Most of us are quite happy that 2020/2021 is behind us and, although we all experienced more than a few inconveniences during the shut down, now that we are on the other side of it, there are a few resulting changes that we can celebrate! Some of the changes I will share are changes that happened across the board with most colleges, but at least one change listed below is unique to Bryan College (as far as I know) and it is an exciting change!
STATE FUNDING: Apparently during COVID many people played the lottery and states became awash with money that had to be allocated and, at least in Tennessee, both our dual enrollment grant and our HOPE amounts were increased! I am not a fan of the lottery, but if folks want to voluntarily give their money away and if the state wants to share that money with me, I am inclined to be a happy recipient. With these increases Tennessee students can take 30 hours of dual enrollment with us (because we offer a $200 scholarship for classes #6 and beyond) for less than $300 (plus books/fees) and out-of-state students receive a $200 scholarship per class. Email email@example.com for more information.
TESTING: Many tests were shut down during Covid because they did not offer virtual options. The CLT is the only college exam that was able to be offered during the pandemic. I hear that both the SAT and ACT are planning to be virtual eventually. The CLT continues to be offered virtually. If you register for the CLT and use the code ‘Bryan20’ you will save 20%!
CLEP: Prior to the pandemic, one had to find a proctored site in order to take a CLEP exam. For residents living within the USA, these exams can now be taken virtually. For those of you unfamiliar with CLEP, these are standardized exams that can earn a student college credit. Bryan College accepts up to 30 CLEP credit hours, with limitations, and they are listed at this link, starting on page 58. Some of these tests (such as foreign language) could grant a student 3, 6 or even 9 hours of credit.
TEST OPTIONAL: It has always been my personal contention that college exams are not a good indicator of how well a student will do in college. Several of my own children earned 4.0 GPAs in dual enrollment classes, yet they tested poorly. During the pandemic many colleges went test optional and some have stayed that way. Although Bryan college has returned to using a college exam score for merit scholarships, we are technically still test optional because we have an alternative basis for merit scholarship. This will benefit the students who do not test well! Instead of using only a college exam score to determine merit scholarship, Bryan College will now us students’ dual enrollment GPA as long as they have earned at least nine credits with a minimum GPA of 3.0! My youngest three, who were at Bryan a few years ago, would have all earned top merit scholarships had this been the case when they were here. Our top merit scholarship is based on either a 29 ACT/1330 SAT/89 CLT OR a dual enrollment GPA of 3.75. To my knowledge, this is unique to Bryan College. With our lowered tuition, it certainly makes it worth your while to check out the majors we offer!
VIRTUAL TOURS: Visiting the colleges that your students are considering will help narrow your choices and, before Covid, not that many colleges offered virtual tours. Now a days, many colleges have virtual tours on their websites. This should not replace an in person visit, but it is a great starting point when narrowing down options.
ONLINE OPTIONS: Bryan College has offered online classes even before the pandemic. However, not all of our professors were familiar with virtual meetings, yet all of them, out of necessity, had to learn and/or improve their use of technology. Bryan offers online dual enrollment classes four times a year in addition to offering associates, bachelors, masters and a DBA online! Bryan continues to offer residential degrees as well.
As you narrow down your top college choices, check out the requirements for homeschooled students at each college so that you will be prepared to do what it takes to get accepted and, hopefully, awarded scholarships. If your student has a high GPA, but does not test very well, consider Bryan College’s option of using dual enrollment GPA for merit awards!
Here’s one more suggestion for you. If a college you are considering offers preview days, camps, clinicals or scholorship events, have your students attend. These events are great opportunities for your students to become familiar with faculty, staff, and the campus of a college. Bryan College hosts a Summer Institute in July for rising 9th graders through graduated seniors. Students stay on campus, earn an hour of college credit, a small scholarship, and they choose between one of the tracks offered. In 2023 the tracks being offered are engineering (2 different tracks), nursing, creative writing, criminal justice, martial arts, education, performing arts and photography! Bryan College also offers a scholarship event each semester for accepted, qualified seniors. This is a free event and each participant receives additional scholarship funds based on an interview with faculty.
Even though most of us will admit that living through the isolation caused by the pandemic was not what we wanted, the fact that some good changes have come about as a result, slightly redeems the time.
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Having a rising senior stirs up a variety of mixed emotions from relief (assuming your senior graduates with passing grades), to sadness (it is the end of an era after all), to concern (are they ready for the next step?), to anxiety (can we afford college?). Allow me to help you plan ahead so that you can enjoy this experience with as little stress as possible.
If your students have not narrowed down their top college choices, they should do that right away, visiting each campus in person if possible. Take a tour, attend classes and chapel (if offered), eat in the cafeteria and, by all means, stop and talk with students, faculty and staff when the opportunity arises. Suggestions for questions to ask when choosing a college are listed in this article.
Seniors should also apply to their top college choices if they have not done that yet. If a college does charge an application fee, then you can ask an admissions counselor if there’s a code available that you can use to waive the fee or ask if there’s a period of time when they can apply without a fee. I am a firm believer in ‘it never hurts to ask.’ The application fee has been waived at Bryan College.
By now your students have probably taken multiple college exams (ACT, SAT or CLT) in order to earn higher academic scholarships or to meet state and/or athletic requirements. Unless your students have reached the highest level of academic award at their top college choices, have them continue taking these tests and consider using test prep programs when possible. 36University is an online prep site that many students have used to increase their scores and it is quite affordable (only $12 a month when you register using the code ‘bryan’).
If your students plan to stay in state then, by all means, find out about every opportunity offered by the state, including the amount offered and the requirements for homeschooled students. Many students miss out on these opportunities because they are either unaware of the opportunities or, by the time they become aware of them, the deadlines have passed. If you live in the State of Tennessee, send me an email and I will share the opportunities available to your students. (email@example.com)
Homeschooled athletes who are planning to play sports in college need to find out what association the college athletic department is under (NAIA, NCAA, NJCAA) so that you can find out the eligibility requirements. Club sports are independent, so the requirements will be set by the college, not the association. Also, find out if your college of choice stacks their academic and athletic scholarships. Many colleges do not allow athletic scholarships to stack with others. If the institution does not stack scholarships, it might be preferable to pursue academic scholarships (if the amounts are similar) since athletes get hurt and could be dropped from certain programs. More than likely, if the scholarships do stack, your students will earn more by coupling the two rather than choosing one over the other. Bryan College is an NAIA college and our athletic and academic scholarships stack. Bryan College’s club sports are fishing, cheerleading, shooting and martial arts.
Be sure you look at the scholarship information on each college website in order to be well aware of every opportunity offered, especially if the scholarship has requirements that have not been met yet (but there’s still time to meet the requirements). Also, find out if there are additional scholarship events for seniors. At Bryan College we host a scholarship each semester for qualifying seniors. It is a free event and each participant receives additional scholarship funds based on an interview with professors. For the past six years our November Scholarship Event has included an essay contest and one winner receives full tuition for all four years. For two out of the past three years, a homeschooled student has won the essay contest. Full tuition. Four years. Wow!
The FAFSA can be filled out for seniors beginning October 1st, but wait a few days because the site gets bogged down with traffic and is slow moving (or shuts down altogether). But, do not wait too long, because the colleges will wait on the FAFSA information before they offer award letters. There is a tool on the FAFSA that allows you to import your tax information from the IRS. Feel free to use that if your taxes are not complicated. However, if you have bought or sold stocks, borrowed against a retirement account or cashed one in, fill out that information manually. Apparently, if you import the information it majorly messes up the end results. Even if you believe your student will not be awarded any Federal financial aid chances are your colleges of choice will want that information. There are several colleges who do not require the FAFSA be filled out. Most colleges will allow parents to be exempt from this step if it is their preference. The FAFSA results show whether your students will receive a Pell grant (money not required to pay back), will qualify for a subsidized or unsubsidized loan, and/or whether they will qualify for work study. At Bryan College, students who qualify for work study can earn up to $1,000 per semester working on campus. Those students who do not qualify for work study, but who do want to work on campus can usually work in the cafeteria.
Dual enrollment is a great way for your student to earn college and high school credit at the same time, oftentimes for free or at a reduced price. Bryan College offers an out-of-state scholarship of $200 per class and students in Tennessee can actually take 30 hours with Bryan for $258 (write to firstname.lastname@example.org for details). Dual enrollment is not without risks and I’ve written an article about that here. If you prefer a podcast over an article, this podcast addresses the same issue. There are several articles pertaining to dual enrollment including which classes to choose, study and time management skills and more on the blog. In order for your homeschooled, Tennessee students to be able to take more than one free class at a time (juniors and seniors), they need an ACT score of 21 or comparable SAT score. (State requirement.) Sophomores, whether in state or out-of-state can take one dual enrollment class per semester at Bryan College if they have a 3.5 GPA.
Attending events hosted by your colleges of choice is a great way for your students to get a better feel of each institution. Find out if they offer summer camps, conferences, workshops, open houses, or athletic clinics and sign your students up. Since COVID, there has been a rise in anxiety among incoming freshmen. It has been noted that the seniors who have attended our Summer Institute (staying on campus a full week) have much less anxiety than the majority. At Bryan College we encourage graduating seniors to attend our Summer Institute for that reason!
Independent scholarships are another way to help make college affordable. I did not realize until last year that there are scholarships available to students who are already enrolled in college! So start applying now and keep an eye out for more opportunities even when you are in college! When applying for independent scholarships, remember to use an email address dedicated to scholarships only (otherwise your inbox will be bombarded). Each month I post a link on the Facebook Page for Homeschool Admissions that gives information on scholarships with deadlines for that particular month. I also send out an email to my contacts that includes these scholarship opportunities. The independent scholarships range from small amounts to very high amounts. Some require essays, others do not. If you would like to be on my email list so that you will receive these monthly opportunities, send an email to me at email@example.com
Seniors can also earn college credit by taking CLEP tests and now those tests can be taken virtually from home (within the United States). Before you spend money on these tests, check with your colleges of choice to find out their policies regarding CLEP credits. Some colleges will not accept any credits from CLEP while others accept unlimited hours of college credit from CLEP. Bryan College accepts up to 30 CLEP credits and there are specific CLEP credits are accepted. I can direct you to that list if you would like. Speaking of CLEP tests, if you have a child proficient in a second language, taking the CLEP test for a foreign language could help them earn 3, 6, or even 9 college credits from one test!
Let’s talk about choosing courses for your students’ senior year.
Choose classes necessary for graduation or that are required by your colleges of choice
Choose classes that will help increase your students’ college exam scores if they need higher scores for scholarship or requirement purposes (math, language arts, perhaps Latin). This could include college exam prep classes.
Choose classes that will help your child confirm an interest related to a particular major.
A one semester college class (dual enrolled) is usually counted as a full year of high school credit so if your senior is lacking in credits, this is a way to increase credits. And, speaking of dual enrollment, taking College Writing (English 109 at Bryan) is a great choice because your students will be doing a ton of writing in college. I highly recommend this class be taken at a Christian college otherwise your students may be assigned to read material that many parents would find offensive.
If your students plan to pursue a major such as engineering or nursing, then it is quite possible they will have fewer electives and more hours to fulfill than many other majors so, the more dual enrollment classes they can take, the better. Be sure to look at the four year track of the major being considered because you want the dual enrollment classes to be relevant to the major they are pursuing. For instance, an engineering degree at Bryan College does not require a foreign language so if your students take a foreign language as a dual enrollment course, it will be counted as an elective. Make sense?
When your seniors are fairly well set for graduation and have time to take it easy, choose courses and opportunities that they will enjoy! If they haven’t participated in a speech and debate club, I highly recommend that experience. Encourage them to attend TeenPact and other such opportunities offered.
A WORD OF WARNING: If your students take dual enrollment classes, be sure they are prepared not only to pass the class, but to make good grades, otherwise their GPA will suffer and that may result in a loss of academic scholarships. Failed classes can be retaken if there’s time, but that will cost the student in both time and money. Better to pass the class the first time with good grades.
Encourage your students not to slack off and drop the ball, especially when their GPA is being used for academic awards or for opportunity requirements. Planning with intention will help your seniors be well prepared for college while enjoying their last year of high school. Making college affordable will help you enjoy your students’ college experience as well.
Oftentimes homeschooled students miss out on opportunities because they are unaware of available events as well as the deadlines associated with certain opportunities. Planning ahead will help your students successfully complete high school and be well prepared for life after graduation. Below are suggestions to consider for each grade of high school. There are links included that will direct you to sites with more information or past blog posts that address particular subject matters. Some of the information is repeated in more than one grade and, although it may seem redundant, it allows parents to skip to a later grade if their students have already completed an earlier grade.
Begin helping the student discover his/her gifts and talents. Discuss classes to include in the high school years. English, history, science and math in addition to classes that interest the student, encourage character, teach computer skills, and more. Include specialized classes or co-ops that encourage the talents and interests of the student when possible. Be aware that there may be state requirements regarding particular courses necessary for a homeschooled student to earn state grants. In addition, some colleges have certain requirements regarding classes that should be included on a student’s high school transcript. Not all colleges require two years of the same foreign language in high school, but some do. Most expect to see four credits of English, three or four years of math, three credits of science (with at least one lab), and three credits social studies. Many states have added a half credit for personal finance to their suggested guidelines. There are no laws regarding the credits a homeschooled student needs to graduate, only guidelines, but knowing the requirements for state grants as well as the expectations of the colleges your student is considering will help you plan to meet your state’s requirements and the requirements of your top college choices. The state of Tennessee does not require a homeschooled student to take particular classes in order to earn state grants, but an ACT or SAT score is required. Some states may require certain GPAs, test scores and/or community service for grants. The grants often have deadlines for application so be sure you are aware of that information before the student begins his senior year. Bryan College does not have specific requirements for high school courses but, depending on the student’s desired major, certain high school classes may be recommended by faculty members. For instance, if a student plans to pursue an Engineering degree, then taking an increased number of math and science classes during high school will help better prepare the student for that major.
Opportunities: Discover local opportunities for co-ops, classes, athletic, music, drama, and additional events that may be worth pursuing. Look into Civil Air Patrol and TeenPact. Join a local speech and debate club (or, in the absence of a local club, start one). STOA and NCFCA are two Christian homeschool speech and debate clubs. One of my regrets after homeschooling my 9 for more than 32 years is not getting involved in speech and debate clubs until my oldest four had completed high school.
Transcripts: Keep records to be inserted in a transcript including subjects studied along with credits and grades earned. If you would like to use the Transcript Genie offered for free by Bryan College to build a professional-looking transcript (it even calculates and weights grades), go to this link, scroll down and enter your email address. There is also a free eBook called The Journey that you can request and it will provide information on testing, scholarships, and more.
Community Service: Look for opportunities for your student (and/or the entire family) to participate in volunteer opportunities, ministries, camps, classes, and more. Keep a record of volunteer hours and hold on to any certificates earned.
Portfolio: Begin collecting and filing documents that provide proof of the student’s participation in community service, mission trips, camps, classes, athletic events, awards, certifications, and more. If your student is featured in an article, add a copy of the article to the portfolio. If your student has work published, include that in the portfolio.
Testing: Participate in the PSAT testing if possible. This is an affordable test for students offered in October and, in 2021, an additional test date in January was added. Register your student for the CLT10. Students can take this test several times a year at home, for free, on a computer, with the parent proctoring. Parents can order the analytics for a small fee.
Summer: Check out camps, mission trips, internships and apprenticeships that might interest your student. A student of this age can often be trained to work at camps, gaining experience, responsibility, and qualifications for potential summer job opportunities. Making money, although beneficial, should not always be the deciding factor when choosing between opportunities. Students may gain more experience and character growth in volunteer positions.
Dual Enrollment: Look into dual enrollment classes for the 10th grade year. Dual enrollment is a great opportunity as it allows a student to earn both high school and college credit at the same time, but it is not without dangers. Homeschooled students often make a few mistakes pertaining to dual enrollment and this post will help you avoid those mistakes. Choosing which dual enrollment class a student should take is also important.
If the state in which you live offers grants and scholarships for dual enrollment and college then find out the qualifications for participation in order to make sure your student meets the requirements. Bryan College allows 10th graders to take dual enrollment classes but the requirements are more stringent than the requirements for 11th and 12th graders, so planning ahead to meet those requirements is important.
Plan classes according to academic needs, talents and interest, and opportunity.
Testing: Participate in the PSAT testing that takes place if possible. Register your student for the CLT10. Students can take this free test several times a year at home, on a computer, with the parent proctoring. Parents can order the analytics for a small fee. 10th graders taking the CLT10 may qualify for scholarships offered by the CLT. Consider having your student take college entrance exams, particularly if test scores are required for dual enrollment classes. Most colleges accept both the ACT and the SAT. Many Christian colleges accept the CLT.
College Credits: If your student is ready to take college classes, find a college that is a good fit for your student. (Bryan College offers online classes four times a year with out-of-state scholarships.) Be sure you discover guidelines for dual enrollment because, in some instances, college entrance exam test scores are required. Consider CLEP and AP possibilities for additional college credit.
Opportunities: Discover local opportunities for co-ops, classes, athletes, music, drama, and additional opportunities. Look into Civil Air Patrol and TeenPact. Join a local speech and debate club (or, in the absence of a local club, start one) STOA or NCFCA.
Summer: Consider dual enrollment classes, camps, mission trips, internships and apprenticeships. A student of this age can often be trained to work at camps, gaining experience, responsibility, and qualifications for potential summer job opportunities.
Plan classes according to academic needs, talents and interest, and opportunity.
If the state in which you live offers grants and scholarships for dual enrollment and college, find out the qualifications for participation.
Preparing for College: Attend college fairs and visit colleges of interest. Take college entrance exams, pinpoint weaknesses and tutor to the weakness. Purchase materials that will help improve test scores. Consider on-line tutoring for test prep such as 36 University (enter code “bryan” and save $3 a month, reducing the price to $12 a month). Schedule campus visits at colleges of interest. Begin with the virtual tours offered online, and visit in person when possible, preferably when classes are taking place so the student can attend classes. Begin applying to colleges of interest when permitted (find out if there are events or times when the application fees are waived). Research scholarship and grant opportunities offered by the state in which you live, the colleges you are considering, as well as independent scholarships. This article gives suggestions for making college affordable.
Testing: Discover opportunities for taking the PSAT the summer before, or at the beginning of the 11th grade year. It is the score from the PSAT taken during the 11th grade year that qualifies students for National Merit Scholarships. A National Merit Semi-finalist receives full tuition at Bryan College.
November: Answers in Genesis sponsors a free college expo for high school students that includes a free ticket to the Ark and the possibility of winning a $500 scholarship.
Summer: Consider attending camps that are held at the college your student is considering attending. Request a FAFSA ID for student and parent in order to fill out the FAFSA the senior year.
Plan classes according to academic needs, talents and interest, and opportunity. If you would like to print a diploma for your student, the free e-resource mentioned, The Journey, includes an editable diploma template. None of my nine children have ever needed a diploma. What they did need was a completed transcript.
Continue attending college fairs and visiting colleges of interest unless a firm decision has been made at this time.
If the state in which you live offers grants and scholarships for dual enrollment (and college) find out the qualifications for participation early in the year because deadlines are often tied to certain opportunities. If your state offers grants for college, but you know your student will be attending an out-of-state college, then using the college grant (borrowing against it) for dual enrollment will save you money in the long run. Students planning to attend an in-state college may also want to borrow against a state grant for dual enrollment because the cost of dual enrollment classes is often much lower than the cost of traditional college classes.
Make sure all classes necessary for graduation are scheduled to be completed either by participation in class or by testing.
Apply to colleges of interest.
Continue earning college credits via dual enrollment classes, CLEP (can now be taken virtually from home) or AP tests (can now be taken from home). Continue taking college entrance exams. As a result of COVID many colleges are test optional meaning they will use a student’s GPA for merit scholarship, without requiring a test score. However, most test optional colleges will accept test scores and use the scores to award scholarship amounts if the exam score increases the amount a student can earn beyond what the GPA entitles the student to be awarded.
Attend scholarship events (when applicable) that take place at the college of interest. At Bryan College these events take place once during each semester. These are invitation only events, extended to qualifying seniors who have applied to Bryan College and each participant receives additional scholarship funds of varying amounts based on an interview with faculty or staff.
Be sure your student has developed time management skills. If the student is taking a dual enrollment class or attending a structured co-op then, more-than-likely, the student is honing these skills. This article offers five steps to help students improve their study skills.
October: Fill out the FAFSA. You may want to wait a few days because the first few days are filled with so many families completing the FAFSA that the site gets bogged down. But, do not wait too long because in certain situations scholarships may be first come, first serve.
November: Answers in Genesis sponsors a free college expo for high school students that includes a free ticket to the Ark and the possibility of winning a $500 scholarship.
Spring: Be sure all subjects necessary for graduation will be completed. There may be state requirements for homeschooled students to complete specific courses in order to earn state grants. Some colleges have certain requirements regarding classes that should be included on a student’s transcript. Make sure all requirements are met. Continue taking college entrance exams if higher scores are needed for scholarships.
Summer: Consider sending your student to camps that are held at the college your student plans to attend if that’s an option. At Bryan College a senior enrolled at Bryan will earn a small scholarship for attending Bryan’s Summer Institute. A high school graduate can also dual enroll with Bryan College the summer after graduation. If your student plans to live on campus, then he may very well find a suitable roommate while attending the camp.
The earlier you start preparing your high school student for success, the better it will be for everyone involved. However, if you are like I was with my oldest kiddos, and you are late to the game, do what you can to play catch up and make up for lost time. Even though my older students were ill prepared (thanks to my lack of knowledge concerning many of these issues), they did well after high school. Could they have done better or had an easier time getting to where they wanted to go had I better prepared them? Probably, but I was doing all I knew to do at that time. Give yourself some grace and utilize the information that is available to you and your students now that you are aware of the options and opportunities. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or if I can help in any way.
Dual enrollment (DE) is a wonderful opportunity for a student to earn both high school and college credit at the same time. Keep in mind that grades for college courses go on your student’s permanent record, so stress the importance of passing the class. One college course is equal to one credit on a student’s high school transcript. In other words, one three hour college class will be counted as one full credit on a high school transcript. In most cases if a student attends a college different from the one where the DE credits are earned, the GPA is not transferred, only the credits. On the other hand, students who attend the college where they earn DE credits will more-than-likely have their GPA transferred along with the credits. Depending on the student’s earned GPA this could be an advantage or a disadvantage. Also, be aware that if the student is using a state grant then a certain minimum GPA may be required to maintain the grant.
INTENTIONALITY: If your student is ready to handle the rigors of a college class, then being intentional when choosing which classes to take is important for several reasons.
If your student plans to pursue an engineering degree or certain pre-professional degrees, then the four year plan is different than that of a student pursuing a liberal arts major. Knowing which classes are part of the four-year plan will help your student choose which classes to take. However, if your student has no idea what major he intends to choose, then this advice will not be very helpful. Worse case scenario, if your student takes a class that is not on the four-year plan, that class can be counted as an elective. However, your student should be careful not to accumulate too many classes that will be counted as electives otherwise he may end up having to extend the time it takes to graduate or he may end up having to take multiple classes during a semester that are more intense than certain electives. A homeschooled student who plans to become an engineer recently visited Bryan College. He was disappointed to find out that the foreign language class he was taking at that time (as a DE course) is not a course required for the engineering degree here at Bryan. It will be counted as an elective. Had he been aware of that beforehand, he would have chosen to take a math or science class, per the advice of an academic counselor.
If your student plans to take DE classes at one college, but attend a different college post-high school then he should not take classes that pertain to his major unless he knows that the college he will be attending will transfer those credits as courses that count towards the major. For instance, if a student is going to major in biology, he may not want to take biology as a DE class because the college he will be attending may want him to attend that class at their college. If that’s the case, then taking biology as a DE class would more-than-likely transfer as an elective. There are certain majors where it may not matter if the student takes classes as a DE student at one college, and then attends another. This is one reason it is helpful to have your student narrow down top college choices so that these issues can be addressed beforehand.
COURSE CHOICES: Having explained those concerns, which classes should DE students take? One of the first considerations is the student’s interests and strengths. Choosing a class that the student is likely to pass without too much of a struggle will build the student’s confidence. A student can either start with core classes or with subjects that may confirm a possible interest. My youngest son’s first DE class was philosophy (which he took during a short 5 week semester) and I was slightly concerned with his ability to handle that since it is a weighty subject and the semester was condensed to five weeks. Not only did he make an A, but that class confirmed his love of philosophy. However, if he knew he would be majoring in philosophy at a college other than Bryan, that class might have transferred as an elective. That was a risk he was willing to take and I was okay with that because it confirmed his love of philosophy.
SPECIFIC CLASSES: Taking EnglishI and II and/or College Writing (depending on the classes offered by the college) is always a good choice. College students will be writing, and writing, and writing some more so the sooner they hone those skills, the better. If your student needs to take Foreign Language as a required high school course as well as a college course, taking foreign language as a DE course is a good idea. Math classes are always a good idea for several reasons: 1) If your child dislikes math, then getting required math classes out of the way is appealing, 2) Students who take college exams while taking math classes usually score higher on the math portions of the tests because it is fresh and 3) Students who plan to major in a STEM-related major will do well to have many math and Science classes under their belts. The students who enjoy science and/or who are pursuing a STEM-related major would do well to take both biology and chemistry as DE courses as long as they can handle the rigor of college level-classes.
As a last piece of advice, keep in mind that students need to advocate for themselves. In fact, you will not even be able to have a conversation with an employee of the college about your child’s classes unless your child has signed a FERPA. Plan to have discussions prior to your student entering high school when possible. This sixteen minute podcast may help you in the decision making process as you plan courses for your student’s high school years. Knowing options ahead of time will lessen the likelihood of making poor decisions. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com if you need help or if you have questions relating to dual enrollment courses.
How the Pandemic Has Affected College Admissions and More
Last spring when the pandemic hit the United States many changes took place almost immediately. Colleges switched to virtual classes, the ACT and SAT cancelled test dates, competitions were either cancelled or changed to virtual events, and graduations, as well as other celebrations, were either cancelled or postponed. These are a few of the negative affects of the pandemic upon life in the US, particularly college life! Understandably, many students were very disappointed with the changes that took place. However, even in the midst of all of these negative outcomes, there have been a few positive changes to celebrate!
WAIVED APPLICATION FEES: Let’s start with the college admissions process. Many high school seniors began contemplating taking a gap year instead of starting college during the a health crises. As a result, many colleges have waived their application fees. That’s a monetary advantage, especially to students who apply to several colleges!
TEST OPTIONAL: Because the ACT and SAT had to cancel so many test dates, many colleges became test optional, using a student’s GPA rather than test scores to determine acceptance and academic scholarships. That is great news for students who have high GPAs yet who do not test well, are unable to test, or who have test anxiety! On the other hand, test optional does not mean test blind meaning that students who have received high test scores are able to submit those scores to test optional colleges. Because the CLT (a third college test option) is an online test, it became a virtual test option for many students, continuing to offer test dates.
VIRTUAL OPTIONS: Since colleges began sending their students home, switching to virtual classes, many professors became technologically savvy, increasing their experience with zoom, video presentations, and more. In addition, colleges began adding virtual tours to their websites. In some cases, students are able to sign up for live tours that include the ability to ask questions throughout the virtual tour! This is a huge advantage for students who live far away from the colleges they are considering. With a virtual tour no-one has to spend money traveling to visit colleges! Virtual tours do not replace on campus tours, but they are a great way for both students and their parents to become more familiar with what certain colleges have to offer.
DUAL ENROLLMENT: Many high schools also switched to virtual classes and, as a result, high school students have enrolled in dual enrollment classes so that they could be earning high school and college credit at the same time. They figured if they were going to be taking all of their classes virtually anyway, they may as well earn college credit.
MORE CONSIDERATIONS: Another benefit to the challenges brought on by the pandemic is that families have become closer, operating at a slower pace, spending time together, and re-evaluating goals and plans for their students. In some cases students are deciding to take a gap year, wanting to wait and see what the future holds. That decision may, or may not, impact scholarships once those students decide to go to college. At Bryan College, gap year students are not penalized unless the students are part of a gap year program that includes college credit and, if that is the case, they would enter as transfer students. When students take a gap year that does not include earning college credit, then they come in as freshmen with all the same offers and opportunities as recent high school graduates. The disadvantage to having so many students post-pone college for a year is that there is now an increased number of prospective students applying to colleges that have limited spots for incoming freshmen.
RECAP: Not everything as been negative during 2020-2021!
Application fees have been waived.
Although the SAT and ACT cancelled dates, the CLT went virtual.
Many colleges became test optional, using either GPAs or test scores (whichever are higher) for admission and scholarship purposes.
Colleges added virtual tours to their website.
College professors became more tech savvy when classes went virtual.
Many high school students began taking dual enrollment classes.
Families slowed down, spent time together, and re-evaluated future plans.
As you have read, in spite of the inconveniences caused by COVID’s entry to the United States, there have been a few positive outcomes as a result!
By the way, if you have seniors in high school interested in joining a martial arts academy, receiving a music or theater scholarship, or want to attend a free scholarship event at Bryan College, earning another $1,000 to $3,000, let me know. Time is of the essence for those opportunities.
At a visitation day at Bryan College several years ago, we had a question and answer session set up with a panel of ten college students who were homeschooled. A parent asked, “What was the most difficult adjustment to college life and, what would you recommend to incoming students in order to be better prepared?” All ten students said that time management was the most difficult adjustment. The recommendation made by the students was for high school students to either participate in a co-op or a class where they answer to someone other than mom or, if able, to take dual enrollment classes. Unless the student is taking a class on time management, this skill is not learned through the curriculum but, rather, through the process. The flexibility that homeschooling allows, although advantageous, is often a contributing factor to poor time management. Having to complete homework, turn in assignments, take tests, and participate in group forums (or activities) with deadlines forces students to sink or swim. We don’t want them to sink, so let’s help them swim.
Although dual enrollment is a great way to introduce high school students to the rigor of college classes, your students will do better if they have learned how to manage their time beforehand. Students who are able to organize their schedules, develop good study skills, and manage their time well will have much less stress than students who fly by the seat of their pants, hoping everything will come together in the end. In several of the articles I’ve written, I point out that there are neglected subjects that may be as important, or more important, than the core classes for high school students. Time management is a skill that should be taught long before students head off to college, so let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of how to do this.
Set the Environment: Because students are very diverse in how they learn, there is no black and white, one-size-fits all method, but the principles are similar. Where to begin? Let’s start with where your students study. Encourage them to prepare a study environment that works well for them. When studying, students should put their phone on silent, and put it away so they won’t be tempted to pick it up and check notifications. Create a ritual that enhances their ability to concentrate. For some, that will mean working in total silence while for others, background music may be helpful. Running a diffuser, lighting a candle, or turning on a fan are other suggestions that could be incorporated into the process. Some students can sit at a dining table with activities going on all around them and not be distracted, while others need a setting with as few distractions as possible. When I was in college I doodled while I took notes. It helped me concentrate. For others, that would be a distraction. Do not impose on your students the environment that works best for you if it does not work for them. On the other hand, if a student insists on a certain study environment, but work is not getting accomplished, then changes may need to be made. If your home does not allow for a quiet place, yet that is what your student needs, then purchase a noise blocking device such as headphones, ear muffs, or ear plugs. If you are not familiar with Cynthia Tobias and her book, The Way They Learn, I highly recommend it. This video is part 1 of a two part series that is well worth listening to when you have time. Not only does Cynthia help you understand the differences in how we learn, but she’s quite funny and entertaining too! This site contains free resources from Cynthia including multiple tips for parenting!
Manage Study Periods. Making the best use of the time allotted for study is crucial to successful studying. If possible, it is helpful to schedule specific, consistent study times. One method many students have found helpful is called the Pomodoro method. This method has the student set a timer for short, intense periods of study. When the timer ends, the student takes a break and then resets the timer. According to William Wadsworth, “The benefits of working in intense, timed bursts separated by breaks includes:
Better motivation: bolster determination to achieve your goals by having an external motivator (the ticking clock) to get you fired up.
Enhance focus and concentration, encouraging you to cut out interruptions and stay on task.
Strengthen your determination to keep on trying even when you don’t feel like it, or the work is tough, because you can’t quit while the timer is ticking.
Higher levels of energy and intensity because of the mild time-pressure, with breaks serving as opportunities to pause and refresh before going again.”
The Pomodoro method may not work for everyone, but it’s worth checking out. It helped one of my sons when he began using it while in college. The article includes specifics regarding this method, so check it out.
3. Discover the Most Effective Way to Study. There are several types of learners and, for that reason, some methods of study are more effective than others, depending on the student’s learning style. Some students are visual, needing to see notes on the material being presented. Handwriting notes for review is most helpful for many. More than a few college professors do not allow students to take notes on laptops and, for that reason (among others), knowing how to take handwritten notes effectively is important. There are many articles that defend the value of handwritten notes and this article, from NPR, shares research results while giving more than a few reasons for this stance. For those who do take notes while studying, this article describes the Cornell method of notetaking. This video summarizes the Cornell method in less than a minute. Until my son told me about the Cornell method, I had never heard of it. In my opinion, the concept is simple, and brilliant!
While some students are visual learners, others are auditory learners and, for those students, dictating information that they can repeatedly listen to is beneficial.
Thanks to modern technology, studying, regardless of the type of learner, has become easier. There are free phone apps that help with a variety of study methods. When my daughter, Courtlyn, was in nursing school, needing to learn to identify parts of the body visually and by name, she used Chegg to create flashcards that included photographs as well text. She is a kinesthetic learner (absorbs information through touch, movement and motion) and she found that hand writing each slide from her professor’s powerpoint presentations helped her commit the information to memory. Quizlet is another popular app. In addition to learning tools, this app has flashcards and pre-set quizzes (which may have been added by professors or by students). Quizlet even allows professors to create in-class games. According to this article, with Quizlet you can: – Get test-day ready with Learn – Put your memory to the test with Write – Race against the clock in a game of Match – Share flashcards with classmates (if you’re a student) or your students (if you’re a teacher) – Listen to your material pronounced correctly in 18 languages – Enhance your studying with custom images and audio
4. Set a Schedule. If your students do not set aside specific times to study then, more than likely, time will slip by with little or no studying taking place. When setting a schedule, break up assignments into time increments that are doable and that allow for on-time (or early) completion. Be sure to highlight important deadlines and test dates. Set aside a liberal amount of time to be used exclusively for studying and for homework. The time set aside need not be one block of time. If a student has time in the morning, afternoon, and/or evening, several blocks of time can be set aside. Using a white board to write down the student’s schedule creates a visual reminder for the student while allowing the parent to be aware of whether the student is sticking to the schedule, or not. Online calendars are also great for setting up schedules because reminders and alarms can be put in place, ensuring the student’s awareness of the schedule, avoiding missed deadlines.
5. Prioritize. Students need to be intentional about scheduling time to study and time to complete assignments. If your students are not self-disciplined, then they may need to be held accountable for their time and if that is the case, withholding privileges until work is complete may be adequate motivation. Work first, then play.
With intention, good study habits can be learned, time can be managed, and as a result, stress will be lessened.
Let’s talk about the FAFSA for seniors and the PSAT for juniors!
The FAFSA is a free application for Federal student aid. Most colleges use the information from the FAFSA to determine the financial aid amount each student will receive. The Pell Grant, Federal loan amounts, and work study qualification is determined by the financial information provided by the family on the FAFSA. In years past, this form was not filled out until January of a student’s senior year. That has changed, and now October 1st is the first day of the students’ senior year that the form can be filled out. The parent(s) and the students each have an ID they use to sign in so that the form can be completed. They cannot share the same user name and password.
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE: There is no penalty if you fill out the form at a later time but, because there are certain scholarships that are awarded on a first-come-first-serve basis (and certain funds are limited), you will want your senior students’ FAFSA completed on October 1st or soon after. The FAFSA will ask for income from the previous year. If you are filling out the FAFSA this academic year, you will report your family’s income from 2018.
WARNING: There is an option to have the IRS import the information from your tax return and, although this makes filling out the form easier to do, you may want to input your information manually if you rolled over an IRA, bought or sold stocks, or had a job change.
The FAFSA determines your EFC (expected family contribution). The EFC is an index number the colleges use to determine how much financial aid your student is entitled to receive. It is used to determine Pell Grant amounts, work study opportunities, and subsidized loan amounts.
Even if you do not plan to accept any Federal funds or take out loans, most colleges use the information provided by the FAFSA (the EFC) when awarding financial aid and, for that reason, the FAFSA needs to be filled out. There are one or two colleges that are an exception to this expectation.
In addition to filling out the FAFSA during your students’ senior year, you will want your students to begin applying to their top colleges of choice. Some colleges offer opportunities that are only offered during the students’ senior year of high school. Bryan College hosts a scholarship event each semester for qualified seniors who have been accepted to Bryan College. Each participant has an academic interview and receives another $1,000 to $3,000 based on that interview. At one of the events an essay contest is included and one winner receives four years of tuition. There are state grants in Tennessee that seniors may be awarded, if qualified, but knowing about and applying for at least one of those awards early in the senior year is advised. Check with the colleges to which your students are applying, and find out about the grants offered in your state early in your students’ senior year (or before) so that you do not miss out on any of the opportunities that are time sensitive.
For juniors, you will want them to take the PSAT because the scores from that test determine National Merit Scholarships (NMS). Even a semi-finalist will receive four years of tuition at Bryan College. The test is offered in October and it is a very affordable test. Students in 9th and 10th grades can take the PSAT (if they can find a location that allows their participation), but the scores will not be counted towards the NMS. Two changes have taken place this year. Because of COVID, and the resulting protocols, homeschooled students are having a difficult time finding a location where their students can take the PSAT. Before you are too discouraged, the College Board has added a January PSAT date! If your students cannot take the test in October or January, then they can take the SAT and use a code to have that test count as the PSAT. The NMS is determined state by state, according to the number of students taking the test in each state. Students with disabilities may be eligible for accommodations, but the time it takes to process a request is lengthy, so plan ahead.
Although, not as time sensitive as the PSAT, juniors should begin narrowing down their college choices in order to plan visits to the campus and to find out what will be required for admission. They will also want to find out if their colleges of choice have time sensitive scholarship opportunities, if scholarships stack, if the college requires a college exam score for admission, or if they are test optional. The CLT is a newer college exam that over 200 Christian colleges accept. Because the CLT is an online test, this test has been offered virtually during the time when COVID protocols shut down both the SAT and the ACT. For this reason there are more colleges, including secular colleges, accepting scores from the CLT. Bryan College is test optional at this time. Students are being accepted and awarded scholarships based on their GPA, instead of a test score. Test optional does not mean test blind. If your students have a test score that will qualify them for more scholarship awards than their GPA, then submit the test score.
Seniors, get the FAFSA filled out and apply to top college choices. Juniors, find a location to take the PSAT and begin narrowing down your college choices. Your college planning experience will go better if you are prepared ahead to take advantage of available opportunities and requirements.
If what you believe about money isn’t true, when would you want to know? I first heard that question from Don Blanton, the founder of PEM life. Most of us would want to know right away if a belief we held was not, in fact, true. Many of us have been taught a thing or two about money that may not be true!
Mr. Blanton has worked to educate more than 20,000 financial advisors in his nearly 30 year career as president and founder of MoneyTrax Inc., and still maintains a successful personal practice as a financial advisor today. The core concepts, tools, and principles which he has developed to teach and train financial services professionals are now being made available through PEM LIFE curricula in an effort to extend financial literacy. Many families spend quite a bit of time and money on their students’ education yet many students graduate with little to no understanding of how to manage the money they will earn.
It is amazing that society puts so much emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic, but excludes a need for practical lessons on personal finance. This class, available as a three hour dual enrollment class with Bryan College, or as a stand alone class without college credit, is now available to homeschooling families. This class is life-changing.
In sharing my personal experience with you, you may be surprised at the lessons I learned through this course. It is certainly different than the advice I had received from several Christian money management programs.
So, what is it that we have we been taught to believe that may not be true? Most of us have been led to believe that taking out loans should be avoided and that we should pay cash for everything when possible. We have been taught that we should pay off our loans, including mortgages, as soon as possible. We have been taught that having and using credit cards should be avoided. That’s the advice we have heard for many years. My husband and I were introduced to Don Blanton and the PEM class via my son (who was taking the class at Bryan College) right before we were to close on one house and purchase another. My son encouraged me to read the chapter on mortgages and my mind was blown. Mr. Blanton suggests that it might be preferable to take out a 30 year mortgage with a lower down payment rather than using cash on hand for the purchase. What? Don’t invest all the money from one home to another? Don’t go for the lowest loan amount possible? Don’t try and pay off the mortgage sooner rather than later? After reading the chapter I was almost convinced, but not quite — so I called Mr. Blanton and, after asking me a few questions about our situation, he convinced us that it would be wiser to have a higher mortgage amount at a low interest rate so that we would have access to cash for investment, emergencies, ministries, etc. Of course this decision was based on our ability to handle the mortgage payments. That was a year ago. We heeded his advice and have no regrets. We are currently refinancing at a lower interest rate and our monthly payments will be reduced by over $100 each month. We will leave the table with more cash. Do not interpret this as a condemnation on those who choose not to take out loans. Everyone needs to decide what is best in light of their finances and the options available.
We have been led to believe that if we take out a loan, then we are in debt. That is not necessarily true. Debt, as defined by Don Blanton, is when you have an obligation to pay with money that is yet to be earned. That is debt. Taking out a loan does not put you in debt unless you borrow more than you have. You may finance a new car at a low interest rate even though you have enough cash to be able to buy it outright. In that case you have a loan, but you are not in debt. Make sense? You are not having to make payments with future earnings.
Debt is an obligation to pay with money that is yet to be earned. It may take a little time to wrap your head around that. It did for me. When talking to Mr. Blanton about my hesitation to finance any purchase, he pointed out that we finance many expenses, not just those that require a loan. We pay monthly for our electric, wifi, gas, phone, and similar products and services. Those expenses are financed. We do not ask to pay up front in order to avoid a monthly payment, do we? Another lesson your student will learn in this class is that there are always additional costs associated with material possessions. A house is never truly ‘paid off’ because you will always have upkeep, insurance bills, and taxes to pay. Even when a car is purchased for cash or paid off, there are always additional transportation costs including upkeep, repairs, insurance and more.
Let’s talk about credit cards. Some money management programs suggest one should never get a credit card and that cash only should be used. Currently, that is turning out to be a problem since the pandemic has created situations where cash is not accepted for certain purchases. Credit cards are not, in and of themselves, an evil thing. Credit cards are a tool that many use for convenience, in order to earn points or get cash back, have purchases insured, or to simplify bookkeeping. When credit cards are procured without annual fees and paid off monthly, they offer many advantages to the card holder. Wisely using credit cards builds credit scores and having a credit card enables the card holder to be able to rent cars. One of my daughters uses a particular credit card to earn a free vacation annually. Another daughter was glad her husband used a credit card to rent a car when in Ireland because, when they had a flat tire, the repair was covered by the card. Even though credit cards can be beneficial to those who use them wisely, not everyone should have a credit card. Many people, especially teens, do not handle credit cards wisely and they end up owing more than they can afford (putting them in debt), and the late fees and interest charged for non-payment rack up. Is there a danger in having credit cards? Yes! Just like there is danger in driving a car. One does not get behind the wheel of a car (hopefully) until licensed, insured and prepared to drive. Credit cards in the hands of an irresponsible person is a recipe for disaster.
Enrolling your students in this introduction to personal finance is a great first step in making sure they are ready for independent living. If your student takes the class as a dual enrollment class then they will be in an online class with other students. If you purchase the homeschool version, great care has been taken to provide everything you need to easily and successfully deliver the course material. From interactive lessons and resources which will challenge students, to the tutorials and coaching designed to assist instructors, all of the hard work has been done for you. The course practically teaches itself, and you’ll surely find that your students won’t be the only ones learning!
One of the best features of this course is the interactive visual model that Mr. Blanton has created for this course which allows the student to observe what actually happens to their money. This visual is called the Personal Economic Model (PEM). It shows the students exactly what happens to their money, depending on the choices they make. There are investments and savings that may defer taxes, but all money is taxed at some point. (Another belief dispelled is that there is no such thing as tax free earnings.) The visual model includes several tanks that represent money earned, money spent, money invested, and money saved. When students fully understand the financial lessons taught in this class they will be well prepared for life after high school. There is both a biblical and a secular version available. The price is amazing considering the students will have access to many tools and calculators that cost financial advisors a lot more. There are 15 core units, 64 individual lessons, 30 financial calculators, and hours of video instruction.
Students who have completed the 10th grade with a 3.0 GPA can take this class online with Bryan College, for college credit. If you live outside of Tennessee, a $200 scholarship is available, making the three hour class only $300. For Tennessee students, the DE grant will pay for the class if it’s one of the first two classes taken by the student. After the DE grant is used, a $200 scholarship will be offered to Tennessee students as well. The cost of materials is only $75. If you would like to have your student apply to Bryan College as a DE student, use the code bryanhss to waive the application fee.
Students who want to take the class without college credit, or who do not yet qualify for dual enrollment, may take the class at home with a substantial savings. The course is priced at $199 and that includes the materials fee, but if you use this introductory offer code, Intro50, you can save $50 making this course only $149. Parents will appreciate how little work they will have to do with this course.
Take a look at the PEM website. There are a couple of videos worth watching. If you have any questions, let me know and I can put you in touch with Don Blanton, the founder of PEM Life. If what we believe about money isn’t true, the sooner we find out, the better.
Whether you are new to homeschooling or you have been homeschooling for a while with students moving up to another level, this article will provide guidelines to consider when making plans for your students.
Although the suggestions I make in this article are general and eclectic, it may be worth your while to take a look at the multiple styles and methods of homeschooling. You may be surprised at the many choices and philosophies available for your consideration. There is no right or wrong choice. You may try out one style only to discover it is not the best fit for your family. In the end, you may find the best plan is to pick and choose from various styles in order to design a plan that works for you and your family. Two books that will encourage you in your homeschooling journey are Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah McKenzie and Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins.
For elementary students, keep it simple and keep it fun. Creating a love of learning is the key to raising students who are academically successful. Do not worry about curriculum. It is available for your use, but you have done well teaching your children from birth to age 5 without curriculum, so if you want to continue in the same manner, go for it! The freedom and flexibility of homeschooling allows you to plan your students’ experiences around their learning style and their interests. If you do purchase a curriculum and it is not working the way you envisioned, feel free to set it aside, sell it, or give it away. Do not become enslaved to curriculum. If you feel a need to make purchases then purchase Legos, critical thinking games, a globe and maps, and fun items that inspire the imagination. During the younger years, a huge emphasis should be placed on reading aloud, enjoying nature, having discussions, and playing games. Go on fieldtrips. Visit museums, science centers, and zoos. Oftentimes, the cost of an annual family membership is not much more than the cost of a one-day visit, and many zoos and museums have reciprocal memberships! Involve your children in meal planning and grocery shopping. Reach out to your community and volunteer for opportunities to serve that allow your children to participate. Encourage your students to ask questions, and then guide them towards learning how to find the answers to their questions. No one can know everything, but students who learn how to find the answers to their questions become independent learners, allowing parents the luxury of not worrying about whether their students will succeed academically, or be left behind. Look for an upcoming article with specifics on how to encourage inquisitiveness and how to teach your students to find answers from reliable resources! When you have a few minutes, listen to Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk on How Schools Kill Creativity.
Although planning for middle school is not quite as important as the high school years, parents should begin getting serious about their students’ academic studies. During the elementary years you have, hopefully, instilled in your children a love of learning as well as having equipped them with the ability to find answers to their questions. The middle school years are challenging because of the physiological changes that start taking place and those changes often result in undesired attitudes surfacing. Expediting an academic plan may be fraught with the need to address character issues. Be sure you address the character issues. If you need to set aside academics in order to restore relationships or repair damage done by students who are acting out, do so. Do not be afraid to have non-negotiable parental mandates, but explain to your students the reasoning behind the decisions and directions you pursue. They do not have to understand or agree with your decisions, but your students should be required to respond respectfully to you (and to others).
In addition to teaching your students how to answer questions, middle school is a great time to encourage students to question answers, but to do so respectfully. (Are you seeing a correlation to middle school and character issues?) If you have already lived through the middle school years you may chuckle at the advice to encourage your students to question answers because that tends to be natural for middle school students. They tend to question everything, particularly rules and expectations set forth by parents. Avoid answering with, “Because I said so,” if possible. You will gain respect if you take the time to share your heart and, even if your students are not mature enough to understand or agree with your explanation, they are apt to be less frustrated than they would be otherwise. Now that character issues have been addressed, let’s talk about subjects to cover.
Math: During middle school make sure your students have a firm understanding of basic math facts so that they will be adequately prepared to be introduced to algebra and geometry in high school. Being able to multiple mentally, whether by memorizing the times table or using another method to achieve that result, is imperative. Knowing how to divide without using a calculator is also important. Understanding percentages and fractions is equally important to having a firm foundation for higher level math classes.
English: In high school your student should begin writing essays so while in middle school introduce your students to simple writing assignments such as book reports, short stories, testimonies, and more. Continue to read aloud, but assign great literature to be read by your students as well. You may find your students are willing to read more if they are allowed to read the biographies found in the juvenile section of the library. Rather than reading one biography that is over 200-300 pages long, your student can read five or six, or more, biographies that are of much shorter length. There are many resources for literature-driven curriculum.
History: I was that student who thought history was the most boring subject on the planet until I began homeschooling my students and discovered historical fiction! Reading books that brought history to life led me to have a deep love for history! Introduce your students to history through literature or through unit studies! For American history, the House of Winslow series is very historically accurate. If your students are reading biographies, then chances are they may want to further pursue information about the period of history being covered by the biography they are reading. With one of my sons (who loves history), we went through the Timetables of History (a chronological record of history from the beginning of written records) and when something sparked further interest, we looked up videos and articles pertaining to that event. For those looking for a literature-based history curriculum, TruthQuest may be just what you need.
Science: Because your student will be taking biology and chemistry in high school, the middle school years should include an introduction to basic science that includes life, earth, and physical science. If you are going for a more literature based approach, include biographies of great scientists. One of my favorite books to read aloud is Carry On Mr. Bowditch. Books about George Washington Carver were enjoyed as well. As far as text books go, many families choose to use Apologias books for science.
Electives: In addition to the basics, you may choose to add in any number of electives from physical education to music, foreign language, leadership, religions and worldviews, shop, cooking, or anything else that particularly interests your students.
Now is definitely the time to make specific plans for your students. Although you will have some flexibility, in order to ensure that your students are adequately prepared for life after high school, it is important to plan ahead. Be sure you prepare your students for college, whether they think they need college, or not. It is better to be prepared and not need it, than vice versa. I wrote an blog post that will help you avoid eight common mistakes that homeschooling parents make. If your students have no idea what they want to pursue after high school, help them discover their gifts, talents, and passions. Narrow down top college choices so you can find out what is expected from those colleges as far as admission requirements, transcript expectations, and scholarship potential. Feel free to download The Journey, a free e-resource that will help you plan ahead.
Transcripts: Although most states have suggested guidelines for high school graduation, there are no set-in-stone laws, so you have the freedom to plan according to what’s best for your student. The expectation is that a four-year high school transcript will include 22 to 24 credits. Most states expect a student to take at least 3 math classes, 3 or 4 English classes, 3 science classes (with at least 2 labs), 3 social studies, ½ credit for personal finance, 1 or 2 physical education credits, 2 foreign language credits, and the remainder as electives. Some states are more rigorous while others are more flexible but, again, these are guidelines and not mandates. Be aware that as flexible as you are allowed to be from a homeschooling point-of-view, you may find particular colleges have requirements that your student must fulfill in order to attend that college. For this reason, narrowing down college choices is vital to planning the courses for your students. Some homeschooling families have their students take a 5th year of high school and, believe it or not, colleges will accept a 5 year transcript from homeschooled students.
Curriculum: When I began homeschooling (in the 1980s) our curriculum choices were very limited. That is not the case today. There are online programs that are totally free (Easy Peasy and Kahn Academy are two programs often recommended) and there are many programs that can be purchased. There are textbooks available for every subject imaginable and there are products galore for the students who prefer learning without textbooks whether that is with CDs, videos, or with real books.
Course Selection: It is presumed that your student will take English, math, science, and social studies. Most state guidelines suggest two years of the same foreign language, although there are colleges that do not have that requirement. If you know what major your student will pursue, you can better plan which courses to choose. For instance, students who plan to become engineers should take as many math and science classes as possible while in high school. If your students show a particular interest in a subject, then have them take classes pertaining to that subject in order to confirm or refute that interest. If your students have no idea what they want to do after high school, then provide a well-rounded high school experience while trying to nail down a plan for after high school. My next article will include suggestions for helping your children discover their gifts, interests, and passions.
Beyond the Basics: Although we have all been conditioned to believe that including the classes mentioned above are sufficient for a proper education, I would like to suggest that there are classes worth considering that are equally (if not more) important to a well rounded education. Taking classes in current events, speech and debate, apologetics, logic, entrepreneurship and personal finance are classes that will help prepare your students for life after high school whether that includes college, or not. One of my regrets is not having my students involved in debate clubs until the 5th child (of 9) was in high school. Once I became aware of the skills gained being involved in a debate club (there are at least three Christian homeschool debate leagues), my students were required to participate in a debate club for at least one year.
Test Prep. Because COVID has disrupted the ability for colleges to require test scores for admission and scholarships, many colleges are now test-optional. Whether these colleges will remain test-optional is yet to be known. Before COVID, the highest scholarships were awarded to students with high test scores (ACT, SAT and/or CLT). For that reason, spending time and money on your students so that they could adequately prepare for these tests and, taking the tests multiple times in order to raise their scores, was essential to families needing scholarships for their students (and, to be honest, most of us need all the financial help we can get). At this time, GPAs are being used by test-optional colleges when test scores are not available. For that reason, your students should be encouraged to achieve high grades even if that means repeating classes with poor grades.
Dual Enrollment. Taking college-level classes is a win/win for students who are ready and able to pass college-level classes. Not only will your students receive both high school and college credit, but one college class is usually counted as a full high school credit, meaning your students will earn a year’s worth of high school credit in one semester. This will either allow your student to graduate early or to continue taking college classes during high school. Dual enrollment is free in several states, discounted in some states and, oftentimes, discounted by the college. Bryan College offers dual enrollment classes on line four times a year with a $200 scholarship for out-of-state students and, for Tennessee students, the same scholarship is offered once the state DE grant is used. In fact, a Tennessee student can take 30 credit hours with Bryan College for as little as $600 if the student uses the DE grant, the school scholarship and the HOPE. As wonderful as the dual enrollment opportunity is for high school students, it is not without dangers.
As you make plans for your students’ academic future, take comfort in knowing that you have both the freedom and the flexibility to make adjustments as needed in order to improve your students’ homeschooling experience. There is no black-and-white, or right-or-wrong way to do this. Plan, pray, talk to friends, and research options and everything will eventually come together!
Congratulations! You have decided to homeschool. Making such a decision is huge and you may be wondering where to start. This article will cover the basics while guiding you to multiple resources to help you plan successfully.
Find out if homeschooling is legal in your area. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states of the US, but it is not legal in every country. Research state requirements in the area in which you live. Some states require that you sign up with the local superintendent of education while others require you to join an umbrella or covering school. If you live outside of the US, there are also international homeschooling laws in each country.
Choose an approach. Take a look at the many different approaches to homeschooling. You may be surprised at the many choices of how to homeschool from unschooling, relaxed, structured, online, co-op, classical, Charlotte Mason, Wild and Free, unit study style, roadschooling and many more. One of the beauties of homeschooling is that you can either choose an approach used by others or create an entirely new approach that fits your family better than anything else. Another beauty of homeschooling is that you are free to switch gears anytime you want in order to improve the experience.
Find local opportunities. Take a look at the many opportunities on-line and in your area. You might be pleasantly surprised at the activities available in your area from co-ops, to library programs, hybrid opportunities, and more. One of the best ways to get the inside scoop on your area is to ask local friends who have been homeschooling for a while. Most states, and many cities, have homeschool associations that you can join. Using Google as a search for local opportunities works well too! Each state has a directory of homeschool organizations, and many of the state organizations have representatives in the major cities of that state. Most libraries, as well as associations such as 4-H, offer programs that are either free, or very affordable. Oftentimes, local homeschool organizations have organized sports teams, theater groups, bands, speech and debate clubs, and more. Joining local Facebook groups is another way to connect with homeschooling families in your area. In addition to local groups, there are a few rather large Facebook groups with members from all over that you may consider joining, depending on which approach to homeschooling you choose. Two of the larger Facebook groups are Hip Homeschool Moms Community, and It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool Highschool. Take a look at those, as well as at The Ultimate List of Homeschool Facebook Groups, to find groups that might fit your specific homeschooling interests. Many private schools, as well as certain public schools, offer opportunities for homeschooled students. The options offered may include the chance to participate with athletic and fine arts activities, take tests, attend classes, and more.
Research learning styles. Talk to your children about how they best learn. This is an important step to take before you buy any materials or sign up for particular programs. There are more than a few books available on this topic and many can be checked out from your local library. Cythnia Tobias is an expert. Attending one of her workshops years ago helped me understand my children and how they learn. It also helped me understand how I learn! Check out her 25-minute talk about learning styles and prepare to have your eyes opened!
Develop a philosophy of education. Write down what you plan to achieve so that you will know how to set goals as well as how to measure success. After a few years of tweaking and changing my philosophy of education this is the end result: Encourage my children’s inquisitiveness so that they will develop a love of learning. Teach them to ask questions and question answers. Help them learn how to find information from reliable sources. Help them discover their gifts and talents so that they can make a plan for life after high school. Create independent learners so that they can achieve anything they want or need to achieve. It was also important to my husband and I that we, as Christians, raise our children to know and love God, so that they would understand a develop a biblical worldview of life.
Make a plan. After deciding what approach you want to take, make lists of materials needed for the approach you have chosen, and set goals. Will you homeschool for 9 months out of the year, or will you homeschool year around? Will you dedicate a certain part of each day to study or will the daily schedule be flexible? Join the groups you find helpful and register your students for any opportunities you’ve discovered that will be beneficial for your family.
Be prepared. Acquire the materials you plan to use, whether purchasing or borrowing (either from a library or from friends). There are many opportunities to purchase materials used at low prices, both online and at used book sales that usually take place late spring or early summer. If the materials you plan to use are expensive, I would suggest that you borrow them from a friend before purchasing in order to be sure they will work for your family before making a pricey investment. If you keep your curriculum in good condition, you can make some money reselling it at the end of each school year.
Be flexible. Realize that if your students have been in school, it may take time to find what works best for your family, so be prepared to be flexible and make changes accordingly. Some say that it will take the same number of months equal to the number of years your student has been in traditional school for them to adapt to homeschooling. Whether that is true, or not, know that there will be a period of adjustment for everyone involved. Don’t be afraid to talk about what is working and what isn’t working and find a solution to the problem whether that means adjusting an attitude or switching approaches and/or curriculum.
Think outside the box. The reason that schools have a scope and key is because they have to have a level of continuity across the board. Having twenty plus students of the same age in one room does not allow room for accommodating to each child’s learning style much less any learning disabilities. As a homeschooling family with children of multiple ages, you do have that privilege — so make the most of it and don’t be afraid to be different. For one of my daughters-in-law, Megan, thinking outside the box means doing a lot of school outside, or laying down on a blanket instead of sitting at the table, or letting her son pick the order of what he wants to work on first so that he can take ownership. For me, I allowed the children to play with Legos quietly during read aloud time. I was not committed to a daily schedule that required our schoolwork to get done during particular hours. My daughter, Kelley, uses her family’s time in the car to listen to audiobooks together or to work on memorization projects. Discover what works best in your situation!
Have fun. Keep joy in the journey. You do not want your decision to homeschool ruin your familial relationships. If life becomes miserable, something needs to change. Granted, every day won’t be stress-free and fun, but that should be the goal. I homeschooled for more than 32 years and, although I would make a few changes, I would do it all over in a heartbeat.
This is a broad overview for those of you new to homeschooling. I am writing another blog that will address academic goals for students of all ages. What you plan for elementary students will look much different than what you plan for high school students. And, if you have children of all ages, then you may need some guidance there as well. When I began homeschooling I was blessed to have a mentor guide me towards which books to read, philosophies to consider, and curriculum to use. Hopefully I can do the same for you! Stay tuned!