It’s always a privilege to share with others various experiences I have had. On June 4th I was asked to shared with others about preparing our students for high school and college. Since this is a question I get asked from time to time I thought I would share it in a post 😉 to benefit those unable to attend and as a place to direct others to in the future.
Last Saturday I celebrated 28 years of marriage to my best friend, Jon. Together we have been given the awesome job of parenting three daughters. Caryn is 24 and graduated from The University of Texas, December 3, 2011. Courtney is 22 and she graduated from Grand Canyon University in May of 2011. Lastly, we have Cayley who is 12 and she just finished 6th grade being home schooled thus we get to do this process again.
I began my home school journey after Caryn completed 2nd grade and before Courtney began Kindergarten for various reasons. We never envisioned going all the way through high school but we did. When the girls entered high school together we discussed the pros and cons of home education, private school, and public school. We listed various goals we desired for our girls before they left home. Our top priority was for them to be grounded with a biblical worldview. We had just completed Starting Points at home with two other families and really appreciated the content so decided to use World View of the Western World by David Quine. We actually hired a teacher to teach the curriculum, found a central location and I did everything administratively. We invited several families to join us on the three year journey. The suggested transcript for World View of the Western World included 18 credits thus by adding the required maths, sciences, and PE my daughters had more than enough credits to meet state requirements for graduation upon completion. This course was rigorous and therefore we did not attempt dual credits plus we weren’t keen on having our daughters sitting in a community college classroom with boys 2-5 years older who would potentially be interested in them verses the course 🙂
5 Things you should know about preparing for college:
1) Record keeping is essential. The value of record keeping cannot be overstated as it is the primary ingredient to compiling a transcript for college. Each year I would begin our year with “goals and objectives,” that I would review at least monthly. I had a calendar and add misc. things the girls did daily as I might add it to their monthly highlights. (completion of Drivers Ed, purchase of first car, vacations, illnesses, jobs, vacations, etc.) Today preparing for this talk and reading over the comments is priceless and honestly there is so much I have forgotten about.
Universities are looking for “something different.” In fact when Caryn and I talked to the Dean of Communications at UT she told us that what made Caryn stand apart from other applicants was 1) Her GPA from the ACC was a 4.0; 2) all the books she had read were truly impressive; 3) her community service plus working as a photographer showed passion, and more importantly 4) having lived in Africa for 6 months showed independence. You can build an impressive high school transcript by expanding far beyond what conventional schools offer but keep good records.
2) Know your State Graduation Requirements. Regardless of what curriculum or path you decide to use know what is required for graduation. Below are three links to help you. Each state is different so be sure to look at your state requirements.
- Home School Facts this is a great resource for home schoolers.
- TEA provides you with information regarding the Texas high school graduation requirements.
3) Count credit hours using the above information make a chart and list out what your student needs to graduate. Remember you need to know where you are going and how to get there. What college does your student want to attend? Look at that college and meet those requirements. Below is an example of the credits you should amass living in Texas depending on if your student wants to achieve the minimum or distinguished program.
- English Language Arts: 4 credits including a year of American Literature and a Year or World Literature, plus any of the following Composition, World Lit, British Lit, Rhetoric, Creative Writing, Speech, Journalism, etc. Consider AP courses
- Math: 3-4 credits such as Algebra, Geometry, Algebra 2 and 1 more difficult math
- Science: 2-4 Physical Science, General Science, Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics Consider AP courses
- Social Studies: 2.5-3.5 credits including US History, World History, Government
- Economics: .5 credits
- Foreign Language: 0-3 credits of the same language such as French, Spanish, Latin, German, Russian, etc.
- PE/Health: 2 credits
- Fine Arts: 1 credit of Art, Music, Drama, Photography, etc.
- Electives: 3.5-5.5 credits including Practical Arts, Life Skills, Computer Skills, Bible, Church History, etc.
- TOTAL 22-26 credits needed to graduate in Texas.
Another good resource is Home School Legal Defense A credit is basically equivalent to a years study of subject at school. It can be counted in a couple of ways. AP classes usually count for more credits. Another option is to study for and test through a course using standardized tests such as CLEP exams, AP exams, or SAT2 exams. Interestingly enough, passing these tests can earn you college credit as well. My daughter Courtney earned 6 credits this way
Ways to earn credits faster:
CLEP The College-Level Examination Program® (CLEP) helps you receive college credit for what you already know, for a fraction of the cost of a college course. The student studies the material and then takes a test. If they pass they get the credits for that subject. Perfect for the student who doesn’t like classroom environments like one of my girls.
Dual credits Many academically strong juniors and seniors (15+ age) take advantage of dual credit options which allow students to take college courses that simultaneously fulfill high school graduation requirements. By doing this, a high school student will earn credit for not only the college course, but, also, for the equivalent high school course. There are enormous cost savings to be had taking advantage of this option but know your child as I have known of a few young adults lead astray.
4) Testing – There are many advantages to testing. I have always had my daughters tested so they could feel more comfortable with this necessary skill. Testing helped me evaluate areas of weakness. Testing can help your high school students in their quest for college admission and scholarships with strong test scores. The PSAT is a two-hour test given once a year in October. Many students take the PSAT, not only as preparation for the SAT taken in theirsenior year and widely used as a major criterion for college admissions, but also to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. The most commonly taken test is the SAT I Reasoning exam. Almost every four-year college in the country requires applicants to submit scores from the SAT I exam or its lesser known counterpart. I highly encourage you to prepare your students for these test. We used Viv Lynn who is passionate about equipping students through her classes and workshops. We took her class twice and my girls test scores improved as a result.
5) Create a Portfolio It’s key to not blend in, rather stand apart from the crowd. Remember, a portfolio reflects the personality of your child. It should indicate how well that student is preparing for life after graduation. The student is building a picture of who they desire to be and how they are in the process of getting there.
Some suggestions on what to include in your portfolio include:
Personal Information (Include students birth certificate, SS card, DL, photo of student, etc)
Employment (Include letters of recommendation from employers, evaluations, etc.)
Letters of Recommendations (I included a few from teachers, employers, etc.)
• A complete transcript listing course grades, GPA, and credits (I prepared this myself as it’s not hard to do)
• Sample assignments (we included the course syllabus, listed all books read during high school, and included several required projects and writing samples)
• Test scores, including TAKS, PSAT, ACT, and SAT results; (Recording keeping is essential)
• Academic recognition (I included all grades and comments from outside teachers at One Day Academy and else where)
• Academic camps and summer/college classes attended (Worldview Academy Camp, Teen Business Camp, Speech & Debate Camp, etc)
Extra Curricular/ Misc. Activities and Interest
- Leadership skills (Teen Pact, Worldview Academy, Ms. Austin Teen Pageant, etc)
- Participation in sports (Camps and achievements)
- Community service (volunteering at local nursing home, serving homeless, etc)
- Travel (l listed mission trips plus the purpose of each trip. I also included places the girls traveled to – Norway, Europe, Mexico, Africa, etc)
My biggest take away from our college entrance experience was that it was really much easier than I thought it would be, especially since we kept good records and didn’t wait until the last minute to pull it together. Depending on where your student desires to attend will dictate how elaborate it should be.
Both daughters went to college and finished well. Caryn finished from UT with a degree in photojournalism and minor in international cultural studies. She received several recommendations from her professors and honors for her projects. The beauty of home education is students progress at their pace so Courtney finished high school when she was 16 and began taking college classes on-line which suited her personality so well that she earned her degree in psychology without ever having to walk onto a college campus. Courtney finished with a 3.98 GPA and many honors. They both have a college degree but more importantly they are life changers loving others well through ministry and loving God thus I feel I did my job well.
The question I was asked to answer on the panel was, “”How did you discern your children’s career desires/passions and how did that direct their educational choices both in high school and transitioning beyond high school?
My short answer is to know your child(ren) well. Become a student of each child. Read how.
Join me tomorrow for my complete answer 😉 along with suggestions on beginning the discovery journey.