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[Book Excerpt] Junior Year is the Key to Homeschool Success

~ A word from our founder, The HomeScholar Emeritus, Lee Binz ~

This is a chapter from my book, Junior Year is the Key to Homeschool Success: How to Unlock the Gate to Graduation and Beyond. You can purchase a copy in print or Kindle version on Amazon.

Parent Tasks During Junior Year

During junior year, there are tasks that are specific for parents. Obviously, there are some jobs that you'll do which are more "counselor" jobs, and some jobs that are more parent jobs. Balancing your family values with career plans and financial obligations are an example of parent tasks. For example, your son might want to be an engineer, but you are committed to not having a huge financial burden, and you want to see your child go to a Christian engineering school. The bottom line is that although you can provide a wide array of options for your child, if you as the parent write the check, it's really the parent that gets to decide. Make sure to consider college financing and save money for college. Work to position your student for scholarships, since junior year is a really good time to look for private scholarships.

Plan Classes

When planning classes for junior year, make sure that you cover the core: four English classes, four math classes, four social studies, and at least three science. Those are the subjects you need to cover every year. Remember that you can't cover four years of high school English in three years, so you won't have four credits by the time junior year is finished but make a plan so that you're sure you've got three by junior year, and plan to catch that last credit of English, math and social studies during senior year.

Fill any gaps. The usual gaps that I see are foreign language, which can be a hurdle for people to overcome. Once you make that jump and start to study foreign language, it's not so hard, but to me it felt like upper math. It was a scary subject for me but once you start, then it's not so bad.

The other thing to pay attention to is fine art, because only one credit is required. If your child is good at the fine arts, you'll have a lot of credits in that area, but if they're not, then sometimes it's forgotten, and sometimes that can be one of those gaps that need to be filled.

Plan Electives

During junior year, don't forget to plan electives. One source of elective credit is the delight directed learning that your child does for fun. If your child models for Nordstrom's, and it's what they do for fun, then you can collect those as their delight directed learning credits. You can collect credits from family requirements. If your family requires Bible instruction or home economics, those family requirements are a source of electives as well. Finally, you can collect your electives because of state law. In Washington State, we are required to teach occupational education. It's required by state law, but it doesn't fit anywhere else, so it's an elective. Find out what your state requires and see whether those will count as electives for you.

Plan to Take the PSAT®

Plan to take the PSAT® in October of junior year. Register early but be aware that some schools register in May or June, and other schools register in September. Some schools allow you to walk in to take the test, which is unusual, but it can happen. Check your calendar and plan and register to take the test early. In general, if you call your local high school in June, they can help you to figure it out. Put that registration date on the calendar and make sure that you register on time.

I do suggest that you take the PSAT® in junior year. Frankly, I also think that it's very helpful if you take the PSAT® during sophomore year. It can help you practice how to register for the test, and it can help you reduce the fear in your student. There are some kids that have some testing anxiety and taking it for fun when it doesn't count in 10th grade can take the mystique out of it, so the young people aren't afraid to sit in a strange school cafeteria with people that they don't know. Because they'll probably take the test in the same place year after year, that will help them feel a little bit more familiar with the location. Practice makes perfect, and I do recommend that you take the PSAT® in 10th grade just for fun, and then take it in 11th grade when it counts for real.

Practice the PSAT®

Speaking of practice, it is a good idea to practice for the PSAT®. Go over the sample PSAT® test that they'll give you when you register. Take that sample test and practice with it, even the non-test portion. There is a huge part in the front, where they don't even ask any test questions, where your child will have to fill in their name, grade in school, number of classes they've taken, etc. Those non-test portions are sometimes harder for homeschoolers to answer than the test questions, since it asks about classes and grades that homeschoolers don't usually talk to their children about. Make sure to show your child their transcript before they take the PSAT®, so that they know how many classes they have taken and what grade they're in! In the non-test portion, they'll also ask about college choices, and whether you want your scores reported to any schools. It's important for you to go over even the non-test portion of the PSAT® for practice.

Before you take the test, locate your homeschool code. You can do it the hard way, which is to do a Google search for "PSAT/NMSQT® Codes for Home-Schooled Students", or you can go to, which is much easier. The code for each state is different, which is why I can't tell you what your code is — you need to look it up for your individual state.

The PSAT® presents a wonderful opportunity for a socialization discussion with your student, prior to taking the test. We live in an inner-city area, and our local high school has a 46 percent dropout rate. It was a pretty sketchy environment and when my kids were in the public school cafeteria with around 500 other kids while taking the PSAT®, they noticed that there was a lot of sneezing, snorting, swearing, and tattoos. My son sat across from a young girl who wore a burqa from head to toe, and only eye slits were seen. You also run across the occasional girl wearing a bikini. It was a wonderful opportunity to discuss socialization, and why we are just thankful we're homeschooling. For Christian teens, I think it's a good opportunity to discuss John 3:16 "For God so loved all the world…" and not just the conservatively dressed world.

Test Day Strategies

The best thing that you can do for your child on test day is to make sure they are not running on empty. Make sure that they get plenty of sleep, at least the night before, and preferably two weeks before. On the day of the test, make sure that they get a good breakfast with protein, and take a snack and water or juice with them when they go to the test. Take a calculator that they feel comfortable using.

Make sure that they bring that homeschool code with them. Usually the test proctors will give you that code, but sometimes they get confused and it takes a few minutes for them to look it up. For that reason, it can reduce the stress level of your child if they know what their test code is. More importantly, locate the bathrooms! Chances are, your child does not know where the bathroom in the high school cafeteria is, so make sure that you find that for them. I know one student who raised his score by 200 points per section simply by knowing where the bathroom was on the second time around!

Also plan a pickup location ahead of time, because they'll want to know where you're going to find them afterwards. Sometimes they'll say that the test will end at a certain time, but then it will go later than everyone things. Be prepared, and your children will be more comfortable, which means they will be better able to do their best!

Learn more in my book review below!

This is a chapter from my book, Junior Year is the Key to Homeschool Success: How to Unlock the Gate to Graduation and Beyond. You can purchase a copy in print or Kindle version on Amazon.  

PSAT/NMSQT® is a registered trademark of the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

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