Homeschooling High School? Start Here!

Hi, I'm Lee Binz, The HomeScholar. This blog answers commonly asked questions about homeschooling high school.

Search a topic. Browse the Quick Links and Archives. Add a comment. Visit my website to learn about my Products and Services. Dig Deeper into some tough high school issues. Finally, shoot me an e-mail if there is a specific topic you would like to learn more about. Make sure you bookmark or subscribe to this blog because I update the content (almost) daily. Enjoy your visit!

We Have Two Winners!

A Moment of Peace Giveaway

Congratulations to Sharon Bedard for winning a "Moment of Peace" gift basket, our Washington Homeschool Organization Convention giveaway. Sharon was our lucky winner from over 180 entries. Everyone one who signed up for the "Moment of Peace" received a complimentary subscription to The HomeScholar Record newsletter! Look for another "Moment of Peace" contest at the WATCH convention this August!

Cup of Starbucks Coffee

Congratulations also go out to Carie Fagan for winning last month's Starbucks gift card giveaway. Carie was the person who e-mailed our newsletter to the most friends! She forwarded our newsletter to an unbelievable 60 friends, many of whom are now new subscribers! Thank you, Carie! And thank you to everyone else who forwarded last month's HomeScholar Record.

Ask the HomeScholar!

This month we are beginning a series called "Ask The HomeScholar." If you are interested in asking Lee a question, just send an email to homescholar@gmail.com with the subject line "Ask the HomeScholar." You may see your question and the answer in a future edition of The HomeScholar Record. This question comes from a mom who is just beginning high school.

Hi Lee,

I honestly feel very new to this high school thing and probably many of my questions are obvious and I should know. I am just beginning this road to doing high school. My son will be in 6th grade next year but the following year even though he will only be in 7th grade - much of what he will be doing will be high school work. Questions that I have and am still working through are:

1) Can he have certain subjects that count for high school credit without the whole year being considered high school?

Yes! If he is doing just one high school subject, count that one subject on his high school transcript. I labeled those classes as "Early High School Credits."

2) Honestly, I remember how college worked as I loved it and most of my college classes were 3 credit classes. Now I am realizing that high school is by credit hour. How does this work?

Usually 120-180 hours is one high school credit, and 75 to 90 hours is 1/2 credit, if you are determining credit by the hours of work.

3) If I do a class like math - we are using Saxon and in 7th grade he will be doing Saxon Algebra 1. Is this considered 1 credit hour. (Again what I remember is college - this would be 3 credits in college.)

If you are using a high school level book, then it counts as a high school credit even without counting hours, and Saxon Algebra is a 1 credit class. Curriculum catalogs and Cathy Duffy's Curriculum Manual will tell you determine if other classes are 1 credit or 1/2 credit.

Blessings,

Lee,
The HomeScholar

Homeschool College this Summer!

Right there on the brochure it said: "Who takes CLEP? A homeschooled 15-year-old." I felt somewhat reassured when I walked into the test center, knowing that my son couldn't be THAT unusual, since his demographic was right on the brochure. And imagine my surprise! Within the month, my son obtained college credit in "Principles of Marketing" and "Business Law" and yet I had never purchased marketing or law curriculum! How does that happen, exactly? As a homeschool parent, you may know what your children have been taught, but you may not realize what they know. There is a place where knowledge reigns supreme. A place where you can also discover their hidden learning -- your local CLEP testing center.

Why I chose CLEP exams

CLEP stands for "College Level Examination Program", but in our home we call it "Can Lower Education Payments!" Each exam can be worth a 3 to 6 credit college course, and save you a BUNCH of money on college expenses. At $65 each, the exams are inexpensive compared with the cost of regular college; and each exam can be prepared for at home, like any other homeschool course. The exams are offered all year round, even in the summer, 5 days a week, at conveniently located testing centers. Every test is on the computer, and they are all multiple choice. Because the exam is intended for "non-traditional learners," each question is straight-forward, with no nuance - you either know it or you don't. CLEP is often used for adult learners returning to college after a long time - even Moms! 2900 colleges nationwide accept CLEP exams and award college credit for each passing exam. There are 34 different subject exams.

CLEP Official Study GuideThe summer before our senior year, I decided to begin "homeschooling college" with CLEP exams. I wanted to do it in the summer so that we could include passing scores in their college applications. Since their senior year would be in community college, I wanted to know which courses they would pass by examination so they wouldn't be bored. We started with a $20 investment in the book "The College Board CLEP Official Study Guide." To begin, I told my boys to look over the titles and see which test names they liked. I told them to take tests they were interested in, but encouraged them to stop if they got frustrated. I reminded them that they only had to get 50% correct to pass the CLEP exam. The reason for this is simple: ALL the questions are hard! I wrote their score percentage on the table of contents.

REA CLEP Review BookWhen they had their fill of sample tests, we decided to begin taking tests "for real" starting with their best subject. The pre-test where they scored highest was American Government, so I bought a review book for the CLEP exam in that subject. The books I liked the best for review was the REA series, "Best Test Preparation for the CLEP" by Research and Education Association. They went through 2 or 3 more sample tests using that book, reviewing the questions they got wrong. At that point, my boys felt they were ready to try their first CLEP.

When we arrived at the testing center, we paid a small fee to register with the technical college and get a student number. Then we went to the testing area, and paid the CLEP fee for the test. Unfortunately, the lone computer used for CLEP exams wasn't working, and the technical expert was not available to fix it. We waited for an hour, but no technician arrived, so we drove home disappointed without taking a test. When we got home, we got a phone call from the center explaining that the technician had "plugged in" the computer and it was finally working! How frustrating! The next day we tried a different testing center, at a different technical college. When we arrived, we recognized a difference immediately. This testing center had over a dozen computers devoted CLEP exams, so both of my kids could test at the same time, and they had technical help on site. Again we had to pay a fee register and get a student number, and we had to pay a fee for the test. This time we were actually able to take the test, and we were SO thrilled when they handed us the score report that showed a passing grade in a college course!

Our "Homeschooling College" Routine

From that moment, we developed a family routine. Every Wednesday we would go to the testing center and take one or two tests. After they passed, with their score report in hand, we would go out for lunch to celebrate. The next day, they would decide on a subject to tackle next. In general, we went from their highest pre-tested score and worked our way down. On Thursday we would go to the local bookstore, and buy the REA study guide for the next subject. If you can't find REA books, any AP or CLEP review book will work. They would take a sample test each day, and study the incorrect answers. The following Wednesday they would take another CLEP exam. It was really very fun, and so satisfying to see those college credits adding up.

One of my children took and passed six CLEP exams, worth two quarters of college. The other son passed fifteen exams, earning the maximum one full year of college credit by exam. (Only nine exams were required to get one year of credit, but my son really liked taking the tests!) Even with colleges that didn't give college credits, the tests were still useful. One college they applied to required SAT II exams, which we didn't have. The CLEP exams seemed to be accepted instead, so even though they didn't give college credit it still helped in the application process. The remaining tests were used to help my son place into upper division university classes.

Cumulative Learning or Intentional Learning

We had planned our "homeschooling college" as a way to simply document the cumulative learning from our homeschool. There is another way to homeschool college with CLEP exams, though. You can also decide what subject you want to learn, and then intentionally study for the test. For example, my son Alex knew that psychology was required in college, but he just did NOT want to take it. He was disgusted by Freud, and truly didn't want to hear his theories in a co-ed class. He tried taking the psychology CLEP practice exam, but didn't pass. He begged me to buy him the REA study guide anyway. How could I refuse? He read the study guide from cover to cover, and then took the sample tests in the book until he felt comfortable. A few weeks later, he took and passed the Psychology CLEP exam, was given five college credits, and met the university requirement for psychology. He will never have to take Psych in college, but yet he has the knowledge he needs to succeed.

Colleges do like to see some outside documentation of learning, and CLEP scores are delivered to the college in the form of a transcript - the "love language" of colleges. It was just the way they like it! You can choose to send the scores to a college each time you take an exam, or you can wait and send all the scores at once, leaving off any scores you want. It was nice to have a transcript that would supplement my mommy-made transcript as well. It was a wonderful way to document my students' learning, whether they got college credit for it or not. When they got a passing score, I made sure to put "honors" by the high school course on their transcript. I figured if they knew a college amount of learning, they should at least be given high school honors credit for it.

Accelerated Distance Learning

For more information about CLEP exams, check The College Board website here: Meet the CLEP. If you are interested in getting more information about homeschooling college, check out "Accelerated Distance Learning" by Homeschool Graduate Brad Voeller. His book is available at most bookstores, and from his website. Consider homeschooling some college this summer!

Blessings, Lee

Keep Your Students Sharp This Summer

One of the problems with the public schools is that the first four weeks (or more) in the Fall are spent reviewing the material that was forgotten over the summer. Homeschoolers again have a tremendous advantage in this area. By setting aside a few minutes a day you can ensure your students retain what they have learned. Here are some tips for two of the "most forgettable" subjects.

Math

We set aside 15 minutes a day for math during the summer. When they were younger, I had my boys do one page of a grade appropriate math workbook each day. They were able to breeze through it without needing my help, which was important because even though they needed a review, I needed a summer off. In high school we used SAT review books to review math in the summer. My favorite is "Peterson's SAT Math Flash" because it has just a three problems on a page, which is a perfectly bite-sized amount for each day. This helped them keep their skills fresh while becoming familiar with the SAT format and structure. This ultimately proved to be a tremendous benefit for my boys.

Foreign Language

One of the greatest celebrations during our homeschooling years came on the day my boys discovered that the "Finding Nemo" DVD came with French language audio and subtitles! That meant MOVIES! LOTS OF MOVIES!! FOR SCHOOL!!!! They had a tremendous time discovering which of their favorite films came with a built in French lesson. With animated moves especially, it was almost magical, because the boys had already memorized the dialog, so they felt like they were really "living the language". The biggest problem was keeping it to just 30 minutes per day! Explore your DVD collection and you may find a hidden resource in your own foreign language preference.

High School Writing Plan

During the summer before my son's junior year, I struggled with choosing a writing curriculum. When my husband forwarded my older son information on a chess scholarship, I had an idea. Using the internet, I spent months doing an extensive search for essay contests and scholarship opportunities for both my boys. The results were both an awakening and an answer to prayer. To put it bluntly, there are a lot of people and organizations out there that want to give your kids money for college...LOTS OF MONEY!

While most scholarships are highly competitive, some of them actually go unclaimed because no one applies. Never the type of family to refuse free money, we discovered that we could build an entire year's writing plan around scholarship essays.

Most contests required a 50 to 1000 word essay on the topic of the sponsor's choosing. Because there are so many available, we were able to select just the ones that were of great interest to my boys: history, science and economics. Because these topics were in my boy's "wheelhouse", it was much less of a chore to inspire them to write. The first $400 check didn't hurt either! This benefited our family in two ways. First, my boys learned the fine art of writing an essay (perhaps the single most practical skill for the college bound student). Second, we saved hundreds of dollars in curriculum purchases, in addition to the thousands of dollars the boys earned with their winning essays!

What is The HomeScholar Advantage and how can it work for you?

Fortunately, my experience in this area has made me very skilled in quickly searching out "tailor-made" scholarship opportunities for your students. In just one or two hours I can interview your child on the phone, and begin a complete web search for scholarships. I will produce an easy to use, well-organized document with 15 to 35 contests arranged by due date. For the cost of a high school writing curriculum, your students will have the opportunity to hone their writing skills with topics that interest them, and have the possibility of earning money at the same time!

Tip for Parents New the High School

1. Read a book:

For beginners I recommend "Curriculum Manual for Junior and Senior High" by Cathy Duffy, and "Homeschoolers' College Admission Handbook" by Cafi Cohen.

2. Take a class:

Do a Google search for your state and the words "homeschool convention." Go to the convention and take classes on high school. You may find a support group that will have an expert speak on the subject.

3: Get some help:

Contact a veteran homeschooler with your questions, or join support group or online homeschool group. For more support, feel free to contact me. I offer the convenience of consulting over the phone or in person!