Posted in College Majors, Distance Learning, engineering, Science

Member question: Can my daughter study mechanical engineering online?

Great question Vivien, thank you for asking!  There is only 1 college that meets the very rigorous criteria required for this search.

(1)  Regionally Accredited University or College (note, you’ll find many “accredited” colleges but the only accreditation you should be after if you’re becoming an engineer, is regional.  Forgive me, but Wikipedia says it well:


While it might seem that national accreditation would be more important than regional accreditation, this is generally not the case. Regional accreditation is older, and with a few exceptions, more prestigious than national accreditation.[4] Most non-profit institutions are regionally accredited, while most for-profit colleges and universities are served primarily by national accrediting agencies.

(2) ABET Accredited Program is considered the standard for an engineering degree.  This is a program accreditation, not a college accreditation.

Graduates of ABET-accredited programs who work in applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology can seek professional recognition by enhancing their credentials through licensure, registration, and certification programs where appropriate. Graduation from an ABET-accredited program is increasingly a required minimum credential for such professional recognition.

…and the winner is

The University of North Dakota

That’s it.  Just one school is RA, ABET, and offers a full engineering program as a distance learner.  Their engineering program(s) is not new to distance learning.  I have information going back to 1989, so these guys have been doing this for a while!  I always like to see some experience as a distance learning provider before enrolling.  (I’ve taken classes at two colleges, and my husband at a third, that were brand new at offering distance learning.  Let’s just say it’s not always best to be first).

There will be brief campus visit(s) required for labs.  

The University of North Dakota offers several options:

Program Overview

Distance Engineering Degree Programs

  • Leads to a degree in one of UND’s undergraduate degree programs accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET.
  • Designed for working adults who are unable to complete a full-time, on-campus program.
  • Follows the same curriculum as UND’s on-campus engineering programs.
  • Available online with on-campus labs (ranging from 5 to 14 days) held during the summer in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
  • Provides online access to recorded classroom lectures and course materials from anywhere, at any time.
  • Requires supervised (proctored) exams to be completed within a specified timeframe at a location near you.
  • Waives select course requirements if you demonstrate work experience and extensive knowledge in the field of engineering.
  • Taught by highly qualified UND faculty who are committed to distance learning and are available to answer your questions by phone or email.
  • Offers student support services, such as online tutoring, library, tech support and advising services.
  • Begins every Fall (August), Spring (January) or Summer (May) Semester.

This is a $125,000 degree. Let’s look at ways to bring that number down.

Tuition is high.  If you’re a North Dakota or Minnesota resident, on-campus tuition is just under $400 per credit.  If you’re from anywhere else, you’ll pay close to $850 per credit.

In my estimation, you should be able to complete 60 credits externally through a combination of CLEP, AP, dual enrollment, and transfer credit.  Expect to pay about $6,000 doing that, but you’ll cut the cost of this degree by 50% before scholarships.

They accept CLEP and AP.  While it doesn’t say it on their policy page, my intuition tells me that engineering majors won’t allow your teen to use CLEP or AP for credit in any of their sciences.  Stick to liberal arts, social sciences, foreign language, or humanities.

They accept dual enrollment.  If you have an option of earning dual enrollment credit through your local community college, this can shave a lot of the cost for you.  This is the best way I know of to learn English 101, English 102, and all the math that’s coming!

They accept transfer credit.  Use your community college to receive guaranteed transfer of an associate’s degree.  They have a LOT of articulation agreements, not just in-state (common) but with other outside states (rare).  If you live in one of these states, contact the University before enrolling in your state’s community college.  Dot the i’s and cross the t’s.  A lot of money is at stake here! 




New York

North Dakota




Posted in AP Advanced Placement, Curriculum, High School, Science

A Little Bit About Physics

Physics is often the “last” science a student takes in high school- if at all.  Let’s face it, it’s too much math for most people, because, well, physics is math!  

Navigating physics gave me fits for years until I read a recent post from SolarKat over on InstantCert.  For those who want to study physics, he shares some great advice and gave me permission to share it here with all of you.

“I would encourage a LOT of math. Physics, at its heart, is math. Plus, if your student decides he wants to go further with physics, he’s likely to need Calculus 1, Calculus 2, Multivariable Calculus, Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, and Statistics. Ideally Numerical Methods, too.”

Ok, wow!  That’s a lot to digest.  Let’s take it down a few levels and look at physics as a subject.  (In my case, I wanted this explained to me like I’m a 10-year-old so this might be a little too simple for some of you.) In short, “real scientists” tell you that physics must be calculus-based.  When asking more about the differences, this was the reply:

“in algebra-based physics, you let the partition of finite difference and summation goes to 0, you will get a calculus-based physics. Nothing else more than that.”


Huh?!  Ok, that’s not like I’m a 10-year-old.  So, after more digging, I’ve reduced physics into the absolute simplest terms that I could understand.  If you need more depth, the physics forum referenced above is excellent.  But, I think this says it all:

“To really understand physics, I think you have to understand calculus, but calculs largley came from physics so they are intertwined. Just about all physics equations are dervied with some help from calculus.”


There are essentially 2 types of introductory physics

Physics 1 (Mechanics)

Physics 2 (Electromagnetics)

Both types will fall into either

Algebra-based (non-science)

Calculus-based (science)

So, as you navigate the high school physics options and the college credit options, my recommendation is to take into consideration your teen’s long-term college and career goals.  If your student will major in any of the liberal arts or career fields (even pre-med) then algebra-based physics will meet their needs!  If your student is headed into any of the hard sciences, engineering, or math, then you’ll want to start them on the proper path (calculus-based) after they’ve studied calculus.

The MOST IMPORTANT takeaway I can offer you is to know which type of mathematical base is being used in the class before you sign up your teen, and choose based on their long-term study plans.

For your science major teen:  wait until after calculus 1 to begin the study of physics.

For your non-science major teen:  study physics anytime or after algebra 2.

AP Physics (Credit by Exam) 

  • AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism (Calculus-based)
    AP Physics C: Mechanics (Calculus-based)
    AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based (Mechanics) formerly called AP Physics B
    AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based (Electromagnetics) formerly called AP Physics B


Popular High School Physics Curriculum

  • Conceptual Physics (Algebra-based)
  • Saxon Physics (Algebra-based)
  • DIVE Physics (Algebra-based)
  • Exploration Education Physical Science Course (Algebra-based)
  • Novare Physical Science: A Mastery-Oriented Curriculum (Algebra-based)
  • Robinson Curriculum (Calculus-based)
  • A.C.E. Physical Science (Algebra-based)
  • BJU Press Physics (Algebra-based)
  • Apologia Advanced Physics (Algebra-based)


Free Physics Curriculum/Classes


College Credit Options for High School Students

  • AP exams:  anyone can take an AP exam.  Use your favorite algebra-based or calculus-based physics curriculum to prepare for the AP exam.  AP exams are worth advanced standing or college credit at most colleges.   2017 AP exam dates
  • Saylor Academy Physics 1 (Calculus-based)
  • Saylor Academy Physics II (Calculus-based)
    • Both of the Saylor courses offer a $25 college credit exam at the completion of the course.  The type of college credit awarded is ACE credit, and not well accepted by colleges, but is guaranteed transfer through their direct partner colleges or the Alternative Credit Project arrangement.
  • Straighterline General Physics 1 with Lab (Calculus-based)
    • Straighterline awards ACE credit for successful completion of the course.  ACE credit is not well accepted by colleges but is guaranteed transfer through their partnership agreements with 100 colleges or Alternative Credit Project.
  • Dual Enrollment:  contact your local community college to see if your teen is eligible for college enrollment as a high school student.
  • CLEP Exam:  only about 25% of the CLEP exam Natural Sciences contains algebra-based physics 1 & 2.  (another 25% chemistry, and 50% biology)  There is no CLEP exam specifically for physics.
  • DSST Exam:  50% of the DSST Physical Science exam contains algebra-based physics 1 & 2.  (the other 50% is chemistry).  There is no DSST exam specifically for physics.



Posted in Breaking News, Dual Enrollment, Free Tuition, Science, Self-Paced Learning, Straighterline

*FREE Straighterline Labs, AP, and $3/credit classes through 6/3/17*

If you currently have an active Straighterline account – I want to share an unexpectedly great deal I just discovered today!

As you may know, there is a current Straighterline code through June 3rd for $50 off (enter code Homeschool50 at checkout.)  I used it for #2 son, but not #3, because #3 won’t have time to complete another class before summer break and I hate wasting time just as much as wasting money.

On a whim, I called Straighterline and asked what would happen to a class that I purchased now but we didn’t get to use.  They told me it would sit in our account FOREVER.  I wasn’t sure she understood my question, so I clearly explained that we were closing our account for summer vacation.  She assured me that purchased courses are in our a=jumpccount forever, will never expire, and will never disappear when we close our account.  So, in the fall, if I reactivate his account, it would be ready and be waiting for him to pick up where he left off!

What that means:  Active members (those currently paying the $99/month fee) should purchase one of the following courses using the HOMESCHOOL50 code before June 3rd or before your account membership expires- whichever happens first.   This short list contains the least expensive SL courses, that when the code is applied, brings the cost down to $0 – $9 each!!  That price is not per credit, it’s for the ENTIRE course PLUS the required e-book/textbook. The code can only be used one time per account.

Free Straighterline Labs

The student must purchase the lab kit on their own!

  • Anatomy & Physiology I Lab (1 credit) $0
  • Anatomy & Physiology II Lab (1 credit) $0
  • General Chemistry Lab (1 credit) $0
  • General Physics Lab (1 credit) $0
  • Biology Lab (1 credit) $0

AP Classes

Straigherline is an approved provider of 4 Advanced Placement classes.  Completion of one of these courses allows you to list the course on your homeschool transcript as Advanced Placement.  Taking an AP exam is optional and the responsibility of the student.

  • Macroeconomics (Counts as an official AP High School Course) (3 credits) $9
  • Microeconomics (Counts as an official AP High School Course)  (3 credits) $9
  • Intro. to Psychology (Counts as an official AP High School Course) (3 credits) $9

College Classes for $3 per Credit or Less!

  • Introduction to Statistics (3 credits) $0
  • Accounting I  (3 credits) $9
  • Accounting II (3 credits) $9
  • Business Ethics (3 credits) $9
  • Business Law (3 credits) $9
  • Business Statistics (3 credits) $9
  • Financial Accounting (3 credits) $9
  • Macroeconomics (3 credits) $9
  • Managerial Accounting (3 credits) $9
  • Microeconomics (3 credits) $9
  • Organizational Behavior (3 credits) $9
  • Personal Finance (3 credits) $9
  • Principles of Management (3 credits) $9
  • Anatomy & Physiology I (3 credits) $9
  • Anatomy & Physiology II (3 credits) $9
  • Medical Terminology (3 credits) $9
  • Microbiology Lab (1 credit) $0
  • Pharmacology I (3 credits) $9
  • Pharmacology II (3 credits) $9
  • American Government (3 credits) $9
  • Cultural Anthropology (3 credits) $9
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice (3 credits) $9
  • Introduction to Philosophy (3 credits) $9
  • Introduction to Religion (3 credits) $9
  • US History I (3 credits) $9
  • US History II (3 credits) $9
  • Western Civ I (3 credits) $9
  • Western Civ II (3 credits) $9
  • College Algebra (3 credits) $9
  • PreCalculus (3 credits) $9
  • General Chemistry (3 credits) $9
  • Environmental Science (3 credits) $9
  • Introduction to Nutrition (3 credits) $9
  • Intro. to Psychology  (3 credits) $9
  • Introduction to Sociology (3 credits) $9

If you want help picking a class my post  Straighterline Dissected: What to Take should help a great deal!






Note:  Non-subscribers or inactive members can do everything in this post, but you’ll have to pay to restart your subscription fee ($99) so this is NOT a good deal unless you were already planning to enroll your student at this time. In addition, you should know about the pros and cons of using SL in your homeschool.  See this post to get started:  Straighterline Basics and explore manyStraighterline posts by clicking the Straighterline tab.   

Posted in Curriculum, Science

10 Ways to Take High School Lab Science

It’s common for high school students to take a couple science classes, but labs seem to create some anxiety for homeschool parents.  Some states, and a few colleges, will “require” at least one high school lab science course to meet graduation or admissions requirements.  If you don’t know your state’s homeschool graduation requirements, you should look them up on the Homeschool Legal Defense Association page.   If you want to be on the safe side with college admissions, usually 1 high school lab science course will check that box. If your teen is really excited about lab science, there’s no reason to stop at just one.  One of my sons (the little guy in the photo) will have 6 high school lab sciences on his transcript before he graduates high school, but my current high school senior has none.  (he has 6 college credits in science, but none contain a lab).  Once you know what you do and don’t have to do, you can decide what you do and don’t want to do.  piggy

A BIG factor with lab science is cost, and I’d love to tell you it’s “always” cheaper to do X, and “always” more expensive to do Y, but lab science costs are all over the place.  A good rule of thumb: the more control you have over choosing course content, the more control you’ll have over the costs.

If your local college has reduced or free dual enrollment tuition for homeschool students, you’ll still have to investigate costs.  Even “free” dual enrollment programs can involve access codes, expensive textbooks, and lab fees.  Many dual enrollment parents will tell you that their “free” classes were very expensive.   

10 Ways to Take High School Lab Science:

#1  Use the community college for a lab science course on campus.  100% of the activities happen in the college classroom, and you won’t have to do anything.  You’ll have to purchase the required textbook, and don’t be suprised if you must also purchase an access code to unlock supplemental online activities.  You and the college both issue credit, but the grade is issued by the college. You award high school credit for science with lab, and the college awards college credit for science with lab.

#2  Use the community college for a NON-lab science course on campus, and conduct a science lab at home*.  The college course grade is issued by the college, but the high school grade is issued by the parent.  In this case, by adding the lab, you’ve rolled their college class into your homeschool class.  You award high school credit for science with lab, and the college awards college credit without lab.  The grades can differ since the courses, technically, are different.

#3  Use a community college for a lab science course as a distance learner.  In this type of class, you’ll have to purchase a specific lab kit and conduct the experiments at home, but you can shop around across all 50 states.  Be prepared to take and upload photos as part of the experiment process.  You and the college issue credit, but the grade is issued by the college.  You award high school credit for science with lab, and the college awards college credit for science with lab.

#4  Use the community college for a NON-lab science course as a distance learner, and conduct a science lab at home*.  This is a modification of #2, but with the ability to shop around across all 50 states.  The course grade is issued by the college, but the high school grade is issued by the parent.  You award high school credit for science with lab, and the college awards college credit without lab.

#5  Use a local homeschool co-op program.  These classes may be offered with or without a lab, but if a lab is not offered, the parent(s) could DIY a science lab at home*.  If you go through the trouble of creating a lab space at home, perhaps others from the co-op would like to cost share with your family or work as a team.  You award a grade for the course, and high school credit for science with lab.  No college credit is awarded, but you could integrate a college credit by exam option like CLEP, AP, DSST.

#6  Use your favorite high school textbook brand to conduct a homeschool science course with lab.  I share the same frustrations you do:  you spend a lot of money on a curriculum that promises you’ll only need “common, household ingredients” only to find that you don’t have lab supplies on hand when you need them.  A few years back I found the  company Home Science Tools.  They have an online catalog of pre-assembled lab kits that match all the assignments in major curriculum brands like Apologia, A Beka, Berean, REAL Science, Monarch, Science Odyssey, and others.  They also have a curriculum selection guide if you don’t yet have a favorite brand. Brand Selection HELP.  You award grades and high school credit for science with lab.  No college credit is awarded, but you could integrate a college credit by exam option like CLEP, AP, DSST.

#7 Use your favorite video based brand for the course, and you’ll DIY the lab portion at home*.  The Great Courses is one of my favorite full course brands (a bit expensive).  The lectures are fantastic, but the parent will have to create homework or enrichment to go with the videos. The photo at the beginning of this article is of my son and I dissecting a pig while completing The Great Course program called Understanding the Human Body by Dr. Anthony Goodman. Make no mistake, the course was well over his head, but we still had a blast!   For a free option, Khan Academy has full courses (AP, too!) in every major science.  They teach by video, but also offer practice exercises and a dashboard to track learning.  It is by far the more interactive of the two options.  You award all grades and high school credit for science with lab.  No college credit is awarded, but you could integrate a college credit by exam option like CLEP, AP, DSST.

#8 Use a YouTube course, and you’ll DIY the lab component at home*.  If you didn’t already know, dozens of universities are uploading full lecture content from their real courses for you to watch on YouTube.  I frequently share the link to Dr. Marian Diamond’s Anatomy class at Berkeley.  She is a 90 year old firecracker who doesn’t use a textbook or Power Point.  Instead, she writes her notes on the chalkboard (in cursive) for students to copy by hand into their notebook.  I’ve been told that Berkeley is pulling their courses off of YouTube, but Harvard, MIT, University of Nottingham, and many others have robust offerings.  You award all grades and high school credit for science with lab.  No college credit is awarded, but you could integrate a college credit by exam option like CLEP, AP, DSST.

#9  Enroll in an Open Source course (MOOC).  Open Source courses, usually called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are free college-level courses that can include classroom support, or operate as an archived class that you study independently.  MOOCs aren’t one thing, so you may have a really great experience with one class, and then another be a total dud.  My current favorite “first stop” when I’m course searching is edX.  edX was founded by MIT and Harvard, but everyone is getting on board.  You can find universities from all over the globe on their partnership list.  You can search by class title, or by university.  Some of the courses are specifically tagged as “Advanced Placement” which should align with the AP exam. For MOOCs, you may or may not have:  lectures, reading, video, homework, etc. and you usually will not be graded by a teacher, even if a teacher oversees the class.  You’ll have to DIY a lab component at home* and award all grades.  You will award high school credit for science with lab.  No college credit is awarded, but you could integrate a college credit by exam option like CLEP, AP, DSST.

#10 Enroll in a college-credit-eligible course.  College credit eligible courses are not technically college credit courses.  Instead, they offer a college level course and arrange to verify your completion if you meet certain standards.  A common approach is to pay per month for a membership, and then purchase courses a la carte.  Upon completing the course requirements and passing a proctored final exam, you pass the course.  College credit eligible courses are evaluated to award credit by ACE or NCCRS.  ACE, the more widely accepted, is frequently discussed on this site, so you can use the tag ACE to find a lot of information about the benefits and limitations of programs like these.  My favorite free option in this category is Saylor Academy.  If you use Saylor, you’ll have to DIY the lab portion at home* and award all grades.  You will award high school credit for science with lab.  College credit is stored on your teen’s ACE or NCCRS transcript.  My favorite pay option in this category is Straighterline.  If you use Straighterline, you’ll have the option of buying a lab class.  With Straighterline, the company grades all work, but the parent is responsible for awarding a grade and high school credit.  The college credit is stored on their ACE transcript.

#11 and beyond…  There are so many other options and variations of how you can integrate a lab science into your homeschool.  If you have found a great solution, Let me know!  In addition, you can completely and organically start from scratch!  I’ve taught entire courses to my teens that I’ve built from discarded (free) textbooks and online videos.  If you consider yourself handy like that, and love a challenge, this is the video I use to teach how to build curriculum from scratch. Building Curriculum 6-Layer Technique

*DIY Lab (Do It Yourself) labs can come in many forms.  

  • You can purchase a lab kit for the year, like those mentioned in #6.  Kits can include microscopes, beakers, chemicals, and everything you need for at-home experiments.  
  • You can also use a subscription service like Mel Science.  Each month, the labs are delivered to your home.  It’s a pretty outstanding product.  This is a sample of what an experiment and kit looks like Experiment.  
  • Finally, if you don’t want to physically do the lab, but still want to do the lab, you can use VIRTUAL LABS.  

Virtual Lab Links & Sites

Histology Virtual Microscopic Slides  (free)

General Chemistry Virtual Lab Simulations (free)

Quantum Chemistry Virtual Lab Simulations (free)

Anatomy Virtual Canine Dissection (free)

Earth Science Virtual Lab Simulations (free)

Biology Virtual Lab Simulations (free)

Biology Virtual Frog Dissection (free)

Physics Virtual Lab Simulations (free)

Disease Lab Simulator (free)

Virtual Dissection Subscription ($36/year)

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