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Highlight on High School History

Highlight on High School History
In March 2019, I hosted the Highlight on High School History week. During that week, I invited some dear friends who are experts in their fields - history! You can find those webinars in my online product, High School Solution . A great resource for ...
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Training Teens: Prepare for Independent Living

Training Teens: Prepare for Independent Living
One day, someday, our children will be living on their own. They will sink or swim based on the skills we have given them, and their ability to adapt as adults. This basic checklist of independent living skills will help you identify what may still&n...
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Massive Open Online Courses [MOOCs] For Homeschool Students

Massive Open Online Courses [MOOCs] For Homeschool Students
Do you know how your teen can find and gain admission to a perfect fit college? I do! Click to register for my free class: College Applications Simply Explained . You can teach your child college level material at home, because do it yourself college...
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Recent Comments
Lee Binz
Our kids graduated before the advent of MOOCs. I'd really be interested in your experience with them. Please comment below!
Friday, 26 January 2018 19:19
Lee Binz
Sandra, thanks os much for sharing your first-hand experience! I really appreciate it. Blessings, Lee
Monday, 03 September 2018 14:52
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Beyond Academics

Beyond Academics

Beyond Academics

Homeschooling is not merely about academics. Preparing your child for adulthood goes way beyond learning English, math, and science!

There are three overlapping areas that are important for success in both college and life: college prep activities to include on a transcript, skills for independent learning that all adults require, and health and safety issues that will prepare kids for a happy and healthy adulthood.

Colleges are interested in students who are well-rounded, students with life skills as well as academic skills. What are the skills that make your student attractive to colleges and what activities will help your student develop these skills?

Children will eventually grow up and leave home (remember, that is your goal). They will need to understand adult responsibilities in order to succeed. How can you prepare your child to live independently?

You want your children to grow up to be happy, healthy, and firm in their faith. How can you know which health and safety issues to address in high school, so they can thrive? How can you equip them to thrive in the new environments of college and life, and maintain strong, healthy relationships with their family members?

The things you teach your children now are so important! Let's look at them together!

College Prep Activities

College prep activities are important, because colleges want to see well-rounded students that have more than academics and interests beyond books. College prep activities can demonstrate the uniqueness of your child.

Colleges look at a wide variety of activities, but also at things that are significant to a particular child. They look at activities a student has done over a long duration. Colleges are attracted to students who show interest in meaningful things over a period of time.

Life Skills for Independence

Life skills are those necessary for people to function as adults. Again, independence is the goal. Whether your student goes to college or not, they will eventually live independently. You want them to thrive and not just survive so you need to teach them these life skills.

Health and Safety

I worked as a nurse at a hospital, so our family talked a lot about the different kinds of health. There’s physical health, but there’s also emotional and spiritual health. You want your children to grow up, be happy, affirmed in their faith, and equipped for adult challenges. Talking about each area is important to your student’s overall growth and maturity.

Would you like to learn more about preparing your child for college and life?

This article is a brief excerpt from my Coffee Break Book, Beyond Academics: Preparation for College and for Life. Regular price is only $2.99 on Kindle. Grab your copy here today!

Once you’ve read it, I would be so grateful if you left a quick review to let me know what you think. Thanks so much!

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Application Essays That Work

Application Essays That Work

Application Essays That Work

My biggest college application essay tip is to write something that might make grandma gasp. (College Admission Essay Tip: Make Grandma Gasp, Not Blush!) But, what does a great college application essay look like? Johns Hopkins University actually posts their favorite essays each year. Look at them to help you guide your child through the college admission procedure.

Read the article: Essays That Worked (Class of 2019)

Of course, each essay is completely different. An essay should be a unique self-portrait, so it can't be borrowed from others. They show something unique about the student - something that simply can't be learned from transcripts, course descriptions, and lists of activities. These are self-reflective essays about a moment in time. Johns Hopkins explains, "These entries are distinct and unique to the individual writer; however, each of them assisted the admissions reader in learning more about the student beyond the transcripts and lists of activities."

Take a moment to see what colleges really want. Look at the first sentences for each one. Can you hear grandma gasp?

Breaking Into Cars by Stephen
"I had never broken into a car before." In the beginning of this essay, Grandma's definitely thinking her sweet grandson is a thief. Yes, she gasped. And no, you don't get into the "essays that worked" category if you actually DO steal cars.

How to Become an Adult by Michaela.
She talks about being a parent to Stanley, and you are a few sentences into the essay before you figure out that Stanley is a plant. She's not an unwed mother after all.

Building a Twenty Story Apartment Building by Kyle
The essay begins with a discussion of his job in construction, but gives a great example of how to include school-specific personalization in his second paragraph. "Hopkins’ professors are change agents whose research connects structural engineering challenges to economic and environmental considerations. I am fascinated by Professor James Guest’s work in..."

Returning to Peru by Anna
This wonderful essay does a great job of demonstrating her diversity. Plus, Grandma would definitely be shocked when she heard, "The memory of a destitute boy, surrounded by waste, consuming water from a filthy communal tap in a dilapidated shantytown of Lima, Peru still haunts me."

Community Service Isn’t For Me by Kyla
The title alone is awesome. It really makes you wonder what she means - who would say that to a college, right? She mentions "straw-thatched, mud-brick homes of host families, of learning bits and pieces of the Chichewa language, of exploring the dynamics of multi-chief, polygamous villages." Those amazing details would certainly make grandma gasp. Not until the end of the essay does she provide the conclusion. "Community service isn’t for me, it’s for Esther and Amai and all the others I seek to serve."

So the application essay is a self-portrait about an amazing moment in time - a personal story that happens to be true. Do you need to do some more research about that?

Read this article:
What's the Big Deal about a Little Essay? Keys to the College Application Essay

Or grab this book:
Coffee Break Book: College Application Essays: A Primer for Parents

Learn more about the college application process, and guiding your child to college admission and scholarships, with this reference book: The HomeScholar Guide to College Admission and Scholarships

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Give Christmas Gifts that Pay for College

Give Christmas Gifts that Pay for College

Are you busy getting all of your Christmas gifts purchased? If so, you won't want to miss this list! Christmas gifts for your homeschooler that will free you from checking your list twice!

What are Gifts that Pay for College?

Kids want fun things that they are interesting to them.
Parents want educated children without going broke or crazy.
Colleges want “passion” and delight directed learning.
Give gifts that will increase the fun factor in school, help colleges appreciate your student, allow you to maintain your sanity, or save enough time of money to help you afford the cost of college.

Gifts that pay for college can mean…

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Homeschool Records + Talent = Julliard Dreams Fulfilled

Homeschool Records + Talent = Julliard Dreams Fulfilled

Homeschool Records + Talent = Julliard Dreams Fulfilled

Getting into Julliard is like getting into Harvard. You really have to have it ALL - academics, special talent, passion, and luck! Anytime you are trying to get into a highly selective school, it requires some extra effort from both the parent and the child.

Recently I received this lovely thank you note from a Gold Care Club member. Their family achieved wonderful success!
"I have enjoyed being a gold card club member for years, spoke to you on the phone and I listened to some of your webinars, used the course description and transcript templates and information on SAT's. I thank you for your help in my journey of making all this ready for applications. My daughter and I made a detailed portfolio for her that she sent to 7 places where she was invited to audition live, and was successfully accepted to most of the Conservatories. She was accepted into The Julliard School by her audition and then they accepted her high school portfolio without any questions. She placed into all the academic courses at the higher level. She is now happily studying a bachelors of music at The Julliard School, fulfilling her dream. I am extremely thankful that I had the opportunity to home school her and thanks to you, I knew how to present her schooling and everything else in such a way that I did not need to sacrifice the wonderful home school curriculum that gave her a strong Christian world view and foundation in Christ. ~ A"

This Gold Care Club Member took advantage of the telephone consultations. She also learned on her own, by consistently watching the 5 monthly classes that change on the 20th of every month. She purchased the Comprehensive Record Solution, that helped her to make a detailed portfolio. And she provided the moral compass her daughter needed to succeed in the future.

The teenager was homeschooled independently, which allowed her to pursue Delight Directed Learning in music, which then enabled her to succeed at the highest levels. Learn more about Delight Directed Learning.

Delight Directed Learning
Maximize the Fun Factor
Encouraging Delight Directed Learning at the High School Level

Coordinating Coffee Break Book on Amazon:
Delight Directed Learning: Guide Your Homeschooler Toward Passionate Learning

Here is what I suggest.

  • Prepare thorough homeschool records.

  • Encourage your child's interests and talents.

  • Prepare to have your child's dreams fulfilled too!

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Will More Tests Increase Options?

Will More Tests Increase Options?

Will More Tests Increase Options?

Jasmine was doing some research on college counselors, and found my YouTube Tip of the Week "Do You Need a High Priced College Counselor?"
"My daughter took the SAT twice, receiving 2250 and 2280 (thanks to your excellent tips!) consecutively. Some people have advised her to take the ACT (some saying that her SAT score is still too low for highly selective colleges, others saying that a high ACT score may open doors to additional scholarships depending on where she applies). What do you think?" ~ Jasmine

What a great question! I always suggest that every student tries both the SAT and ACT at home first, before they even start test preparation. That way you can see which test makes your child look the smartest.

Have your child take a sample of each college admission tests.
Sample SAT:
Sample ACT:

Many girls do better on the ACT. If she takes the ACT and improves her percentile score, then she may get more college admission offers with scholarships.  If scores on the ACT are higher, then I would absolutely have your child take that test. If scores on the SAT are higher, have your child take that test instead. Colleges often do not have a preference, so as homeschool parents we can choose the test that makes our child look smarter. If you have already taken one of the college admission tests, like the SAT, you can try the other one, the ACT, to see if your child scores better. If you do score better on the ACT, it's a good idea to switch test preparation for that specific test right away. Taking the second test, IF if makes scores improve, will improve the overall academic package presented to the college, and can improve the chances of admission and scholarships.

It's best not to study for the SAT and ACT at the same time. The tests each have a different "voice" and ask questions in  a slightly different way.  So study for one test, then if you decide to take the other test, switch to studying for that particular test.

Jasmine's daughter has GREAT scores, that would make many homeschoolers celebrate! The best advice is to focus on finding a great college that will appreciate your child and be a great fit for her, where she will enjoy living for four years.

If you would like to talk more, consider the Gold Care Club so I can get to know you, your child, and your situation better before giving advice.

If you haven't looking into it before, a College Consultant can be very pricey, and average $150/hour or $4000 flat fee, but can be much more in some locations.  College consulting is an option for parents of sufficient means, but might be out of reach for many single-income homeschool families.  You can pay many thousands of dollars for these special services and it may pay off, or your student may not play their part.  There are much lower cost ways available, however, including The HomeScholar Gold Care Club.

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Reporting SAT Scores To Colleges

Reporting SAT Scores To Colleges

Reporting SAT Scores To Colleges

I was just talking to one of my Gold Care Club members about the cost of sending SAT scores to colleges. Without planning, it can get pricey

When you register for the SAT test, the student can indicate up to four college recipients during registration. Only four score sends are included with your registration; you have to pay to send additional scores. I believe that it is $11-$12 per college when you send additional scores.  You will have to pay that amount per college if you don't indicate colleges when you register, also, and if you have more that 4 colleges where you are applying.  You can learn more about score reporting from the college board here:

You can see how the cost of applying to college can add up quickly and be expensive.  Think of it as part of your "college budget" and an investment in college costs to reduce the overall amount you need to pay, and reduce the overall student loan you might need. If the cost is burdensome, you can request a fee waiver based on family income. Read more about that here:  Fee Waivers for Tests and Applications

When you take a test like the SAT, ACT, AP, SAT Subject Tests or CLEP, make sure your child has practiced and will score well before sending them to take the real test. The reason I suggest that is to make sure the colleges will see good scores being sent, not practice scores.  Take the test at home a few times, timed, so you know they will do well.  If your child has learning challenges, or you are not sure how they will perform during the test, then it may be worth it financially to wait until you see the scores before sending them to a college.

Let me save you some money on reporting test scores. It's cheaper to choose your four favorite colleges first, before they take the test, where you know your child will reply. Then make sure your child has prepared for the test, and that the "worst case scenario" scores really aren't that bad. Then, list those colleges when you register for the test, so the scores are sent directly while it is free. I suggest your student take the SAT or ACT twice in the spring of their junior year - so the second time, you will have the option of sending it to different colleges, in case your college choices have changed. Then in senior year, as you are applying to colleges, you will have fewer places where you must pay to send those scores.

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Test Scores Low but High Homeschool Grades

Test Scores Low but High Homeschool Grades

Test Scores Low but High Homeschool Grades

What do you do?

What do you do when your test scores don't match your homeschool grades? First rule of homeschooling - do not panic! Especially with the first time taking the SAT or ACT, the scores may not be accurate as the child is adjusting to the test.
Tammy asked this question on my Video Tip of the Week.

I have been working through my daughter’s transcripts, and her grades at home from tests, homework, and quizzes are good—-she is getting all A’s. Her first time taking the SAT, however, her scores were not as high as I had hoped—low in fact. 500′s and one score in the 400′s!

I was wondering if I need to go back through all of her home grades and lower her scores to match up with the sat scores. I don’t want the colleges to think mommy grades are bogus!  ~ Tammy

Test the waters!

All students should try to take the ACT and SAT at home, to see which one makes them look the smartest. If you feel  scores were lower than expected, it may not be your child's problem, it could just be the wrong test - a mismatch can lower scores.

Give a sample SAT and ACT at home, to see which test is best for your child.

Sample SAT
Sample ACT


Whichever test is best, work on test preparation during your school day. You can use some of the test preparation to replace some of your English class. Your child does NOT have to get smarter to get a better score, she just needs to get more familiar with the way they ask the questions.

This blog post will help you learn to Schedule Test Preparation

If both tests are equally discouraging, then begin to focus on other ways to get outside documentation for your grades - great course descriptions, letters of recommendation, detailed activity and awards lists, etc. Read article about outside documentation for ideas: Super-Size Scholarships with Outside Documentation

There are plenty of kids who don't do well at fill-in-the-bubble tests that get good grades. So try to get those scores up if you can, even if that means switching tests, but don't panic about the test scores - look for other outside documentation if you need to.

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Transcripts & Applying to College Can Be a Breeze!

Transcripts & Applying to College Can Be a Breeze!

Transcripts & Applying to College Can Be a Breeze!

It's that time of year again, when my Gold Care Club members are graduating their children. I love hearing about their successes, and I feel their uncertainty about facing the empty nest after years of homeschooling. I got this sweet note from Jennifer recently. Check it out!
With a heavy heart I am writing you an email to say goodbye.  My last home schooled child is graduating in two weeks.  I have learned so much from you and your millions of resources.  O.K., maybe not millions, but your newsletter, website, and books.  Then the added bonus of meeting you when our family had just moved to the Seattle area.   You were a lifesaver then and your advice and amazing tutelage for transcripts was far beyond any type of  thank you I could give in return.

I have and will continue to tell friends and family, who are interested in home schooling about your site. You are kind and full of grace to offer this invaluable service.  You made applying to colleges and sending transcripts a breeze.  You prepared me for what our family was in store for with college admissions from the time my son was a freshman in high school.  It was a bit tedious to write a page about each class, but boy it was worth it not to wait until the kids were seniors to tackle the transcript mess.

What a relief when the application process began.  All I had to do as a counselor was reach into the home school transcript drawer and fax the information over to the various colleges. Let me add the colleges were VERY impressed.

When someone has such a large impact on your family, you need to let them know.  I met you when were at the home school college fair.  I cannot remember the date or location. Yet you saved me from making a huge mistake and I really appreciate you redirecting my thinking. My prayers go to you and your business.  You are invaluable!

Thank you again!  Keep up the good work!
Forever in your debt,

If you are graduating a student and would like to share your successes, I'd love to share your story too!

If you are still in the thick of it, how can I help?
My millions of resources: Homeschool Freebies
My newsletter: The HomeScholar Record
My books:

If you are still early in the high school years, please take Jennifer's advice - it's worth it not to wait until your children are seniors to tackle everything. Start early, so all you have to do is reach into your homeschool drawer and send colleges the information they need.

Are you feeling confident? Or do you feel like you need some help in the coming year?

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Teach Note-Taking in High School

Teach Note-Taking in High School

Note-taking skills can really help your children become successful in college and career. It's a pretty easy class to teach, too!


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The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Your Way to College

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Your Way to College

Homeschooling Your Way to College

Do you need some encouragement for today? Listen to my radio interview by Melanie Wilson of the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network.

College Admission and Scholarship Secrets for Homeschoolers with Lee Binz

In this 1 hour interview, I tried to spend a long time explaining exactly WHY you do NOT need to be afraid of homeschooling high school. Then I spent quite a long time talking about key strategies for success, so you can homeschool with confidence.

Melanie said that her favorite quote from the whole interview was "Every child deserves a college-prep education, whether they choose to go to college or not."

Melanie wrote:
This interview with Lee Binz, the Home Scholar, should really be titled The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Your Way to College. Lee offers so much valuable information that you’ll want to pin or bookmark this show for later. Be sure to share it with friends! They’ll thank you. Learn:

  • What a college-prep curriculum looks like

  •  Where you can find help creating a high school transcript

  •  When you need to start the college selection process

  •  Why Lee says her two sons received full tuition scholarships

  •  Lee’s tip for increasing SAT/ACT scores, and much more!

If you are nervous about college prep education, you’ll love this show! If you know someone who isn’t sure they can homeschool high school, I hope you’ll share the show with them.

So listen to this program and enjoy! Grab some encouragement today, and share it with a friend!

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Work Samples: Yummy Dessert of Comprehensive Records

Work Samples: Yummy Dessert of Comprehensive Records
Provide colleges with the information they need! Going beyond the transcript can improve your chance of earning scholarships.  A transcript may be the cornerstone of admission, but colleges want more if you expect them to give you scholarship money. They generally like to see more comprehensive homeschool records.

Work Samples: Yummy Dessert of Comprehensive Records

Samples of student work are the icing on the cake, the yummy dessert of comprehensive homeschool records.

I provided three writing samples with our comprehensive homeschool records. I tried to choose a variety of writing styles; research, fiction, and poetry. They were also writing samples that I knew were good. My children had submitted their writing to essay competitions to win scholarship money. When my children won scholarship funds, I knew the essay was good and included that piece of work.

In addition, I kept a sample of work for every class on the transcript. I didn’t submit them to colleges with the application package (they didn’t want documentation of four years of PE). Instead, I made a note on each course description, “written work is available upon request.” If colleges asked me for something, I was able to give it to them.

I was asked for some additional work samples. One college requested a “graded” English paper (presumably with some red marks on it) and math work in the student’s handwriting. Another college wanted to see a science lab report. 

Be prepared. It’s impossible to guess what records colleges may ask for. Instead of worrying about it, try to keep a few representative samples from each class. Then you’ll be prepared
for anything!

How do you choose which work samples to keep? Please share!

Please note: This post was originally published in August 2013 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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Graduate and Go To Work

Graduate and Go To Work
As a parent, your work during high school includes planning for and providing the best possible education for your children so they can learn the life skills they need.

Graduate and Go to Work

It’s your job to prepare them to be ready for a variety of different possibilities and then encourage them to pursue what they’ll need to know in order to function in their job, whether that includes college or not.

Education is not just a matter of climbing up the ladder. Education is about what they're going to do after they've climbed up the ladder. What will they do and where will they work?

Many students will decide that they want to work after high school. I have a friend whose teen-aged son said he was going to work and not go to college. He got a job working at a local fast food restaurant and he loved it. He was getting higher and higher in management as a teenager when he decided that he wanted to own a business. He quickly found out it required a business degree, so he decided to go to college. He easily passed the college entrance exams, because his mother had taught him everything he needed to know during high school.

The lesson here is that you always need to be prepared. Remember that kids will change their minds! You just don’t know what the future is going to hold; kids mature and change their minds and the next thing you know, they want to own a business of their own and need a degree. If you’ve prepared them in high school, they will be ready for whatever they choose, college or work. They will have what they need! That’s homeschool success!

What are your children planning to do after graduation? Have they changed their minds? Please share!

Please note: This post was originally published in November 2012 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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