Thursday, July 30, 2015

Test Optional? Really?

Since George Washington University announced it joined the ranks of "test optional" schools, home educators wonder what it means for them.

Though some universities are moving toward test optional for public and private schooled graduates, not all schools are following suit for college-bound, home-educated students. We personally found it wise and helpful to research the admission requirements for our student's top colleges of choice, first and then work to meet those requirements. Though we were pleasantly surprised to find some test optional or test flexible, others were not.

So, which schools are really test optional for home educated grads at the time of research, July 2015?

Adventist University of Health Sciences, Orlando, FL
Agnes Scott College, Decatur, GA
Albright College, Reading, PA
Allegheny College, Meadville, PA
American University, Washington, D.C. (home education admissions link)
Arkansas Baptist College, Little Rock, AR
Bay State College, Boston, MA
Bellevue University, Bellevue, NE
Beloit College, Beloit, WI
Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, Boston MA
Bryant University, Smithfield, RI
Bryn-Mawr College, Bryn-Mawr, PA
Catawba College, Salisbury, NC
City College, various locations, FL
Clark University, Worcester, MA
Emmanuel College, Boston, MA
Faith Evangelical College and Seminary, Tacoma, WA
Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, NY
Full Sail University, Winter Park, FL
Furman University, Greenville, SC
Providence College, Providence, RI
Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC

Colleges and universities may be added. Check back soon!

Note: Wording can be confusing. Interpreting the words should, must, advised, required, and recommend is essential. When there are questions, contact the admission office of the university.

When considering test optional universities, homeschoolers may want to consider:
  • Schools which list as test optional for general public and private school graduates, may not have the same policies for home educated graduates. Read the fine print.
  • Though the university may be test optional, supplemental information may be required including a homeschooling philosophy, curriculum used, and methods utilized. 
  • Colleges which accept students without SAT or ACT scores may require validations which may include dual enrollment grades.
  • Researching every college carefully, and recheck requirements yearly. Admission policies do change.
  • Test optional may mean "interview". Work to help your student be interview-ready. 
I have learned it is recommended that students take the SAT or ACT, at a minimum, while in high school. Though there are test optional universities, and the list may continue to grow, there still are many which have very specific application requirements. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Revised Celebrate High School Has Arrived!

The revision--which increased content by almost two-thirds--is here and ready for purchase.More details coming soon! 

Friday, July 17, 2015

The PERT: Postsecondary Education Readiness Test

A common question heard around the evaluation table this summer...

"What about the PERT?"

The PERT—Postsecondary Education Readiness Test—is a customized assessment used in Florida to measure students abilities and skills for the sake of course placement for postsecondary studies in the areas of math, reading and writing. The assessment is computer-adaptive—questions are computer-generated based on the previous question—with the results intended to help place students in classes where they will be most successful. There are 30 questions on each subtest. The test is not timed, an advantage for some students. 

For information regarding scoring and course placement, visit

Study guide resources can be found at the following links:
PERT video study resources
Seminole State frequently asked questions

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Benjamin West: Impromptu Mini Study

Celebrate the simple in learning

It's been a few years and a few children ago that we read Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry (yes, the author who wrote the beloved Misty of Chincoteague, another classic worthy of the read). The book introduced us to the Father of American Painting, an artist of whom we were unfamiliar.

Recently, the youngers were introduced to Benjamin and the olders were reacquainted while reading Benjamin West: Gifted Young Painter by Dorothea J. Snow, a biography from the Childhood of Famous Americans series. We were all intrigued, just as we were years ago at our first introduction.

Little known facts we learned:
  • Benjamin wrestled with how his God-given talent could possibly be woven with his Quaker faith, giving his family and his church a new perspective to consider. 
  • Benjamin was creative and industrious, making the best of what he had, from colored clay (insert science study here) to using his cat's fur to make paintbrushes (there is a character lesson of truth telling here but I won't spoil the story).
  • Benjamin was a court painter for King George III. 
  • Benjamin taught famous painters Gilbert Stuart (think famous portrait painter of George Washington) and John Trumbull (think Declaration of Independence
Interesting new vocabulary we learned from our reading journey through Benjamin West: Gifted Young Painter .
  • Satchel
  • Provost
  • Ramshackle
  • Aghast
  • Daub
  • Folly
  • Hautboy
  • Chortled
  • Nape
  • Comely
We finished the COFA biography today. As I read the last word of the book, a little perked up, interested:

"We have to find out more!"

Yes, we can. And so can you! Look up these painters in your favorite set of encyclopedia (yes, they still exist), explore Google images, and watch a few You Tube videos.

A good story sparks an interest.

Our little impromptu mini study sparked a new fire.

"Benjamin influenced many artists. Let's find out more about those artists."
  • Charles Willson Peale
  • Gilbert Stuart
  • John Trumbull
  • Thomas Sully
  • Samuel F. B. Morse

A spark ignites an interest, which in turn lights a new fire.

More to do:
  • Differentiate between portrait and self-portrait. Paint or draw your self-portrait.
  • Create a time line of the American history occurring at the time Benjamin West and the other painters were painting. What events were taking place? Did the painters have anything in common?
  • Talk about other events in American history happening about the same time. 
  • If you had the opportunity to meet Benjamin West, Gilbert Stuart or John Turnbull, what questions would you ask them about their work or the time in which they lived? 
  • Learn about the Quaker faith and how it is similar or different from the faith of your family.
  • Read Barbara Brenner's The Boy Who Loved to Draw, biography of Benjamin West. If reading more than one book about Benjamin West, discuss how the books are similar or different. Compare facts in each work.
A spark ignites an interest, which in turn lights a new fire.

That's the ever giving blessing of learning.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Natural Learning, Intentionally: High School- Part III- Cum Folders, Home Education Style

             Intentionality has paid off in the high school years. 

Thankfully, I realized early in my son's eighth grade year I would play the role of guidance counselor for my homeschooled high schooler. Meaning? I would be the liaison between school (us!) and college, the keeper of all things official. Yep, me, until the student was 18 (that is the topic of another intentional high school blog). No qualifications or degrees, "just" the mom who was overseeing the learning taking place in our home. If I didn't keep the records, no one would. The records I kept would influence my student's post secondary career (no pressure, right?)

Not much time was lost in regards to recovering the undocumented or potentially important information we needed to begin compiling a cum folder for our high schooler; not many tracks to retrace. And in the end, retracing was worth the effort. The folder became a gold mine, one of those things you tell people you would grab if the house were aflame.

Wow! Me, the keeper of the "cum folder", the folder about which school officials threaten and gloat, at least in the high school I attended. When things got serious students got the "that will go in your permanent cum folder" lecture; the file in which all things which hold the keys to the future reside.

When my son was in eighth grade I began researching the NCAA requirements. It became evident I would need specific documents for eligibility.

No one I knew had kept a cumulative folder of high school records so this was new territory for me. And, not a naturally organized person I was determined to start THAT DAY!  I purchased a 3 1/2 inch binder and some colored-tab separators to help me keep his paperwork organized. Armed with plastic protector sheets and a hole-punch, I sat down to begin compilation of the "cum folder". I started labeling tabs I knew we would need, and then added, trial-and-error, along our journey. Years later, as we began contacting colleges, I added tabs for copies of applications (yes, this was before they were online), scholarship applications, acceptance letters, and financial aid notifications.

At the end of four years, when writing the first edition of Celebrate High School, I decided to include the major section tabs we found helpful, knowing parents who read the book may find our tab titles helpful as they complied the cum folders for their students.

What tabs did we find helpful?

  • Activities
  • Awards
  • Certificates and Certifications
  • College Admissions Requirements
  • College Applications
  • College Major Requirements
  • Community Service/Volunteer Hours
  • Dual Enrollment Documents
  • Financial Aid Applications
  • Financial Aid Offers
  • Grades
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Medical Records
  • NCAA Eligibility
  • NCAA Home School Core Course Worksheets
  • Scholarship Applications
  • Scholarships Awarded
  • Test Scores
  • Transcripts
  • Work Experience
  • Writing Samples
*Note: These tab titles are our most recent (based on our experience with three unique high school students) and will be included in the revision of Celebrate High School. Not all tabs will be needed for every student. This list has been updated since the most recent edition of Celebrate High School and my blog post dated 07/29/2013.

Revised edition due out July 2015!

*The information in this blog post is not intended as legal or educational advice. It is simply a journal of what worked for us. Parents are responsible to oversee their child's home education.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Natural Learning, Intentionally: High School- Part II- Course Descriptions

              Intentionality has paid off in the high school years. 

The transcript provides a one-page snapshot of a young adult's high school course, grade, and credit summary. Course descriptions offer short synopses of the learning chapters in your student's story. Ideally, those course descriptions should complement--add value and give clarity--to the transcript document.

Why course descriptions? For students graduating from a public entity, course catalogs (also called course guides or curriculum guides) are available online (used to be paper and had to be requested from the guidance department) and follow the requirements (standards) of that state (or now in many cases, Common Core). Colleges know the set criteria and standards met in the classroom are standard for each course at every school in that state. So, there is no need for each school to write individual course descriptions for every class for every student.

Home education is different. A sculpture class in one home is likely to look entirely different than a sculpture class in another home. One student may enroll in a sculpture class at a local art studio. Another may have been invited to join an artist for weekly mentoring in a private studio. Yet another student may dual enroll a sculpture class at the local college. The same distinctiveness can be applied to a literature course (each home can choose their own literature selections) or a science course (where the student might be invited to take part in a research project at a local university). There is no standard way to meet course requirements (unless your state dictates differently--this post assumes parents have researched and know the home education statute for their state). Hence, some colleges use course descriptions to assess the depth and rigor of a home education course.

Some colleges ask for parents to write course descriptions.

It is part of their verification process.

Not all colleges ask for course descriptions. Some don't know they could, should or would even benefit from them. Others do not care because they have come to understand and prefer the quality students home education affords, and prefer to meet the student in person rather than on paper. However, with the eclectic mix of methods and means home educators utilize, the course descriptions do bring out the extraordinary opportunities homeschoolers have embraced.

I remember when I encountered the first college requesting course descriptions. Thankfully, we were still early in our high school journey so we could easily remember all the exceptional experiences our young adult benefited from in his courses, some variations of more traditionally taught classes (like the 10 dissections he completed in an Honors Biology class he took at a local co-op) as well as courses we designed based on independent study, research, and personal reading. The reading list he compiled on the computer helped tremendously as we reflected on all what was involved in each course.

From the first high schooler on down, I have diligently kept course descriptions current--with the exception of the year a baby was born in MAY! 

I have learned to:

Write course descriptions when the young adult begins the course (even if just the bare minimum is known: textbook, reading materials, anticipated experiential opportunities) and add significant educational highlights throughout the year. When I waited until the end of the year to write the whole description, I forgot some of the most beneficial learning blessings he experienced, no to mention getting my head above the project was monumental, or at least it seemed so when I felt I was drowning.

             Keeping current has saved me time and headache. 

I have to remind myself course descriptions tell the stories of the courses detailed on the transcript. It is the document college admissions personnel will reference as they consider offering admission and need more information to differentiate one student from another. A course description is not an outline of the course and will be less likely to read if lengthy. Course descriptions are chapter summaries, hitting the highlights, offering the concepts learned, the teaching methods and resources used, and exceptional experiences in which the student participated.

To capture the most significant, record keeping is essential.

Course descriptions are especially important if the parent and young adult are designing unique courses, courses not typically offered on local school campuses or courses not generally taught in high schools, for example Introduction to Equine Science, Survey of the Building Construction Industry, or Care and Concerns of the Elderly.

When I don't record regularly, I forget valuable additions. In our busy years, I found it helpful to open the course description document and add bullet points which I can revisit later and edit into cohesive sentences. Tackling course descriptions in this manner helps me remember important details and keeps me excited about what my young adult is accomplishing. When it is not in front of me, I tend to forget. 

I constantly must remind myself there are many ways to accomplish learning (this is true even of the state standards- the standard can be met with very different and unique methods). For example, think about American History. If two of the many learning goals for a high school level American History class are to understand the causes and consequences of the Civil War and the effects on the American people, and to understand the causes and consequences of World War II in the United States and abroad, the learning possibilities of how a student will understand those concepts is vast and plenty. Chapters in a text could be read and summary questions answered. On a family vacation up the East Coast of the United States, the family could visit and tour eight Civil War battlefields and National Parks and compare what actions were taken and who was involved at each location. The student could attend a local WWII veteran's meeting and listen to the stories shared by the members. Perhaps the local library hosts a presentation by surviving Tuskegee Airmen who share their wartime experiences from the perspective of African Americans serving during WWII (actual event we attended and it was AMAZING!). And then there are the plethora of primary source documents and biographical materials which could be read. Not only can the same learning goals be accomplished, but learning with this type of diversity allows young adults of different learning styles to retain information they might not otherwise remember. It is these exceptional and unique opportunities which can be highlighted in course descriptions, should a high schooling family choose to prepare this document or a college require it for admission. 

Being intentional about writing course descriptions proved most valuable for courses we designed or courses developed from internships and shadowing experiences. When designing a course, I felt it was important to keep a running log of educational experiences, online resources, and learning resources, just as I would if I were compiling a course as a traditional classroom teacher. 

As we progressed through high school and began researching colleges, I was thankful I had records of courses my student had completed. 

There are blessings to writing course descriptions. For us, the original course descriptions from my first high schooler could easily be cut, pasted, and edited to the unique experiences and opportunities of the high schoolers who followed. Second, though not all colleges asked for the description document, I sent them anyway. It was done and I wanted officials to have the document should they have questions. I know some parents feel this is a controversial and dangerous precedence for future home educated applicants, but in at least one situation those descriptions placed our young adult in a better position of acceptance in an honors college (because we couldn't document any of his courses as Honors or IB, which most of the applicants had earned). When the descriptions (which included reading materials) were read, the depth and expanse at which our young adult studied most of his courses could be realized. Our homeschool high school experience was just as rigorous as those students who had completed accredited IB programs. Note: Realizing that our student had the ability and desire to qualify for an IB or similar program, I researched the contents and reading materials utilized by these programs and then wove them into our studies. Again, this is our experience, not something I am advocating for every home schooled high schooler. 

Being intentional with writing course descriptions has served us well, in many cases. The work was done as we studied, and saved on the computer, should we need it. We did need it for our first applicant. With our second, because of dual enrollment and then an easy transition to the state college (and eventually a four-year university), the course descriptions were not necessary. On a side note, had our first and second grads followed their aspirations to play competitive collegiate sports (hence registering with the NCAA) having the course descriptions complete would have saved me a huge amount of time filling out their Core-Course Worksheets. Keep in mind as you consider NCAA and course titles, they prefer specific titles. Be aware.

This information (and more) is included in Celebrate High School. which is currently undergoing revision and update with an intended release date of late summer 2015. The revised edition will contain every thing in the original publication as well as some new features (including middle school sections) parents will find helpful as they celebrate high school.

*The information in this blog post is not intended as legal or educational advice. It is simply a journal of what worked for us. Parents are responsible to oversee their child's home education. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Integrating Literature and World History in High School

I am often asked how I design classes for our high school young adults. 

Actually, I don't design all their classes, only ones where there is a special interest, an intrinsically motivated independent study, a travel experience which sparks a study, or in a case where we can't find a traditional curriculum fitting our learning goals.

We have used several approaches to formulating classes based on strengths, interests, and the future plans of the young adult. 

Our oldest son had a great interest and gift for learning history. This was, by my understanding, his favorite subject in school. He read constantly, checking out books at the library and spending saved monies at museum and historical landmark book shoppes. He outsourced his dad, a public school history teacher very early. By the time he reached high school, there really wasn't a curriculum available to challenge him. I had to research accelerated reading lists, college course syllabi, and talk with historians to find resources for him. It was a challenge, but a privilege to help him grow yet further in his learning.

With his interest in history, we divided American History into Early American (to 1850) and Modern (from 1850 to present), and World History into Ancient (to the Reformation) and Modern (from the Reformation to present) so we could allow time for him to dig deeper into his interest. I developed literature selection lists for each course, providing him reading suggestions to get him started. His desire to learn history prompted him to seek out additional titles. My motto became, "you read it, I will find a place to give you credit".

For readers interested in the detail of what we constituted Ancient World History/Survey of Ancient Literature, our reading list (remember it was a springboard from which he could jump in for more) is below. Please keep in mind as you read through the list, he was a self-motivated reader with an interest in the subject. Not all young adults will share this interest or learning preference. In addition to his independent reading, we used a textbook as a spine of topics. Though he started the year reading some of the text, by the end of the year he was reading more primary source documents, living history selections, and biographical pieces than text. He also had the amazing opportunity to travel to Rome, including tours of several sites inside the ancient city wall. Though I could be discouraged that my other children may not have the same opportunity, I await the provision He has for each of them as they walk through their lives.

The path above worked for us and that young adult. Don't use what is written here as a comparison for what your student should or shouldn't be doing. Comparing ourselves or our children to others leads to discouragement and discontent, neither of which are valuable.

Our examples are only intended as encouragement, to give an idea of what worked for us, and what you might be able to create for your high schooler. Our young adult was (and still is) a reader, but your young adult may have an opportunity to intern with a local businessman or a museum curator. Use what God provides for you and pray about how he is preparing your young adult for the future plans He has, not for the ones we best intention.

Our Ancient History/Literature list:

  • The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • Oedipus Rex, Sophocles
  • Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles
  • Antigone, Sophocles
  • Mysteries of Ancient China, Rawson
  • Mythology, Hamilton
  • The Roman Way, Hamilton
  • The Greek Way, Hamilton
  • The Death of Socrates, Plato
  • Ben Hur, Lew Wallace
  • For the Temple, Henty
  • The Young Cathaginan, Henty
  • The Riddle of the Rosetta Stone, Giblin
  • In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, Wood
  • The Republic, Plato
  • The Histories by Herodotus
  • The Eagle of the Ninth, Sutcliff
  • Anna of Byzantium, Barrett
  • The City of God, Augustine
  • I, Claudius, Graves
  • Claudius the God, Graves
  • Don Quixote, Cervantes
  • Julius Caesar, Shakespeare
This post is edited and updated from the original posted September 1, 2009 at

*The information in this blog post is not intended as legal or educational advice. It is simply a journal of what worked for us. Parents are responsible to oversee their child's home education.