One Year Left; Make the Most of It!

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. (pat.wesolowski@bryan.edu)

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 bcde@bryan.edu 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 pat.wesolowski@bryan.edu

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.

Timeline of Events for High School Students

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.

General Advice:  

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. 

9th grade

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.  

10th grade

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.  

11th grade

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.

12th grade

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 pat.wesolowski@bryan.edu if you have any questions or if I can help in any way.

Which Dual Enrollment Classes Should a Student Take?

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 English I 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 pat.wesolowski@bryan.edu if you need help or if you have questions relating to dual enrollment courses.

Five Steps to Improving Study Skills and Time Management

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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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.

If What You Believe About Money Turns Out Not to Be True, When Would You Want to Know?

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.

student with moneyIn 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.

spencer-davis-hi1Iq4x_ldM-unsplashLet’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. 

avery-evans-RJQE64NmC_o-unsplashEnrolling 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.

PEMStudents 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. 

Choosing Curriculum: A Guide to Planning for Elementary, Middle and High School Students

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.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

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, jerry-wang-0qmXPnZKeLU-unsplashgo 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.

MIDDLE SCHOOL

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 alex-michaelsen-4jcZiXH63fM-unsplashdirections 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.

group of people sitting on stairs

HIGH SCHOOL

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.

Books:  To help plan for the high school years read Celebrate Highschool: Finish with Excellence and More Than Credits: Skills Highschoolers Need for Life both written by Cheryl Bastain.

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!

Matt and able at graduation

Choosing Courses for a Successful High School Experience

sitting on booksHaving a student entering high school can be intimidating.  You are afraid of messing up.  You want to make sure your child is prepared for life after high school.  You are open to suggestions and eager to find a perfect (and, hopefully, affordable) product.  What you really want is someone to tell you exactly what to do so that you will not mess up.  Am I right?  I hear you! I have some bad news and some good news to share.  The bad news is that there is no “one size fits all” plan for each and every high school student.  The good news is that you have so many wonderful opportunities from which to choose that when you do get everything organized, you can enjoy the high school years!!

What should you do first?  Make a list of what is important for the student to accomplish in high school.  List the subjects you want to include.  If you are homeschooling under an umbrella school and they have requirements, list those as well.  Few states, if any, have laws regarding what a student must take to graduate high school.  They have suggested guidelines.  For those states that have hard-and-fast requirements, include those subjects. Generally speaking, you have a lot of freedom to prepare a fun-filled, productive, amazing high school experience! student with books

You probably have included the basics … reading, writing and arithmetic or, in the case of high school … science, history, English, math and electives.  Right?  And while those are somewhat necessary (more about that later), the school system omits a few disciplines that are vital to preparing a child for life after high school.  Curious?  The disciplines our family included during the high school years are as follows:  current events, logic, speech and debate, apologetics, entrepreneurship, Bible, character, and personal finances. Far too much emphasis is placed on mathematics especially now that we all have calculators, Siri, and Google at our disposal.  Being able to shop frugally, write checks, balance accounts, and take care of personal finances is, in my opinion, much more important and useful than learning Algebra II.  However, there are at least two reasons we must include higher math during high school.  Reason #1: Your child may pursue a degree that requires higher math so he/she best be well trained (this would apply to degrees such as accounting, Engineering, architecture, etc.).  Reason #2:  Most colleges award the highest academic scholarships according to scores from the college entrance exams (ACT, SAT and CLT).  And, unfortunately, almost one-third to one-half of the score comes from the math sections.  Therefore, keep math on your list. If your child does not love math, and he wants to “get it over with” before college, have him dual enroll in math classes in high school.  Not only will the credits be earned early, but taking the college level math classes will more-than-likely improve his math scores on the college exams (which, in turn, will raise scholarship amounts).

Before you complete this list, talk to your high school students about what their interests are and list everything they say.  Seriously.  Everything. Video games?  Put it on the list.  Sports?  Put it on the list.  Cooking? Put it on the list. Fashion and design?  Yes, put that on the list.  One of the primary objectives of parenting is to help your children discover their gifts and talents now so that they will not waste years later switching majors, careers, etc. (although this may happen regardless of how well you plan).

Now that you have a list, divide the subjects over the next four years and figure out which program to use or how to accomplish each goal.  You may be overwhelmed by such a task but, trust me, it can be fun to figure this out and once you have done it the first time, it will get easier next year or with the next student.  Keep in mind that once your students finish 10th grade (and in some cases, sooner) they can dual enroll and earn high school and college credit at the same time.

By the time our 5th child was in high school (we have 9 children), we decided that our high school students would no longer be allowed to hold steady jobs.  I wrote an article about that here. Our primary reason for this was due to the fact that so many opportunities were limited by students holding steady jobs.  We were fine with our children working and earning money, as long as it was not a steady job that tied them down.  When we made that decision it changed the lives of our next 5 high school students.  They went to, or participated in, seminars, conferences, training camps, mission trips, campaigns, and more.  They volunteered to help in many different ways.  They had opportunities that few of their friends could take advantage of because they were tied to steady jobs.  I will get back to the curriculum in a minute, but take a look at what our 5th child too part in while still in high school (in addition to his classes):

  • Attended TeenPact
  • Campaigned in 3 states
  • Spent six weeks in Papua New Guinea
  • Was a counselor in October and in the summer with Worldview Academy
  • Became a Life Guard
  • Directed activities at a summer camp
  • Attended Summit Leadership Camp
  • Protested when Florida demanded the removal of water and food from Terry Schiavo
  • Campaigned for Terry Schiavo’s life
  • Attended Women’s Pregnancy Center banquets
  • Began training to become a male counselor at a Pregnancy Center
  • Joined a Pure Life Team and put on performances at schools
  • Taught Post-Modernism to the staff at the Pregnancy Center
  • Travelled and taught worldview seminars to elementary students
  • Went to Mississippi to clean up after hurricane Katrina
  • Went to an out-of-state 8 day speech and debate training camp
  • Joined a speech and debate team
  • Attended numerous worldview seminars and conferences
  • Took dual enrolled classes

I am sure there are more activities I could add (he was in high school many years ago), but these are the events I remember.

Our family homeschooled co-op style, using unit studies.  By the time my youngest were teens, the co-ops were organized for teens only.  Up until that time we include children of all ages because I enjoyed being with all of my children together at co-op.  We did break into groups, age related, for certain activities but, for the most part, the children learned together.  (This provides much better socialization then putting 30 children of the same age in one room with 1 adult.)

At co-op subjects such as English, history, science and geography were automatically integrated into the unit we were studying.  We purposefully added logic, current events, debate, and more, depending on the study.  We insisted from the beginning that our children had to give public presentations at co-op so they grew up being very comfortable speaking in public.  We speak every day of our lives so why not begin honing that skill at a young age?  Because they had to give presentations, they had to prepare the presentations.  These weekly assignments, during co-op, taught our children how to research and how to write well. They also learned how to use Power Point and how to make videos for their presentations. By the time they became teens we provided additional opportunities to polish their public speaking skills. If you like the idea of having a unit-study style co-op, but have no clue where to start, I have recorded some podcasts that might be helpful (free) here.

You can accomplish most of the mentioned goals whether you start or join a co-op, with the exception of speech and debate.  To accomplish that you will need a co-op or a club.  There are two national homeschool Christian debate leagues, STOA USA and NCFCA.  If you prefer a secular club then check out Toastmasters or ask around to see what else is available in your area.

By now you should have an idea of what to include in the first year of high school and you can begin looking for programs or products that will help your students learn whatever it is you have on the list. You could even develop a unit-study program centered around the student’s primary area of interest.  For instance, say your child is interested in video games.  Have the student research the history of video games, chronologically.  That study alone would include history, English and geography (have him record the locations of where events have taken place).  Find books to read on the lives of those in the gaming industry and require the student to write book reports.  I am sure there are more than one or two ways to include science in this study.  Be creative.  Keep up with what’s going on today in the gaming world (current events).  Find out what it cost to develop and market a game (finances and accounting).  Study the character of those who have succeeded and failed in this industry.  What can be learned from their experiences? Perhaps he can contact some big wigs in the industry and interview them.  During the interview have ask about internship and apprenticeship opportunities. Have your student open a bank account and teach him how to handle his finances.

In addition to classes, have your students take part in community service, join clubs, and attend conferences and seminars.  There are so many extra-curricular activities available that you should be able to find more than a few affordable options to pursue.  If your child excels in sports, music, theater, dance or anything like that, then they should have time to continue playing and training through-out high school.  And, if there are courses your student wants to pursue and you do not feel qualified to teach those subjects, there are often local classes or on-line classes available to join!  We are blessed to have so many options.

student at deskHigh school need not be intimidating or stressful!  As you plan, purchase, and begin using materials keep an open mind as to whether a certain program is worth keeping and finishing or if it should be exchanged for something that better suits your student.  What sounds good in an advertisement might end up being very disappointing.  Why make anyone suffer through finishing something when there are always more options?  (On the other hand, there is something to say about finishing a program regardless of its value in order to teach persistence or if you know your student is simply being lazy.)

Have a talk with your soon-to-be high school student and explain the importance of planning well and working hard during the high school years.  Discuss dual enrollment opportunities.  Dual enrollment is a wonderful option, but it does have its dangers.  I will be posting a blog about that soon. Make a list of interests your child has along with talents you have observed.  Make a plan, but hold to the plan loosely in case it just does not work out well and changes need to be made.  Attend seminars for parents, ask for advice, read books and blogs, and listen to podcasts in order to discover opportunities and to learn from those who have blazed the trail before you!

Start looking at colleges and attend college fairs when possible. Begin looking at the college entrance exams.  There are three now:  ACT, SAT and CLT.  Take practice exams in the 9th and 10th grade and then sign up for the actual exams during the 11th and 12th grades.  The PSAT can be taken earlier than the 11th grade, but it is the score earned during the 11th grade year that determines whether your student has earned a National Merit Scholarship.  Fill out the FAFSA in October of the senior year.

In the past we have found a few resources that have worked well for our family and I will share these here:

Demolishing Strongholds (DVD) This is a video series that teaches about worldviews and teens love it.

American Literature  Apologia publishes this resource and it was written by a homeschool dad, Dr. Whit Jones, who teaches at Bryan College and who is a Classical Conversations tutor.  Using this book entitles the student to both an English and a writing credit. The worldview of each author studied is mentioned, helping the student to have a deeper understanding of the author’s intention.

Bozeman Science  Paul Anderson has made numerous videos teaching both biology and chemistry (labs included).  This is a secular science series, so you may want to be prepared to have some conversations about his take on evolution.  Discussions on evolution are encouraged, regardless of which program you use.

Yay Math  Free on-lin videos. Robert Adhoot can be quite silly, wearing costumes as he teaches, but his explanations make difficult math concepts understandable.

Teaching Textbooks  Although I have not used these, my daughters really like them. Having CDs that are self-grading makes moms happy.

Visual Latin. Several of our children took Latin during high school and these videos, along with the worksheets, are well done and fairly affordable.

36 University  This is an affordable ($15 a month) ACT prep site (on-line). If you register with the code “Bryan” you save $3.  No monthly commitment is necessary.

Princeton Review Cracking the ACT (or the SAT) We used these books during the 11th grade year to learn how to take college entrance exams. Oftentimes it is more about knowing the tricks of the test, than the material covered.

You may have read this article hoping to have a huge list of specific curriculum recommended. Because there are so many choices available, including on-line classes and more, I did not include an exhaustive list of recommendations. However, one of the best resources for recommendations regarding curriculum is the Facebook group called “It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School.”  Once you join it you can search for past discussions, or start a new thread in order to find out almost anything you want to know about homeschooling high school!

If you would like a free e resource that includes a suggested time line for high school, go here and scroll down the page.  Planning for the high school years and choosing curriculum does not have to be daunting!  Embrace the challenge and have fun preparing for the high school years.

Please take a look at the Finally Finished Facebook Page and check there often for updates!

 

Secrets Revealed . . .

shHomeschooling families are at a disadvantage to parents of children who attend a brick and mortar school because we do not have guidance counselors who are available to help our students plan their high school years!  More than a few of us have missed out on many opportunities because of this lack of knowledge. For example, I did not realize that the PSAT score received during a student’s junior year (and only offered once a year) is tied to the National Merit Scholarship. (NMS semi-finalists receive full four years of tuition at Bryan College.)   This is not the only “secret” many of us are unaware of and, for that reason, as the Homeschool Specialist at Bryan College, I decided to research and publish as much pertinent information to a homeschooling parent of high school students that I could find and verify!

I am excited to offer you, for free, the finished product as an e resource called the Journey eBook!  This resource includes information on dual enrollment, scholarships, transcripts, CLEPs, the new college entrance exam (the CLT), the PSAT, and more.  A time line of suggestions for each year of high school is also included.  This resource can be used by any parent of high school age students, whether homeschooled, or not, and whether they plan to attend Bryan College or another college. Feel free to share this link with your friends.

If you have questions that are not answered in this resource, shoot me an email and I will find an answer!  pat.wesolowski@bryan.edu

Download your copy at http://www.bryan.edu/ebook

TheJourney-Social (2) (1)

Write an Essay and Win 4 Years Tuition?

students meeting and writingYes!  You read that right, but time is of the essence.  If your senior has applied and been accepted to Bryan College (submitting a score of ACT 21 or higher) then he/she will be invited to a special scholarship event taking place the first weekend in November!  The event is free of charge and each participant will receive an additional $200 40 $2,000 in scholarship money, up to a full ride!  The amounts awarded will be based on interviews, auditions, and an essay (written on campus)! Those qualifying for the honors program receive additional funds!  Families are encouraged to attend this free event as well. A reception is planned for those attending.  If you have a senior who has not yet applied, but may be interested in this event, email me at pat.wesosolowski@bryan.edu.