Are you thinking about COLLEGE yet? If so, what are your concerns/insights/etc

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  • Claire

    We are in the high school boat over here and although it feels like smooth sailing most days, I have to admit to some real fear about whether or not I’m preparing my children for the competitive world that is college admissions.

    I know a few years back we had a robust discussion on here about rigor in homeschooling.  I’ll have to go back to read those posts and see what was said in regards to its effect on college admissions.  But please, share your concerns and insights here!  I’d like to know if I’m the only one fearing college admissions.

    Grading?  Am I too lenient?  Too hard?  What’s their GPA?  If I determine a 3.5/4.0 is that on par with their traditional high school peers?  Do you test for high school subjects?  How do you apply grades?  Are you grading narrations?

    Transcripts?  How do you show the richness, the Socratic discussions, the depth of their thought on things, their interests, their oral narrations … in a single letter grade?

    Testing?  PSAT, SAT, ACT + more?  Do you do yearly standardized testing of any kind to monitor your success?

    Is anyone with non-Math oriented children dumbfounded by the 4 years of high school Math required by colleges now?  I’m sort of at a loss with how to handle that one right now and time’s a wasting!  How are you scheduling out Math for college bound children who are not majoring in Math fields?

    I love the world of education I’ve created for my children with Charlotte Mason over the years, but I guess seeing the light at the end of the tunnel I am now wondering if I have prepared them in such a way that they are now crippled as they enter the “real world” to compete with their peers who’ve come of age (educationally speaking here) in an entirely different way.  More importantly in a way that mirrors the world they’re entering whereas my children have experienced that same transformation in totally alternative way.

    Your thoughts?



    Hi Claire. I have periods when I stress a lot and others when I am at peace with the whole high school and college thing. At the heart of the matter, I believe that God is answering my prayers to lead me and guide me as I educate my daughter, and to lead and guide her into the future He has prepared for her.

    I have always planned on having her get her AA through a local community college before worrying about what comes next. We may take advantage of Dual Enrollment benefits here in Florida (free college for high school students) or we may try CLEP tests during high school.

    Community colleges around here are not very selective. As long as you’re willing to pay for your classes, they are willing to take you as a student so I’m not concerned about my daughter being accepted. I have several friends who have gone this route already and their children have excelled in their college classes. Some used traditional methods, others practically unschooled, and still others were eclectic homeschoolers.

    My daughter is only 14 and so far she has shown interest in Biology, Marine Biology, Zoology and Architecture. I mean, she is interested in a great many things but these are the areas she is considering career wise. If she were interested in being a doctor or something along those lines, I would probably do things incredibly different. As it is, I am very confident that she is receiving an excellent education that will prepare her for college but, more importantly, will prepare her for life.

    I know many people who chose to go to college later in life. For instance, a relative of mine dropped out of school in her junior year of high school. Several years later, she decided she wanted to go to college. She had to take one remedial math course and she was ready to go. She went to a community college for 1 year and then on to well respected state college to get her BA. Another friend of mine graduated high school but never went to college. Fast forward 10 years and 3 or 4 kids later and she starts working on her degree. She has earned her AA and is now working on her BA, all from home.

    Then I know a young lady who is going to nursing school. She graduated at the top of her class and received several scholarships. She only read 2 books a year in her English Honors classes, has never heard of most of the authors we have our children read, and knows very little about history. She also admits to remembering little from her science classes and really struggling with geometry. Yet, she scored well on her SAT test and maintained a high GPA.

    These are just a few examples but my point is that I think we stress about college way more than we should. If our children are motivated to go, and it is God’s will, He will make a way. We should certainly do our part by giving them a quality education but that quality education doesn’t need to look exactly like a public school or private school education. In fact, the desire to give my children something different and more meaningful is what drew me to Charlotte Mason methods in the first place.

    The new math requirements blow my mind! As well as the science ones. I mean does every student really need Calculus and Physics? However, community colleges don’t require you to take all of those classes, thankfully.

    Also, I listened to a recording from Julie Bogart of Bravewriter. She said she didn’t give her son a college prep education because he wasn’t planning on college. He changed his mind at the last minute and she scrambled to put together a transcript and get him admitted. She said they took his studies in Klingon for foreign language credits and she admitted to giving her daughter an American history credit for studing the American History CLEP book for a few weeks. She also said that the college admissions counselor said not to worry about him not having higher math or science courses because he didn’t need him for his career path. I’m not advocating her methods. I’m simply saying that it’s not as tough as we think it is. 🙂




    To more practically answer your questions:

    I wouldn’t be too stringent with grades. I’ve read articles about grade inflation in public schools and you don’t want your students to look like they did worse or less when they actually probably did better and more. I grade off the cuff. With math, I have my students work until they make A’s. Other subjects are more subjective and I grade as I see fit. You could develop some rubrics if you are more comfortable with having a concrete way to measure grades.

    To show the “richness of Socratic discussions”, you could either specify your courses as Honors or prepare course descriptions reflecting your methods or both.

    I am planning on having my daughter take the PSAT at the beginning of her 10th grade year and the SAT at the beginning of her Junior year. I may have her retake it in her senior year, if needed. We probably won’t take the ACT since it isn’t as widely accepted here. I definitely plan on having my daughter practice for these tests using Khan academy which is aligned with the College Board. We will probably start test prep after Christmas.




    I’m in Florida too and thinking along the same lines of taking advantage of the free dual enrollment options too.  The variety/number of state universities and this option were reasons we decided to move back to the state, in fact.

    I admit I was blindsided by the PSAT option.  I hadn’t really realized it was a “thing” and now I think we’re going to take it with a little cramming of the prep book/s and see where we land.  At the least it will let us know areas we could improve.

    I hope others chime in too.  There can not be only two or three of us who’ve been thinking about these things! 😉



    I have a couple scattered thoughts to share. Hopefully something will be helpful.

    First, they have to want college and do the work. If they don’t do it in high school and then decide they want to go to college a community college is a possibility to get their feet in the door. They can even take remedial math or writing classes if that were an issue, you just have to pay for those and don’t get credit for it. Those are to get you up to the minimum for basic college classes. Not that you are expecting that – just saying it in case someone is worried about their kid slacking off on high school and then suddenly deciding they want to go to college at the end of 12th grade with no time to prep.

    Second, DON’T have them cram for the PSAT. Yes, there is a remote possibility of getting scholarships through PSAT but really, you want to use it as an accurate indication of what they need to work on and improve. Cramming for it won’t give you an accurate picture. Just explain to them that this first time is getting a baseline to start from.

    Yes, we do yearly standardized testing, it’s one reporting option in Ohio and a fairly simple one, I administer tests and send them to a company for scoring. We don’t love it. But it is what it is.

    Math – ugh. Just ugh. We’re not rushing through to get her into and through calculus before college. We’re focusing on solid skills as far as she gets so that she’s truly prepared for college math classes. Makayla is not math friendly. Originally the plan was Algebra 1, Business math, and Geometry. With vet school in the plan it is Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, and hopefully then PreCalculus, but if we slow down in Algebra 2 then so be it. Colleges offer math courses from PreAlgebra on up.

    Grading – for curricula that come with tests or instructions on grading I use that (ex: our writing course this year has rubrics to help with grading each assignment, math has tests, science has tests for her vet class and her biology). If a course doesn’t have tests then we discuss what effort and work would be an A, B, C. Then she gets graded accordingly.  We don’t stress over it. We just use it as one gauge of how she is doing in a subject.

    Transcripts – I’m not worried about them. I’ve read various things and we’ll just do a transcript in a format that would be familiar to colleges. I am also writing course descriptions in case they want those, I do them at the end of each year as a review of what we used and what she learned.

    I think now is a good time to introduce them to more ‘traditional’ things like textbooks, note taking, grading, assignments with deadlines. But I don’t think it needs to be an abrupt switch over. Just adding some of that in so they are familiar with it.

    Richele Baburina

    Hi Claire, et al,

    No, you’re not the only ones but I believe I had my personal freak-out back in August which my sister helped me through.  A few years ago I sat in on a campfire talk with Jack Kelly, who is a CM-home school graduate and at the time was at a state university working in admissions.  Most of the questions posed to him by parents were fear-based and he basically told everyone to “stay calm.”  He relayed how the well-roundedness of an individual has become increasingly important in admissions where so many applicants look the same with all their AP classes.

    Massachusetts is considered one of the most highly regulated states in the union for homeschooling so I’ve grown a bit accustomed to the amount of detail required by my state and school district and have looked ahead to current college requirements (albeit, college may not be what my high schooler chooses to pursue).  We have a rough sketch of all four years of high school based on Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education and it does tentatively include four years of math.  Not because my high schooler is math-oriented but mainly because it seems knowledge due to him as a person.  I really don’t want that to sound trite and please know, coming from someone who majored in the humanities, that I don’t believe it will be easy.  What I have witnessed is the steady amount of progress my high schooler makes in mathematics with 30-minutes of concentrated attention each day of the week.  Though math doesn’t necessarily come easy for him he does have a love of language.  We did a non-math term of physics in sixth grade and an idea caught hold that he would like to speak the language (of math) that he saw physicists speaking.

    Ideas are the hooks on which the facts hang and Charlotte considered it so important to give our children those “captain ideas” in mathematics.  A few years ago I read an article by a physics professor written to students that were preparing to take the GRE physics test for graduate school.  In it, she encouraged students to go back and audit a “physics for poetry” class in order to get the ideas the world’s great physicists had which would, in turn, spark the imagination and carry the desire to continue that a mechanical ability in math wouldn’t.

    I think it’s interesting to note that PNEU schools did add Trigonometry to their upper level forms’ study of mathematics in 1924.  As always, in mathematics at Charlotte’s PNEU schools, it was taken with a slow and steady approach.  Trig was added to the university matriculation requirements in Britain around that time as well so whether that was a factor is unclear but I believe the predominate reason was because it furthered a person’s knowledge of the universe, which would further kindle their love of God.  I remember reading that students at Oxford and Cambridge actually fought for trigonometry to be added to the classes available to them years earlier.  Anyhow, another thing to note is that the way we have maths divided in the US can be confusing.  If one has Algebra II with Trig than that student can usually go on to the study of Calculus without PreCalc.

    A few years back there was a blogpost on SCM regarding apprenticeships that was quite thought-provoking.  We’ve also had German friends encourage our kids to escape the high cost of education in the US by matriculating in a German university.  At 14, my son has already started his own business where he helps elderly or non-technical people set up laptops, Kindles, Nooks, and Smartphones gifted to them by well-meaning relatives.   Really, though, I don’t know what my children will do as they have such a wide variety of interests but I have a lot of faith in the Lord and CM’s gospel-based education.

    Thanks for starting the conversation.  I’ll go breath into a paper bag now 😉

    From joy to everlasting joy,



    It is so good to read everyone’s thoughts on this topic. I hope more moms will chime in. 🙂

    I wanted to clarify what I meant when I said I grade off the cuff. I don’t think that was the best choice of words to describe how I handle grading with my daughter. She is my only student right now so I am very involved in her daily schooling and it is easy for me to see how she is doing in each subject.

    I know what my daughter is capable of and I don’t accept any thing less than her best. She wants to do her best and we work together when she is struggling in an area until she has achieved A or B level work.



    @Tristan – thanks for your insights.  We’re not exactly “cramming” for the PSAT but she’s meeting with a friend who is in school to practice in the weeks before she takes it.  I agree with you too on not abruptly switching over to textbooks, deadlines and tests and such – gradual works better and in my mind just adds to the richness of their overall experience homeschooling.

    Re: Grading – I’ve long had trouble wrapping my mind around letting the children “work until they are at A/B level” on their lessons.  At first glance, I feel like that is allowing for sloppy habits that lead to their not doing A/B level work in the first place but I do see the larger goal too – learning versus regurgitation.  As an example, a friend told me she handles Math this way – the child does a problem in Algebra wrong but going back and looking it over then finding the mistake on their own and making the necessary correction = the problem is right.  I suppose the alternative is to count it wrong but still go through the process of correction.  One leads to lower grades; one to higher grades.

    I loathe grading so I’m still wrapping my mind around how I feel about it and how I want to handle it.  I agree with your take @Melanie32.


    Claire-At first I didn’t quite get what you meant by this type of grading leading to sloppy habits but then I had an Aha! moment. 🙂 You’re pointing out that it might lead to a student not trying his/her best the first time around. That is certainly possible.

    There’s also the possibility that a student might work harder so that they get their work correct in the first place and don’t have to redo it. It all depends on the student’s personality. My daughter would much rather get them right in the first place than have to go back and redo some of the problems, thereby making math take even more time out of her day.

    In the end, mastery of the material is the goal and I want to do every thing I can to help my child to that end.



    Oh, I agree @Melanie32!  I was kind of thinking it through on here when I typed that this morning; not really being definitive.  It’s always been a gray area for me as I’ve homeschooled.  But YES knowing the material is what matters most!!  🙂



    Based on a CM quote, I think of all the PSATs, SATs, etc as passports my kids need in our society ( We don’t neglect them but we don’t let them take over either. I’ve come to believe that sticking to CM methods is even more important in high school but it can be very hard to do when the world (and maybe even your spouse) is screaming at you that they need all these tests and higher math and lab science and everything else.

    When a subject can be easily graded (like math), I give grades. For others like history I just ask at the end “was this A work? B work?” I think we know when our kids have done everything and given their best effort.

    It helps to be flexible and not have your eye on particular colleges (though it is good to see what they expect in terms of years of science, years of a foreign language etc). I think my kids are well-rounded. Their academic transcripts may not be the best but I think they will get in somewhere and honestly if a college only cares about academics, it is probably not the school for us.

    Rachel White

    @Claire: I’m in agreement with you re: work until they are at A/B level on their lessons.

    In math, if they get it wrong, then it’s wrong and graded accordingly. I then require that they go back and correct everything and not move forward until they understand the material.

    Now, my son uses Tabletclass. So, if he doesn’t understand it, he rewatches the video. It’s obvious early on that he’s not getting it, so he usually doesn’t get too far in the lesson before backing up, thereby reducing the poorer appearance of grades so he can reach understanding.

    I average out the totals from the daily exercises and the Quiz/Test.

    Avoiding the lower scores is a motivating factor for both of mine, therefore they strive to get it right the first time, or if they don’t understand, stop and relearn the material before continuing. I hope that makes sense with the way I wrote it.

    I’ve never graded until this year, so it’s a fresh thing for them; and I don’t do + or minus and there are no D’s. Just basic:

    90-100= A;



    Below 70=F

    For Lit analysis (i.e. story charting-oral), I’m using and tweaking a Rubric from Reading Roadmaps, using a point system which turns into a grade.

    Currently, they have an Essay course online which will formulate a grade for them, based on a point-system rubric.

    My dd’s Spanish teacher at our co-op handles her grades there

    My son and dd’s Landry classes handle their grades, too. (Son-1 year: Latin 1A; DD-1 Sem. each of: PreAnatomy, Pre-Chem; Art)

    History: I haven’t quite decided yet; as well as a few other items, since our Full-schedule doesn’t begin till Nov.


    @Rachel, it could be a slippery slope for sure.  My children actually give me a lot of push back on grading around here.  They feel like it needs to exist, be more stringent, harsh, punitive even!  Yikes, right?!  I think it stems from their thinking that the school kids are miles ahead of them or being held to a higher standard.  Maybe it’s also a sense of really wanting to know where they are with a measure that is recognizable versus the intuitive mom measure that says “you’re good kid” … ?  I’ve never had any real solid rubrics which I can really see the value of now after reading through these posts.  Especially the value of showing them the rubric first – before the reader response essay for Literature or whatever.

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