Posted in Career Planning, College Majors, High School

Unlimited Time, Talent, and Resources

The motivational/inspirational quote always goes something like this:

“What would you do if you had unlimited time, talent, or resources?  Do that!” 

If you love that quote, you’re not alone.  But, you might not appreciate this post very much, and I want to talk to you about how time, talent, and resources fit into the homeschooling for college credit journey.

None of us has unlimited time.

None of us has unlimited talent.

None of us has unlimited resources.

I understand the concept of the quote- it’s not meant to suggest any of us literally has no parameters, it’s an exercise meant to open up the world of possibilities.  What’s not to love?

As parents of homeschooled teens, we have the privilege of also being their guidance counselor.  If I were advising your teen, it would be easy enough for me to encourage – inspire- motivate – the sky is the limit…. but that’s only because I don’t know him/her.  I don’t know how he what kinds of problems he loves to solve, his fears about his future, or what makes him tick.  I don’t know his heart.  Inspirational quotes are meant to encourage everyone, and as such, they aren’t very specifically useful to anyone.


I think homeschooling parents have a unique opportunity that we are almost going to miss if we subject ourselves to the shallow one-liners that guide mainstream teens.  Frankly, the “college at all costs” trend of the day is costing our economy and teens a lot of lost time and resources.dream

  • Currently, about 1/2 of the teens that start college won’t finish.
  • Of students who finish, the average time to complete a 4-year degree is 6 years.
  • Studies tell us that about 1/2 of the teens that start college haven’t selected a major or will change it at some point.
  • Finally, we know 2/3 of students are going to borrow money to fund their education.

This is a very informative snapshot of whether or not current wisdom is working.  I don’t think it is.  Education data is one of the most heavily researched topics in modern history – and we have data!  There are big differences between college students in 1940 and 2018.  It’s true that in 1940 only about 5% of the population held a bachelor’s degree whereas today it’s much higher, about 1/4th to 1/3rd depending on your source. But, something to note, however, is that graduation rates among those who started college in the 1940’s and finished, was better than 90%.  In other words, fewer started, but most finished.  Today we get more teens into college, but don’t get many out on the other side with a degree, instead they come out with debt and shame for “failing.” Why?

The biggest shift  I’ve observed over the past 10 years, is that the focus of the entire K12 education system is spent focused on 1 goal: getting teens into college.  All effort, all energy, all finances, all must give way to the idol of college admission.  In my opinion, that’s the wrong goal.  Your teen can get into college.  Every community college in the country allows your teen to walk in and enroll.  Getting in isn’t the problem.  Now, if the question is instead “can my teen get into ABC college?” That I can’t answer.  Maybe.  Maybe not… but of the 12,000+ college options, that question seems narrow to me.

The better question to ask in 2018 is if your teen can get out of college. When the goal is getting out (with a degree, with minimal debt, and in a reasonable amount of time), then we’re going about the process making better decisions and giving our teens solid guidance.  We’ve removed the romance and hype that surrounds the “college experience” and we’re using good judgment and wisdom.

Let’s do a small experiment.  Imagine that YOU (the parent) decided to pursue a college degree this August.  Given the option, would you study to become a doctor or a nail technician? Even if you’ve never studied either formally, you can guess what each would involve.  Would you set a budget, or are you comfortable just borrowing whatever it costs?  How much time would you like to spend on your degree?  1/2 year?  6 years?

Though I don’t know you, I’m going to predict the following:

  • You have a really good idea about what kinds of sacrifices and brains would be required to attend med-school.

  • You would never borrow $50,000 to become a nail technician.

  • If you’re borrowing $150,000 you’d be very sure that there is a stable career on the other side of it.

  • You have a really good idea about your strengths, weaknesses, talents, and type of job you’d like to have/avoid.

  • If I suggest you become a pharmacist, a chef, or a landscaper- you can understand what that is, and know whether or not you’re a good fit for that occupation.

Why?  Why do you know these things?  Because adults have a very good understanding of time, a very good awareness of talent,  personality, and adults have a very real understanding of debt.  Frankly, adults are better at making decisions because we’ve had more time on the planet.  Our teens need us to help them rule in and rule out an occupation that is a poor fit.


choice

The Science of Choice

As it turns out, science and psychology study behavior and choice, and how it intersects with happiness, satisfaction, and action.  Rather than give you yet another expert who will interfere with your good intuition (because no one scientist is ever regarded as an expert by everyone), I want to highlight one of the key principles of choice that I think is very relevant to parents who are also their teen’s guidance counselor:  Fewer choices. 

There are several famous studies that follow decisions made by people choosing between a couple options, and many options.  As it turns out, when people have a very large pool of options, they are almost always unsatisfied with their decision whereas when they’ve only had to choose between a couple options, they are quite satisfied.  The experts believe that this is because we can’t realistically evaluate too many things at once- that if we were trying to choose between 20 of something, it’s harder to trust that we’ve really compared all of the pros and cons, thus an anxiety of missing a piece of the puzzle that may have been important to make the best decision.  It’s much easier for our mind to consider 3 choices and select one with confidence.

  • Good question: “after graduation, do you think you’d like to go straight to college or go on a mission trip for 6 months in Haiti first?”  Of course, you’ll tailor the question that to fit your family, but when we start with too many options, the teenage brain just can’t discern between them.  This helps the teen evaluate a timeline, gives them a voice in the choice, but isn’t overwhelming.
  • Hard question:  “where would you like to go to college?  You can go anywhere you want!”  Clearly, no person can rationally evaluate “anywhere” and “anything” well.  How many of us could do that?  How many of us know about “all” colleges everywhere?  None of us.  Bring down the choices into bite-size pieces.
  • Good question:  “since you love music and are so gifted, have you thought about becoming a music teacher?”  This uses adult wisdom to zero in on a potential career option that uses the student’s talent in a specific way.  Even if the teen isn’t interested in becoming a music teacher, the yes/no decision is not overly complex for a teen.
  • Hard question:  “I know you love playing music, but it isn’t really a good way to make a living. Can’t you think of something else you could do to support a family?”  This is another example of “anywhere” question.  Of the zillions of career options, you’ve only removed one.  This question is too big.
  • Good question:  You’ve earned 27 credits in high school, if you go to ABC College they’ll let you use all of them, but if you go to XYZ College, they’ll only take 23 of them.  The difference here is only 1 class, how would you feel about having to retake once class? Is it worth choosing one over the other?”   This question is great because it helps the student on so many levels.  Besides narrowing it down for them (assuming you’re ok with both college choices) it brings forward a simple decision about time, work, or cost.

If this exercise is bringing you back to raising a toddler, it’s the very same principle!  We think that because we prefer to have many choices that it’s better for us, but we develop deeper confidence and security when we can consider a question carefully in smaller bites.  Further reading:  Too Many Choices: A Problem That Can Paralyze

average

What Happened to Average?

If you’ve spent a few minutes in any homeschool group, you’ll hear many parents label their teens as “gifted” or “challenged”  but when is the last time you’ve heard a parent declare proudly that their teen is “average?”  Huh?  Average has gotten a bad reputation being synonymous with “not trying hard enough” but the truth is that most of us are average intelligence with average talent.

Statistically speaking, about 75% of us fall into the same category of cognitive ability or intelligence: average.  That is to say that while there are degrees of average, most of us are about the same.  There are students with profound limitations, just as there are those with profound intelligence, and they are represented on the far ends of a traditional bell-shaped curve.  So, within the category of average, what makes someone different?  You already know the answer, and it has many terms, but they all mean the same thing:  hard work.  Hard workers almost always out-perform lazy workers, this isn’t news.  But as a teen’s guidance counselor, we need to be realistic with our teen’s determination to become a successful student.  In short, are they hard-working students?  What about talent?

  • Academic Work Ethic: By the time your teen is in 10th grade, you already have a good idea of their academic work ethic. We need to be honest – some occupations and college majors require significantly above average work ethic.  Medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, engineering.  These careers are elite because they require exceptional academic work ethic.  Students who are successful in these college paths are those who enjoy the challenge of difficult academic work and rigorous schedules.  They enjoy school and strive to be exceptional students, who happen to be using their gifts and talents to pursue difficult subjects.
  • Talent: Most of us have a talent or something we are “naturally” good at.  As an example, we all know someone who can play anything on the piano, paints or draws well, who picks up new languages effortlessly or can cook anything without a recipe. Within our social circle, these people stand out to us, but, when grouped with other talented people, they appear more average.  This makes assessing our own teen’s talent very challenging.  As an example, perhaps I’m the best baker you know – but if you were to put me in a room with thousands of talented bakers, I’d be near the bottom.  I’m a good baker among amateurs, and that’s only because I went to culinary school.  I’ll never be a world-famous pastry chef, but I could work as a decent baker if I had to.  It’s not my talent.

How do we, as parents, reconcile having average teens?  How do we reconcile being average?  I don’t pretend to have that answer for everyone, but I do believe that if we teach our teens to work hard on what they’re doing, and praise their work ethic instead of only their results, we teach them that they do have control over one narrow aspect of their success:  their effort.  If you can help them match their talent with something that they feel motivated to apply effort toward, you’ll probably be on the right track for guiding them towards success.

Education at Any Cost

The notion of having unlimited resources was unheard of 50 years ago.  Once upon a time, students worked hard to earn a scholarship, parents had a college fund, or some students worked their way through night classes.   Once upon a time, the cost of college was a significant barrier to a student earning their degree.  While that sounds like bad news, the up-side to that barrier, was students weren’t allowed to rack up thousands of dollars of debt willy-nilly.

If you graduated high school in the 80’s or 90’s like I did, teens who borrowed for college (like I did) were faced with an “annoying” student loan payment of $50-$100 that lasted for 5-10 years.  Today, student loans aren’t annoying, they’re crushing.  Teens today who borrow face repayments of $300-$1200 per month for 10+ years.  Further, those debts, unlike our mortgages or credit cards, aren’t dischargeable in bankruptcy.  Borrowing rules changed in 2008.   Your teen, unlike you, will be allowed to borrow through the government guaranteed student loan program the first  $57,000 for their degree without any restrictions or your consent, and then they can continue on to graduate school and receive funding until they reach the cap of $138,500.  Once at that cap, they’ll have to seek alternative sources like parents, banks, or credit cards.  Parents, who usually have some collateral, are tapping into their 401K funds, IRA retirements, and home equity to pay college tuition.  As such, colleges haven’t much incentive to keep costs in line with inflation, and we’ve seen a huge rise in tuition and student loan debt.  To make matters worse, many people are entering into marriage, each bringing their own student loan debt into the family.

debt

If you think this is an exception, you might be surprised to hear that 2/3 of students are borrowing money to follow their talents, passions, and dreams without the wisdom and counsel of their parents.  The young lady caller phoning Dave in this clip was probably encouraged by her coach, but as she soon found out, that passion has a price.  Be sure to hang around through the end.

I’ve written here before about my own son’s scholarship opportunities that we deliberately didn’t pursue with him after high school (diving) because the scholarships would have created significant long-term debt for him. In 4 years, we never met another parent in the league that that thought the way we did.  Everyone we met was quick to mortgage their home or tap their retirement to fund their teen’s education.  If we’d had a large college fund, we may have considered the situation differently, but the point is that we each have limitations.  Having the ability to borrow nearly unlimited amounts of money allows us to pretend those limits don’t exist, but it’s our teens who pay the price.

College budget tips you can start today:

  • While you’re still teaching them at home, inject college credit opportunities into your curriculum.  There are “easier” and “harder” ways to do this, but there is something for everyone.
  • Encourage your teen to earn low-cost college credit in high school.  Some states allow reduced or no cost tuition to teens that qualify.  Join your state’s Homeschooling for College Credit Facebook Group to help navigate the process.
  • If your teen doesn’t qualify for reduced or no-cost tuition, DIY a plan using credit by exam resources that you can arrange on your own.  The tabs at the top of this website provide free planning help.  By using CLEP, DSST, and Advanced Placement exams in high school, your teen can complete 1-2 full years of college credit at home.
  • Just because your teen graduated high school, that doesn’t mean they can’t use credit by exam to finish maxing out their 100 and 200 level credits. Even if it takes another year or two, keep making smart financial decisions. I tested out of an AA degree using CLEP at age 36 just for fun!
  • Unless your teen has an exceptionally high PSAT, ACT, or SAT, do not expect a full ride academic scholarship.  Partial scholarships should be evaluated against the cost of all 4 years, not just freshman year.
  • Parents who work for a college or university in a full-time job usually get free tuition for dependents.  Besides being a teacher, colleges hire cooks, secretaries, janitors, IT professionals, electricians, and safety workers.  It’s worth looking!
  • Many companies will pay for your teen’s tuition.  I have a good list of 100 employer scholarships here.
  • Some schools have guaranteed scholarships for teens who meet academic or geographic conditions.  I have a good list here. 
  • Almost every traditional state university in the country offers distance learning.  If your teen doesn’t need a “hands-on experience” for their degree, consider using your state university – but as a distance learner.  By living at home, your teen can save at least $10,000 per year.
  • Help your teen research the “ROI” for costs that they will spend on their degree.  ROI is a business-school term that means “Return on Investment.”  Some degrees have exceptional ROI.  As an example, nursing, which can still be started at a community college for about $8,000 returns an average annual salary of $68,000 per year based on last year’s census by The Department of Labor. Additionally, while nurses are encouraged to earn a bachelor’s degree, many hospital employers will pay the tuition for nurses to do so while working.
  • Even for teens who are on the lower-average side academically, there are opportunities for college classes that can be done at home in a self-paced setting with online proctoring.  This allows teens (like mine) to make enormous progress, but at their own pace without barriers like taking notes during a lecture, or memorizing huge chunks of content.  General degrees in liberal arts or business are easy to complete this way and can be very affordable.  (about $15,000 total)
  • Talk with your teen about the budget, their responsibility, and what you plan to contribute to the process.

In closing, I urge parents to understand that you an say “yes” to a college degree while also saying “no” to the snares that trap young students, especially those that result in student debt without the credential to repay it.

If you’ve homeschooled in high school, your teen has already witnessed that education and learning don’t have to look the same for everyone.  Your teen has an opportunity to follow your lead by being resourceful and open to thinking outside the box.  There are dozens of different ways to make a college degree affordable!


 

Posted in CLEP, High School

CLEP for 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th Grades

If you’re planning CLEP exams as part of your teen’s high school journey, you’re probably worried about selecting a first, or next, exam.  Should your teen take Natural Sciences or Chemistry?  Humanities or American Literature?  When is the best time to take Composition?  Since my goal is to help you become your child’s best guidance counselor, I’m going to give you the tools to make that call yourself!

Through my own testing journey, I’ve found that CLEP exams tend to represent one of two exam types:

CLEP Exam Types

  1. Individual subjects
  2. Cumulative subjects

 

CLEP Exam Types

How and when your teen prepares for any given exam depends first on the exam type.  This is actually a really big deal- and may make the difference between success and failure!

An individual subject is one that you can approach with no pre-existing knowledge about the subject, and learn it well enough to pass an exam.  A few examples of these exam types are American Literature or Sociology.  In both cases, you can start learning from scratch without any kind of disadvantage.

An example of a cumulative subject is one that does require prior knowledge.  Exams in this category include College Algebra or Spanish.  In the case of College Algebra, you can’t begin the study of the subject without previous math preparation (ideally completion of Algebra 2) and in the case of Spanish, you’ll have to learn Spanish before taking the exam.  In both cases, where you start is a significant factor in determining how fast and how easily you can learn the material.

Why should you care?  Because in order to choose the best time for your teen to take a specific course/exam, you need to know where it best fits into your homeschool program.

Some exams fall neatly into categories, others can go either way.  I’ve sorted them for you.  Exams in the “Decide for Yourself” category are multi-disciplinary or require at least familiarity with elementary content before approaching the subject at the college level.  Meaning they incorporate more than one subject.    The exam titles in the list are active links,  so you can click the title to explore the content decide for yourself.

Clearly Individual Subject Exams

Clearly Cumulative Subjects


 

Tips for Individual Subjects & Exam Prep

  • Learning creates the foundation of knowledge, test prep memorizes facts and figures.  Make a learning plan that includes both.
  • If your teen typically studies one subject at a time, estimate 1 month of learning and test prep for each subject.  (Monday-Friday about 3-4 hours per day = about 60 hours, or 1/2 high school credit)
  • If your teen typically studies multiple subjects at a time, estimate about 60 hours divided over the course of your block, trimester, semester, or unit that you use.
  • I’ve never met someone who told me they were over-prepared for their exam.  When in doubt, allow a little extra time.
  • Some subjects offer exams in 2 parts (US History, Western Civ., Economics) and lend themselves to a full year of high school study.  The mid-year point is a good time to take the first exam, end of year is a good time to take the second exam.
  • Keep in mind all CLEP subjects are 100/200 level college learning- that makes availability of resources abundant!!  Discarded textbooks, thrift store finds, and online MOOCs are excellent sources of learning material. Learning material doesn’t have to be current.
  • Exam prep material should match the current edition of the exam so your test prep matches what they’ll be tested on.
  • Group subjects together to build on knowledge (Psychology, Educational Psychology, Human Growth and Development all have some cross-over)
  • Start with a subject your teen likes.
  • If reading level isn’t at or above the 12th grade level, learning the content might not be enough to pass.  Study the subject now, continue to work on reading level, and take the test in a year or two when reading level is higher.

Tips for Cumulative Subjects & Exam Prep

  • You’ll want to investigate what pre-existing knowledge is necessary to learn the subject.  For instance, Calculus requires first knowing Precalculus which first requires College Algebra which first requires Algebra 2 (high school).  The exam prep material assumes all preexisting knowledge is in place.
  • All college level sciences require a good foundation in high school level sciences.  For instance, college level chemistry assumes knowledge of high school level biology and chemistry as well as algebra.  Starting from scratch for CLEP Chemistry will be exceptionally challenging without that base- but not impossible.
  • Both composition exams and the Analyzing Literature exam assume strong command of college level language (reading and writing).  If you use standardized tests in your homeschool, your student should be testing beyond 12th grade Language Arts before you begin exam prep.
  • Foreign Language CLEP exams cover 2 semesters of college foreign language.  Your teen should have completed at least high school level 1 and probably 2 before attempting.

Now that you have a good understanding of if an exam will make up a subject in your homeschool, or if it will follow a year or more of study, you’re ready to make a schedule!  You can read my entire original post about creating a sample here:

Sample High School CLEP Schedule

In short, only YOU can decide where CLEP exams make sense in your homeschool schedule.  It’s based on what they’ve done, and what they plan to do in the coming years.  In part, it also helps to know if you’re planning to use dual enrollment options, and whether or not they have zeroed in on a college major.  The more information you have, the more specific you can be – but being uncertain isn’t a reason to do nothing.  If you have a teen with the knowledge, a CLEP exam can be a wonderful “final exam” in the bank.  The exam scores can be held for 20 years before being used, so the risk/reward ratio really supports testing while its fresh in their mind.

This is only ONE sample of how a family might inject CLEP credit into their homeschool.

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 1U.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 MathCollege Algebra
SCIENCE Chemistry Chemistry Natural SciencesChemistry
HISTORY Western Civ. I Western Civ. II Western Civ. IWestern 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!

Posted in ACE, Curriculum, High School

Elective: First Aid & Safety

11/29/2017 NOTE:  *The Black Friday sale has ended, the prices below won’t be accurate*

With the buzz around the Udemy Black Friday deal, I have spent more time on their site than usual.  I have our core courses worked out for this year, so I’ve been poking around looking for electives.  Whenever I do something that takes me a bit of time, like pulling together this list, I love to share it here with you too.

This elective course is a ROBUST high school course with certificates, licenses, and college credit integrated!  I have 2 sons that will work on this together starting in January and running until the end of the school year so there will be some shared costs.

There is a lot packed into this semester, and even though the Udemy courses were on sale, the course as outlined will cost a fair bit of money due to the added training and licenses I’ve planned in- by no means do you have to go as elaborate as I did here.

I’ll label it as First Aid and Safety on their transcript.  When I do this, I like to loosely follow the Carnegie model (120 hours = 1 credit).  When you calculate hours, be sure to factor in all the time they spend, not just the video length.  They’ll invest time in taking notes, reading, writing, reviewing, studying, taking quizzes, etc.  All of that can add a lot of time.  So, when you see a video course that is “2 hours of video” you can predict that to take anywhere from 2-4 hours in real time.  If there is reading, that will be in addition to the video viewing, again, adding a lot more time.  It’s not that hard to accumulate 120 hours!

In addition, I’m adding in an ACE-evaluated course through Straighterline that will be worth 3 college credits.  Straighterline requires external verification of a Red Cross certification course as part of their course, so that will include additional cost and hours. The CPR and lifeguarding hours all happen on weekends, so even though they’ll have a lot of material, it shouldn’t be too difficult to work in.

My plan is for this course to exceed 100 hours and be recorded as 1 full high school credit.  If we don’t exceed 60 hours, I’ll record it as 1/2 credit.  Also, since your goals and interests will vary, feel free to chop this up in any way that makes sense for you!

Upon Completion

  • 8 Certificates of Completion (Udemy)
  • 1 ServSafe Food Handler Certification (National Restaurant Association)
  • 1 Red Cross CPR Certification
  • 1 Life Guard Certification
  • 1 Boating License
  • 3 College Credits (Straighterline ACE)
  • 1 High School Credit

cpr



UNIT 1:  Human First Aid

6-8 hours

First Aid: Learn How to Save a Life  This course is 2 hours of video, and it has over 1,200 students that have awarded it a “5-star” rating so this feels like a solid choice. It covers the things you’d expect:

  • Perform CPR.
  • Save people from chocking.
  • Use of AED- Automated External Defibrillator (found in public places).
  • How and when to apply different bandages tourniquets and dressings.
  • Treat bleeding and trauma injuries.
  • Avoid and treat climate injuries (dehydration, hyperthermia, and hypothermia).
  • You”ll learn how to act about different injuries like head injuries, burns, fractures, sprains, electric shock and more.
  • How to treat adults, children, and babies.
  • How to make your own first aid kit.

Complete Children’s First Aid Guide  This course is 1 1/2 hours of video and deals with first aid for children.  Also rated really high, this will be our second module.


UNIT 2:  Advanced First Aid

30-45 hours

How to Save a Life – Advanced  This course (also Udemy) is free and is an hour of video.  It asks the user to have completed a basic first aid course first and covers more content than basic first aid.  It dives into things like snake bites, stopping a bleed, and other more significant situations.

Straighterline First Aid Course    For the January semester, my teens are already enrolled in a Straighterline course so we won’t have the added cost of their subscription, only the cost of the course ($49).  This course is worth 3 ACE college credits and requires the completion of a CPR, which they will do locally.

American Red Cross CPR Course We will do this locally in a face to face setting.  Hands-on practice with an instructor is essential for initial training.  (review and renewal can be done online)


UNIT 2: Animal First Aid

6-8 hours

Secrets of Natural Pet First Aid for your Dog Cat & animals  I have to confess, I feel pretty smart for adding this in.  My sons will love this.  This course is 2 hours of video and covers limping, sunburn, burns, diarrhea, infections, cuts, broken bones, and trauma.  It’s also rated very well and is taught by a vet!

Dog CPR, First Aid + Safety for pet pros + dedicated owners Also rated excellent by 500+ users, I’m looking forward to this.  I actually did CPR on a squirrel (true!) about 7 years ago after it fell from a tree in a storm.  This course has a lot of supplemental material to go with the 2 hours of video.


UNIT 3:  Fire Safety

2-4 hours

Fire Safety: Become A Fire Safety Expert  Become an expert in Fire Safety, Fire Hazards Control, Fire Evacuation Plans, and Fire Risk Assessment.  I think I will bulk this up to include things like formally having my sons assess our home’s safety, fire extinguishers, alarm placement, etc.  I see this as having some lab areas we can develop.


UNIT 4:  Food Safety & Sanitation

4-8 hours

While Udemy has a course for this, in my opinion, a better option is to use the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe course.  As chefs, that’s the certification both my husband and I have.  It’s inexpensive and available online.  (about $15)  Best of all, if your teen intends to work in a foodservice establishment, having their ServSafe Food Handler certificate will help them tremendously!  Certification is valid for up to 5 years.


UNIT 5:  Wilderness Survival

10-14 hours

This might be a little bit too much, but this is something my kids are very interested in, so I’m choosing 3 courses here where 1-2 might be enough.

Wilderness Survival and Awareness – Be ready to survive

Essential guide to survival in the wilderness with nothing

Wilderness Survival: Survival, Prepping and Preparedness


UNIT 6:  Water Safety & Lifeguardinglifeguard

20-25 hours

Lifeguard Certification    A personal preference, but my older sons took this training as teens, and even if you never work as a lifeguard, this is valuable for anyone who is ever around water.  In order to take this class, you have to pass a swimming test.


UNIT 7:  Boating Safety

10-12 hours

Boat Safety Course This is more of a personal preference for our family since we’ll be spending some time in small boats this summer, but the link offers a lot of course options, including free resource information as well as ways to secure a boating license in your state.


 

Cost Breakdown

  • UDEMY courses purchased DURING Black Friday sale  $80
  • UDEMY courses if purchased AFTER Black Friday sale $995
  • Straighterline First Aid Course $49
  • Straighterline Membership $99*
  • ServSafe Course and Certification $15
  • American Red Cross CPR Certification (in-person class)  $84
  • Lifeguard training course and certification (in-person class) $240
  • Boating course and license $25

Tip:  I have 2 sons that will share the UDEMY courses, so the $80 fee will technically be split between 2 students.  The Straighterline course and all other certifications must be done “per-person” however, you can have your teens share a textbook if they take it together!

books

 

 

 

*Note:  Since you have to purchase a minimum of 1 month, my suggestion is to squeeze as much out of that month as you can.  It doesn’t pay to take only 1 course.  A teen should easily be able to complete 2 courses in a month’s time.  If you want more on how to pick a class, I wrote this post to help you. 

 

Posted in CLEP, Credit by Exam, High School, Transcripts

CLEP Science: 3, 4, 6, or 8 credits?

If your teen is studying Biology, Chemistry, or Physics in high school you may be considering a CLEP science exam at the end of the school year.  CLEP science exams are all listed as “6 credit” exams on the College Board website, but these exams are a little unusual.

College science courses are typically 3 credits when taken without a lab, but when a lab is taken, they are worth 4.  As such, if you’re looking up a college’s CLEP policy, you can “guesstimate” how they will apply your teen’s science exam based on the award given.

Here is an example of how the CLEP Biology Exam may appear on a college transcript.

If your college awards 3 credits- it’s only worth credit for Biology 1.
If your college awards 4 credits- it’s worth credit for Biology 1 with lab.
If your college awards 6 credits- it’s worth credit for Biology 1 & 2 without a lab.
If your college awards 8 credits- it’s worth credit for Biology 1 & 2 with lab.


Let’s go Deeper

What about the High School Transcript?

Generally speaking, when a teen takes a CLEP exam, the parent’s first question is whether or not they have to do something different on the high school transcript.

The short answer is “no” because a parent only awards high school credit, it’s a college that decides if and how much college credit is awarded.  Still, there is the question of awarding more credit, or removing a course, as a result of a pass/failed CLEP.

If you use the traditional model used by public and private high schools when students take Advanced Placement tests (AP and CLEP are part of the same company) you’ll notice that the student takes an AP course all year.  Later, at the end of the school year, students may choose to attempt an AP exam for potential college credit.  Whether or not a student takes the exam has no bearing on their AP grade, and neither does their score!  In fact, AP exam scores aren’t ready until the summer after the course was taken.

Whether or not your teen passes or fails the CLEP exam, you’ll want to be sure you give them high school credit.  Passing a CLEP exam is “frosting on the cake.”

Guidelines for High School Credit

1 semester of high school science = 1/2 high school credit

1 year (2 semesters) of high school science = 1 high school credit

1 semester of DIY college-level science = 1/2 high school credit

1 year (2 semesters) of DIY college-level science= 1 high school credit

1 semester of college science taken through a college= 1 high school credit

1 year (2 semesters) of college science taken through a college= 2 high school credits


Weighted Grades

There is a strong debate about whether or not to weight a grade or Grade Point Average (GPA) when a homeschool course preps for a CLEP exam.  The facts are that some public and private high schools do weight grades (5.0 quality points on a 4.0 scale) for College Prep, Advanced Placement, or accelerated courses – but a DIY college-level course is a grey area.

Not sure?  Ask yourself if the curriculum merits a higher quality point without CLEP.  If it doesn’t, then stick to a 4.0 scale.  If it does, then use a 5.0 with confidence! 

studentAs you start to look ahead to college applications, you can review the target college’s websites and see if they indicate wanting a weighted or unweighted transcript- some will have a preference.  Others state simply that all transcripts are recalculated onto a 4.0 scale.  You can do both if you’re undecided.

 

My advice is to follow the same approach for all 4 years of high school (weighted or unweighted) and if you decide to weight grades, be sure to write and include an explanation of your rationale.


 

RESOURCES

You may also be interested in my other post  10 Ways to Take Science Labs at Home

You can look at the content of every exam at the College Board’s Official Website.

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