Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How to Homeschool Part 2: Homeschooling Methods

There are various philosophies and methodologies that homeschoolers utilize when educating their children. Some people choose one and follow it all the way through, while others mix and match depending on what they want to accomplish. Still, some homeschoolers begin with one then change their methodologies as the years wear on and they begin to understand more about their family and philosophies. Below are the most common homeschooling methods used today.

Classical homeschoolers follow the classical Greek model of the trivium. They divide learning into three stages based on an average child’s cognitive development. Grammar stage children (K-5th) think concretely and are taught facts and rote memorization. Logic stage children (6th-8th) begin to think abstractly, using principles and ideas about which they enjoy arguing. They are taught to analyze with logic at this stage. The high school years are focused on the rhetoric stage where true thinking, dialogue, composition and oration are the focus. Classical homeschoolers often study Latin and Greek to improve their logical thinking skills and to aid them when studying books written by classical authors, such as Caesar, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and many more. Children are encouraged to consume classic books throughout the high school years and think critically about them. Science is not a focus in the elementary years though one author, Susan Wise Bauer, suggests a science sequence. History has become a strong emphasis for classical homeschoolers, and they generally focus all their reading and learning around a historical time period. It’s an orderly method of studying history and students come to understand the historical time periods based on the sequence by which they study history. This is very much a liberal arts/humanities education.
Search terms: trivium, trivium pursuit, Well Trained Mind

Charlotte Mason
Charlotte Mason was a learned educator in the late 1800s who through learning and experience developed a method of educating students, which she implemented in her school in Ambleside, England. Her students became mature and scholarly, possessing a true love for knowledge and learning that was evident to others who sought Ms. Mason for the secrets to her methods. She wrote a series of books detailing her philosophies so that others could implement them in their homes. These were the original homeschooling books, the first of their kind ever written. Her methods focus on literature as a means for acquiring learning, whether it is science, history or myths. She believed in short lessons for the younger grades, nature study, copywork, dictation, the pursuit of excellence, good habits, notebooking, unstructured time out doors and free time to pursue one’s interests. Charlotte Mason was against the use of textbooks, a practice just beginning to take root in the education movement at that time. She called textbooks twaddle. She was also against workbooks, or lessons, as she called them and felt they did not improve the child’s education or light their love of learning.
Search terms: twaddle, living books, notebooking, copywork, nature study, nature notebook

Using traditional textbooks or “boxed curriculum” like those from secular publishers or Christian homeschool publishers is commonly known as the textbook approach. Textbooks are typically characterized by dry facts written in uninteresting prose, with the use of workbooks and tests. However, today some of the common homeschool textbook publishers have hired writers that make their textbooks interesting and engaging. The use of tests and worksheets is the most common factor with the textbook approach. Most homeschoolers begin with textbooks and later feel more confident to pursue other methods.
Search terms: Alpha Omega, Abeka, Rod and Staff, Bob Jones

Unit Study
People who choose to teach with unit studies select an area of interest or a theme and build all their academic subjects around that topic. Every child in the family learns together, each working on his own academic level while covering the same subject. The traditional scope and sequence is not the purpose, rather “learning to learn” is the goal. An example of a unit study would be the topic of baseball. History would center around the history of baseball and what was happening in the world at that time. Language arts would cover all the vocabulary and spelling associated with the topic and would include writing and grammar assignments related to baseball. Math would center around batting averages and distances from the bases and such. Science might deal with the physics of baseball or perhaps the botany of keeping a field covered with grass. Most people using the unit study approach choose topics that interest their child and make up the course of study as they go along. Some who use unit studies simply read a great book of literature and center all their learning around what they discover in that book.
Search terms: Konos, Ignite the Fire, Learning Adventures, Amanda Bennett

Unschooling is often referred to as “delight directed learning.” The child decides what to learn, when and how. The parent only provides the means. This type of schooling is based on the assumption that children are naturally curious and will undertake studies, become proficient and even excel in those areas if they are simply encouraged and left alone. On one extreme of unschooling, the child doesn’t have to learn anything he doesn’t want to learn, including math. On the other extreme is the unschooler who requires only one or two subjects, math and english, and everything else is up to the child.
Search terms: unschooling, delight directed learning, relaxed homeschooling

An eclectic homeschooler does not embrace any one philosophy or methodology. Instead, he looks at the different approaches and takes the best from each, forming his own scope and sequence and choosing curriculum that fits his needs.
Search terms: eclectic homeschooling, relaxed homeschooling

I have dabbled in many of these methods over the years, using what was right for each child and for me in that particular year. Don’t allow yourself to become pigeonholed. There is no such thing as the “perfect” homeschooling method. And that’s the beauty of this wonderful educational opportunity we’ve been given. Each homeschooling family has the freedom to choose what is best for their unique family, customizing an education that will mature and develop their children into the men and women God has called them to become.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How to Homeschool Part 1: Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Homeschool

Because homeschooling…

Builds Family Unity and Bonds Siblings
Though it can be tough some days, in the end, homeschooled siblings are closer and have better friendships as adults.

Tailors Each Child’s Education
Fast learners can move through the materials at lightening speed. Slow learners can slow down and take time to grasp the material before moving on.

Creates an Atmosphere of Discovery that Encourages a Love for Learning
Without the intensity of peer and academic pressures, children can enjoy the acquisition of knowledge and learn without worrying about how they will perform or if their fascination with a subject will make them look like a nerd. They enjoy learning for the sake of knowledge, not to score well on a test.

Gives the Gift of Time That Allows Children to Discover Their Gifts, Interests and Passions
Because so much more can be accomplished in less time, children have an opportunity to follow their own interests, hone their skills and pursue their passions, becoming quite experienced in a subject at a young age. This gift of time opens up windows of opportunity for them.

Encourages Children to Grow in Confidence Without Peer Motivated Labels
No one tells them whether they are cool or not, whether they are ugly or beautiful, smart or dumb. They are allowed to be whomever they choose without fear of ridicule or fear of being pigeonholed. No one makes fun of them when they are in an awkward phase or if they make mistakes. They are free to develop and grow at their own pace and in their own way. 

Stimulates Character Development and Nurture
Under a watchful eye, a child’s character can be shaped and molded with the gentle hands of a caring parent. Values and beliefs are set in the elementary years. A homeschool environment isn’t just about education, it’s about shaping the whole child and giving him a strong foundation so he can be all he was made to be.

Imparts an Excellent Academic Education
Because of the plethora of high quality educational materials available for homeschoolers, a higher quality education is easy to provide. It is not a standardized, low quality, common education. Homeschooling imparts a specifically tailored, high quality, uncommon education.

Enables Children to Pursue Knowledge Independently
Homeschooled children learn how to learn and are given ample opportunities to independently discover new interests and knowledge. They are not spoon fed an education. Most are given books and encouraged to learn from them. This provides a strong foundation for college – where independent learning is vital to success.

Provides a Relaxed Atmosphere That Breeds Creativity and Self Knowledge
Avoiding the hustle and bustle of going to and coming from school, doing homework, studying for quizzes and tests and dealing with social drama, homeschooled children are able to let their creative juices flow. They are able to discover what they really like and don’t like, the things they enjoy and don't enjoy. Homeschoolers find their personal style in everything. They get to know their unique place in this world without the influence of critical peers, teachers and administrators.

Creates Lifelong Memories
Homeschool families gather memories of books read aloud, field trips taken, projects done together and unique family habits expressed. These serve as markers and fond recollections for the family. A sense of identity is developed and rich family discussions are shared when the children are adults.

Monday, September 29, 2014

College Crash Course Part 17: Let Them Go

So you’ve survived the College Crash Course and know everything you need to know to help your homeschooled child find the college of his dreams. Wew! It’s been quite a journey, but you’ve been faithful and you’re almost there!

Sending a child off to college can seem like a scary thing. We as moms know there are potholes out there and lots of problems to be tackled. We wonder if our child is fully prepared. We know him better than anyone – his strengths and his weaknesses. And it’s those weaknesses that keep us up at night worrying about the day we release him into the world.

Well let me assure you that you are not alone with these concerns. However don’t let these worries handicap you. Your child will probably learn some lessons the hard way in college. That’s part of the experience, and we must trust that God’s got this. He’s going to guide your child, protect him and possibly let him stumble a little so he grows mature and strong. God is more invested in your children than you are. He loves them more than you ever could love them. He wants more for them than you could ever hope for them. He has plans for them that you couldn’t possibly dream up. And He knows exactly what needs to happen for them to overcome their weaknesses and become all that He created them to be.

Take a deep breath and believe God has been a part of your parenting all these years. Believe He’s led you like a shepherd leads his sheep along the way. Believe that your choices in education and parenting were God-inspired and will reap a harvest, even if you know you made some mistakes in your approach, philosophy or beliefs. God knew all that and accommodated for it. You may have failed, but He didn’t. He will use everything for His purposes in the future He foreordained for your children. You planted the seeds, nourished them with fertilizer and watered and watered and watered. Now release them to grow – knowing you’ve done all that you could. Even if you think you should have done more or have regrets about some things, it’s okay. God allows everything to happen and uses it to accomplish the plan He has for their lives. You weren’t perfect, but you were perfect for your children. It’s time to let them go. Let them grow. Let them become who God created them to be. 

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6   

Be expectant and hopeful. You’ve done a great job! Your child will become all that he is meant to become. Be of faith, trusting that God has gone before him and will pursue and bless him as he travels the journey God has for him.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

College Crash Course Part 16: Easy Admissions Essays

Most every college application asks for a personal essay. The purpose of the admissions essay is to:

  • Get to know your child better
  • Find out what makes your child tick
  • Hear your child’s story
  • Understand the “why” behind your child’s “what”

No matter what anyone tells you, the essay is not the most important piece of the college admissions puzzle. It won’t make or break your child’s chances unless it’s horribly written with glaring grammar and spelling errors.

Though it’s not the golden ticket to admissions, the essay can be a place for your child to set himself apart, tell his story, explain his life, and show who he is – especially if your child has an unusual life compared to the average American kid. The essay can help your child sparkle!

Additionally, the essay could prove valuable for an "iffy" applicant who doesn’t quite have the courses or test scores admissions counselors like to see. It can open the counselors’ eyes and the schools' doors if your child is teetering on the edge of being admitted.

Your child’s essay should:

  1. Tell a story that highlights the essence of who he is.
  2. Grab the attention of the weary admissions reader. The biggest problem with most essays is they are boring. Your child should avoid a boring essay at all costs! Humor is always appreciated if your child has it in him.
  3. Not be written by Mom! Even if writing is not your child’s strength, he is unique and the school wants to hear his 18 year old voice, not Mom’s 40 year old voice. He should have help with the editing of his essay, but the original ideas and expression should be his own. Please do not edit out your child’s voice – even if it sounds snarky. Colleges love real people. They can spot the robotic, boring, parent-driven, pretentious essay a mile away!
  4. Respond directly to the prompt if there is one.
  5. Not be predictable. Now is the time to be creative and think outside the box! Admissions counselors are looking for a diverse group of students. Your child shouldn’t use the cliché about how he hit the winning run. He should show how he’s unique.
  6. Not be a story about someone in the family. It should be about YOUR CHILD. Admissions counselors want to know more about him, not grandpa who discovered the cure for cancer.
  7. Start with a hook. Use a quotation, irony, an amusing anecdote, or a play on words. The essay should entertain the reader!
  8. Detail only the most unique or important accomplishment – maybe something that isn’t in the list of accomplishments in the admissions folder. Your child shouldn’t just repeat the stuff he’s already told the admissions counselors unless he can add something of value to it. If he simply gloats over his accomplishments, it will make the essay boring and redundant.
  9. Be a place where your child explains his situation if he has something negative in his record.
  10. Give some insight into what your child hopes to do or be as an adult if he knows.
  11. Possibly mention why this college is a good fit for him. *Be sure to change the name of the college on each essay!
  12. Be edited by someone with good grammar.
  13. Not cause undue stress! The essay most likely won’t be the deciding factor that gets your child into college. In fact, the essay may not even be read – especially if your child has the test scores needed to get in. 

So how important is the admissions essay, really? Well that probably depends on whether or not your child is an iffy applicant (an applicant that doesn’t quite meet the grades or test requirements). If he meets the advertised averages for GPA and test scores, the admissions essay isn’t crucial. It’ll probably just be skimmed. Remember, admissions counselors have thousands to read and very little time to read them.

Iffy Applicants

After watching insider videos of admissions counselors discussing applicants, it was obvious the information they were using to determine whether or not to accept an iffy applicant was data they learned through the student’s admissions essay. Hard luck stories were given the greatest consideration.

The Story

The essay should tell your child’s story but not his entire life story. It should convey a single event or piece of who he is.

So what’s your child’s story? How can he turn it into a great essay? Here are some tips to help your child discover his story. Have him:

  1. Ask his friends what stories they would tell about him.
  2. Ask his friends to describe him and give examples of why they think he’s that way (There might be some good stories here!)
  3. Ask parents and grandparents what stories they would tell about him.
  4. Ask family members to tell about something he did when he was little that gave clues as to who he would become.
  5. Think of his biggest hardships in life – even if they involve personal stories about you or your family that your friends don’t know about. These types of stories are beloved for admissions counselors. Don’t worry! The essay will not be kept in your child’s permanent records. It will be discarded after he has completed the admissions process. If there is a personal tragedy in his life, it would be wise to share it – especially if it’s an elite school with tough admissions.
  6. Tell what he wants to become. When did he decide this? Was there an event that occurred? How has he pursued this?

Our Example Essay

My daughter used a play on words and a little shock value in her essay. She played on the word “bar,” combining the ballet barre with the Bar Association for lawyers. She spent fourteen years at the ballet barre. As a Mock Trial student, she sat for the Georgia Junior Bar and passed with honors. Her goal was to go to Law School.

She began her essay this way:

It may sound sketchy, but I spent most of my childhood at one bar or another – bars in San Diego, bars in Georgia. My favorite bars were in San Francisco. But I really got to know myself after six months at the Houston bars. Believe me, bars taught strength, balance, and perseverance. Standing at the bar, I willed every muscle in my body into position and attempted to master the perfect arabesque – hoping it would look like that on stage.

The essay followed with a revelation of her intense ballet and mock trial training, her desire to go to law school, and how this college would be her next step in fulfilling her dreams of joining the American Bar Association as an attorney. The essay tied up nicely by referring back to her hook.

Although I’ve never been in a pub, you could say I’ve been obsessed with bars.

I hope this post helps clear up the mysteries of the College Admissions Essay! Please post any questions you have below or share any insight you may have.

If you would like your child’s essay professionally edited, please email me for a reference to an editor that edits college essays.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

College Crash Course Part 15: Visiting Colleges

College visits are an important part of choosing the right school. They help your child get a feel for the campus, the students and professors, and the overall atmosphere of the institution. Visiting colleges inspires your child to finish strong while looking forward with anticipation to the day he moves into the dorm.

Start Early

It’s best to visit all your child’s colleges of choice during his junior year. That way, if your child is accepted to several schools and is still undecided, he can make return visits his senior year to help solidify his decision.

Schedule Online

It’s a good idea to plan your college visits. Universities have online scheduling for their campus tours, but be sure to schedule your visits early as spaces do run out. If your child already knows what he wants to study, call to schedule an interview with the head of that department. A friend of mine’s daughter is interested in studying piano in college. She got a head start and scheduled a tour with her college of choice’s music department the summer after her 9th grade year. She interviewed with the dean of music and got a lot of important information needed to help her prepare for the school’s audition requirements for admissions. Music and sports are two areas that often require specific requirements for entry. 

See the Students

It’s important to visit during the school week when classes are in session and students are on campus.  Here’s why:

We were very interested in Furman University when my daughter was applying to colleges. However when we visited, the students appeared somber and serious as they moved about the campus. The tour director focused on Furman’s academic achievements and was quite serious herself.  Since my daughter is exuberant and vivacious, she immediately sensed a disconnect with the students. On our way home, we visited Clemson. The minute we stepped out of our car, a whole different vibe greeted us. During the tour, it became evident that Clemson was a school dedicated to school spirit and F. U. N. Our tour director was jovial and animated as he told story after story of the entertaining and exciting traditions of the school. My daughter ended up at the University of Georgia, which was perfect for her—a happy mixture of serious and fun.

Choose Walking Shoes

Though some tour guides drive you around campus in a cart, most campus tours require a lot of walking. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes. The best time to visit campuses is in the early fall or spring when the whether is nice outside.

How about a Road Trip?

Many families plan college visits around vacations. This is an efficient use of time and money and enables the entire family to be part of one of the most important and exciting decisions of your child’s life. Why not plan a “college road trip” and visit all your child’s colleges of choice in one week? It’s a good way to focus in on the various schools, comparing and contrasting the positive and negative qualities as you travel to and from the campus visits.

Don’t be Shy!

While on campus, be sure to take time to talk to other students, asking them about their experience at the school. Do they enjoy their classes? How is the campus life? What’s their favorite thing about the school? What’s their biggest complaint? Do they plan to transfer to another school? If so, why? You’ll be so glad you took the initiative to talk to people who are neutral and aren’t trying to convince your child to come to the school.

Read Up

Be certain to find a student newspaper and have your child read it from cover to cover. He’ll get a real flavor for the campus, students, and attitudes. He might find important hidden information that isn’t advertised by the school like crime reports, student concerns, and issues—as well as lifestyles, events, and policies. You may be able to find the college’s newspaper online as well.

Note It

While there, and especially if you are visiting several other schools, be sure to take notes. It’s easy to forget important information, especially if your child has scheduled multiple college tours in one week. 

Go to Class

Most college tours will give you the option to attend class. Choose a course in your child’s interest. This can be very inspiring for your child! It will also give you greater insight into the school, the professors, and the character of the students.

Question Time

Before your visits, help your child formulate important questions to ask about the schools. Write the questions down so he can ask them during the tour. What does he need to know about housing, dining, academics, extra curricular activities, parking, transportation, or sports?

Ask what they are looking for on the college application. What matters most to them during the application process? How safe is the campus? What is the neighborhood surrounding the campus like? Every student has different needs. Be sure you get clarification on those particular needs:

Is your child athletic? He should ask about club and intramural sports. Is your child introverted and used to a quiet environment? Ask which dorms are traditionally quieter and which are more active. Write it down! It’s easy to forget all those dorm names. Does your child want to be in a Greek organization? Ask about the membership process. Does your child long to travel? Ask about the study abroad programs. Is your child academically motivated? Ask about the honors program and its benefits.

Money Matters

If you are in need of financial assistance, schedule an appointment with a financial aid counselor to discuss scholarships and ways to increase your financial aid package.

Almost There

This is a very exciting time in your child’s life! You and he are heading down the home stretch of his education. Make each college visit an adventure, enjoying this unique time with your child. This could be one of the last opportunities you’ll have to engage with and build into him before he flies the coop. Be intentional, but have fun on the journey!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Shout Out from College Parents' Day Weekend

I'm interrupting the College Crash Course series with a short post about our wonderful weekend. My daughter and her friend were put in charge of planning the Parents' Day Weekend for a large organization in which she is a member at the University of Georgia.

When we arrived, I was amazed at the grand scale of this event and marveled that it was executed by two 20 year old girls, with no help from anyone.

Jeff Fulbright, Heather Fulbright and Jeannie Fulbright
Parents' Day Weekend 
A large tent was set up on campus, along with fancy tables to seat 250 guests and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. As the band prepared the stage, the PowerPoint video and slideshow she created began.

My daughter handled the entire event, the staff, band, registration and announcements, with such professionalism, it made my mama heart sing. When 30 people arrived that had not sent an RSVP, the girls just smiled, sent someone to fetch more chairs and tables and prayed there was enough food.

That wasn't the only moment they fervently sought the Lord's intervention.

The forecast predicted thunderstorms. It was even raining when we left Atlanta. All throughout the day, the two girls stopped every thirty minutes, clasped hands and prayed earnestly. Miraculously, God blessed them with beautiful weather and added a gorgeous sunset to punctuate His answered prayers.

I kept trying to imagine executing an event like that when I was twenty. I tried to imagine executing an event like that at 45. The image didn't materialize.

The event planners with their proud moms.
Even as upscale as the event was, they came out under budget. One of the waitstaff told me that of all the parties they cater, the people running this event were the best they had ever worked with. I beamed with joy.

A great evening was had by all. I hope that one day you will experience the joy of seeing your child become a mature, capable, confident adult. Few things on earth will bless you more than that. 

Now let's get back to the College Crash Course! 

Monday, March 31, 2014

College Crash Course Part 14: Paying for College

Although we need to discuss transcripts, college essays, and some other important college admissions items, I want to jump ahead to the topic of paying for college because this is a concern for so many. If you are worried about paying for college, be aware that there are many ways to make it affordable.

Talent Trap

In an attempt to fund college, some parents focus on their child’s talent in hopes that it will earn him a scholarship. There are several issues with this, the first being that the child may not want to play baseball or piano or dance every single day when he’s in college. The second is these activities often dominate the student’s life making it difficult to keep up with grades and almost impossible to discover the passions and interests that will lead to his future career.

Community College Confine

Most homeschoolers attempt to make college affordable by going to a community college for two years and then transferring to a larger school. This isn’t always the best course of action, as the biggest grants and discounts are offered to incoming freshmen. Unless your child did not take college prep courses in high school and scored below average on the SAT, community college is often not the cheapest option available.

Stop Sticker Shock

Here’s the truth: College doesn’t have to break the bank. The sticker price isn’t the final price. Even the most expensive schools can become quite affordable because of the scholarships, grants, and discounts available to your child. Don’t let price be the determining factor in applying to a college. Colleges want students – even if they have to take less to get them.

The Big Three

There are three main places to get money to pay for college: The federal government, the state government, and the actual college your child will attend. There are thousands of other scholarships out there as well, but they typically only award a fractional amount. They may help, but they aren’t going to make a big difference. Focus on the big three I mentioned because that’s where the big money is.

Federal Government

The federal government has money to give and money to loan. The less your family makes, or the more children you have, the more money you get.

Your child may be awarded grants or work-study money that he doesn’t have to pay back or he may qualify for low interest loans.

When your child is a senior, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA- to claim your money! You’ll need to fill out the FAFSA for most scholarship applications and any aid the school will offer as well. So fill it out even if you think you make too much money. Colleges consider incomes under $200,000 for need based scholarships – especially if you have several children.

State Scholarship

Most states offer a scholarship funded by the state lottery. For example, Florida has Bright Futures; Georgia has HOPE; Kentucky has KEES, Tennessee has TELS; and South Carolina has LIFE. There are often rules about how and to whom this money is awarded. In Georgia, the HOPE scholarship is not need-based but is based on the student’s grades and SAT score.

If your state has a scholarship, let us know in the comments section of this post.

College Cash

Most every college is willing to discuss the price package they are offering to make it more affordable. One elite private university revealed their average discounts, which are likely similar to many other institutions. Here is what they typically give:

*      $3,000 for calling and asking for a discount
*      $2,000 for living out of state
*      $62 for every “A” on the transcript
*      $400 for every rigorous course on the transcript
*      $1,800 for every excellent recommendation letter
*      $115 for every 10 points on the SAT
*      $425 for every point on the ACT

There are numerous other criteria colleges use to award money to incoming freshman. Below are some tips for negotiating and lowering your child’s tuition bill.

Meet the Deadlines

Be sure you know when everything needs to be turned in. It’s hard to ask for something when you are not showing the fortitude necessary to meet deadlines.

Don’t Call it Negotiating

Colleges don’t like to think of it as negotiating – which is adversarial. They like to think of it as “making it work” for your child to attend their school. Kindly ask them to reconsider the financial package they gave you. 

Be Professional

The key to getting a better deal is to be kind, calm, professional, and extremely polite. An angry or emotional parent will do more harm than good. You want them to want your child, right? If they don’t like you, that will reflect on your child.

Be a Fan
 Colleges are more willing to offer money to those who truly are committed to their school. They want to see that you love them as much as they love themselves. In fact, that’s why some people use the Early Decision option – to show allegiance.

I’ve heard that many colleges actually make a note of every single time you and your child contact the school. Let them know they are your first choice, but that it also must be financially feasible to attend. They’ll want you more if you want them more.  

Sell them on Your Child

Reiterate your child’s accomplishments, highlighting the reasons he would be an asset to the school. Never neglect to brag on your child’s special unique qualities and great character, personality, and achievements.

Stir up the Competition

Very respectfully, without threatening, let them know about the offers competing colleges have made, explaining that your child would rather be at this school. Some colleges actually have a policy to match other schools’ offers. Be prepared to show them the package another college offered.

If your child has been accepted at a public university with a lower tuition or has been offered a scholarship, ask the school of choice if they can match that rate. Private colleges are often happy to get some money from you rather than lose you completely. 

Explain Your Circumstances

Although FAFSA takes many things into consideration, sometimes there are circumstances beyond FAFSA that make it difficult for you to pay for your child’s college education. Are you supporting an aging parent? Did you have a period of unemployment? Do you have five kids or more? Colleges will take these special situations into consideration when adjusting their tuition packages.

Elite Schools

If your family makes under $200,000 and your child is very bright (scored exceptionally well on the SAT), you should seriously consider an elite school for your child. Schools like Harvard and Stanford have a lot of money and they are required by law to give it to students with family incomes below $200,000. They offer huge discounts or free tuition and possibly free room and board, depending on your income.

For example: At Stanford, if a family has an income of less than $100,000, the student will not pay any tuition at all. Room and board is thrown in for students with family incomes of less than $60,000. Again, if you have a larger than average number of children or other special circumstances, you may get even more from these schools.  

Please know that you don’t have to mortgage the house for your children to attend college! There are many ways to make it affordable. Below is a blog post of some hidden ways to get a free ride to certain schools. Although the article is old and some of the information may be out of date, it can help get you started. Know this list isn’t exhaustive and there are many other hidden opportunities if you’re willing to search them out.

Many parents have undue anxiety as they consider the expense of a four-year college education. It can be overwhelming when you’re focused only on the lump sum peering at you from the college’s website. But don’t be discouraged! Remember, the Lord has already planned where your child will attend college, and He is able to provide exactly what is needed. Seek Him, asking Him to lead you to creative options that will help save on college expenses. You may have to do some hard work finding hidden money, but it will be worth it when you come to the end of the journey and finally set your child on the path God has chosen just for him!

Monday, March 17, 2014

College Crash Course Part 13: Portfolios for Peace of Mind

Years ago, when homeschooling was new, colleges required personal interviews and thick portfolios outlining every detail of the homeschooled student’s high school coursework and experiences.

Now that homeschooling is more mainstream, portfolios are no longer requested or required. However, they are still a good idea. Why? There are three reasons your child should consider keeping a portfolio:

1.  Colleges might have some questions about a course or two on your child’s transcript. For example, they may want more information about the biology course your child took. If you have a well-organized portfolio, you can easily flip to the science section and access that information.

2.  It will offer you great peace of mind to have one place that details your child’s high school accomplishments and activities, as well as their coursework. You would be surprised how easy it is to forget that your child volunteered at the animal shelter or that his team was featured in the newspaper. An organized portfolio with everything listed will enable him to create a more thorough resume and will help when it comes time to fill out college admissions forms.

3.  Many scholarship opportunities and honor societies require a portfolio and a lengthy list of the things with which a student has been involved. A friend of mine recently filled out a scholarship form that required a list of all the volunteer work her child had done. After the form was completed and sent, she realized she neglected a very important service activity. If she had kept a portfolio, it would have been easier to not only fill out the form but also ensure every activity was accounted for.

At the beginning of this College Crash Course series, I suggested you designate a drawer in which to put everything your child does in high school. That was so you would have everything in one place when it came time to put together your child’s portfolio. Now you see why it’s so important!

If you are naturally organized – unlike me – you may want to add certificates, papers, tests, newspaper articles, and the like to the three ring binder portfolio immediately. However if you are like me, you’ll toss things in the drawer and once a year – usually in the summer – you’ll spend a few hours organizing everything into the binder. 

So how do you create a portfolio? What would you include in a portfolio and how would it be organized?

You’ll need:

A large 3-ring binder  
Divider tabs
A package of page protectors

Your tabs should be labeled with the following:

  • Include your home-made transcript (we’ll discuss this in another post) as well as any transcripts from coursework your child takes online or locally.
  • Include SAT/ACT/SAT II or CLEP test records.
  • Include any copies of Letters of Recommendation you may have received (if you did receive a copy).

Volunteer Service:
  • Include a list of all the volunteer work your child has done. If you can, get a letter from the agency validating your child’s time.
  • Include any certificates of service. If your child has received the Presidential Volunteer Service award, put the certificate here.

  • Include any awards or certificates your child receives for participation in activities, competitions, and courses.
  • If your child has been offered scholarships or has been nominated for honors/scholarships, include the letters here as well.
  • Include any news articles and such featuring your child or his group/team.

Extra Curricular/Work:

Include anything your child does/has done outside of school. For example, my daughter worked as a columnist for an online newspaper. We printed up some of her articles and put them here.

The rest of the binder will be designated for actual school work. For each course taken include on a cover sheet this information: Your child's name, course name and description, assignments and topics covered, time started and finished, first semester grade/second semester grade, all texts and books used, as well as several samples of your child's work/tests.

Language Arts: 4 credits

Science: 3-4 credits. Credits should include physical science and biology. Some colleges require chemistry as well.

Social Sciences: 3.5 credits. Credits should include American history, government, and economics.

Foreign Language: 2 credits. Some colleges want to see 3.

Math: 4 credits. Credits should including algebra 1, algebra 2, and geometry (include final exams).

Health and PE: 2 credits. Keep a log of your child's workouts and physical activities. My daughter’s ballet was credited as PE as well as performing arts.

Art: .5 credit is typically given for each year long course. Performing arts/photography should also be listed here. 

Electives: Anything that’s not included in one of the areas of above will be put here. You can include anything your child does as a hobby as well (birding, woodworking, movie making, gardening).

Putting together the portfolio can be really encouraging for your child. Even if he never shows it to a college admissions counselor, he can look through it and be proud of his accomplishments and the character he demonstrated in attaining his goals. Most importantly, you and your child can give thanks and glory to God for His faithfulness and leading along the journey.