 2 CLEP Exam
ENGLISH 10th Grade English 10th Grade English (N/A)
MATH Algebra 2 Algebra 2 (N/A)
SCIENCE Biology Biology Biology CLEP
HISTORY World History World History (N/A)
FOREIGN LANGUAGE Spanish 2 Spanish 2 Spanish -maybe?
ELECTIVE Physical Education Health (N/A)

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 girl4plan 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

11th Grade
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

College Algebra

SCIENCE Chemistry Chemistry Natural Sciences

Chemistry

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?

60

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!kids

Posted in College Admission, High School, working

HELP! My high school graduate doesn’t want to go to college.

If your teen graduated this month without a plan for college, and you’re probably feeling EXCEPTIONAL pressure, especially on Facebook. (you know, where “everyone’s” kids are all starting at fussy universities this fall).  I want to tell you something that’s really important but rarely talked about.

Getting into college isn’t nearly as hard as getting out.

mountain
The journey between high school graduation and college graduation.

That’s worth saying again:  Getting into college isn’t nearly as hard as getting out (with a degree).  Trust me, getting out is the better goal, but soon the buzz will die down, and you won’t hear about the struggles some teens are having, the financial challenges the parents are facing, or the worst possible scenario, their teen dropping out.

In other words, it’s intimidating when “everyone” around you starts college, but that’s only because there is a pervasive myth that tells parents “get your kid into college, and all is well in the world. Your job is done!”

Not so fast.  That’s bunk.

Simply, there is a huge journey between high school graduation and college graduation. It’s filled with pitfalls, redirection, and a lot of debt.   Unless your teen is very motivated, he likely wouldn’t have been successful today had you pushed him forward. That doesn’t mean he won’t be up for it next semester,  next year, in 3 years, or in 5.  But every college graduate will tell you that it was their internal motivation that drove them to complete their degree, not the internal motivation of their parents!  I realize all of this is very uncomfortable to talk about, but I hope you’ll explore with me how we can make your situation work out for the best.  (Did she just suggest I back off?  Maybe a little.)


Everyone is not a college graduate

The National Center for Education Statistics keeps track of all education data on all people (not a small sample of people, all people – this is the real deal!)  I like using data when I’m wrestling a problem because my emotional side and my logical side are sometimes at odds with each other!  Data helps me reel in some of my emotions, and look at a problem logically.   I’ve turned to the latest Educational Attainment Data (2017) and the latest College Enrollment of High School Graduates (2017) to discuss the challenge of “getting out” of college.  Why?  Because many parents may interpret their teen’s lack of motivation today as their own failure. (let’s face it, as homeschoolers, a lot of people are watching our kids and how they turn out – I get that, it’s a real pressure.)

Their data reflects young adults aged 25-29.  I want to walk you through a set of information that I hope you won’t skim past:

  • The percentage who graduated high school or GED:  92%
    • This is important to note because if your teen didn’t graduate high school, they would truly be in the minority of their peers.  In 2015, the graduation rate was only 88%, so as you can see, it’s trending up!  As a high school graduate, they are eligible to apply for college, apprenticeship, military, or begin work.  This accomplishment may not be your endgame, but it is still significant for their success as an adult moving forward.  Count this as a win.
  • The percentage who earned a bachelor’s degree:  35%
    • I bet you thought it was higher.  35% is up from last year!  Last year, it was only 28%.  So, roughly a third have earned a bachelor’s degree.  This is certainly not the majority by a long shot.  In fact, bachelor’s degree holders represent a minority in the United States.  (Master’s degree holders are in an elite club – only 9% of Americans have one!)
  • The percentage of high school students that graduated high school and went directly to college:  69.9%
    • Yep!  You read that right, 70% of high school graduates headed directly to college, but only 35% of those between the ages of 25 and 29 hold a bachelor’s degree.  Let’s build a diagram of how that looks using real students.

2017 educational attainment

 

Now, I know you still want your teen to land in the green “35 graduate college” box, but before we go there, I want to share a bit more data and then we’ll build a real plan.

False starts are expensive

Student loan borrowing data tells us that 94% of those that enter college borrowed money.  The general allowances and caps on government borrowing tell us that a student at year 2 in college has borrowed about $12,000. (I’m being super generalized at this point, and I’m not counting any money the parents borrowed).

slide2

So, while your teen hasn’t started college yet, at least they aren’t among the 33 that started, borrowed, and then dropped out.  That group will have a $125 per month payment for 10 years to repay their loan.  Those students are facing the same uncertainty as the group that didn’t start college – but the difference is that they are doing so with a debt burden on their shoulders.

From statistics and data, we know that student loan debt can be crushing, especially when the student expected to land a high paying job after college graduation, and instead finds themselves without their degree and a monthly debt to repay.


Tip #1  If your teen isn’t the driving force behind going away to college, stay home, pay cash, and don’t leave a paper trail.

Sometimes teens need a push.  Mine have too.  But remember, internal motivation is what drives a teen to complete their degree, so the ultimate win is getting them fired up about building their own plan.  If your teen isn’t the driving force, their potential for finishing a degree away from home is very low.  It is my recommendation that you should still push (a little) but do so in a way that doesn’t create a long-term debt or leave a trail.

A paper trail is a college transcript with 1-2 semesters of mediocre grades followed by a series of “W” and “F” grades.  That is the #1 most common way students leave college when they drop out.   You can avoid this by keeping their work off of a transcript (for now).

ADULT EDUCATION.  The best kind of college classes that are cheap and don’t leave a trail are called “Adult Education” or “Continuing Education” and found at your local community college.  While some of these courses can lead to a license, certification, or credential – that’s not really the point.  The point is for them to get into a classroom where they’ll learn something they’re interested in.  Adult Education courses aren’t graded, and they aren’t part of a financial aid program.  Failure in these courses is inconsequential, there are no grades and no debt.  You simply drop the class.  Future college applications that ask for “all transcripts and grades” does not include Adult Education.

As an example, my local community college offers EMT training as part if a degree program and through the Adult Education program.  Through the degree program, the student must apply, take a placement exam, take pre-EMT courses, earn credits, and earn grades.  A permanent record is created, and the student can use financial aid to pay for the courses.  Through our Adult Education program, a student simply enrolls directly in the EMT course, pays $180 and attends.  Whether the student passes or fails, no grade is recorded.  (no college credit is earned)

Lastly, Adult Education programs exist to meet the needs of adults – so you’ll see a robust blend of personal enrichment (cooking, Spanish, fitness) as well as career growth and development programs (Excel, PhotoShop, Real Estate, Cosmetology, Photography, etc.) that allow a life-work balance.  Adult Ed classes usually just meet one or two nights a week or on weekends, allowing plenty of time for full-time employment.


 Tip #2  Your teen should start full-time employment immediately, and do it at a company that offers tuition benefits.

Full-time work is not a punishment, it’s what adults do!  There is a LOT to be gained from immediate full-time employment.  For some teens, they just need a break from school, so working gives them an opportunity to mature, develop autonomy, and learn about being an adult.  In addition, when a teen works for a company with tuition benefits, they’re tapping into a resource that could pay for their entire degree.  Often an employer that pays tuition expects passing grades.  For the teen that is a good employee and tries hard at work, this outside pressure (from the “real world”) may be enough of an encouragement to work that much harder in school.

I’ve written 2 posts you’ll want to check out if this is the path you’re considering.  I’ve listed 100 employers that should make up your teen’s list of potential employers.

100 Employer / Employee Scholarships

Working During College: Yes or No?


Tip #3  Revisit Homeschooling for College Credit suggestions

You may not realize this, but the credit earning strategies we explore here are applicable to high school graduates too!   If you’ve been a member here for a while, it’s possible that your teen already has some college credit – maybe it was a dual enrollment course, a few CLEP exams, or a Straighterline class.  No matter what they did, if they have even 1 college credit, they’re not behind!  Here is the traditional credit progress schedule:

High School:  0 college credits

Freshman in college:  completes 0-30 college credits (10 classes)

Sophomore in college: completes 31-60 college credits (10 classes)

Junior in college: completes 61-90 college credits (10 classes)

Senior in college:  completes 91-120 college credits (10 classes)

 For those students who aren’t on the competitive admissions track to a prestigious college, or who aren’t pursuing a hands-on trade, it’s easy enough for your student to work full time (see tip #2) and earn credit at home using one of the vendors talked about here.  Read through the tabs above, but I’ll give my personal recommendation for Straighterline BECAUSE they have partnership agreements with colleges that are guaranteed to accept credit, you don’t have to disclose passes/failures, they can be done 100% at home, you can do all general education courses (AA degree) through them, and they frequently have coupons.  (see tip #1).  Furthermore, working on one class at a time, a full time working teen can still complete 1-2 classes per month.  At that rate, your teen is not merely doing, but they are beating the traditional pace of college.

Credit earned non-traditionally through Straighterline, Sophia, CLEP, DSST, ALEKS, Study.com, and others are all valid for 20 years.

College credit earned this way does NOT leave a paper trail.  This kind of credit consists of pass/fail scores.  Failed exams/classes don’t appear on an ACE transcript. 


Tip #4  Make an action plan

Now I’m the one that’s uncomfortable because this tip can cross a little into the “parenting” category, and I’m NOT in the business of telling people how to parent!  Still, making an action plan is a good way to set financial expectations and live at home boundaries for your teen as they navigate into adulthood.  Our second son just graduated high school and is earning his degree as a distance learner, so even though he’s “in college” we still have a very clear action plan for him that covers the next 2 years. Since we expect our children to eventually move out, our action plan always has that in mind.

Action plans include specific tasks either agreed upon by the family or dictated by the parent.  Action plans should have clear and reasonable schedules and goals for everyone. Examples may look something like this:

You have _______ months of working full time before you have to either enroll full time at college, enlist in the military, join the Peace Corps, leave on a mission, start the apprenticeship program, or move into your own apartment.  

While you’re working full time and still living at home, our financial expectation of you is __________________.

We will pay for classes at ____________ as long as you _____________. 

In _____ months, we’ll revisit your goals and decide what to do at that point. 


work

 

Posted in Curriculum, High School

Say YES to Home Economics

If you don’t know, I’m a trained chef by profession.  I went to The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York right out of high school and worked as a chef for many years before I got married and started a family.   I LOVE all things food.   As you can imagine, Home Economics in 7th grade was a big influence on me – it was the first time my passing interest was put in an academic context.

We learned about the cookies we made, and we learned about how to make them better for next time.  I was shown how to crack an egg and peel a potato, and I was allowed to use a knife and the oven.  (I grew up in a home without an oven, strange but true, so this was HUGE!)  I was hooked.  I happen to also love the rest of it:  budgeting, sewing, childcare, etc.

Home Economics (rebranded as Consumer Sciences) has fallen from school curriculum in favor of STEM and fights against the band, choir, and art for a school’s limited resources.  In our measurement-obsessed society, schools have little enthusiasm for subjects that don’t prep kids for standardized exams.  Let me say up front, that there aren’t any college credit options for high school home economics, and unless you’re going to major in home economics (excuse me, consumer sciences) you won’t find many college classes either.  It’s a shame, really.   Home Economics, in my opinion, is an acquired skill.   I didn’t always manage my home as well as I do today but know plenty of adults who must have missed home economics altogether.

I think FUN is to blame.  If a curriculum is too fun or too inviting, gets in the way of important things, like transcripts, college admission, and test prep.

Real home economics teaches basic life skills that will carry a person through their entire life, but they also expose our teens to activities that may not have come up with their activities of daily living.  I realize making a batch of muffins and sewing a placemat don’t feel as important as more time in World History, but I don’t think it’s an “either-or” position, I think it’s an “and” position.  I think World History is important, and, I think home economics is important.

Poor home economics.  I don’t define a home economics credit as making frozen pizza and volunteering in the church nursery.    Those are valuable experiences, but let’s get into the heart of home economics.   Did it take you years to learn how to live on a budget (are you still learning?).  Do you have to eat out a lot or buy convenience foods because you never learned to cook from scratch?  Do you throw a shirt away because it’s missing a button or become stained?  These small skills pay off in a small way once you live in a dorm, a little more when you’re in your first apartment, and a lot once you’ve started a family.  These skills pay off immeasurably if you’re going to be a homeschooling family living on one income for 20 years.

What is home economics?  Many will answer “life skills” and that’s not untrue, but to me, there is a difference between being able to keep your family alive and being a skilled home economist!  In my opinion, home economics are a deliberate attempt to learn and then master skills of the home.  I realize that some of the skills will fall into the category of “feminine” and may not appeal to your sons,  but that’s ok, we all have had to learn things that aren’t our favorite.  There may be many independent years where your son will thank you for teaching him to cook and do his laundry.

What’s covered in a basic Home Economics course?

It varies by curriculum designer, but in general, the more of this the better:

Finances and Budgeting (income, expenses, saving, credit, budgeting)

Household Care (interior cleaning, laundry, repairs)

Automobile Care (routine maintenance, pumping gas)

Basic Sewing and Mending (Fix a button, patch a hole)

Shopping and Storage of Food (refrigerated, frozen, and non-perishable)

Basic Lawn and Garden (Mowing, weeding, planting, pest control)

Basic Home Furnishings (selecting furniture, painting a room, hanging curtains)

Safety (CPR, First Aid, child-proofing, personal protection, over the counter medication)

Child Care (feeding, changing diapers, supervising, nurturing)

Organizing (a place for everything, everything in its place)

Entertaining (special cooking or baking, decorating, guest lists, etiquette)


Parent Mentoring

I think homeschool parents have an advantage when it comes to teaching and modeling good home economics.  Why?  Because we’re always teaching our children!  It doesn’t start or stop with the clock.  So while it’s common sense to teach these skills to our teens, I like to be a little more diligent about it by making a list of “must know” and tackling it with my husband.  A list is good because if you have many children like I do, it helps you remember who knows what and who doesn’t.  It also helps you really consider the skills familyyou’d like your teens to take with them when they leave home.  My kids watched a lot of lawn mowing before they were allowed to do it themselves, and many years of practice before they were “good” at it.  Many skills lend themselves beautifully to parent mentoring, but you may also want to use a formal curriculum or course.


When I started looking for a formal home economics curriculum, I was pretty disappointed.  My go-to and favorite review site Cathy Duffy Reviews doesn’t have a section for home economics, but I’ve done my own homework.  In addition to these high school programs, I’m going to list a few more “grown-up” options that are fantastic.  For example, I love the ServSafe Food Handler course!  In addition to it providing a real career credential they can add to their resume, your teen will learn a ton about basic kitchen sanitation – something everyone should know.   If you have a favorite to add, I’d love to know about it!


High School Textbook-based

Alpha Omega Home Economics Lifepac (10 workbook course – Christian)

Christian Light Publications (10 workbook course – Christian, for females only)

Landmark’s Freedom Baptist (1 book – Christian, for females only)

Abeka Family and Consumer Sciences (1 book – Christian, cooking only)

McGraw-Hill Catalog (over 200 books to choose from- Secular)

Foundations in Personal Finance, Dave Ramsey, (Christian/ Secular)

Online Learning

Home Economics Kitchen Skills, free online course, Plain and Not So Plain (Christian)

Household and Personal Management, free online course, Plain and Not So (Christian)

Foundations in Personal Finance, Dave Ramsey, (Christian / Secular)

ServSafe Food Handling Certification $15 food safety course includes certification.

Alison Diplomas, free open courses in Childcare, Caregiving, Nutrition, and many others. Can be taken individually or for a diploma.  These are not for college credit.  (Secular)

Life Skills for Young Men, Plain and Not So Plain (Christian)

 

 

Posted in financial aid, High School, Resources, Scholarships, working

100 Employer / Employee Scholarships

Last week, I wrote a nice long post demonstrating some of the financial and real-world benefits of Working During College.  At the end of that post was a list of companies that would pay your teen’s tuition while they went to college!

In today’s post, I want to share a list of 100 companies that frequently offer scholarships to their employees or children of employees!

Parents:  check with Human Resources immediately!  Scholarship application deadlines are sometimes a year in advance.

Who qualifies?

It depends.  In some cases, a parent’s dependents are eligible to apply, but in other cases, the teen must be an employee.  If you or your teen already work for one of these companies, simply contact your Human Resources department and ask for more information.

My teen wants a job that isn’t on this list

Working is great, no matter how you slice it, but rather than browsing and hoping to find your teen’s employer, be proactive and talk to them about seeking employment at a company that offers educational benefits through scholarships or tuition reimbursement.  That’s being smart and planning ahead.  A summer job isn’t supposed to be a permanent career that’s deep and rewarding. It’s a nice way to earn some spending money, learn responsibility, develop a work ethic……. and possibly earn a scholarship!

What’s the difference between tuition reimbursement and a scholarship?

Tuition reimbursement generally requires continued employment with the company while you go to school.  When you’ve finished a course, the company writes you a check to reimburse you for the tuition you paid.  Tuition reimbursement can sometimes pay for a full degree, but often has a service requirement or other obligation in exchange for the educational benefit.

Scholarships are awards given to a student for achievement.  Often, these are one-time awards.  Scholarship amounts vary by employer, but it’s not unusual to see scholarship awards for $500 – $2,500.  Typically, a scholarship is a one-time award without further obligation.

I’m seeing a few names that are also on the tuition reimbursement list.

That’s right!  Many companies consider investing in an employee’s education as a very important part of their mission.  According to the Society for Human Resource Management (the largest HR organization in the world), as many as 91% of large companies maintained or increased their educational benefits since 2014.  In contrast, as few as 4% offer any kind of student loan forgiveness program.  In short:  plan to find these benefits before you start college and resort to borrowing.  Among millennials, as many as 1/3 reports falling behind on their student loan payments.  Ouch!

  1. A&W
  2. Abbott Laboratories
  3. Adobe Systems
  4. ADP
  5. Aetna
  6. Alcoa
  7. Amazon.com
  8. American Airlines
  9. American Cancer Society
  10. AT&T
  11. Baxter International
  12. Biogen Idec
  13. BMW Group
  14. Bosch
  15. Build A Bear
  16. Burger King
  17. California Grape Grower
  18. California State University Bakersfield
  19. Capital One Financial
  20. Carmax
  21. CenterPoint Energy
  22. Chevron
  23. Chobani
  24. Citigroup
  25. Community Bankers Assoc. of Illinois
  26. ConocoPhillips
  27. Costco
  28. CPS Energy
  29. Cracker Barrel
  30. CVS Pharmacy
  31. Darden Restaurants
  32. DirecTV
  33. Dish Network
  34. Dominion Resources
  35. Duke Energy Corporation
  36. DuPont
  37. Edison International
  38. Express Scripts
  39. Exxon
  40. GameStop
  41. General Electric
  42. General Mills
  43. Genzyme
  44. H&R Block, Inc.
  45. Harley Davidson
  46. Hewlett- Packard (HP)
  47. Home Depot
  48. Humana
  49. Hyundai Motors
  50. IBM
  51. Intel
  52. J Crew
  53. JetBlue Airways
  54. Kentucky Fried Chicken
  55. L.L. Bean
  56. Land O’ Lakes
  57. Long John Silver’s
  58. Lowe’s
  59. Marathon Petroleum
  60. Mayo Clinic
  61. McDonald’s Corporation
  62. Meijer
  63. Morgan Stanley
  64. Mutual of Omaha
  65. National Roofing Contractors Assoc.
  66. Nordstrom, Inc.
  67. Nucor
  68. Oshkosh
  69. Pacific Gas & Electric
  70. PepsiCo
  71. Pfizer Inc.
  72. Phillips 66
  73. Pizza Hut
  74. Rockwell Collins
  75. Roller Skating Association
  76. SAS
  77. Servco – HI
  78. Southwest Airlines
  79. Starbucks
  80. State Farm
  81. Subway Restaurant
  82. Sunoco
  83. Taco Bell
  84. Texas Instruments
  85. Tj Maxx
  86. Uline
  87. Union Pacific
  88. United Technologies
  89. US Bank
  90. USDA
  91. Valero Energy
  92. Verizon
  93. Vermont Grocers Assoc. Member
  94. Wakefield Healthcare Center
  95. Wal-Mart
  96. Walgreens
  97. Walt Disney
  98. Wells Fargo
  99. Whole Foods
  100. Yum!
Posted in High School, Resources, Transcripts

Transcript Resource Page

It’s only the most important homeschool document you’ll ever create!  I have a few favorite resources that I know you’ll love.  If you want to read my thoughts,  Homeschooling for College Credit, Chapter 7 is dedicated to the creation of transcripts specifically for families earning college credit in high school.

GPA Calculation

My favorite GPA calculator is Back2College   SUPER easy to use, I’ve used it for at least 5 years.  Totally free, but it is really just a calculator.  They use a standard 4.0 grading scale, so if you’re planning to use a different weighted grade scale, this isn’t the best site.  

Alternative GPA calculator if you use weighted grades  GPA Calculator

Transcript Template

My favorite ready-made transcript template is by How To Homeschool  You can create a pdf document that can be printed or saved, all totally free!  Uses a standard 4.0 grading scale. 

DIY Your Own Transcript

I’ve made my son’s transcripts using Microsoft Word and Open Office.  I’m happy to teach you how to do it too in this free online course I created just for you!

Build it! Homeschooling for College Credit Transcript using MS Word

 

Transcript Services

If you want to use an online template that looks really official, HSLDA offers a transcript service.  Note that they won’t write your transcript for you, rather you enter your data in their system and they store it for 12 months.  While I have not personally used it, I know many who have and were very satisfied with the product.  HSLDA Transcript Service

Transcript Writing Help

HSLDA has a nice section of samples, videos, and tutorials that can walk you through a lot of the basics.  HSLDA Transcript Help page

Not my Favorite

Transcript Pro Software& DVD $189.00

I balanced sharing my negative opinion vs. not saying anything at all, but I opted to share my opinion for this product because of the cost.  The bottom line, if you shell out this kind of money, you’re going to be disappointed.  The full package is $189  ($49 base +$29 for the digital download and an additional $79 for the DVD +$29 for the printable syllabus).  I purchased this program in 2017, but the new version they are selling (version 4) was written in 2009.  Unfortunately, the DVD only teaches you how to use their software, so unless you’ve purchased that too, there is very little for the parent to learn.  The software is locked, and you’ll need a password to open it.  Once open, you can make a total of only 8 transcripts.  You can buy another 8 attempts for $49 more.  Their software operates offline, so no updates to their product are available, and you’ll have to save your files to your computer.  Again, computer technology since 2009 has changed significantly, so it’s a shame that they haven’t moved their product to a web-based platform.  As a result, you’ll not be able to use the program if you have Mac or a mobile device.  It only works (properly) on Windows 98 or Vista, and there isn’t a mobile app, so you’ll need a desktop computer. My advice, this is an extraordinarily expensive product for something that you can do for free on a dozen websites.

Suspicious Colleges

 This article appeared in Inside Higher Education on September 11, 2017.  While the student was NOT a homeschooled student, the article stresses that “anyone” can create a homeschool transcript and pose as a homeschooler.  (Imagine that? For years homeschoolers couldn’t get into college and now students want to pose as homeschoolers!  We’ve come a long way baby!) Still, I suspect that stories like this may become more frequent, and my advice to you is to maintain a file of curriculum content – books, titles, writing samples, workbooks, catalog course descriptions, print out of certificates, etc.  Anything that might help you provide verification if it’s necessary.  It probably won’t be, but better safe than sorry.  That folder is for you – and won’t be part of their application package or written on their transcript, but don’t trust your memory, start a file today.

Revoked Admission, Inside Higher Education (Sept 11, 2017)

Homeschooled Student’s Transcript Might Be for a Cat

Revoked admissions offer by University of Rochester raises questions about lack of oversight of transcripts from homeschooled students. Experts see the real risk is lack of information about curriculum, not fraud.

September 11, 2017

When word spread that the University of Rochester revoked an admissions offer from a student who lied about her high school background, many were stunned by the story. The student had attended a private high school, but she submitted a transcript that said she had been homeschooled. Only when she boasted on social media that she was about to enroll at Rochester, and someone at her high school realized it hadn’t sent the university any information about her, was she caught.

The applicant who lied in this case was not a homeschooler, but someone who attended a private school. Many admissions officers — including those at Rochester — said the incident made them fear that they have limited ways to tell if a transcript from a homeschooled student reflects reality. With transcripts from public or private high schools, the documents are sent by the school. (And in cases where colleges allow students to self-report grades, the institution gets an official copy of the transcript when someone is admitted.)

Fake transcript for Home Acres Academy features Social Security number 123-45-6789 and weighted GPA of 4.0. Courses taken include English, civics, environmental science, Spanish, algebra, European history, biology, geometry, American history and chemistry. Activities include tree-climbing club and fishing club.Comments on the Rochester article suggested that anyone could create a homeschooler transcript, for a student real or imaginary and with grades real or imaginary.

So I tested that, creating a transcript for my childhood pet, a cat named Thomas. I paid $19 to an online service, which got me not only the transcript but a water mark for my faux home school (the name reflects my childhood neighborhood). I followed standard courses for the first three years of high school and added activities that reflected Thomas’s interests. The Social Security number listed (at right) might have been a clue that the student wasn’t real. No verification of any kind was required.

I wrote to Transcript Maker, the service I used, to ask about authentication, and the company wrote back to say that some parents take the transcript to be notarized, but the company provided no information on actual authentication, and asked no questions (except for my credit card number) as I created the transcript. In fairness to the company, its competitors appear to do the same thing — let anyone create a transcript, no questions asked.

What Is the Risk?

So if Rochester received a fake transcript, and one can easily create one, is that a major risk with regard to homeschooled applicants? The issue matters as the number of children being homeschooled has been going up. An Education Department report in 2012 found that the number of homeschooled students was about 1.8 million and increasing.

Tom Green, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said there is good reason for admissions officers to give scrutiny to homeschoolers’ transcripts, but the real issue isn’t complete fraud, as in the Rochester case.

“I always go back to the question of how often does someone really lie in admissions,” Green said. It may happen, but it’s “pretty rare,” he said.

The more common issue is doubt about whether the grades assigned in homeschooling “reflect what a student would have received in another environment,” Green said.

“The fact is that there’s no independent vetting, and that allows for” grading that may not be accurate, he said. This need not be malice, he said, but just the reality of grading without context or comparisons.

At the same time, Green stressed that over the years in admissions on campuses, he saw many homeschoolers who were well prepared to succeed in college.

Green said that colleges should treat a homeschooler’s transcript much the way they would a transcript from a public or private high school that hadn’t previously been represented in the admissions pool. In the case of a high school, an admissions officer would go online and do some research about the high school, the rigor of its programs and the range of grades awarded.

For a homeschooler, an admissions officer might ask for much more detail about the curriculum — what textbooks were used, what material was covered and so forth. (Some colleges suggest just that, encouraging homeschooled applicants to provide such details or others that can help evaluate a curriculum. Here are suggestions provided by American University and Princeton University.)

Green also said that he paid more attention to SAT or ACT scores with homeschoolers than with others, and that he would recommend that admissions officers do so, even in cases where colleges are test optional or intentionally limit the impact of test scores. Some colleges urge homeschooled students to submit SAT II (subject matter) test scores, even if these are optional for other applicants.

He said that when he compared test scores to homeschoolers’ transcripts, sometimes the test scores were consistent with what one would expect to see with a certain grade point average. But other times, he said, the test scores were well below what one would associate with the GPA reported on a homeschooler’s transcript. And that called for more scrutiny and, in some cases, rejection, he said.

Lori Dunlap is a homeschooling parent and advocate for homeschoolers. Her new book, Home Education to Higher Education: A Guide for Recruiting, Assessing and Supporting Homeschooled Applicants, was published in June.

Dunlap said she was concerned the Rochester incident would give homeschool transcripts a bad reputation, and she said it was important to note that the woman in that case was not in fact homeschooled.

She acknowledged that there is no verification for a standard homeschooling transcript, which relies on the instructor, typically a parent.

But Dunlap noted that many homeschool parents supplement their instruction with programs offered by museums or other institutions. So a homeschool transcript may include grades or certifications awarded by someone who is not the primary instructor or parent of the student.

Dunlap said that she advises homeschool parents to keep detailed records about the curriculum used and to provide information to colleges. In many cases, she said, the curriculum is more rigorous than what one would find at many public or private high schools.

At the same time, Dunlap said that colleges should not rely too much on standardized tests in evaluating homeschoolers’ applications. Some homeschool parents have their children take many standardized tests as a means of showing what their children can do.

But Dunlap noted that one motivation of parents for homeschooling is a belief that public schools spend too much time on testing. These parents, she said, very intentionally (and for educational reasons) try to minimize testing. This creates “an interesting friction” in evaluating homeschooled applicants, she said.

“If you have that same student with a much lower SAT score” than a transcript would suggest is appropriate, “the question is if the transcript is wrong or does this student not test well?” Dunlap said. Many homeschoolers are the latter, and should not be denied admission, she said.