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#Homeschool College this Summer! @TheHomeScholarJune 2019
By Lee Binz
The HomeScholar

Your high school student may be able to earn some college credits this summer.  Using tried and true techniques, your teenager can rack up some inexpensive college credits that could decrease the cost of college.   I did this with my own two children, and they earned a whole year of college education by taking some multiple-choice tests during the summer.  Let me explain how it works.

It starts by understanding subject tests.  If you aren’t familiar with them, this free eBook will explain it all: High School Subject Tests Simply Explained: AP - SAT - CLEP Information and Tips for Busy Parents

Homeschooling college during the summer means using CLEP tests to earn college credits.   It’s almost as if this test was made for homeschoolers.  On the brochure it says, "Who takes CLEP? A homeschooled 15-year-old." I felt somewhat reassured when I walked into the test center, knowing that my son couldn't be that unusual, since his demographic was right on the brochure.

Imagine my surprise! Within the month, my son obtained college credit in "Principles of Marketing" and "Business Law" yet I had never purchased marketing or law curriculum! How does that happen, exactly? As a homeschool parent, you may know what your child has been taught, but you may not realize what they know.  There is a place where knowledge reigns supreme … a place where you can also discover their hidden learning - your local CLEP testing center.

CLEP Can Lower Education Payments
CLEP stands for "College Level Examination Program" but in our home we call it "Can Lower Education Payments."  Each test passed could earn college credit, shortening the time spent in college.  The exams are college level tests and each question on the test is challenging.   A good score on the test doesn’t require getting all the answers correct.  For some universities, you only need to answer half the questions right to earn college credit.

Each exam can be worth a three to six-credit college course and save you a bunch of money on college expenses.  At $89 each, CLEP exams are inexpensive compared with the cost of college, which may charge $1200 to $4000 per course. Each exam can be prepared for at home, like any other homeschool course.  The exams are offered all year round, even in the summer, five days a week, at conveniently located testing centers.  Every test is taken on the computer, and questions are all multiple choice.

Because the exam is intended for non-traditional learners, each question is straight-forward, with no nuance - you either know the answer or you don't.  CLEP is often used for adult learners returning to college after a long time - even parents.  Two thousand nine hundred colleges nationwide accept CLEP exams and award college credit for each passing exam.  There are 33 different subject exams available.

#Homeschool College this Summer! @TheHomeScholarDetermine if CLEP will Benefit Your Student
Do some research to find out if CLEP tests will earn your child college credit. Life would be so much easier if every college had the same policies but sadly, this isn't the case.  Each college makes their own unique decision about CLEP exams.  Check out each college website where your child might apply and look for “Credit by Examination” to find out their policy.

Some colleges will accept some CLEP tests but not others or will only give credit for CLEPs with high scores but not average scores.  At some colleges, the CLEP is accepted as if it was an SAT Subject test and other colleges use it to give college credits.  Some colleges require a certain number of SAT Subject Tests or AP tests, and don’t accept alternatives.  Many colleges have a policy of holistic evaluation. If your child does not meet the exact admission requirements, they may look at the application holistically and decide based on the full portfolio. This takes more time, so it's not their first choice.

With all these different factors in play, I don't think there is an easy answer. Sadly, this leaves us with only one definitive answer: check with each college where your child plans to apply.  Only the college knows their own policies and which tests they accept.  Yes, it's frustrating, but they control admission and scholarship decisions. If your child wants to earn college credits at that college, you need to know their rules.

Prepare for CLEP When Subjects are Complete
It's helpful to take the test when your child is done - the problem is knowing what done means. When your child is done studying a subject at the end of a school year, then it makes sense to study and have them take the test as soon as possible. For example, if your child is done studying “French 3” and doesn’t plan to study French next year, they are done with French. If your student will continue learning a subject all the way through high school, for example, when they are done studying “Algebra 2,” it’s more helpful to continue with math and not take a CLEP right away.  In this instance, it makes sense to take the test close to the end of high school, when they are as knowledgeable as they are going to be in that area.  It's probably not helpful to take a subject test and then take another test in a more advanced topic of the same area, (taking multiple CLEP or AP exams in math, for example).

#Homeschool College this Summer! @TheHomeScholarAssess What the Student Knows
The summer before we began senior year, I decided to begin homeschooling college with CLEP exams. I wanted to do this in the summer so we could include passing scores on their college applications. Since their senior year would be spent in community college, I wanted to know which courses they would pass by examination, so they wouldn't be bored. You can quickly assess what your teenager knows to find out if CLEP tests are a good idea.

Purchase the study guide that has one sample test in each of the 33 exam areas. Use it to determine which subject areas your child is close to passing. We started with a $20 investment in the book, The College Board CLEP Official Study Guide.

Evaluate each test in the study guide to decide if it’s an option. You can look over the titles to decide what is a good fit, then look over each test to be sure you have covered much of the material already. I told my boys to look over the titles and see which test names they liked.

The next step is to give a sample test at home. The results of this test will indicate if your child is starting with enough information to potentially earn college credits. In my home, I told my boys to choose tests they were interested in. I encouraged them to stop if they got frustrated and reminded them that they only had to get roughly 50 percent correct to pass each CLEP exam. I wrote each score on the study guide table of contents, so I would always have their starting scores handy.

Test Prep to Maximize CLEP Scores
Once you have identified if passing a CLEP is possible, get the student started prepping for the test. There are many test preparation materials, but what I liked best for review was the series published by the Research and Education Association. One example of the REA study guides is the CLEP® Biology Book + Online (CLEP Test Preparation) by homeschool parent Laurie Ann Callihan, Ph.D. Each of these books explains the test, reviews the concepts, and includes practice tests. The student can read and review at their own pace, with some encouragement to study a set number of hours each day.

In my home, we began test prep using each child’s best subject. Once my children completed all the sample tests, we decided to begin taking tests "for real." The pre-test they scored highest in was American Government, so I bought a review book for the American Government CLEP exam. One son skimmed the chapters and the other son wanted to read it more carefully. They went through two more sample tests using that book to study and review the questions they answered incorrectly. At that point, my boys felt they were ready to try their first CLEP.

#Homeschool College this Summer! @TheHomeScholarTake Exam at Local Testing Center
There are thousands of CLEP test centers, all with different testing schedules, so you’ll need to contact a nearby test center to schedule your child’s exam. Search the College Board CLEP site to locate a testing center. Many are located at colleges, community colleges, technical schools, and military bases. The testing center charges additional fees to cover the cost of administering the test. They may require your child to purchase a student ID card.

Each testing location has a unique feel, and our first testing location didn’t work out for us. When we arrived at the testing center, we paid a small fee to register with the technical college and for a student number. Then we went to the testing area and paid the CLEP fee for the test. Unfortunately, the lone computer used for CLEP exams wasn't working and the technical expert was not available to fix it. We waited for an hour, but no technician arrived, so we drove home disappointed without taking a test.

Once home, we got a phone call from the center explaining that the technician had plugged in the computer and it was finally working! It was incredibly frustrating that such a simple issue could have prevented taking the test. The next day, we tried a different testing center at another technical college. When we arrived, we recognized the difference immediately. The second testing center had over a dozen computers devoted to CLEP exams, so both my kids could test at the same time. Plus, they had technical help on site. At the second location, we again needed to pay a fee to register and a fee to get a student number, in addition to the cost of the test.  The effort was worth it, and we were thrilled when they handed us the score report that showed each child’s passing grade in a college course!

Homeschooling College Routine
From that moment, we developed a family routine.  Every Wednesday, we went to the testing center to take one or two tests. After they passed, with their score report in hand, we went out for lunch to celebrate. The next day, they decided on a subject to tackle next. In general, we went from their highest pre-tested scores and worked our way down. On Thursday, we went to the local bookstore to buy the REA study guide for the next subject. If you can't find REA books, any AP or CLEP review book will work.

Our children took a sample test each day and studied any incorrect answers. The following Wednesday, they took another CLEP exam. It was fun and so satisfying to see those college credits adding up.

One of my sons took and passed six CLEP exams, worth two quarters of college. My other son passed fifteen exams, earning the maximum one full year of college credit by exam. While some colleges would not give college credits, the tests were still useful. One college they applied to required SAT Subject Test scores, which we didn't have, and the CLEP exams were accepted instead. The remaining tests were used to help my son place into upper division university classes. Even though they didn't give college credit, it still helped in the application process and college success.

#Homeschool College this Summer! @TheHomeScholarCumulative Learning or Intentional Learning
We had planned to homeschool college with CLEP to simply document the cumulative learning from our homeschool. There is another way to homeschool college with CLEP exams, though. Your child can decide what subject they want to learn and then intentionally study for the test. Some families choose which course they want to pass ahead of time, and then study for that subject like they would for any other high school course. At the end, they take the test as a final exam, knowing from start to finish they could receive college credit.

For example, my son Alex knew that psychology was required in college, but he did not want to take it. He was disgusted by Freud and truly didn't want to hear his theories in a co-ed class. My son tried taking the psychology CLEP practice exam but didn't pass. He begged me to buy him the REA study guide anyway. How could I refuse? He read the study guide from cover to cover and then took the sample tests in the book until he felt comfortable. A few weeks later, he took and passed the psychology CLEP exam, was awarded five college credits and met the university requirement for psychology. He never had to take psych in college, yet he has the knowledge he needs to succeed.

Decide How to Use College Credits
CLEP scores provide outside documentation, evidence outside the home that shows learning.  As your child applies to colleges, look at their policies to decide if you want to send CLEP Scores.

The test scores are delivered to each college in the form of a transcript.  You can choose to send the scores to a college each time your child takes an exam, or you can wait and send all the scores at once, leaving off any scores you don’t want to share. It was nice to have a transcript that supplemented my mommy-made transcript; it was a wonderful way to document my students' learning, whether they got college credit for it or not.

Because CLEP tests are at the college level, they are more advanced than high school level work.  For this reason, when my children earned a passing score, I made sure to include honors by the high school course on their transcript.

If you are ready to learn more about homeschooling college and learning about other methods of earning college credit in high school, read my short book, How to Homeschool College: Save Time, Reduce Stress, and Eliminate Debt.

If it’s scholarships you are concerned about, take my free class, Super Scholarships for Humble Homeschoolers and read about how my children each earned a full-tuition scholarship from their first choice university.

If you need more help figuring out how to get your children into college without college debt, then I hope you’ll join me inside the College Launch Solution.  The College Launch Solution will train you how to be the best college coach for your child, so you can launch your child successfully into college and life.

Recommended Resources

How to #Homeschool College: Save Time, Reduce Stress, and Eliminate Debt [Kindle] @The HomeScholarHow to Homeschool College: Save Time, Reduce Stress, and Eliminate Debt
(Coffee Break Book) [Kindle Edition]

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Lee Binz, a veteran homeschool mom, best-selling author and high school expert will teach you how to position your homeschool student to receive the best possible admission and scholarship awards, and then help them succeed throughout college and into their career,  while saving you thousands on expensive college coaches who don't understand homeschooling.

The College Launch Solution gives you all the training, support, and encouragement you need to launch your kids successfully into college and life, without paying for expensive college coaching. Now that you are nearing the end of homeschooling, you deserve to know that your investment of time, love, and money will not be in vain.

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