Eight Mistakes Often Made by Homeschooling Parents of High School Students

Matt and able at graduationPreviously I wrote a blog post on preparing your students for college. Some students are convinced that they are not going to attend college when, in fact, they discover later that college is, in fact, needed for the career they plan to pursue. This is one of many mistakes students make that could easily be avoided. Read on in order to avoid the mistakes made by Christian homeschooling parents and their high school students. This post addresses students who attend a four year college. In general, attending a community college lessens both the preparation needed for admission as well as the need for top scholarship dollars.

Mistake #1: Not preparing for college. It is better to be prepared and not need college then to find out your students do need/want to go to college and they missed out on opportunities and experiences that would have made the transition to college easier and more affordable.

Mistake #2: Waiting until the senior year (or the summer after) to begin choosing a 32104565_1710862605671951_341012414663229440_ocollege. Discovering 2 or 3 colleges of choice should be done before the senior year so that students can take every advantage afforded them as prospective students. It is recommended that they visit the campuses and ask pertinent questions in order to find out what all needs to be completed in order to be accepted at the top colleges of their choice. Yes, I put colleges – plural. It is not unusual to apply to several colleges in order to receive financial aid packages, allowing you to compare apples with apples. Also, it is important to find out which college exams each college accepts, if they want to the writing portion included, if dual enrollment hours will transfer, and/or if the college accepts CLEP or AP credit.

Mistake #3: Not allowing students to be invested. Homeschooling parents are notorious for being over-involved in their students’ lives (been there, done that). I understand, but the more ownership your students take towards their future, the better things will go! On the other hand, if your child is apathetic and you know at some point he will regret that, do what you can to encourage him to be pro-active about his future! I often teach workshops on preparing for college and I encourage parents to bring their teens to the workshops with them. The more teens are aware of the opportunities and experiences available to them, as well as discovering ways to make college affordable, the more invested they become.

Mistake #4: Not being aware of the scholarship potential. For years I had no idea that the PSAT test score is what determines National Merit Scholarships. (Even semi-finalist can scholarshipearn a full ride to Bryan.) This is an affordable test that 9th and 10th graders can take, but the score that counts is the score earned the junior year. There are four different types of scholarships: Federal, State, college and independent. Do your research. The more a student earns in scholarship funds, the better!! A student in Tennessee can earn at least three different grants from the state if qualified! Bryan College has scholarships for homeschoolers, music, theater, Martial Arts, honor students and more! Our athletic and academic scholarships stack (and we had the #1 fishing team in the nation last year). Bryan College hosts two scholarship events each year (one per semester), and each student who attends receives a minimum of $500 in additional scholarship funds up to a full ride. Don’t miss out on scholarship opportunities! There are two highly recommended affordable prep sites that many homeschooling families use for these exams. One is 36 University and the other is College Prep Genius. Also, be sure you fill out the FAFSA in October of your student’s senior year.

Mistake #5: Not taking college exams seriously. For years I did not place an emphasis on these tests because I did not believe that they are accurate indicators of how well a student will do in college. I still maintain that belief, but I now realize that the highest scholarships are often awarded to those who achieve high scores on these exams. As a CLT logoresult, my older children received less scholarship funding than they could have earned had we put more emphasis on excelling on these tests. Once I accepted this fact, I began spending more time preparing our children for these tests. The ACT and SAT have been the two tests available to students for many years, but now there is a third college exam, the CLT, that over 100 Christian colleges and a few secular colleges accept! Here’s a post that shares more on college testing.

Mistake #6: Assuming you can’t afford a private college. Yes, college is expensive. Yes, moneythere are states that offer college tuition-free to students. However, a free education could be quite costly depending on the out-come. One regret I hear often from Christian parents is sending a student to a secular campus. That is not to say that some students won’t do well on a secular campus, because they can excel there as well (three of my nine will graduate from a secular college). As Christians, we want our students where the Lord wants them. Oftentimes, decisions are made simply on financial concerns without even pursuing enrollment at a private college. I understand! If you had told us (as parents of 9 without spare change) that any of our children would attend and graduate from a private college we might have laughed, but that’s exactly what has happened with several of our children and they have graduated (or will graduate) without student debt. The scholarships offered by colleges can be quite large, especially if they have scholarship events (such as the ones Bryan offers) that include additional scholarship awards!!

Mistake #7: Dual enrolling on a secular campus during high school (not for every student, but for some). Many states offer free dual enrollment opportunities to high school students. In many states, for the students to take advantage of this offer they have to attend a secular college (but not always.) In Tennessee there is a dual enrollment grant and students are able to choose the schools they want to attend, including Christian colleges. Dual enrolling can save a lot of money by allowing students to earn college credit while still in high school, but it is not without dangers. Here’s a post that talks more about this issue. If your students’ only option for taking dual enrollment classes is with a secular college, then you may find that on-line classes are preferable to taking classes on campus.

Mistake #8: Not taking advantage of assistance offered by umbrella organizations. Yes, many families are signed up to homeschool independently, but if you use an umbrella organization find out what is offered, particularly for high school students. In addition to providing needed transcripts, there may be additional options worth pursuing. For instance, Home Life Academy charges a $50 fee only for high school seniors and paid only once during high school years. This covers transcripts (up to one year after graduation), diplomas (cover not included), reviews and counseling during the senior year.

Being aware of this information by the time your student begins high school will help you better prepare for your students’  life after high school! Plan ahead so that you will not miss opportunities and later have regrets! If you have not downloaded the free e resource I put together to help plan for the high school years, you can do so at the e book inquiry found on this page.  Research, plan, prepare, and enjoy the high school years without repeating mistakes often made by homeschooling families!

(By the way, that top photo is my son, Matt, holding a nephew at his graduation from Bryan College and in the picture of two girls, the gal on the left is my daughter, Courtney, who  graduated from nursing school and now lives in Uganda as a missionary.) 

 

 

 

Halloween … Yes, No, Maybe So?

halloweenIf you are reading this with the hope of being convinced one way or another about whether to participate in Halloween, then I will forewarn you that you are probably going to be disappointed.  If, however, you are not convinced one way or another and you would like to be challenged to think about this question further then, hopefully, you will not be disappointed.

Here are the basic views towards whether Christian families should participate in any event related to Halloween:

  1. Avoid it totally. Have nothing to do with it.  Do not acknowledge it in any way, shape or form.
  2. Participate freely, knowing that you are not being influenced by the powers of darkness, and participating is all done lightheartedly and in fun.
  3. Participate in a limited fashion, but have discussions about the origins of the holiday.
  4. Participate by offering Christian tracts to trick-or-treaters who come to your home.
  5. Host or join in an alternative fall celebration or a reformation event.

Our family has taken part in each choice with the exception of #1, although there were a few times I made an argument, to no avail, to go with a total abstinence of all things Halloween.  My husband loved dressing up with the kiddos, taking them door-to-door garnering candy, visiting with neighbors, and making new friends. I usually stayed home with an infant, since I almost always had an infant and/or a toddler in the house!  Sometimes I would stroll along with the baby depending on the weather. We did not allow our children to dress-up in scary costumes and often-times made our own costumes.  One of our favorite costumes was a robot costume an older brother made for a younger brother.

In addition to trick-or-treating, we would attend fall celebrations.  For several years the church we attended hosted a dress-up event and we would attend that as well.  One of my friends attended a church that hosted a dress-up event with the requirement that each costume had to be a biblical character. They awarded prizes for various categories and I always loved hearing about the costumes because many were so creative and unique!

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Did I have guilt about our participation in trick-or-treating when I read blogs and articles condemning all things Halloween?  Yes, I did.  Did that guilt motivate me to boycott all things Halloween? Yes, it did but, as mentioned above, to no avail.  My husband and children loved getting dressed up and coming home with buckets filled with candy that they then sorted, counted, and traded or used for bartering purposes.  When they were really young we could easily trade Smarties and lollipops for the “good stuff” (chocolate).  As they got older they were not so easily duped into trading.

Am I sorry we participated in trick-or-treating? Not only am I not sorry, I am okay with this decision.  Outside of the guilt that would rear its head when I read opinionated articles, the memories of these annual events are precious.  Another consideration important to us was the responses we received from family members who are not believers.  They already thought we were strange for homeschooling our children.  They certainly could not understand why we would not allow our children to dress up and get free candy.  Some would argue that taking a stand against all things Halloween is a great example of principle.  Others would agree that not participating in activities deemed normal to most is extreme and strange.

One of the reasons I do not regret participation in trick-or-treating is the fact that now that our children are grown I realize these experiences did not scar them for life.  Not only that, in an admission that we were probably far too legalistic and conservative in many areas (especially with our older children), the fact that we participated in trick or treating may have helped our children not rebel from their conservative upbringing.  Who knows?  Lest you think I am justifying compromise in order to achieve a certain outcome, that is not what I am saying.  What I have observed in a few families who raised their children in a legalistic framework (choosing the #1 choice of avoiding all things Halloween), is that these children often grow up and reject everything from their childhood whether it be homeschooling, extremes in modesty and dating regulations, participating in “secular” events, not being allowed to read certain books or watch certain movies/tv shows, going to church regularly, etc.  Not all parents who choose #1 option are legalistic. There are parents who choose not to take part in Halloween because of personal convictions and/or personal experiences. So, what is a parent to do?  Because there is no clear right or wrong choice (although some will disagree with that conclusion), there are scriptural principles that should be considered when making decisions for your family.  Also, family unity is very important and if one parent feels more adamant than another parent then a compromise needs to be made.  I would suggest you discuss, pray, and make a decision that will keep unity in the family.

If you do a google search for whether or not Christians should celebrate Halloween, you will get many articles taking up a strong stance for one side of the issue, or the other. As an example, here are two very contrasting views:

7 Reasons Why Christians Should Celebrate Halloweenhalloween pumpkin

and

Why Christians Absolutely Should Not Celebrate Halloween

The bottom line is that this decision is one your family needs to make after discussing, researching, and praying about the choice that is best for you.  Regardless of what your family chooses to do, have grace towards families who have made choices different than you. (After all, they will know us by our love.)

Here is an article that shares a Christian perspective of Halloween.

May you enjoy the fall in any and all celebrations in which you choose to take part.

Finishing the Year Well (or maybe not)

allen-taylor-Im94u5EJsVo-unsplashBy this time of the year many homeschooling moms are looking forward to the end of the semester, ready for a summer break.  We want to stay motivated and remain upbeat, encouraging our students to complete their semester projects/co-ops/classes well.  With summer soon approaching your children are ready for the break and, more-than-likely, so are you.   The following suggestion might rain on your parade and I apologize beforehand.  Academia, education, and parent instruction are not entitled to a summer break.  There, I said it, but please allow me to explain.

Deuteronomy 11:19 instructs us to teach our children 24/7.  If you and your children are looking forward to a break from academia then let me suggest that your philosophy of education may need to be tweaked just a little bit.  Before you quit reading, allow me to propose that a change in your philosophy of education that might actually relieve stress and add joy to your family’s homeschooling adventure.  After homeschooling my nine for more than 32 years total, I am now finished!  In the beginning of my journey I thought of myself as a homeschool parent from September until May.  I, too, loved our summer breaks.  When I was challenged to come up with a philosophy of education I was hit with a BFO (blinding flash of the obvious).  Homeschooling was simply an extension to what we were already doing with our children from birth to age 5, but the necessity of putting in writing a plan with specific goals brought an awareness of the need to change my attitude about having a school year, a start date,  an end date, and a summer break!  In the end I was set free from these time constraints and, as a result, found that this new frame of mind actually brought about a new freedom to enjoy time with my children year-around as we took advantage of learning opportunities on a daily basis.

My husband and I were committed to raising our children to:

  • Have a love of learning
  • Be independent learners
  • Be articulate apologists
  • Discover their gifts and talents in order to plan for life after high school

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Of course we created a plan that would, hopefully, ensure success, but being hit in the face with the realization that parenting is a year-around, 24/7 responsibility I decided to quit compartmentalizing our education goals into a limited time frame.  The day this BFO hit I told my children, “We are no longer ‘doing’ school.  We are doing life.”  We were homeschooling co-op style, using unit studies and, because of that method, my children were already familiar with the integration of subjects into the big picture.  With the exception of math we did not really separate and compartmentalize most academic subjects. Embracing a philosophy of education that includes the recognition of day-in and day-out academic opportunities was both appealing and welcoming.  That particular evening we visited my parents and my dad asked, “What did you do in school today?” One of my children replied, “We don’t do school any more.”  The look on his face clearly showed his shock and displeasure.  I quickly shared with him what the child meant by that statement — that instead of thinking that an education starts and ends at a certain time of the day, or year, we were now going to look at every day, all year long, as an opportunity for learning.  After all, isn’t that true for all of us from birth to death?  My dad was a professor at FSU so this response brought a smile to his face.

How did this realization change our lives?  The biggest change was simply a change in mentality.  We continued to take part in co-ops in the fall and in the spring, but instead of being stressed that we were covering everything that needed to be covered academically during those periods we continued to take advantage, daily, of learning opportunities.  This philosophy of education also meant that we did not have to worry about how many days of the year our children were “in class” because every day included the opportunity to learn something new.  Summers, as with most families, brought changes in the schedule, but continued to provide learning opportunities.

When I was in school from K to 12, I developed a “chew up and spit out” technique of learning.  I did well on tests, but I did not develop a love for learning.  In fact, I found school to be so boring that I could not wait to be finished!  Once I began homeschooling my children I quickly developed a love of learning and soon regretted how many years of opportunity to learn I missed out on growing up!  Hearing students say they can not wait to close their last book and never open another book is so disheartening.  These students are missing out on so much by thinking that learning ends at the completion of a degree.

By now you may be asking, “How does one switch from a school mentality to a ‘life is learning’ mentality?”  Thanks for asking!  Realizing the importance of embracing this philosophy is the first step.  Taking steps to ensure that you and your family have a mindset change is next.  This will come about through discussions and by example.  You teach a toddler to count as he goes up and down the stairs.  As you shop with your children, teach them to be aware of prices, to shop frugally, and explain that math will be a part of their lives until they die.  Throughout the day pose questions to your children that will cause them to be curious and then teach them how to find answers to the questions you ask and, eventually, to the questions they will ask!  Let your children know that learning is both fun and fulfilling and model that with your enthusiasm for reading, attending classes, and teaching!  As a family read biographies of famous people who were life-long learners and make a point of discovering what made them famous.  Oftentimes, people achieve success because they are tenacious, persistent, hard working, and open to new ways of thinking.  Sign your children up for conferences, camps, and workshops that will encourage them to have a desire to keep learning, even after they graduate.  When our children attended Summit Worldview Conferences repeatedly heard the phrase, “Readers are leaders.”  My husband and I, along with our children, have enjoyed attending political, worldview, entrepreneurial, theological, and speech and debate conferences over the years.  We love learning and our children know that.

Learning is a life-long adventure.  The sooner we get this message across to our children, the better it will be!  Rather than looking at the end of the semester as an end to the school year, encourage your children to love learning every single day of their lives!

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A Third College Entrance Exam? Yes, Please!

CLT logoFor many years the only two college entrance exams offered to students have been the SAT and the ACT.  Oftentimes Christians have felt at a disadvantage for several reasons, to-wit:

1.  Some of the questions put the students in a moral dilemma (should students give the politically correct answer, gaining a point, or answer according to their beliefs?)

2.  The reading content often contains biases and politically charged articles that do not line up with a Christian’s beliefs

3.  The tests are aligned with Common Core and many homeschooling families as well as private schools do not teach Common Core material.

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Another disadvantage to these tests is the fact that one must register for the test more than a month prior to the test or pay a hefty late fee.

These disadvantages are remedied with the new CLT (Classic Learning Test).

The CLT is offered five times a year. Writing is optional and free.  Students can sign up for the test up until a week before the test is administered.  The test is taken on-line either with a student’s device or with a device offered by the site proctoring the exam. Scores are received by the end of the day when given at a proctored sight. If given online as a virtual test, the scoring process will take longer.

The CLT is a two hour online test. The CLT8 is for 7th and 8th graders and they can take the test at home. The CLT10 is for 9th and 10th graders and they, too, take the test from home with a parent proctor. The CLT10, like the PSAT, comes with scholarship potential for high scoring students.

Here is an article put out by HSLDA comparing the SAT, ACT and CLT.

Bryan College will proctor the CLT on our campus.

The test dates and locations are found here.

Practice the test to see for yourself what it is like!  (The practice test I took included a reading passage containing an article by C. S. Lewis!)