Chapter 1

NOTE:  Homeschooling for College Credit (paperback)is going out of print this year (December 31, 2017), but I’ve decided to post updated chapter drafts here for you to enjoy.  There are no plans at this time to pursue a new paperback version.  These chapters are working drafts.  Comments, questions, and corrections are always welcome.  

CHAPTER 1:  BEING THEIR GUIDANCE COUNSELOR

Deciding to Jump In

“We most definitely were going to send our son to his private school for high school. Although I am an educator, the weight of his success and his brilliance were an overwhelming responsibility to me… some days I am not confident about advising for college or the path to get there.  I have learned to take it a step at a time, ask questions, do my best to plan what I can, and know that it is a journey, not a race.” – Ruth, North Carolina

I have a lot of respect for parents that make hard educational decisions for their kids.  I’ve met many families through the years who start homeschooling later in life, and sometimes even those who start in high school.  I think I’ve had it a little easier in that regard since we’ve homeschooled since the start.  I’ve never had to take the hard position of changing direction with my own kids, I’ve pretty much just kept doing what we always did.  Even still, high school makes even confident homeschoolers panic.

When we first told our family and friends that we were going to homeschool our son Matt for preschool in 1994, homeschooling wasn’t common like it is now.  I didn’t receive a lot of support, and I didn’t fully grasp the extent of what homeschooling would mean for our family.   I think most people assumed we would send our children to school, eventually.  School registrations came and went, and little by little, we became a full-fledged homeschool family.  As I grew comfortable as “the teacher” and my child began to read, I knew we could do this for years to come.  When I was asked how long we planned to homeschool, I always answered “as long as it works,” which is still how I answer today.

When my oldest son started 8th grade, I began to panic.  In one short year, he would start high school!  Multiple friends and family members noticed this too, and many suggested that high school would be the perfect time to transition out of home school.  Ironically, the academics were the least of my fear.  Academics are what many new homeschool families worry about, but by now, I knew where to find curriculum and support.  Instead, I felt unqualified to be his high school guidance counselor. What about college prep? What about transcripts?  I didn’t even know what a transcript was.  I felt completely out of my depth, and we were at a fork in the road.

When you make the decision to move forward through high school, new issues present themselves.  Issues like creating a transcript, documenting credit, figuring out a GPA, standardized tests, college prep courses, career decisions, and finally, what about the prom? (Just kidding but not really).  High school, for me, was the scariest aspect of homeschooling.  I felt that for the first time, someone else would get to evaluate my ability to run our home’s school, someone very important.  “College Admissions” would decide my child’s future based on whether or not I did a good job for the past 17 years.  The worst part, for me, was there would be no do-over if I messed up.  I was ready to bail-out when I read a very interesting book.

Accelerated Distance Learning (2001) outlined Brad Voeller’s journey from homeschool into college.  He was a homeschooled teen who tested out of a Bachelor’s degree.  While I didn’t have experience with distance learning, or anything accelerated, I became encouraged.  At least one person had walked this path successfully, and he put his journey in print.  (note: With frequent college policy changes, the strategies he used at Thomas Edison State College 15 years ago are no longer valid, but we’ll discuss new strategies if you’re interested in testing out.)

At the time, traditional homeschool books rarely addressed the transition from high school to college, and traditional college books hardly addressed homeschooling.   The book was important for me, as a parent, because it helped me realize that there were more ideas out there than mainstream education presented.

The landscape of education has changed drastically in the past decade. Education is more accessible than ever.   Homeschooling is more common, community support exists for homeschooling families, and we have Home School Legal Defense Association protecting our freedom.  Now, more than ever, we have digital information, connected to the internet, which allows us unprecedented access to information.

As you start to research homeschooling, high school, and college, you’ll notice nearly every helpful source has some form of bias.  Why is this?  Because people are human.  It’s natural to recommend your alma mater, or your state’s school, or the school that Billy’s neighbor’s sister’s friend was accepted to.  College-bound, like when you were pregnant, seems to invite commentary from everyone!  People will flood you with advice and everyone is ready to tell you what to do.  In some ways, you’re probably used to this kind of “help” especially if you’ve been homeschooling for a few years, but doubts can creep in.  I want to discuss some of the bias you’ll discover, so you can try and keep it from clouding your decisions.

Something you might not expect is that college admissions workers and tour guides probably are the most bias group of all.

A college admissions counselor is a front line employee, a member of student services whose job description is to encourage your child’s application or enrollment with that college and alert your child to the opportunities at their college.  As your child’s guidance counselor, you’ll have to help them discern between the sales pitch and the facts.  Sales pitches come on tours, in emails, and through glossy catalogs.  You’ll get free t-shirts, koozies, and pens. As a parent, I cannot emphasize enough that being told (promised) something by a college employee is useless.  Without exaggeration, I am asked every-single-day to help parents unravel something that they were told by a college employee or tour guide about credit or enrollment.  I don’t know that colleges are deliberately giving bias information, I suppose it’s like asking Pepsi what they think of Coca-Cola.

Another form of bias you’ll see is between those who suggest technical and career fields/ trade occupations vs those who suggest liberal arts.  This debate is alive and well.  My favorite vocational-career enthusiast is Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs.  He uses his platform to enlighten the public about good careers in “hands-on” fields.  You can recognize these degrees in catalogs, as they are usually 2 years or less, and “in” something with a job title: Nursing, business, accounting, culinary arts, mechanic, etc.   Some have apprenticeships attached.  While many career occupations are quick and provide direct entry into great paying jobs, there are duds in the mix.  More than a few are unnecessary over-training in entry level positions that never progress to a living wage.  The only way to find the facts about a trade is to visit a third party reporter, in this case, the United States Department of Labor.  If you visit www.dol.gov you can search their exceptionally robust Occupational Outlook Handbook and find out the real wages, real industry growth, and real job placement information.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the liberal arts.  The liberal arts include music, humanities, religion, psychology, art, philosophy, history, and other “thinking man” degrees.  Some people want you to think you’ve never been to “real college” if you don’t hold a degree in one of the liberal arts.  These degrees are offered through 4-year colleges and universities.  These degrees are either a stepping stone to a higher degree (medicine, law, pharmacy, research, etc.) or an exit point.  The conflict between those who hold a degree in the liberal arts and one who doesn’t always devolves into the issue of job training.  The fact remains that a degree in philosophy simply doesn’t train you for a career.  That’s a fact.  As to whether or not your teen should do it anyway?  That’s your call.  Neither is always right, but you should always recognize the bias that colors every suggestion you’ll receive over the next few years.

Throughout this book, you’ll receive a sprinkling of my biased advice too.  After all, I’m human and have opinions about some of the great (and not so great) traditions of college preparation.  To maintain the highest level of integrity, I always call my opinion an opinion, and a fact a fact.  In other words, I hope to be a source you will trust.  It is also my belief that getting into college is no great accomplishment, but getting out of college (with a degree) is very difficult, and should be the goal.  It is also my personal belief is that your teen should try to get through their undergraduate education (associate or bachelor’s degrees) with zero to no student loan debt, and be able to earn a living from the time and money they’ve invested in their education.  That said, my suggestions are heavily colored by the costs and return on investment of various options.

Finally, I make no assumptions about my readers- that would be ignorant of me!  I have no idea what’s important to your family, your state laws, your political views, or what role religion plays in your family’s decisions.  In short, I hope to give you my best advice and allow you to filter it through what is important to you.

So, why do I think you’re the best guidance counselor for your child?  Because no one has invested a lifetime in homeschooling this child, no one cares as much as you do, and no one else is willing to do “whatever it takes” to help your child succeed.  For that reason, it should be you.

Your Job Description

As your child’s high school guidance counselor, you will take on one of the most exciting aspects of your child’s homeschool experience.  It’s at this stage of their education where you’ll really start to see fruit.  As with any job, your own level of motivation and attention to planning will determine the level at which you implement my strategies; and as with any child, their ability and motivation will intersect with your plan at a level unique to him.

Let’s break down the specific tasks you’ll master as your child’s guidance counselor.  These are numbered for easy reading, but not by priority.  In different homes, these responsibilities may fall on the shoulders of the student, the mother, the father, the grandparents, etc.  And the scope of these responsibilities will differ based on your family’s style.

  1. Know the administrative laws of your state. Being legally compliant with your state’s homeschooling law is essential so your teen’s diploma is recognized by your state when they graduate.  Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, so your teen’s homeschool diploma is official too, as long as you’re in compliance with your state’s laws.  If you’re unsure about your state’s laws, visit www.hslda.org
  2. Know the graduation requirements in your state. Most states don’t have graduation “requirements” but they have “suggestions.” You’ll want to know the facts. Simply, if your state has requirements, be sure you know and follow them.
  3. Plan your teen’s diploma. As we work through this book, you’ll find a lot of exciting ways to inject college credit, and in some cases even help your teen complete a degree. That said, remember your primary role in high school is first helping them earn a high school education, and graduate with a high school diploma.  Even if they are earning a degree right now, you’ll need to issue your teen a diploma as a formality.
  4. Maintain a transcript. Maintaining a transcript is probably the number one fear parents tell me they have!  We’ll go through the process here, but in short, your transcript is a simple document you write on your computer.  It’s a piece of cake. If you don’t believe me or are not especially computer-savvy, you can pay $16 to Homeschool Legal Defense’s Transcript Service and they’ll take care of it.
  5. Select and provide the curriculum. High school curriculum, or in some cases college curriculum, is widely available.  In fact, if you’re motivated, I’ll show you how to DIY (Do-It-Yourself) your own college-credit earning curriculum in a future chapter.  If you’re less confident, I have brand suggestions and book lists to get you rolling.

 Guiding Your Child in Middle and High School

Guiding your child toward a career is not as easy as it sounds.  Each family has their own perspective on money-vs-happiness, following your heart-vs-providing for your family. In addition, perhaps moral or religious practices will dictate some decisions.  Does gender or career choice matter?

Let’s be frank.  If you believe, in your heart,  that your daughter’s primary adult responsibility is to be a wife and mother, possibly a homeschool mother, then getting her ready for medical school is a bad plan.  After she invests 12 years in her education (and student loan debt to exceed $270,000) she isn’t going to be able to simply put that on hold to raise a family. Logically, she’ll feel compelled to do the work she has trained for.   Financially, she is morally obligated to repay her debt and brings a great burden into the family if she cannot do so. These issues should be addressed early, not later.  Later, things are more complicated.  Consider also, that encouraging your son to earn a degree in an obscure field with little job opportunity takes him down a path of college debt and future of job insecurity.  For a young person supporting a family, this makes life difficult.

There are no right and wrong paths in general, but exploring how a career choice maps one’s future inside the context of your family is very important.  Conversations about gender roles, the sacrifice of different professions, and financial rewards can begin in childhood.  If religion guides your family, this should not be left out of the career planning discussions!  If mission work is expected to fit into their plan, discuss the implications of time and money on that responsibility.   You have earned the privilege of being your child’s career counselor; this is not the time to push family values out the window in the name of a “college education.”

Starting as early as middle school, you can begin conversations with your child about their future aspirations.  Many excellent resources exist to help you guide your child.  Don’t use this time to zero in on a career, rather begin helping your child recognize their talents, strengths, weaknesses, and purpose.  Having a purpose and using a talent are two very enjoyable activities.  For example, if your child has a strong entrepreneurial spirit, encourage him to follow through.  By starting a small business like lawn mowing, he gets to feel the accomplishment that comes from working for one’s self.  While he likely won’t go on to own his own lawn company, the act of starting a business and working for oneself allows the entrepreneurial spirit to grow.  Though it wasn’t on purpose at the time, my husband and I always permitted and encouraged our children’s entrepreneurial pursuits.  All 4 of our children have had small businesses from very early ages.  My high school freshman is in his 6th year as a gumball machine business owner.  He’s purchased 2 expensive gaming computers and has about $1000 in the bank.  He’s not even old enough to get a “real job” but he’s been very resourceful in the meantime!  He works about 1 hour a month, but the life experience he’s gained has been priceless.

An excellent book on the subject is What Color is Your Parachute? By Richard Bolles. This book isn’t for the 12 or 13-year-old, this book is for you! Mr. Bolles does an excellent job teaching you to assess your aptitude as well as ability.  By learning how he pulls these into tight focus, you will help you do this for your child.   You probably have a good idea of their strengths and weaknesses by now, and you can discuss these with your child. As you already know, strengths and weaknesses don’t guarantee anything, but it’s a good place to start as you help your child ponder their future.   In addition, being good at something doesn’t mean you necessarily want to do it as a career!

Academically, the middle school years are when many children fall apart.  Lacking a solid foundation in math or reading will spell disaster for your high school student. As the subject matter will get more complicated, you must use the middle school years filling in any gaps.  This might mean going backward in math, or even changing your curriculum approach, but remember that 100% understanding of arithmetic is more useful than a vague understanding of algebra and geometry.

Early in high school, the first year or two, you should help your child explore career options by appreciating the difference between what’s required in homeschool and what will later become career training.  Don’t be surprised to learn that your child likely has no idea what a particular job is, how much it pays, or what it means.

I remember giving a lecture at the community college to a group of prospective culinary students.  One girl in the front row was barely listening until I began to talk about money.  I explained that everyone in the room wanted to become chefs, but to remember that most restaurants only had one chef and most of you will spend the majority of your careers as cooks vying desperately for a promotion.  I explained that a chef’s salary was fine, but the years leading up to that required living on a cook’s wage.  A minimum wage, or at best a couple dollars above it.  This student nearly jumped out of her seat!  She let out a “whoop!!!” so loud that everyone laughed.  I was confused, and asked her what she was so excited about?  She responded that she had been earning minimum wage for the past year, and the thought of getting a dollar an hour more was fantastic news!  I tried to explain that a dollar an hour over minimum wage feels like a lot of money when you’re 18, but it would be hard to support herself on that wage for many years.  The point of the lecture was how to separate yourself and rise to the position of Chef; so you can one day support a family.  I’m afraid she missed my point, caught up in the extra money she’d make this year.

A teen doesn’t really understand the difference between careers requiring 40 hours per week, or ones requiring working “on call.”  A teen doesn’t value the importance of having health insurance, vacation time, or a 401K.  These quality of life issues are very real, and something you should talk about. Fortunately, our children have had direct experience observing our homes, and we can use our own family’s life to help them understand what to expect as a grown-up.

One aspect I’m very direct about with my children is salary. Maybe it’s because I have 4 sons and expect them to support their families one day.  Is salary everything?  No, of course not.  But let’s remember that a child has no real concept of salary.  Eventually, you’ll want your child to be able to support himself and your grandchildren!  The fact is, when your child gets their first paycheck, he’ll feel like a millionaire!  I use a measure that my children easily understand, and even my 11-year-old grasps.  I use what they know- our lifestyle.  We own a home, two cars, and take an occasional vacation.  I also shop thrift stores, grow my own vegetables, and clip coupons.  They know the limits of our budget, but also enjoy extras now and then.

When one of my children ask about a job,  I’ll say “that job pays half of your dad’s paycheck” or “that job pays 10 of your dad’s paychecks!”  That phrase removes the necessity for them to understand dollar figures and just lets them ponder what that would mean in terms of lifestyle.  These discussions are about “things” but kids understand “things” very easily.

If your child’s prospective career will require him to live below your family’s current standard of living, this is a valuable point that shouldn’t be overlooked.  As your child’s guidance counselor, you should counsel.   Furthermore, if your child’s prospective career will require excellent grades in certain subjects, they’ll have the opportunity to think that through in the safety net of your home; long before any tuition is paid.  A lot of people want their kids to be engineers, but let’s not get too excited until they’ve conquered calculus.

As your child moves through high school, you can begin aligning them with opportunities to meet real people in careers.  I am a huge fan of this approach.  Consider this a “live” career fair that you orchestrate throughout high school.  Start with friends, neighbors, family, church members, homeschool colleagues, and other adults in your community.  People who know your child are likely to accept a meeting eagerly.  By sending your child to meet individuals in their place of work (dressed appropriately, of course) he will experience a wide variety of situations that he may find interesting- or may end up hating!  Knowing what you don’t want to do with your life is also valuable!   My 11th grader, an aspiring real estate broker, will spend a few weeks this summer with his own personal real estate guru, a long-time friend and fellow homeschooler I love and trust.  I have no idea if my son will love or hate the experience, but at least he’ll have a genuine opinion about what tasks make up the job.  It’s better than just reading about it or imagining what it might be like.

If possible, help your child arrange “job shadows” in professional settings.  In a job shadow, you “shadow” someone through their day.  Sometimes, you can do small tasks and other times you may only observe. While some work or legal regulations may dictate the parameters of his job shadow, he can likely get a great taste of the career.  I once did a job shadow 2 days per week for 4 weeks in a nurse practitioner’s office.  I logged about 40 hours of observation time and some real work experience.  This helped me decide whether or not I wanted to pursue a career in nursing, and in my case, I didn’t.  This was a valuable lesson, and ultimately, the job shadows I did in the kitchen grabbed my heart.

The best print resource, hands down, for unbiased job information is the United States Department of Labor. (mentioned earlier in this chapter) The Occupational Outlook Handbook is an online resource that is very easy for the public to use. In the handbook, every job in every industry is reported on.  Trends in the field, future expectations for growth, education, training, working conditions, salary expectations, and industries that do the most hiring are all included for the current year.  This is a “must see” for anyone exploring careers.  I suggest this site for parents as well as their teen.  Teach your teen how to navigate the online handbook, and require that they use it when doing their own exploration.

I had the pleasure of viewing the free parent’s mini-course called “5 Major Steps” by Leann Gregory.  She approached me through our Homeschooling for College Credit Facebook page and asked me for feedback.  The class does promote her in-person course for teens, but not before she walks you through 45 minutes PACKED full of seriously wonderful career-college planning advice.  I hope to work with Leann at some point in the future, I found all of her suggestions on point.  I encourage you to invest an afternoon watching and taking notes!  Parent Mini-Course

Potential College Credit

If you’ve never heard of injecting college credit into high school, you probably have a million questions.  With patience, I hope to address many of them in this book.  That said, I want you to at least have an idea of what a resourceful high school plan looks like.  This small plan shows you how we will inject 1 year of potential college credit (about 30 credits) into a teen’s high school years.  We’ll use subjects you may be planning anyway (History, French, Math, English, etc.) and plan in 1 CLEP exam per semester.  This works out to about two per school year.  Exams are one of, but not the only way, to earn college credit in homeschool.  Completing courses is one way, but CLEP exams give the parent full autonomy with how the subject is taught, which most parents appreciate.

High School Course Potential College Credit
9th Algebra 1

U.S. History

French 1*

U.S. History 1 CLEP, 3 credits

U.S. History 2 CLEP, 3 credits

10th Algebra 2 w/Geometry

American Government

French 2*

College Algebra CLEP, 3 credits

Government CLEP, 3 credits

11th Pre-Calculus

Biology

French 3*

Pre-Calculus CLEP, 3 credits

Biology CLEP, 6 credits

12th Calculus 1

French 4*

Calculus CLEP, 3 credits

French CLEP, 9 credits

*cumulative knowledge is necessary for French

The hypothetical plan, if executed exactly, yields 33 potential college credits.  This is college credit for courses your child was probably going to take anyway.  The difference is that we planned them to work alongside college exams and courses.   33 college credits translate into OVER ONE YEAR of college credit.  If your teen is of average intelligence, has above average motivation, and a solid reading comprehension ability, this plan is realistic and inexpensive.  In practice, your teen would complete their high school course and close the course with a CLEP exam.  This method is similar to how the public and private school use Advanced Placement (AP) exams each year.

For an aggressive and highly motivated student, you can incorporate dual-enrollment options through your local community college (taking a class for both high school and college credit) and even coordinate more exams into your plan through Advanced Placement courses and other brands of exam credit.  I’ve observed motivated high school students complete their associate and bachelor degrees in high school!  It can be done. This is not to suggest it should be, but we’re exploring what’s possible at this point.

My caution is that you don’t become so invested in your child earning college credit that you overlook the joys of homeschooling or big picture.  Injecting college credit requires wisdom on your part.  Not only knowing when it’s available, but also knowing when it’s the wrong choice (and there are reasons it might backfire!)  At the end of the day, even a child that graduates with 1 college class finished (3 credits) has shaved 16 weeks of homework and about $200- $2000 off the cost of his degree.  That is an awesome accomplishment!

As the parent, you’ll be able to orchestrate your child’s classes in a way that generates college credit.  The exam credit isn’t instead of the courses; it’s in addition to it.  There is nothing to lose.  For the average student, this is absolutely possible.  For the motivated student, allow him to read this book when you’re finished.  Working together on a goal is going to maximize your family’s success to a much greater degree.

The Diploma vs The Degree

“When CLEP changed all the literature exams from 6 credits to 3 in 2015, the bottom fell out of my plan and we had to start over. So frustrating!” –Michelle, New Mexico

The mistake I made in my first edition, and one that a lot of parents make is not adequately discerning between the diploma and the degree process.  When our teens are accumulating college credit in high school, it’s natural to weave the diploma and degree together in our mind (and transcript) which makes them feel like one venture, but they are actually very different activities in a technical sense.  In this section, we’ll separate the two paths, and you’ll become a more effective guidance counselor.

I’m going to blame this tangled confusion on dual enrollment.  Dual enrollment programs operate under different names in each state but follow the same general principles.  They allow k-12 students to enroll in a college course while they are still in k-12.   We’ll explore dual enrollment in the next chapter, but introducing it now helps us understand the overreaching principles in this section.

To help you understand the difference between these two paths, I want you to imagine for a moment that your teen wasn’t homeschooled.  Imagine that they attend the local school down the street.  The high school (and or state) has graduation requirements that each student must meet in order for them to receive a diploma.  Whether or not your child earns college credit doesn’t change those high school requirements. In other words, they are still in high school. They are high school students that are also earning college credit. Your k-12 student is diploma-seeking at this moment because they are in high school.  After they graduate high school, they become eligible to be a degree-seeking student. *this is not to say your teen can’t earn a degree while in high school- trust me, if you’re confused, you’re not alone.

Homeschools can legally issue their child a high school diploma in all 50 states, but only a college can issue a degree, so it is very important to remember that we are assembling a high school diploma for our teen.  Whether or not they earn a degree will depend on whether or not they enroll in a college and meet the requirements for their degree.

So, how did dual enrollment confuse everyone?  Simply, when your teen takes a dual enrollment course, they look very much like college students.  They are eligible for college credit (yeah!), they sit in class or log-in online, they earn grades, they buy books, they probably even have a college email address.  Unfortunately, colleges don’t do a great job at emphasizing that our k-12 students are in a separate category than their regular enrolled college students.  They’re special students- dual enrolled students.  Dual enrollment students have special status allows them the privilege of jumping over admissions criteria (a high school diploma) to register, but that’s usually the extent of that privilege.

Why do I care about this?  Well, simply because as long as your teen is still in k-12, the only thing you can really plan for with certainty is their high school diploma. Colleges reevaluate their academic policies, restructure degree requirements, revisit CLEP acceptance scores, and modify graduation requirements.  In short, it is impossible for you to perfectly plan your child’s degree 1, 2, 3, or 4 years in advance. Even when they are dual enrolled, your child is probably not official enrolled in a degree program.  (NOTE: if you think that this applies to you, be sure to contact your teen’s dual enrollment college and ask for clarity. Specifically, ask if they are “locked’ into the catalog for their degree requirements or if that will happen after they graduate high school –  it would be very unusual if they allow you to lock into a catalog as a dual enrolled student.) Accumulating credit is not the same as being degree seeking.  Later, when your teen eventually does enroll, they’ll “lock-in” their catalog, and the graduation requirements will remain consistent for the duration of their degree program, but usually not before.

Before I help you formulate a plan, I want to alert you to two exceptions that you might come across. The first is when we’re talking about high school drop outs or adult learners over the age of 18.  Colleges have different procedures for those students, and that doesn’t apply to our k-12 situation here.  The second exception is when your k-12 student actually enrolls as a degree-seeking student.  This is unusual and is different from dual enrollment programs.  In this case, the child may be a prodigy seeking highly specialized education. In most of those cases, the family has decided to graduate their child early and has found a program that classifies their k-12 student as a college student despite them being so young.

Healthy amounts of apprehension are appropriate for this aspect of guiding your teen.  For starters, it’s entirely possible that the CLEP policies you so diligently looked up will change, or that the dual enrollment program at your community college will get canceled before your teen is eligible. These things happen, so how can you plan amidst the uncertainty?  Simply, you have to plan the diploma first.  You’ll be issuing a diploma whether or not your teen earns any college credit, so it should take priority in your planning.  That said, we can still be resourceful and inject college credit. In fact, I think you should!

While it’s true that “every college is different” you might think that’s reason enough to opt-out of the college credit process.  No!  It’s a bit like driving a car across the country.  In general, you learned to drive and are licensed in your state. Those skills have prepared you to drive through any state.  While it’s true that each state may have a few different laws, 99% of the principles you learned will take you through your trip successfully. Would you reroute your trip around a state if you didn’t know the specific details of their state’s driving laws?  No!  The same is true in this discussion.  You’re going to get the “drivers ed” version of earning college credit in high school.  You’ll learn strategies that usually work, take into account what most colleges do, and keep as many doors open as possible. Yes, you may encounter expectations later, but we’ll talk about recovery tactics too!  When there are options that usually don’t work, hardly ever transfer successfully, or are expensive when you consider their risk, I’ll tell you that too.

A good habit to develop now is using the phrase potential college credit in place of “college credit.”  I catch myself saying “college credit” too.  In short, we can’t be certain that the course or test your teen took in high school will count as college credit in the future in every scenario.  If you’re using a certain company, a particular curriculum brand, or paying a monthly fee so your teen will absolutely receive college credit later, you may have your heart broken later.  Even dual enrollment transfer can get sticky when you move or transfer out of state.  We’ll talk about credit-gambling and minimizing risk later.

Now, some good news.  There are hidden gems that guarantee transfer.  I love guaranteed transfer programs, so we’ll explore them in depth in a future chapter.  The point isn’t to narrow your child’s direction just yet, it’s just to learn the ropes.  Detailed planning comes later.

This is Going to be Awesome!

“My area of expertise was Elementary Education and Special Needs, I always thought I would put my children back in public school for the rest of their education but now with the help and reassures of others I feel willingly to help them until they are ready for their wings to FLY.”   -MAC, North Carolina

Take a moment to think about the potential time and money saved, and you’ll realize how exciting this journey will be.  Beyond being their guidance counselor, you have the added benefit of being your child’s number one cheerleader!  Yes, it’s going to require you to learn some new terminology, create a plan, and follow through over several years.  It will also (likely) require revision from time to time.  That’s what this book will help you with.  There is no reason to become anxious about this journey; I’ll help you find your feet. Beyond that guidance, your state’s Homeschooling for College Credit Facebook group found here can help you maximize the resources in your geographic area to the fullest.  Look at your hard work and planning as a very valuable “scholarship” that you can give to your teen!

The exact path should be built together with your teen.  Even the best planning will be at the mercy of your teen’s ambitions and ability.  Remember, whatever credit your child earns now, even if it’s just one class, is a step in the right direction.  So get ready, this is going to be awesome!

 Frequently Asked Questions

Reader submissions from the HS4CC Facebook page.

Q:     What are the benefits of homeschooling for college credit?

A:     The benefits will differ for each family.  For some people, the biggest benefit is cost.  College credits earned in high school are a fraction of the cost that you’ll pay later. The tuition is only part of the cost, you’ll also get to choose your own (cheaper) textbooks at home, and your teen won’t be living in a dorm.  We’ll look at real dollars later, but it’s amazing.  For some, shaving time is the biggest deal.  I completed a BA in 18 months, and while that’s not necessarily what a teen is going to do, for those who have other plans: mission work, opening a business, joining the military, having a baby, etc. every credit you’ve completed in high school is one less to complete later.  Lastly, for some, they want to provide a really rigorous curriculum, and high school books aren’t cutting it.  If you have a 9th grader already doing calculus I, you’re not going to find a high school text for Calculus II, so using a college for that purpose just makes sense.

Q:    What age can my child start earning college credit?

A:    Any age!  I know of a few exceptionally bright families with children as young as 12 earning college credit, but in general, a teen of average intelligence and ability can earn college credit as soon as their reading comprehension level is high enough.  Typically, colleges require students to be in 11th and 12th grade, but that varies by state. If you’re creating a DIY college credit program at home, 9th grade is a fine time to see if they’re ready.  Separate from age or grade, your child’s reading level should be excellent before you begin.  Most college credit is valid for 20 years.

Q:  Who can I ask for help?

A:  Colleges aren’t very motivated to help you avoid paying them thousands of dollars in tuition!  First, take the time to really read and re-read chapters in this book so you can wrap your head around the big picture.  The details are less tricky when you understand the general principles of “how” to make all of this work.  Remember your anxiety when you first started homeschooling?  This a lot like that – overwhelming, but with support and time, you’ll get the hang of this too!  Ask questions on the Homeschooling for College Credit Facebook page, in your state’s Homeschooling for College Credit Facebook group, on this blog, and you can always send me an email. cookderosa@aol.com

Q:  I don’t even know where to start!  My son is in 8th grade.

A:  You’re at the perfect time for planning.  8th grade is great because you have a good idea about your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses, and they’re articulate enough to share some of their own opinions and input.  Whenever I talk to a parent showing panic, I can tell immediately that they over-planning.  My suggestion is to finish this book, but then plan 9th grade as if you’ve never heard of earning college credit.  What were you going to do anyway? English? Math?  Piano?  German?  Home Ec.?   Remember, you can inject college credit into your homeschool rather than morphing your entire homeschool to add a bit of college credit.

Q:  Should we start applying for financial aid now?

 A:  No, high school students are not eligible for financial aid.  Remember, k-12 students, are diploma-seeking, while high school graduates are degree-seeking.  Only degree-seeking students can apply for financial aid.

Q:  Can I just hire you to do this for me?

 A:  No, you don’t need to hire me or anyone else.  You can do this! You’ve already done the hard stuff, you’ll learn this too.  Remember, if your teen graduates with even 1 college credit, he’s ahead of the game!

Resource Summary

What Color is Your Parachute, Richard N. Bolles. Ten Speed Press, 2011

Homeschooling for College Credit Facebook http://www.facebook.com/homeschoolingforcollegecredit

Occupational Outlook Handbook, US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.  2012. http://www.bls.gov/ooh

Home School Legal Defense Association http://www.hslda.org


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