(The following is a guest post from Sara Porras.)
If you’ve homeschooled for any length of time, you’ve heard the question, “But, what about high school?” or “How will they ever get into college?” They don’t understand that you don’t really teach high school, but rather you become their guidance counselor. You choose or help your students, select curriculum, books to read, or even help them find co-op classes or a few online live courses where they learn subjects like Algebra, Latin, or history from a more learned teacher.
When starting my research on homeschooling high school, everyone’s advice seemed to have to do with getting the students into college. Teens take courses to prepare themselves for the college entrance exams, the ACT and the SAT, they volunteer in the community, participate in sports, and they might even earn a few college credits all to appease those college admission counselors. I started to wonder how hard it could be to “get in?” And although I’m in no hurry to rush them off into a college classroom and or onto a college campus, couldn’t they just start by taking some classes while in high school? What about college-level exams?
The first time I learned about CLEP exams, College Level Examination Program, my understanding was that they were a great way to prove your student had taken courses with academic rigor and that they had mastery of the material they had studied. Honestly, I didn’t know if my bright, but mostly average kids could pass a college-level exam. I had also heard horror stories of kids earning multiple college credits from one source or another, later to learn their student’s college of choice would never accept the credits. I was skeptical.
CLEP Exams can save time and money!
My research quickly led me to some astonishing information. While watching a wonderful webinar by Becky Muldrow of Dual Credit at Home, I learned that not only are homeschool high school students passing these exams and earning college credit, they are also earning associate degrees, and some are earning four year Bachelor degrees.
They are doing it for a small fraction of the cost of attending a brick and mortar school. There are accredited colleges that accept many college credits via college equivalency exams, dual credit exams, and more! Consider Liberty University, which accepts 75% of 120 credits needed for most bachelor’s degree as transfer credits. Three colleges, known as “The Big Three,” accept almost all credits via transfer. Charter Oak State College, a regionally accredited online college, accepts 114 transfer credits. They offer Bachelor degrees that, if carefully planned, can be obtained for less than $6,000! Our college funds are currently pretty small. However, if we can combine college and high school at the same time, I believe they can finish their undergraduate degree debt-free.
Planning is Key
When planning to do college and high school simultaneously, it’s important to plan well. You want to make sure your student meets at least your state’s homeschool high school requirements if any. You also need to know the transfer policies at the college your student plans to complete their studies with. Most of the general education or lower-level classes needed for a Bachelor degree are the same subject high school students study. Your student will study subjects at a high school level, add in some extra study and then take and pass a 90-120 minute college-level exam which helps them bank college credit and you can issue them high school credit for their time and effort while studying to learn the material.
Our CLEP Exam Journey Begins
Not one to enjoy wasting time or money and enjoying a good challenge, I plunged in with this journey last fall, my twins’ Freshman year of high school. I recommend starting with a subject your student enjoys as your first exam. For our boys, it was US History, and I had already planned to have them study this subject. They began high school history, Omnibus III from Veritas Press in the fall. They did extra studying using Quizlet’s free games, and online flashcards with Speedyprep (HSLDA offers members a discount for Speedyprep.) By February, they were ready to take the plunge and just see how the testing would go with CLEP US History I.
Our First Test!
The staff was quiet and calm when we arrived, and all eyes were on us as they noticed the ages of our kids. They asked if we knew these were college-level exams and there was no guarantee of passing. We paid the $25 proctor fee, per test; fees vary among testing centers. The boys were sent into the testing room and out of my line of sight.
I waited in the lobby for the first hour of the 90-minute exam and returned to wait for the rest of the time in the small testing office just outside the exam room. The receptionist asked where the boys went to school and how old they were. She said quietly, “Oh, I see. Well, a passing score is 50, for most colleges, and we typically see scores just under that or slightly over. Occasionally, someone studies hard and manages a score in the 60’s.”
I told her that I honestly, just wanted them to pass. These exams are pass or fail, and at most schools, will not earn a grade. Ten minutes later, our son Luke emerged from the exam room with a large smile on his face. The receptionist took his printed score off the printer and said, “Nice job, young man!” as she mouthed the words “Seventy-one!” to her co-workers. Two other staff members came out from behind their cubicles to congratulate them. They also asked about homeschooling and when we planned to return for the next test! In the meantime, our other son completed his test with a respectable 68! We were elated.
Banking College Credits
Since then, they have banked 12 college credits by passing the Civil War and Reconstruction DSST, which is another college exam worth a 400 level college history course at most schools that accept CLEP, the CLEP American Government, and CLEP US History II. They could also take CLEP American History, which we plan to take next year, which will earn 3-6 credits depending on the transfer school.
Day to day while preparing for an exam and doing high school? We are currently working on studying a few high school classes, like Algebra II and Spanish, plus one exam at a time. On an average day during this past spring, they would spend an hour doing their high school level history curriculum, thirty minutes practicing online flashcards with SpeedyPrep or Instantcert, around 45 minutes watching videos reviewing the material with Study.com, and around 15 minutes doing the review questions from the free membership with Modern States.
After completing the courses with Modern States, they offer a free voucher to pay for the $89 CLEP exam and will even reimburse the proctor fee. They offer this to the first 10,000 students to apply each year.) After getting through the Study.com videos, about three weeks per exam, they would spend a week doing practice tests from either Peterson’s or REA and reviewing any areas they were weak in and then they took the exam. The practice exams were equal to or harder than the actual exam. It is a lot of work. Some subjects will require more time for us. But their success has motivated us to press forward.
Planning for Success
Our son, Luke, has zeroed in on a Bachelor degree in Government with a concentration in Policy and Politics from Liberty University Online. They accept up to 90 credits of the 120 needed for a degree to be transfer credits. Because several CLEP exams are worth 6 credits and some language exams are worth up to 12 credits, I believe they can finish all of their general education credits within the next year. We won’t have Luke actually apply to Liberty until he has earned around 80 credits including all of his general education credits which he will earn through these examinations.
During high school, he also plans to volunteer or intern for a non-profit lobbying group which defends school choice, life, and the freedom of religion. Our son Grant is working on his general education requirements and considering all his options including aviation, biology, or cartography. They are working hard toward their goals to complete high school along with a degree at the same time or shortly after and are already eager to work in an area of their interests to make a difference. We’re enjoying the ride.
(Are you interested in CLEP courses for your high school student? Check out our CLEP Prep Course offerings at True North Homeschool Academy.)
Sara Porras is married to her active-duty military sweetheart, has been homeschooling their three boys since 2011, she enjoys portrait photography, prepping schoolwork plans and tutors online part-time.
To begin your homework on this journey, I recommend checking out Academic Advising and Orienteering at True North Homeschool Academy, Becky Muldrow’s Dual Credit At Home, Homeschooling for College Credit, and Free-Clep-Prep.
Would you love to create a unique and much-needed addition to your homeschool group or co-op? Plan and host a homeschool college and career fair for your group! This will be my fourth year creating this one of a kind experience for our local teens. So I am going to share with you all the details on planning a homeschool college and career fair for YOUR group!
Why Your Group Needs a Homeschool College and Career Fair
When you decide to homeschool, you take on a weighty load. Being responsible for your child’s education can be fraught with moments of mom guilt and worry that you are going to ruin your child.
Then you do something even crazier! You decide to homeschool during the high school years. Keeping records, choosing the best curriculum for the right year, and making sure you cover all the correct course takes over your thoughts. In the midst of all this stress, it can be easy to see “completing high school” as the ultimate goal. In reality, though, finishing high school is only part of the puzzle. We are also preparing our teens for the next step – post graduate education and/or career development.
Part of the reason I went forward with planning a homeschool college and career fair for my homeschool group was an awareness about our tendencies as homeschoolers to move career development to the back burner. And I get it! It can be challenging enough accomplishing everything that needs to be covered by our student for a high school diploma.
The other reason I created a homeschool college and career fair is that I am just a little passionate (read obsessed) with seeing people connect with their interests. That amazing moment when a person connects with the “right” job, receiving energy from a day’s work is amazing!
6 Benefits to Planning a College and Career Fair
There are some amazing benefits to a local homeschool college and career fair!
- The fair can be tailored to the specific needs of homeschoolers.
- Parents and teens can begin identifying schools of interest as they talk to colleges, asking questions.
- Parents can also gain a lot of knowledge on important dates, ACT/SAT, financial aid, the application process, and dual enrollment.
- It is a fun evening hanging out with friends and listening to speakers making career development less intimidating for teens.
- Students are exposed to a wide variety of careers, increasing the likelihood of sparking interest in a certain career field.
- Colleges are given the opportunity to witness first-hand the caliber of homeschool students.
Planning a Homeschool College and Career Fair
A homeschool college and career night, while a lot of leg work, is completely doable and fun for any homeschool group. Our homeschool group has around 100 families in a small Midwestern town, just to give you an idea of our size and budget, or should I say, lack of budget 🙂
The College and Career Fair has two elements that have made it an event that lots of families attend and teens request!
Local Colleges Are Invited to the Fair
First, the college aspect of the fair. One element to the fair is asking local colleges to come. Any college within an hour is typically happy to come. I started with a larger Christian college and our local community colleges the first year as they were the most receptive. The military is often thrilled to have the opportunity to attend too. Began making your phone calls several months prior so that you can get on the college and university’s calendars
Our event is the last week of February, and I start making phone calls in the fall.
By planning out several months ahead and speaking of our past attendance, I was able to draw more colleges in the second and third year.
Allow Colleges to Set up Tables and Speak at Break Out Sessions
Colleges are eager to have opportunities to speak so that makes your job easier. The evening is broken into various sessions and two tracks: Parent Track and Teen Track. Different colleges are invited to speak to the parents (teens are welcome to join, of course) on topics like how to apply to college, financial aid, scholarships or taking college classes while still in high school programs.
Having colleges speak on various topics works well for two reasons. Parents are more eager to attend if they believe that they can receive lots of information in one evening. And colleges are happy to put your fair on their list to gain the opportunity for a roomful of an engaged group of parents and teens.
Sweeten the deal by allowing colleges to set up booths where teens and parents can stop and ask questions before and after sessions.
Invite Local Career Professionals to College Fair to Speak with Teens
The other part of the program, Teen Track, is geared to the teens. For the “career” part of the evening, local professionals are invited to come and speak about their chosen career field. We include 7th grade and up, though you will find the younger siblings that come along are almost more excited!
Professionals share with the teens what a typical day looks like and what some of their duties are. Teen Track speakers also share characteristics or personality types that seem to thrive in that career field and education routes. Career speakers may also choose to share salary, perks of the job and some NOT so great things about the job.
How Do I Get Speakers to Come to a Homeschool College Night?
Most homeschool groups are run on a tiny budget. So how do you get speakers to come?
Some speakers will be compensated by their job because some public relation work is required of them. So several speakers will jump at the chance to talk to an interested audience while fulfilling the required hours.
Other speakers will just want to help out since they LOVE to talk about their job and want others to know about it.
Utilize parents in your homeschool group and homeschool graduates. Brainstorm with another homeschool parent about the parents and careers that are represented in your group. Invite some of your homeschool graduates to come back and speak too! You will be surprised when you start thinking about how many people you know that have interesting jobs!:)
Also, think about people you go to church with as they are a great resource too.
Another incentive is the opportunity to connect with families and advertise their business. If a speaker has a business allow them to hand out their literature to those in their group. Once we invited a local lawyer who was running for judge. He spoke on being a lawyer but also did a little campaigning! Worked for everybody! Another speaker was writing a Bible study manual. She taught about writing and self-publishing while sharing how to purchase her book. Win, Win!
If you are a personality test junkie like myself you realize that some personalities are drawn to certain jobs. So don’t worry about having every job represented. But do try to think do I have a job that a “creative” might like or a teen that is gifted in “leadership” will find interesting.
Discovering Your God-Given Gifts by Don and Katie Fortune covers the spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible and has served as a rich resource when thinking of job “types” to include at the fair.
Discovering Your God-Given Gifts has also been such a blessing when it comes to volunteering in the community and in the local church. You began to see others and their gifts in a whole new light that makes it easier to work with others and appreciate their gifts.
What The Homeschool College and Career Fair Schedule May Look Like
For our homeschool college fair evening, we split it into 4 sessions. When the teens arrive they receive a schedule of the speakers with a brief biography of the speakers on the back. Each speaker talks for two 25 minute sessions, unless they can only do one session. Typically, the teens will have 4 different speakers to choose from for each session.
The evening moves quickly! Prep your speakers beforehand that you will have to stop them after 25 minutes to give the kids time to move to the next class. Speakers may share their business information, if they so choose, to allow an interested teen to contact them with questions or set up a job shadow!
Planning a homeschool college and career fair is so rewarding! Parents, teens and even the speakers all reap the benefits from this amazing evening. If you are feeling led to create a homeschool college fair, step out in faith. And I hope by sharing, you realize how doable it is for your homeschool group! Comment below with any questions!
(Need more great advice about preparing your homeschool student for their career? Check out our career-related posts.
I’m Miranda, The Reluctant Cowgirl. Educator and Vibrant Life Mentor. A city girl married to a country boy! The Reluctant Cowgirl encourages busy moms of tweens and teens to care for their emotional health so they are better equipped to care for the well-being of their family. Single parent, blended family, homeschool mom, heart attack survivor…I’ve been there. After 15 years of facilitating groups, I have witnessed the challenges that so many moms of tweens and teens face in life. And I know that you are doing your best to take care of your family. But are you taking care of your personal growth and self-care? Find practical advice for an emotionally vibrant life at The Reluctant Cowgirl. Join Me!