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Welcome to the second chapter in my series on how we are Homeschooling High School. My first post in this series introduced you to the method that we are following. I encourage you to go back and read it if you haven’t. In a nutshell, we are utilizing all available resources to accrue college credit inexpensively or free. This means that we will take advantage of our state’s dual enrollment program during Junior and Senior years. It also means that as we study various subjects, we pursue college credit through CLEP and DSST testing. If you’d like to read more about fully utilizing credit by exam check out this website. It’s a gem, and my best source!
This method has not changed what we study so much as it has changed how we study.
I’m going to walk you through a subject so you can see what it looks like as we look toward testing.
Let’s look at Economics.
This is actually a course we are doing now as part of a study group with other homeschooled teens. The group meets once a week at our house, and the students have assignments that they work on throughout the week. The process would be very similar if we were doing it independently, though.
We’ve found a lot of success in putting together study groups for some of the subjects we test on. Sometimes it’s just one other family, sometimes several. Studying together builds accountability, adds a bit of (the sometimes lacking in home school) peer pressure to succeed, and frankly—it’s more fun!
We are using Notgrass Exploring Economics as our core curriculum. It is a one semester class.
For the bulk of the class, test prep isn’t even mentioned except in reminders to put terms to memory. We meet each week and go through the study questions from the text, discuss the readings, and watch segments of videos I’ve found to illustrate various topics. You can find the videos we’re using here and here.
We also use the boards you see in the picture to review. Each week, the students must bring a Question, Quote, Meme or Morsel to share with the group. (Question about the text, Quote from the text or secondary readings, Meme illustrating a point from the lesson, or just a Morsel that stood out to them). It has to pertain to the lesson studied that week, and they must be able to explain why they chose it. You can access the free meme generator that we use at this link.
And I must mention, perhaps the most important part of leading a study group for teenagers: Cookies. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
As we near the end of the course, we’ll spend some time each week reviewing. I’ll quiz the kids on key vocabulary and concepts. And the last couple of group meetings we will spend playing review games.
Check out my Pinterest board titled ‘Homeschool – High School’ for some of the review games we’ve used. I will also often times pull out a children’s board game, like Candyland. With each turn, the students have to answer a question.
REA is a company that makes study guides for credit by exam testing. I just about always order the one that corresponds to the test we’re preparing for. They are not a curriculum, per se, but offer an overview of topics that may appear on the test, as well as a couple of practice tests. Very useful resource.
Instantcert is an amazing website that has flashcards for every CLEP and DSST test. It gives explanations for answers as well, so real learning is taking place. It is an invaluable resource for test prep. One nice feature is that you can select sub-categories within a topic so you can quiz on just what you’re studying.
I usually start my kids on Instantcert about mid-way through a course to begin reviewing, adding sub-topics as we study them. I assign them 10-15 minutes per day on the site.
For a monthly subscription, you have access not only to the massive gallery of flashcards, but you also can go onto discussion boards and read other people’s experiences with the tests. I do this for each test we’re working on. If numerous people comment that a particular topic was on their version of the test, I know that’s an area to focus on.
(By the way, if you check out Instantcert through one of my links and enter Discount Code: 100109 they’ll give you 25% off your first month!)
When the course is complete, we move into active test prep mode.
I have my kids go through the front portion of the REA study guide, looking for topics that they may not have covered in our curriculum, or that they don’t feel confident in. We read up on those topics.
There are a number of resources for practice tests that I’ll tell you about. Since the REA guides have them in the back, we always start there.
*Big Star*Important* Read This*
These are not like other tests your kids have taken. Do not expect the same scores you’re used to seeing. Keep in mind that a passing score on most CLEP tests is 50 (on a scale of 20-80). You are hoping for a score on a first practice test of at least 40%. If it’s below that, you may want to reconsider taking this test.
After we take the first practice test, we use that as our next focus of study. Practice tests are incredibly useful study tools. By going through missed items, reading up on them and discussing, my boys 2nd practice test score is always higher.
As a rule of thumb, I look for 2 practice tests with scores of 60% (or darn close) before I feel comfortable sending them to test.
Here are a couple of other places to find practice tests, besides the REA study guides:
Free CLEP Prep offers free practice tests on select CLEP and DSST tests. It also offers suggestions on studying for the exams. A good resource.
Peterson’s offers practice tests for purchase. You pay $19.95 and get access to 3 full length practice exams for 90 days. (I use this resource only on tests that we’re struggling to achieve the 60% on, mainly to keep our costs down).
Taking the Test
To register for a CLEP exam, you have to purchase the exam online before you call to schedule it. You can do this at their website. It also can direct you to the nearest testing center to you. After you purchase the test, print out your receipt and call to schedule the exam.
For a DSST, you call to schedule the exam, and pay for it when you arrive to take the test . Their website also will direct you to the closest place to test.
Our local community college is where we have taken most of our tests.
Something you will need in order for your child to test is government issued identification. We got state identification cards at our local DMV, since we began testing before the boys were driving. A passport would also work.
Test Day: You get the hard work of waiting while your child tests.
Remember this: they won’t always pass, and that’s ok. The first time each of my boys came out slumping because they hadn’t passed their test, I reminded them that they had already saved hundreds of dollars with the tests they had passed; and that this is college level work. Hard stuff. And they still receive high school credit for the course.
We try to walk the fine line between letting the pressure weigh enough to motivate them to apply themselves a little more next time…with grace. We all need grace.
We get a treat or go for lunch after every test. Pass or Fail.
Tests can be retaken after 90 days if you choose, but we have only done that once. Typically, holding on to the information for 3 more months is unlikely to do much else but cause stress. Not overly productive.
Sigh and move on.
And when they do pass … Celebrate!! Revel in that success, and remind them of it when you’re in the thick of preparing for the next one.
I hope that our experience will be helpful to you as you think about planning courses to prepare your student for credit by exam.
It can seem overwhelming, I know.
Watch for my next post in this series: Curriculum and Study Materials We’ve Used.