by Lee Binz
Bad Things Can Happen“The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray” ~ Robert Burns
When you start homeschooling, you don’t plan on having a health crisis or family trauma, but bad things can happen to good homeschoolers. We are not immune from difficulty just because our children are counting on us.
Sometimes the best you can do is to throw the ball toward the end zone and hope someone catches it. Sometimes you just need to pray for the touchdown play.
I want to share with you a very important story about success, perseverance, and planning ahead in case of a crisis year. Let me share with you the success story of Brittany, a young 20 year old woman.
But before I begin, I have a quick suggestion before you read and panic. To prevent major upheaval, work conscientiously on your homeschooling each year. When things are going well, cover the core subjects each year, right from the beginning of high school. Try to avoid dropping classes unless it is a true emergency. Planning ahead like this, nothing will ever deter you in your success of homeschooling.
Now let’s hear from Brittany.
Problem Without Regrets
Dear Mrs. Binz,
I happened upon your website today and I'm hoping you can help me. I'm not sure I'm your traditional candidate, or that my situation is common. But you seem like someone who knows a lot about homeschooling and I'm hoping you can give me some advice. My name is Brittany. I'm 20 years old and I was homeschooled by my mother starting in the second grade. I was homeschooled through the rest of elementary school, middle school and through most of my senior year. Here's where things get complicated.
In my senior year my grandmother became very ill and I was greatly needed to help care for her, so for all practical purposes I dropped out of school to do so. I kept saying I'd start back, but my grandmother stayed sick for over a year and a half and things just didn't work out for me. I do not regret taking care of her though. I just wanted to make that clear, because I don't want to sound like I begrudge that time away from school. Family took precedence over school. I knew I'd have my entire life for school.
So last year I was going to finish what I had left of high school and start pursuing college, like I've always dreamed of. But then family health tragedy struck even closer to home. My mother had a massive stroke and has suffered severe effects from that. Her ability to speak is very limited and her mobility was also altered. She is now wheelchair bound. Right now I am her primary care giver, so obviously I still haven't completed what I have left of high school. But enough back story, I know you're probably busy, so here are my questions/problems.
I have no transcripts. My mother, God bless her, did not make them, so I'm doing my very best to assemble them now. Do I fill it them out through the part of my senior year where I had to stop and then submit them that way along with my college applications when I'm ready to start applying? I don't want to lose those credits, because I was a very good student. I took a lot of electives and things that I'd really like for colleges to see. So how do I do that?
My plan was to get my GED® this month or the next, take the SAT in March, register at the local community college for the summer semester, and then transfer to Western Michigan University (if they'll have me) as an art major. (Yes, I realize these are lofty goals. haha)
I know this is a long email and that my situation is really complicated, but please if you have any advice or tips for me, I'd greatly appreciate them. Because I'm simply lost right now and I hoped you might be able to guide me.
A Compelling Advantage
I told Brittany that she had one very real advantage: a VERY compelling personal story. Colleges love to provide admission and scholarships with an unusual life situations, and students who have overcome obstacles. A compelling admission essay, transcripts and SAT should be able to achieve her dreams. Brittany purchased the Total Transcript Solution, and we began talking on the phone for consultations.
It soon became obvious that Brittany was anything but a drop out. She was well-spoken, well-educated, and an excellent writer. Her parents must have worked conscientiously during her early high school years. Working together, her transcript looked remarkably complete for a young girl with a complicated family situation. Though much of her transcript was completed by junior year, it was quite thorough.
We talked about how she could apply to a university immediately, rather than attending a community college first. This alternative plan could bring more scholarship money as she would be considered a freshman. Her original plan included obtaining a GED®, but I thought that might not be necessary.
I suggested she pursue both option - college admission now and community college as a backup plan, in case the money didn't come through. In discussing her homeschool classes, she had enough credits to graduate, and enough to get admitted to college. We discussed how it might be less expensive to start at the university with scholarships rather than beginning in community college without scholarships.
There is a skill to pursuing both options at the same time. For college admission, the SAT is more important. I suggested she take that test as soon as possible. It's easy to delay the GED® if necessary - that's often not a college admission requirement for homeschoolers.
The “Hail Mary” PlayDuring January I explained how to proceed. "Your best chance of admission will happen if you apply as soon as possible (this week). Get your SAT scores in as quickly as possible (next time they offer the test – and remember, you can substituted the ACT, at act.org). Write the application essay using the tips I gave you. In a few months you will find out the results (admission and hopefully scholarships.) If you aren't happy with the scholarships, then go back to your original plan. If you DO decide to apply to colleges, as soon as you have hit "submit" on your application, you will need to fill out the FAFSA. (http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/) The FAFSA is like the federal income tax forms for college scholarship, and much of the financial aid money will come from that form."
Her immediate plan was to work on her application essay for the college she wanted to attend. "The strategy is like a 'hail Mary' in football. You're just throwing the ball up once, just to see if someone catches it. We're hoping that your application will be caught. If it's not, you have a good, solid back up plan. While I don't think you should cram, I do think that if you take one sample test of the ACT or SAT at home it could help. Try to get a letter of recommendation from someone that is well educated. Pastor, Mom's doctor.... Any other homeschool parents that are professionals that you know? They could write it. "
Take a sample test at home:
Brittany's "Hail Mary" play included plenty of English and history. She had completed Algebra 2 and Geometry, plus two years of Latin, before the family crisis occured. We were able to find 30 credits for her transcript, demonstrating her interests in delight-directed learning. In February she found out she was admitted!
The Hail Mary Play can solve the biggest fear that some parents have, “What if I fail?” What happens if you really DO fail? You can try the Hail Mary Play, and apply for college anyway. Failing in homeschool can look significantly better than failing in public school. Without the “Fs” and rock-bottom GPA, college may see a well educated child with a willingness to learn. Reading, writing, and a work ethic can compensate for a lot.
Create a New Beginning
I just wanted to email you and tell that I GOT INTO WESTERN MICHIGAN. =D I literally just found out. I don't have my financial aid packet yet or anything, but I do know for sure that I got accepted. Thank you so much for all your help with everything so far. Now all I can do is hope for the loans, grants, and scholarships I need and I'm golden. So yeah, thank you so much for everything. Without all of your help, I would be nowhere near where I am right now.
I explained that she was receiving the "first wave" of scholarships within a week or two of application, although they may take longer because they are based on SAT or ACT scores. I told her, "Keep your "plan B" in your back pocket, but also remember that scholarships come in waves, and you haven't even gotten the first wave yet." (See "Three Waves Of Scholarships") In April she was still working hard on the details of financial aid. She asked me how to find more scholarships and I suggested my scholarship class. I told her to consider herself a high school senior OR a college freshman. Since she had been notified that she was admitted, she could say she was "enrolled" in college. I said, "If you can do this right away, and follow through during the summer, you could do pretty well. Have you spoken to the college about your concerns? They may have additional scholarships at the college that you can apply to as well."
In June, Brittany provided a follow up report.
I hope you're doing well. It's been quite a while since I've talked to you. Everything is still a go for attending Western in the Fall. I got $15,000 in aid and scholarships, I'm going to get a student loan for the remaining $20,000 for my degree. $20,000 was my goal, so I'm more than happy with it and I'm still waiting to hear back on a few private scholarships. I'm just getting my student loan set up and saving money at this point. I'm going to be taking math, English, Art, French and possibly Sociology if the course load isn't too heavy. My moving date is August 27th. It'll be here in no time. But anyway, I just wanted to thank you for all of your help with everything. Without you, there is NO WAY I'd be where I am right now. I'm so thankful that I found your website. So I guess I want to go ahead and cancel my membership, but if it's okay, I'll probably still email you one or two more times before I move and then maybe after I'm situated and in class, just to tell you how things are and keep you posted. I think YOU are awesome and thank you again. God bless you. =)
This story is a lesson in encouragement. From the beginning, we could see how Brittany’s family did things right. They educated their daughter from the beginning, creating a strong, independent young woman capable of learning, reading, writing, and thinking. She didn’t shirk academics during the beginning of high school, but pressed forward until stymied by trauma.
The lesson of this story is also a purposeful warning for homeschool families. I want homeschoolers to plan for a possible crisis year. I don’t want you to assume that something's going to happen, of course. We live by faith! But by planning for your crisis year, nothing will ever deter you in your success of homeschooling.
Here is how to plan around a crisis year. Plan your high school courses. Make sure that you cover all subjects from the beginning. Don’t wait until senior year to cover your every subject, but begin with challenging classes from the beginning. Plan high school courses for success.
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Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's Free Resource Guide, "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School." You can find her at www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com/freebies
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