Planning to get your AA degree while homeschooling high school

There are as many high school plans as there are high schoolers, and what works for one family isn’t going to work for another.  There are also so many new options today for our teenagers to earn college or vocational credit while still in high school, and trying to navigate them all can be overwhelming.

In our state, it is possible for a student to graduate high school with an AA degree at the same time because of the numerous dual enrollment classes available.  (You can read more about dual enrollment coming up in my Planning for College series).  When our oldest started high school last year she decided that was the path she wanted to take.  As I started researching AA degree requirements, the bachelor degree program she wants to pursue at the university, and then our state graduation requirements, I quickly realized that this was going to take some serious planning.

You can download my free planning worksheets here:
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High School & Degree Planner
Although you will probably need to modify them for your specific needs, it should give you a framework to keep yourself organized.

 

 

The first thing I did was to list out the state graduation requirements on the left column of the high school sheet.  I broke them out by grade, placing the 2 years of foreign language in 9th and 10th grade to get them out of the way and free up space in 11th and 12th to take college classes.  In our state, there are minimum graduation requirements, and then there are an additional set of credits a student needs if they wish to pursue a degree from one of the state universities.  I based this spreadsheet on the 2nd set of requirements.

Homeschool High School Planner

 

 

 

 

 

Next I switched over to the AA sheet and pulled up the requirements our community college has for an AA degree. I listed each grouping of credits and the number of hours on the left.  The last thing I did was to pull up the document our state provides that tells me what high school credits students receive for specific college courses.  (For example, ENC1101 is worth 0.5 English high school credits).  I found this document in the dual enrollment section of our community college’s website.  If you can’t find it online, try calling your home education contact with your county or the dual enrollment coordinator for your local college. Now I have the roadmap of where I’m going.  Time to start filling in the pieces.

In our state, students can start taking dual enrollment classes in their junior year.  So 9th and 10th grade would be all our own classes with an AP history class each year.  (There is no minimum age to take the AP tests.  You can read more about what APs are here, and how I created my own class to prepare for the test here).

Under the course column on the high school sheet I began to fill in the classes for the first 2 years.  If I already knew the specific curriculum I wanted to use I put it there, but if not I just used the more generic “English II” or “Biology.”  Next to each class I filled in the high school credit each is worth.  Most high school classes will be worth 1 full credit, but there are a few that are worth a half credit.

Homeschool High school planner

 

 

 

 

For the 2 AP tests that we are doing I went to the College Board website and noted the amount of college credit and which course our community college was giving for a passing score.  I put these into the appropriate column next to the AP class.  Then I clicked on the AA sheet and entered these courses into the right section. To determine what section to put them in, refer to your community college’s AA degree requirements.  They should have a list of the courses you can choose from for each category.

AA degree planner

 

 

 

 

Now you can see what core courses you have left for the AA degree and begin filling them in on the high school sheet. Be sure to pay attention to pre-requisites.  For example, you might have to finish ENC1102 before you can take a literature class.  So 11th grade English would need to be ENC1101 and ENC1102, then put the literature class in as one of your 12th grade English classes.

You should now have all or almost all your English, Math, Science, and possibly History high school graduation requirements filled in on your high school sheet.  In our state, there are additional elective credits above these core credits that we can now use to fill in with the rest of our AA degree requirements.  Our AA degree program here leaves 24 hours for elective credits.  So how do you decide what to take?

If your student is planning on pursuing a bachelor’s degree, I highly recommend visiting that university’s website to see what that degree requires for the first 60 hours and trying to take as many of those classes as possible.  Many universities will have information for students transferring to their degree programs that is helpful. For our university, they have a list of courses students must complete before they transfer.  We need to be sure to use these as some of our electives.  Another option is to have your student take electives that are in areas of interest.  Maybe a photography class, an art class, or creative writing.

Whatever direction your student wants to go, early planning can help make sure they get there.  My high schooler and I sit down every now and then and review our plan and make any changes we feel necessary.  As a homeschool mom you have to play both teacher and guidance counselor, so don’t be surprised if you often have to find the answers you need on your own.  However, persistence pays off, and if you keep at it, you and your student can make a great plan to help them achieve their goals!

How I created my own homeschool AP course

How to create a homeschool AP course

AP is a copyright of the College Board.

Last year we started homeschooling high school with our oldest. Her goal is to earn as much college credit during high school as possible, and one of the ways we are doing that is by taking AP exams.  (You can read more about what the AP exams are and how your student can earn college credit in my post on college planning). Our state has a free online public school that we can use to take classes, and have done so for a few in the past.  They did offer the particular AP class she wanted, but we decided to do our own thing and create a homeschool “AP” course ourselves.

When trying to choose which exam to take, it’s important to realize that some exams are harder than others – especially when it comes to getting a 5. Choosing a course in a subject that your student is interested in and excels in will give them a better chance of getting a high score.  PrepScholar has a great article listing the passing rates of the exams from 2014 and a discussion on what those rates mean.

The only way to label your course as AP is to submit your course information to the College Board and go through their AP Course Audit.  Since I’m only teaching my 2 kids and have no plans to create an online course, this was not something I wanted to pursue, nor was it necessary.  We were fine with just an “AP” like course (which you could certainly label as an Honors course).

Before I go into how I planned this course, I wanted to mention something that is important for you to research before you choose not to enroll in an official AP course somewhere.  Many colleges and universities give different GPA weights to AP classes over honors.  I would contact the admissions office of the colleges your child is thinking of attending and ask them what their policy is for this when it comes to homeschoolers.  Our university of choice told me that if my child has a corresponding AP Test score to the course that they will weight it as AP.  I was sure to get that in writing and I am keeping it in our high school portfolio for later reference.  If your university will not give the extra weight to the grade, I would consider the impact that has on their GPA before moving forward.

Planning your course

Step 1: Purchase the test prep book for your selected exam.

The test prep books for the new year’s exams are usually available in August.  The exams don’t normally change drastically from one year to the next, so if you want to start planning before the current book comes out, the previous year’s book should work just fine.  When the new books come out it’s worth at least looking through the opening chapter to see if there are any changes for the new exam.

The test prep books are going to list for you the major themes of the course.  In the particular course we did last year there were 7.  I used this for my framework to build the rest of the course around and also to help me plan how long we could spend on each section.

Step 2: Decide on a text book.

Depending on which exam your student is taking, you might want a text book to use as the main source of material.  The College Board has a list of recommended texts on their educator page for each specific exam. You might decide that the text is not necessary, but it was helpful to me to see what most formal classes use.  A quick google search will bring up not only the College Board page but also links on where to rent or buy the texts.  Below are links to some of the more popular exams’ book lists:

AP English Language

AP English Literature

AP Human Geography

AP World History

AP U.S. History

AP European History

AP American Government

AP Macroeconomics

AP Psychology

Step 3: Search online for resources.

One of the great things about this day and age is that it can be really easy to find tons of great resources online.  A google search of the AP Exam we wanted to take led me to several sites of suggested syllabi, project ideas, test tips and more. Saving these to a Pinterest board or to a site like Evernote can allow you to search now and analyze later.  Pinterest is also a fantastic resource for infographics, videos, and strategies for your chosen exam.

Step 4: Determine your timeframe.

Go to the College Board site and find out when your exam is offered. Decide how many days/weeks you want to allow for review (I would suggest at least 2 weeks) and back up that long from the exam date.  This will give you the date you need to finish the main course work.  Take the date you plan on starting the course and count how many weeks you have until the finish date you determined.  Divide that by the number of sections or themes from the AP test prep book.  This will tell you how long to spend on each section.

Step 5: Create your course outline.

This will be different for everyone, but what I did was group my resources into the major themes and go through them to determine what I wanted to use and what I didn’t really need.  You can determine what chapters from the text you want to cover for each theme and assign them accordingly based on your timeframe.

It’s important that your student gets plenty of practice on the types of questions the exam will have, as well as understanding how to do the essay portion.  For me, the easiest way to incorporate that is by using the sample tests from the test prep book as our course tests.  I assigned writing assignments based on the essay questions from the test prep book throughout the course.  You can also view past exams’ essay questions on the apstudent.collegeboard.org site for the individual exam.

For us, the flexibility of studying the AP course material on our own was worth the effort it took for me to compile it all.  We were able to move at her pace, taking time where she needed it and moving on where she didn’t.  In fact, I’m devoting most of my summer planning to working on my outline for next year’s history AP! 🙂

 

Planning for College: Earning Homeschool AP Credit

How to earn homeschool AP credit

College tuition costs are generally determined by a specific charge per credit hour.  The average class is 3 hours for an undergraduate course, which right now at my state’s university would cost around $630.  The average bachelor degree requires 120 hours of courses, or over $25,000 and up.  These tuition rates have been climbing at a steady 5% a year.  Depressed yet?  Well don’t be.  There are ways to cut these costs way down, and as homeschoolers we have more opportunity than most to take advantage of them.

One of the easiest ways to lower tuition costs is to lower the number of credit hours your student has to pay for, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by earning credit in high school.

This post’s focus will be on earning homeschool AP credit.  AP stands for Advanced Placement and is a copyright of the College Board.

The AP tests are administered each May by the College Board (the same people who do the SAT and PSAT) at local public high schools around the country.  The tests generally last around 3 hours and include a combination of multiple choice and essay writing.  There are more than 35 different subjects available to earn AP credit.  The idea behind AP is that the student would study a particular subject during the school year at a college level and then take the test in May.  The student earns a high school credit for the course, and depending on their score and desired college, could also earn 3-6 hours of college course credit.

In order for a course to be labeled as AP, the College Board requires the school to submit the course outline to them for an AP Audit.  You can read more about that on their educator section here.  As homeschoolers, most of us don’t have the time or the need to submit our plans for the audit, because you can still teach the material without having the AP label.  So how do you do it?

I recommend purchasing one of the major AP study guides on the market for the subject you want to teach.  This will give you the framework you need to plan out your curriculum.  There are also a few online courses you can enroll your student in if you would prefer not to teach it yourself.  Our state virtual school has classes for all of the most popular AP tests.  You can read more about how I planned our own homeschool course here.

You are not required to do any particular coursework to sign up for most of the AP tests.  For some subjects, working through the one of the AP study guides could be enough to prepare your student to pass.  This is not usually the case, but it is an option.  These tests are rigorous, and the essay portion differs from test to test, so it’s important to take preparation seriously.

Each test is administered only once, either in the morning or afternoon.  As a homeschooler, you would need to call your local high school and ask to speak with their AP testing coordinator sometime in the first half of the school year, but absolutely no later than the first week in March.  Explain to them that you have a homeschool student that you would like to register for the AP test.  You usually will have to pay for the exam (around $80) and bring your student up to the school to fill out some sort of registration.  The College Board has information on their site about how we as homeschoolers can register for the exams here that might be useful to direct the school administrator to if you have any issues.

Your student will need to create an account online in order to receive updates and their test scores.  The https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/home page has all the information they need.  Test scores are usually released in July.  The College Board has a tab where you can type in the college or university your child wants to attend and see a list of the scores required and credits given.  This differs from school to school and it’s also a good idea to check with the college’s site as well to get the most up to date information.  In many cases, scoring a 4 on the exam will earn them 6 hours of credit!  In other words, an $80 test can earn you over $1200 worth of tuition reduction – a pretty good trade off if you ask me!

 

SAT Test Prep The Easy Way

sat prep

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I took some great classes at our local homeschool convention. One of the most outstanding was a class on preparing for homeschooling high school and how to get scholarship money for college taught by Jean Burk from College Prep Genius.

Workbook and DVD from CollegePrepGenius

Workbook and DVD from CollegePrepGenius

Jean was a homeschool mom who decided to find out all she could on the SAT and PSAT tests to help her oldest get into college, and to attend for as little as possible. Her research resulted in a full ride to just about any college he wanted – in fact she said they threw away 7 garbage bags of acceptance letters! What Jean found was not that your child has to be a genius to get these high scores and awards, but that he or she needs to understand how the test is written.

Unlike the ACT, which is a content based exam, the SAT is a logic based test. This means that there is a way to think critically through the question asked and answers provided WITHOUT having to ‘know’ the math formulas or the vocabulary. I was skeptical at first, but Jean walked us through several examples in the lecture and I understood exactly what she was saying! In fact, later at her booth I was joking with her that I was relieved I no longer needed to teach my kids higher math. 🙂 (If only that was so!) What this means is that the kids can actually learn the test, and by doing so score much higher. Higher scores means more money for college. I like those words.

Collegeprepgenius.com has several products to help prepare your kids for the SAT. I purchased the ‘kit’ that includes a DVD with classes on it, a workbook that teaches the SAT and has sample questions, her book on high school preparation, and 6 fiction books that are full of vocabulary words often tested on the SAT. You can get these items individually as well. I just got them in the mail a couple of days ago, and after looking through everything I have been really impressed.

You may wonder why I am worrying about the SAT now when my oldest is only a rising 8th grader. First, I’m always looking ahead and I figured that the more practice the kids have with these tests, the better they will score. 9th grade is only a year away for us, so why not give her time to get a feel for the test before hand? Secondly, if you participate in Duke’s TIP program, they actually begin giving the kids the real SAT in 7th grade. My oldest will be doing that in December, so it makes sense to start preparing for it a little bit now.

There are lots of test prep classes and techniques out there. So far, I have been really impressed with everything I have seen from Jean Burk. The true test will be in our ultimate scores, but I know if nothing else going through this course will take away some of the test anxiety they might have otherwise felt. Plus, going through the DVD course and all the practice testing will give the kids a semester high school credit for test prep too.

Check out more test prep ideas on my Test Prep Pinterest Board.

Do any of you have experience with this course or another test prep?

*The SAT and PSAT are registered trademarks of the College Entrance Examination Board, and the products at CollegePrepGenius are copyrights of Maven of Memory Publishing.

Homeschool High School Curriculum and Help from the Convention

I spent all day yesterday at a local homeschool convention. It was my first time attending any kind of homeschool specific convention. We were able to attend training, classes, and visit with vendors directly in the main hall.

Since I already purchased the majority of our curriculum, I wasn’t worried so much about making it to the vendor hall, but I’m glad I did. There were a lot of new vendors there with some really great products and ideas, especially for high school. Since I have a rising 8th grader (curriculum wise) I’m all about high school and college prep planning right now. Over the next few days I’ll discuss in more detail what I learned at my classes, but today I wanted to provide a round-up of some of the great services and products I saw.

High School Bible Curriculum:

Practical Proverbs: This book is also available for younger students. Organized by character traits, the students walk through the Proverbs and learn what they mean practically. For example, what does it mean to a teenager to guard their heart? How do they do that in real life?

Cat and Dog Theology: I got to talk to these guys for a while at the convention, and I just LOVE this curriculum! They manage to teach very convicting truths in a funny way using cats and dogs. It’s by no means light on the theology or juvenile, and I believe that adults would really enjoy and benefit from this as well. The first year is available now, and they are releasing the next 3 years’ worth of curriculum in a phased timeframe.

High School Planning:

I already knew how important creating a good and comprehensive high school transcript is, and I realize there are a lot of people who find this intimidating. There are several great ladies out there who have books that walk you step by step through this process. Two of which I have talked to personally are:

Barb at LearningAtHome.org
Joanne with Piecing Together the High School Puzzle

High School Curriculum:

I took a class sponsored by VideoText.com, and I like his emphasis on explaining the ‘why’ of mathematics as well as his ideas on the proper progression of math subjects. The math is taught via video, which can be more engaging to the student. I’m looking into this a little more, and I have it in my idea file to see if I’m going to stick with Life of Fred for high school math or switch.

I am working on our high school plan based on what my daughter wants to do for college, and I’ll share more of how I’m doing that in another post. In the meantime, I have created a Pinterest board where I am bookmarking these curriculum ideas to reference later.