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.

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE! Important Dates for Seniors and Juniors

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.

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

Scholarshipped to be a Peacemaker? Check out Bryan College’s Martial Arts Academy

Bryan College’s Martial Arts program offers scholarship potential for future students! David Holcomb, the director of the program is a 5th Dan Isshinryu instructor. The Martial Arts Academy provides an opportunity for incoming students to receive scholarships starting starting at $1,000 and going up based on the students’ level of ability and need.

Why Martial Arts at college? I’m glad you asked! Students who are age 18 and up are being shaped by their choices, challenges and environment. Joining the academy will test the student as a person. 99% of the time the fighting aspect of a martial arts skill is not what a student will use (but when it is needed the student will be prepared). Part of a students’ training at the academy will include learning to have eye-to-eye conversations while standing firm on their beliefs. Students who are accepted into the academy will receive scholarship funds and, in return, they will be expected to train from between 6 to 11.5 hours each week year around. The students will train towards a black belt. They will take part in a series of tournaments and they will represent the college as a team in the community. Current black belts will be honored and will train towards a second black belt in Isshinryu Karate.

Who can join the academy? Students with zero experience, a little experience, or advanced experience can apply to the program. The 2022 class includes all levels of belt rank from white belt through to black belt.

Are there particular majors required that qualify a student to be a part of the academy? No, a student can choose any major and still be a part of the academy, but the Criminal Justice major is a great fit for those who plan to work in law enforcement or who plan to join a organization such as the CIA or FBI.

Many times people get hurt because they protect themselves the wrong way. They often over-react to a threatening situation. With training and experience students can learn how to defend themselves in threatening situations. Part of this training includes understanding the importance of patience and self-control in such situations. Many of the lessons learned in the academy will relate to the students’ faith, their relationships, and their confidence. The students will learn to become peace makers, even when walking into conflict. Even though the training involves punching, hitting, and kicking, the students will learn how to live life together well. Progressing as a Christian while in the academy is very important to Coach Holcomb. Philippians 3:14 is a verse David will often quote:  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Many skills are taught in the academy including learning how to do a basic wrist release! Here is a video teaching that skill. The Bryan College Martial Arts Facebook page includes additional videos you may find interesting!

What is Isshinryu and which type of martial arts experience qualifies a student  for this academy? As mentioned, a student can come into this program without any experience. All of the martial arts are a type of Karate, and a student with any form of experience whether it be Isshinryu, Jiu-Jitsu, or another form can join the academy and continue to advance in the art in which they are experienced.

Thomas Land, who recently graduated from the Martial Arts Academy, says, “Looking back at my life, there are three big decisions that greatly impacted who I am today. One is accepting Jesus as my Savior. Two is taking martial arts and, three is attending Bryan College.”

Below is the emblem David designed for the Bryan College Martial Arts Academy. Bryan College’s motto is “Christ Above All” and the mission statement is “Educating students to become servants of Christ to make a difference in today’s world.” Take a look at the explanation for each component of the emblem.

martial arts Patch_Explained

For more information, check out the Facebook page for the Academy. This page includes updates on events as well as videos to watch. Follow the academy on Instagram. 

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.