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High School Homeschoolers: Juniors, it's Time to Get Organized!
Jeannette Webb, 2/3/2014

Jeannette Webb is the founder of Aiming Higher Consultants, a high school planning and college consulting firm dedicated to helping homeschooled students reach their potential and successfully apply to their dream colleges.  Learn more at aiminghigherconsultants.com -- and check out her regular blog articles there, as they are VERY uplifting and worthwhile!

The spring semester means different things depending on where your student is in the high school progression.   Freshmen are still exploring activities and learning to hold their own in difficult high school classes.  Sophomores are rolling along in their AP class(es) and settling into their extracurricular focus.  Seniors are breathing easier after completing the college application marathon and just need to keep their record strong while waiting on college acceptance decisions.

It is the juniors who are getting ready to enter the gauntlet.

Testing - Research confirms that the spring of the junior year is the time that kids will produce their strongest scores in the SAT and the ACT with writing.  Not only do they need to be preparing for one of those tests (and in most cases I recommend only taking one, the SAT or the ACT), they ideally need to be wrapping up their 2-3 SAT subject tests by June if they plan on applying to selective schools.  Certainly, many schools do not require the additional testing load, but you need to have determined whether or not your student needs SAT Subject Tests by early in the Junior year and plan accordingly.

Activities - Students by this point need to have focused on a meaningful extracurricular or co-curricular activity that has brought depth to their life and to their profile. 

Paperwork - By the junior spring, homeschooling parents should have started to put together the school documents (resume, transcript, transcript legend, and school profile) that will be needed when the student starts filling out college applications midsummer.

That’s right.  Midsummer.  Many college applications will be up and available sometime in June or early August.  The wise family will start to tackle these immediately and have them ready to go before the school load heats up in late fall.

Here are my reasons for suggesting that you get the lion’s share of the work out of the way in the summer....


Comments: 23

Trying Life On...
Jeannette Webb , 9/26/2013

Editor's Note from Susan Richman: Jeannette Webb is founder of Aiming Higher Consultants, a high school planning and college consulting firm dedicated to helping homeschooled students reach their potential and successfully apply to their dream colleges.  Learn more at www.aiminghigherconsultants.com. Jeannette has also been a keynote speaker at our Summer PHAA High School at Home Conference held in Central PA, and she always sends wonderful homeschool students our way for our AP Online classes. We know many families who have been truly blessed by Jeannette's down-to-earth guidance in thinking ahead to college and career andlife goals.

I am troubled as an educational counselor when I come across a student who hasn’t really lived.  Sadly, I have to report that it is more common than you might imagine.

The parents of these kids often operate at opposite ends of the continuum.  The laid-back parents surround their kids in a bubble-like existence – protected from themselves and from others.  These parents want their kids to be happy.  They want them to have fun.  They screen any potential problems or consequences. Thus these kids don’t challenge themselves.  They take dumbed down high school classes, hang with the youth group, and play video games.  They never really get out in the real world and figure it out.  I have found this route doesn’t make kids happy even though it looks like fun. 

At the other end of the scale are the ambitious parents who follow someone else’s checklist of “Things Teens MUST Do To Get Into Good Colleges.” These kids are forced to follow THE LIST and compile a killer resume that reeks of academic competition wins, multiple 5’s on AP tests, and near professional competency in an extracurricular activity only to realize they don’t really like any of the school subjects they performed so well in and don’t have a clue what they want to do with their life.  These parents have mistakenly believed that real life is found in tests and competitions.  This route doesn’t promote happiness or fun.

Either approach leads to some pretty listless living.

Real living is messy and dirty and often filled with mistakes.  It is trying things that seem impossible and sometimes succeeding and sometimes not....


Comments: 38

CA4: The New Common Application for College
Denise Boiko, 8/3/2013

Denise Boiko and her husband Ron homeschooled their two children from K-12. Their daughter, a 2010 Stanford graduate, is now in medical school at the University of Pittsburgh and their son is a 2013 graduate of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Denise is the author of a 400-page book, Homeschooled & Headed for College: Your Road Map for a Successful Journey, which details the entire college preparation and application process for a homeschooler. The book is available on her website www.HomeschoolRoadMap.com.

The Common Application, which has been simplifying college applications since 1975, has rolled out a new version of its application, christened CA4, effective August 2013. Applicants planning to enter college as freshmen or transfer students in the fall of 2014 should be aware of these changes. Homeschooling parents, take note, particularly if you have already worked with the Common App in previous years and are expecting it to be the same. It's not!

Wait...Just What Is the Common Application?

If you are new to the college application circus, this is an entirely valid question that merits a bit of background. In short, the Common Application was designed to be a form that the student completes just once and then submits to as many member colleges as he/she plans to apply to. Currently, more than 500 colleges and universities are members. Thus, students have a wide variety of choices, and submitting the Common App cuts down on the paperwork quite significantly. In addition to answering the garden variety questions relating to personal and family information, extracurricular activities, and test scores, the student writes and submits one main application essay. Teacher recommendations are submitted “once and for all” within the application, and the school counselor or homeschool supervisor (often the parent) also prepares a report and a transcript that is sent out to the colleges the student has chosen. Individual colleges may require a supplementary portion to the application (here's where the application becomes less simple than originally expected), in which the student answers college-specific questions. These may be as straightforward as listing the student's intended major or reporting whether any relatives are alumni of the institution, or as complicated as writing one or several additional essays.

The Changes, in Brief...

Here is a rundown of the 2013 changes:

  • The site is now commonapp.org rather than commonapp.com.
  • Previous essay prompts have been completely revised, with a new enforced word limit and use of text-entry rather than document upload.
  • The extracurricular short essay has been removed from the main application and moved to college-specific supplements on the Member Page.
  • The Home School Supplement form has been removed....



Comments: 22

Move From Impressive to Intriguing in your College Applications
Jeannette Webb, 12/3/2012

Jeannette Webb is founder of Aiming Higher Consultants, a high school planning and college consulting firm dedicated to helping homeschooled students reach their potential and successfully apply to their dream colleges.  Learn more at aiminghigherconsultants.com. Jeannette is also the mother of two homeschool graduates who both went on to highly selective colleges, and she was our keynote speakers two summers ago at our PHAA High School at Home summer conference. We know manyvery happy families who've worked with her closely during the college application process, including many of the students in our Advanced Placement online courses (including international homeschoolers) as well as students in the PHAA diploma program here in PA. She's terrific!

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[photo by Susan Richman, taken on Nov 2012 trip to Israel... what makes one rock more interesting than the next?]

It is autumn and my clients from around the world are working hard on presenting a winning application to the college of their dreams.  And, some are shocked by the advice I give them.

If you want to catch an admissions officer's attention, seek to intrigue rather than impress.

What do I mean by that?

Your story (the compilation of essays, short answer questions, activity profile, counselor letter, teacher recommendations, school profile, transcript legend, and interviews) needs to be seamless.  They should all agree with each other, but each piece doesn’t highlight the same things.  It should give colleges a glimpse into your life that catches their attention and we do that by making it interesting, not by pounding them over the head with your accomplishments. 

It’s amazing how often I have to rein mothers in!  I totally understand because after 12 years of catching flack for homeschooling my kids I wanted to brag too!!  But, we can’t go there.  Trust me.  Over and over again, I have to tell moms to....


Comments: 7

Lessons from the SAT Essay
Karen Boyd, 8/13/2012

Editor's Note from Susan Richman: Karen Boyd is both our long-time friend, a past PHAA Board member, and very experienced homeschool evaluator in PA. She also now leads our online SAT Essay Preparation course, and has gained so many insights from helping students learn to prepare for the required 25-minute essay. I know you'll all find the life lessons shared here really meaningful. THANKS, Karen, for helping us all gain new perspective. There is still room in Karen's SAT Essay course to help students be ready for the early October 2012 SAT test administration-- just check our Online Store link to register.

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I learned a sad lesson over the last year from my mother in law. After Dad died, Mom lived alone in an apartment at a retirement community. About a year ago she started to have mysterious and sudden weight gains. After appropriate treatment that took care of the edema, the cardiologist told her to get herself weighed every week and then later every day. Mom did this faithfully and showed it to me and anyone else remotely connected to the medical field. Some time near the beginning of this year, I took her to the cardiologist because she was short of breath. While there I realized she had gained twenty pounds and was in very bad shape. The thing is that she had also been told to call the doctor when she gained five pounds. In fact as she tried to show her record of weights to various people I kept telling her that they didn’t care (especially if they were the eye doctor); the purpose was for her to report if she gained weight. She did extremely well at following directions and gathering information. But she missed the need to analyze the information and reach a conclusion.

As a homeschool mom and evaluator, I had the privilege of reading thousands and thousands of pages of student writing. Believe me a lot of it was deadly boring, including some written by my own kids. So often the kids gave a lot of information in excruciating detail. I started to ask the “So what?”question. It meant why is this important? What does it mean? Why does it matter? Why should anyone take the time to read it?

I am not trying to disparage the collection of information. We all need information. Today, information floods us from every direction. But unless we are going to become automatons and do whatever we are told, we need to gather the information and ask ourselves, 'So what?' If we hope our children will influence our culture in the future, they need to be able to consider information and reach and express a conclusion.

That is the first lesson of the SAT Essay. While there is controversy about the validity or effectiveness of the SAT Essay, or the entire test for that matter, it does require an essential skill. The SAT Essay asks students to express a point of view based on examples and evidence they have gathered in their lives. Unlike the AP exams or other subjects, there is not a specific body of information to consider. But those students who do well will know how to consider a matter and reach a well-reasoned conclusion based on some evidence they can recall. This is called athesis support essay and it requires critical thinking.

It is so easy in education to get bogged down in the facts, just the facts. But, as in my mother-in-law’s case, the facts have limited usefulness without analysis....


Comments: 7

"And What Did You Do Last Summer?"
Jeannette Webb, 6/15/2012

Jeannette Webb is founder of Aiming Higher Consultants, a high school planning and college consulting firm dedicated to helping homeschooled students reach their potential and successfully apply to their dream colleges.  Learn more at aiminghigherconsultants.com. Jeannette was the (wonderful!) keynote speaker at last year's PHAA High School at Home Conference, sharing her many years of wisdom and perspective. 

Photo of Evan Chow, homeschool 2012 grad and student in many PA Homeschoolers AP Online classes-- Evan's family has appreciated working with Jeannette Webb during the college admissions process.... and Evan looks forward to attending Princeton this fall!

This query usually surprises students when it appears during a college interview or on a college application.  While it appears to be a fairly trivial inquiry, it is a loaded question. You see, how we spend our time when we have the freedom to make a choice provides great insight.   Your answer speaks volumes about who you are and what you value. 


It is not my intent to make you nervous about interviews or applications and read more into them than is there, but to underscore the importance of your summer choices.  Admissions officers do not have a list of things they expect you to do, rather they are looking to see if you have spent your time well, if you are an interesting person, and if you would make a good contribution to their campus. 


What are some good uses of your time during the hot days of summer?  Well, it really depends on who you are.  It is not necessary that your summer be jam packed (and I heartily suggest that it not be), but you do need to pursue meaningful things.  Here are a few hints:


  • Do something substantial – playing video games or watching movies or hanging out with friends for days on end might be fun, but won’t help you get into a good college.  Choose something that will change....


Comments: 6

Too Busy for Success.... pitfalls to watch out for in homeschooling our teens!
Jeannette Webb, 2/29/2012

Editor's Note from Susan Richman: We loved having Jeannette Webb, from Oklahoma, as our Keynote Speaker at last summer's 2011 PHAA High School at Home Conference-- her down-to-earth wisdom has been gleaned from helping both her own two homeschooled teens get into their top-choice colleges and from her current work as a nationwide consultant to homeschoolers applying to college. She is the founder of Aiming Higher Consultants, a high school planning and college consulting firm dedicated to helping homeschooled students reach their potential and successfully apply to their dream colleges.  Learn more at www.aiminghigherconsultants.com. As parents and students are now starting to plan for the coming school year (already!), and especially as registration for our AP Online courses (which Jeannette's own teens took part in) is now open, her message is especially timely. Learn to not 'over-do'-- and you'll all be much happier for it! 

As a high school counselor and college consultant, I see it every week, sometimes every day.  As a woman, I see it constantly in the lives of those who cross my path.  And it is as painful as it is pointless.  There is such a high price to living this way and it can cost us our health, our family cohesiveness, and on a more minor scale, admission to the college of your student’s dreams.

The thing I’m talking about is a culture addicted to busy-ness.  This social disease takes many forms.  We call it distraction in our kids and multitasking if we are engaging in it ourselves.  It is the state of never being fully present.  It is akin to having an umbilical cord to whatever it is that gives you a high – iPhone texting, Facebook messaging, computer surfing, overfull class schedules, a gazillion church committees, a long list of homeschool group responsibilities, too many volunteer assignments.  The list is endless.

Too much of anything, even good things, fractures our concentration so we do nothing well.  It dilutes our days to the point that all the little minor things keep us from ever doing anything major.

Here’s the interesting thing.  We labor under the false assumption, as ambitious parents (you may substitute “concerned” if that feels better), that our kids need a jam-packed activity schedule to impress a good college or qualify for a significant scholarship.  We have been mistakenly informed that we must submerge our student in a killer academic line up.  To be sure, you need quality activities and a rigorous academic profile to do well in competitive college admissions.  However, I’m here to tell you that overkill is deadly.

Good colleges are not looking for well-rounded students.  They are interested in making up a well-rounded class of diverse and interesting students.  Please notice the word interesting.  Interesting happens when....


Comments: 20

Do Homeschoolers Get Senioritis?
Denise Boiko, 4/28/2011

Denise Boiko and her husband Ron homeschooled their two children from K-12, with their daughter Julie (Stanford University '10) now in an MD/PhD program at the University of Pittsburgh and their son Steve a sophomore engineering major at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Denise is the author of a new 400-page book, Homeschooled & Headed for College: Your Road Map for a Successful Journey, which details the entire college preparation and application process for a homeschooler. The book is available on her websitewww.HomeschoolRoadMap.com.

             Senioritis. Though it may not be listed in your physician's medical dictionary, it is a real malady that traditional students, parents, schoolteachers, and counselors recognize and even come to expect. In a classic case of senioritis, a student begins to lose focus, motivation, and “drive” for completing work with excellence as graduation approaches. In mild cases, students may simply feel a reduced motivation to finish their work—especially once college acceptances are in and the remainder of high school seems to consist of “going through the motions.” In extreme cases, however, students may actually receive D's and F's in their courses.

            Colleges, too, recognize this syndrome—so much so that they warn accepted students to keep their grades up for the final semester of senior year. To underscore the seriousness of their intent, they reserve the right to rescind offers of acceptance if a student's performance drops significantly.

            As a parent of two homeschool graduates, and now as a teacher of several group classes for homeschoolers, I began to be curious about whether homeschoolers, with their nontraditional learning style, typically suffer from this traditional syndrome....


Comments: 11

Telling Your Story-- when you apply for colleges or scholarships.....
Jeannette Webb, 3/10/2011

Editor's Note from Susan Richman: I'm so pleased that Jeannette Webb will be sharing her insights into the college admissions process for homeschoolers regularly here on our site-- and I'm especially delighted that she will be the Keynote Speaker at our PHAA High School at Home Conference, this coming July 15, 2011, in Carlisle PA. Jeannette is the founder of Aiming Higher Consultants, a firm dedicated to helping homeschooled students matriculate to great colleges.  In just a few weeks, she’ll be starting an 8-week class that will guide parents from discovering their child’s gift, to maximizing extracurricular activities to presenting them on a college application.  Learn more here:http://www.aiminghigherconsultants.com/resume-building-home-study/. She has also written a wonderfully helpful book with her son Austin, Called to Influence: A New Approach to Life, Education, and College Admissions. And Jeannette's very professional website has many, many  articles to help you can insights into this oftentimes daunting project of helping our kids move on from homeschooling to the next stage of their lives.

Through the years as I’ve worked with students as a college consultant, I never fail to be amazed at what wonderful people they are.  They are each so unique and have done interesting things.  Yet, as I look over the list of activities they initially send to me or read their first essay, nothing appears to be distinctive about them.  I see little to separate them from the other thousands of young people with good grades and big dreams.


It’s not a problem with the kids, it’s a problem with the way they have presented their information to me.  The activities are just a jumble of information that is not very clear and the essay is a shallow attempt to be clever that tells me nothing about the student at all.  The problem is they have not done a good job of sharing their story....


Comments: 4

The Power of One Single Subject....
Monica Lynn, 2/7/2011

Editor's Note from Susan Richman: One of my very favorite homeschool evaluation families in Western PA had an especially strong Spanish program. Their secret? Meeting weekly with a Spanish tutor, who had deveoped an especially rich language-learning approach. These girls were singing in Spanish, writing essays and little books in Spanish, reading folks tales and poems and real literature, and developing real conversational ability, along with developing firm grammatical understanding. Their tutor really encouraged meaningful daily practice and work at home, ensuring they would make progress. I'm so pleased that this family's tutor, Monica Lynn, is now sharing here with all of us about the value of foreign language learning. Monica is a Spanish native from Barcelona, Spain, who has lived in Spain (17 years), France (7 years) and the USA (19 years). She is fluent in Spanish, French, English and Catalan, (her “four native tongues”), and also understands some German and Italian. Monica has spent several decades teaching languages to students of all ages and proficiency levels. She currently teaches out of her home in the Cranberry Township/Wexford Area north of Pittsburgh, and is available to teach additional private and group classes. She can be reached by phone (724.612.1999) and by email (tedmonicalynn@gmail.com). I hope to hear some responses back on ways that your homeschooling family has benefited from learning another language-- even if you are just in the beginning stages of this process! And I hope that Monica will be sharing further with us on how she organizes and structures her language classes, helping families see ways to incorporate all aspects of language in their learning.

Question: What single academic subject could help you in at least eight life altering ways such as...
... growing intellectually; helping your SAT’s scores; better understanding your own language, your own culture and even yourself; increasing your chances of being accepted to your first choice college and of being offered certain jobs or promotions; expanding your study abroad options; increasing your global understanding of international events, as well as culture including movies, music and literature; communicating with people from other countries; enhancing your international travel quality?

Answer: A Foreign Language, indeed.
Here is how learning a foreign language can enrich your life in all those ways....


Comments: 7

College Planning Tips
Peter Van Buskirk, author of 'Winning the College Admission Game', 1/4/2011

Peter Van Buskirk is the former dean of admissions at Franklin and Marshall College, located in Lancaster PA. Now working as an independent consultant for students and families on the college admissions process, Peter has written the excellent and helpful book Winning the College Admission Game, published by Peterson's (you can order this book and read a review of it in our PA Homeschoolers Online Store). I highly recommend that families with students in high school sign up for Peter's excellent email 'College Planning Tip-Sheet', a free service. Go to Peter's comprehensive website to sign up: www.theadmissiongame.com.  Peter also offers a further service called Best College Fit, which gives more individualized help and guidance to students. Although Peter is writing to a broad audience of students, mostly from public or private schools, he is also very familiar with homeschooling, as one of his top staffers is Cindy McKeown, an 'alumni' homeschooling mother and former head of the very popular CHESS homeschool family enrichment program of weekly classes. Here's a selection from Peter's latest email-- and there was also a fascinating article about what it means for colleges to say they are 'need blind' in admissions, links to a wide range of articles by others on the admissions process and college life, a question and answer feature, and more. There are also a growing number of books on the college application process written by homeschoolers for homeschoolers-- we've reviewed several of these options already, and look for more in the near future.

College Planning Tips -- from Peter Van Buskirk
Each issue of the Tip-Sheet features ten tips for staying sane and finding success—yes, it is possible to do both—as you engage in the college application process. Many of the following tips are taken from Winning the College Admission Game. Published by Peterson’s, Winning is available in the PA Homeschoolers online store.

1.    Make sure your application delivers key messages. What is it that you want to make sure each admission committee knows about you? Use your application (essay, interview, letters of recommendation) to convey those messages.

2.    Reveal your gifts. Make sure your application reveals the talents, interests and perspectives that will be attractive to colleges as they build the communities that are embodied in the new classes they will enroll. Submit portfolios, DVDs and CDs to both the appropriate program director and the admission officer who recruits in your area before the end of January....


Comments: 8

How To Be Mentally Healthy Despite Being a Young Adult-- PHAA commencement address, Western PA Ceremony, June 24, 2010
Dr. Joseph Strayhorn, 8/23/2010

Dr. Joseph Strayhorn, a wonderful homeschooling father from the greater Pittsburgh region, was our Western PA PHAA Graduation Ceremony commencement speaker. Unfortunately, the sound system at the lovely Carnegie Music Hall in Homestead PA was not working effectively that evening, and I know that many of you attending missed Joe's wise words-- and we also felt his important message would be helpful to a broader audience, especially in this season of homeschool grads heading off to college or the work world. Joe is a psychiatrist who is very interested in mental health research and especially focused on discovering ways to help young people learn about gaining sound psychological skills. He has also developed an innovative daily phone tutoring program to help at risk children gain both academic skills and new tools to tackle life's challenges in positive ways. His daughter Jillian graduated through PHAA from homeschooling this year, and will begin her freshman year at Cornell University, and his daughter Emily will continue on with high school homeschooling in the family's new home in Ithaca NY. I've had the honor of serving as their homeschooling evaluator during their many years in Pennsylvania, and wish them all the best in their new home.-- Susan Richman, PA Homeschoolers Editor


Congratulations to you graduates, and congratulations to your parent-teachers. I’m greatly honored to be able to address you on this happy occasion. 

            Many of you are headed now to college; all of you are headed to young adulthood. The stage of life you’re entering can be a thrilling and very happy time. But like all other stages of life, it has its threats to mental health. This address is entitled how to be mentally healthy despite being a young adult.

According to a recent (American College Health Association) survey, 43% of college students reported that at some time in the academic year they had felt so depressed that it was difficult to function. 10% had seriously considered suicide! About 2%, one out of fifty, had actually attempted suicide! Suicide is the second most frequent cause of death among college students, second only to accidents.

According to another survey by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 31% of college students met criteria for alcohol abuse. Moreover, there were about 1.3 million yearly alcohol-related injuries or assaults among college students, out of a denominator of about 17 million college students. Alcohol related accidental deaths are even more prevalent among college students than are suicides. 

For  those young adults who do not go to college, the suicide rates are even higher than for those attending college. The chance that serious mental health issues will affect one of your peers, if they don’t affect you yourself, is very high.

For most young adults, there are four challenges to mental health that I have time to talk about. These are: disrupted sleep rhythms, an alcohol promoting culture, difficult work environments; and the disruption of social support systems. Let’s discuss these one by one....


Comments: 4

Help in Preparing for the SAT Essay -- Our Online Course!
Karen Boyd, 7/27/2010

Karen Boyd has been leading our PA Homeschoolers SAT Essay Prep class for a number of years, building on her work with her own two always-homeschooled children (now adults), and her many years serving as a home education program evaluator in Pennsylvania. She also served on the Board of Directors for PHAA (Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency) for many years, helping guide the organization right from the beginning and always giving wise counsel. I love Karen's 'email signature quote': "Writing is thinking on paper.” William Zinsser    

Please consider registering your high school student for my four-week class on writing the SAT Essay.  This class helps students prepare for the  essay portion of the October SAT.  However, students who will be taking the SAT at future dates are welcome to join us.  

Students from coast to coast and from four continents have found this class to be helpful in many ways.   First, it provides practice and guidance in writing a timed essay.  Many students report that it helped them feel confident about taking the SAT. The class provides accountability and other people to comment on their writing....


Comments: 4

Thinking of having your high schooler travel abroad?? Did you ever think about....
Eileen Lenz, 7/25/2010

Eileen Lenz is a homeschooling mother from the Greater Philadelphia region-- and her oldest son Isaac has taken part in many of our AP Online courses and is in our PHAA diploma program. Enjoy this look at the unexpected surprises that can happen when we send our kids off on summer adventures abroad-- I know these stories will help you avoid similar problems! And I hope many of you post about your own kids' summer experiences abroad on travel/study programs or missions programs, where unexpected 'surprises' came up-- and how you handled them. AND I know we'll all hope that Eileen posts a comment below to let us know if Isaac gets his box of nuts and seeds she mailed off! And for further info on this particular summer study program, see www.goabbeyroad.com

Several years ago at the PHAA High School at Home Conference in Carlisile, PA, I heard Peter Van Buskirk speak about college admissions. He said, 'Make the summers count'. Last April, as my oldest son completed his junior year of high school I urged him to do just that, make the summer count. After several weeks of research Isaac and I found the Abbey Road Program in Florence, Italy. At first I thought the program was too expensive but when I considered the costs of organizing a 5 week cultural immersion the expense seemed justified. Besides, the program looked amazing. Students and staff would live together in apartments overlooking the markets of San Lorenzo. Isaac could study studio art as a major and minor in film.

Also there would be weekend excursions to Siena, San Gimignano, and Cinque Terre. Isaac has been In Florence for 3 weeks. He's having a great experience but there have been surprises.

1. Clothes. We did not pack enough. Florence is hot. So hot that the kids change their clothes several times a day....



Comments: 5

Dancing with Cinderella.... when our homeschoolers move on into the wider world
Denise Boiko, 7/21/2010

Denise Boiko and her husband Ron homeschooled their two children from K-12, with their daughter Julie (Stanford University '10) now in an MD/PhD program at the University of Pittsburgh and their son Steve returning to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles this fall as a sophomore engineering major. Denise is the author of a new 400-page book, Homeschooled & Headed for College: Your Road Map for a Successful Journey, which details the entire college preparation and application process for a homeschooler. The book is available on her website www.HomeschoolRoadMap.com.

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            One of my favorite songs these days, reflective of the life stage I am in after 16 years of homeschooling and now having both my son and daughter in college and grad school, is “Cinderella” by Steven Curtis Chapman. In case you're not familiar with it, this sweet, moving song describes a daughter, at various ages, asking, “Daddy, dance with me!” It spans the years from her preschool days as she prepares to attend an imaginary ball at the castle, to prom time with that special young man, and finally to practicing for dancing at her wedding. The father declares in the refrain,”So I will dance with Cinderella, while she is here in my arms...” He goes on to reflect that he knows what the Prince in the fairy tale never realized: that “all too soon, the clock will strike midnight, and she'll be gone.”

            Well, I'm a mom, not a dad, and our daughter Julie reminds me more of Marie Curie than of Cinderella, but just the same, that refrain is all too real as it runs through my mind and heart these days. Julie recently graduated from Stanford University and headed off to the great state of Pennsylvania to attend medical school at the University of Pittsburgh....


Comments: 101

Taking the Gap Year Gift
Michelle Regalado Deatrick, 4/8/2010

Michelle Regalado Deatrick has homeschooled her children for fourteen years; her daughter Elizabeth took several AP Online courses through PA Homeschoolers, and her son Alexander will take his first PA Homeschoolers’ AP class next fall.  Michelle is a part-time technical consultant and an award-winning writer whose work has been published in several literary magazines and the anthology Best New American Voices 2006.  She is currently at work on a novel.  Michelle and her family live on an 80-acre farm in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

I’d never heard the term “gap year” until, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa, I met a new teacher in a nearby village, a young British woman who had deferred entrance to Cambridge in order to teach at a Kenyan elementary school.  Taking a gap year—deferring college, usually for a single year in order to pursue volunteer, internship, travel, or learning opportunities--has been  popular in England for decades.  Even Prince William spent a year volunteering in Chile--and mucking out stalls on a British dairy farm!  As a National Public Radio piece recognizes, the idea has taken root in the U.S. and is rapidly growing in popularity  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92528052  .

My homeschooled 18-year-old, Elizabeth, calls the choice to defer college “one of the best decisions of my life.”  The list of things she’s learned and accomplished in this year....


Comments: 0

Ideas for helping kids who are thinking about computer programming jobs in the future...
Susan Richman and Jacob Richman, 3/23/2010

I’m opting to share today an email correspondence my son Jacob and I had recently with a homeschooling mother from the Chicago area, writing for ideas about how her son might get a future job in the computer programming field (hopefully at Google, where Jacob works). I think many of these ideas may be helpful to others, too—and lots of links for further info and programs. I think this also ties in a bit to Kathy Wingert's wonderful piece (just below this one) on how to help a 'science kid' when you yourself weren't necessarily a 'science person' yourself. By helping our kids have good opportunities, encouraging them to learn on their own, and keeping alert to new options and other people and tools, our kids can indeed 'take off' in the field of their dreams. Enjoy!

First the email from the homeschooling mom:

Hello Susan,

I'm a homeschooling mother of two children now in 5th and 7th grade.  I came
across your home page this morning and read the "Who We Are" section.
Before I get lost in your web-site, I wanted to ask for information from
you.  My name is Sherri and my 13 year old son (Lance) has decided he wants
to work at Google.  Strange, I know, but we saw a video loop playing at the
doctor's office one day showing Google's California Office and he has been
hooked ever since.  Initially, he was thinking he wanted to be a video game
designer, but through various discussions we're not sure that this direction
will pay the bills.

If you have the time, I would love to hear about your son, Jacob, and how he
went about learning the skills necessary to gain employment at Google. 
Unfortunately, I have no computer knowledge other than working as a legal
secretary and typing 90 wpm....


Comments: 1

Birth of a Scientist? How to nurture a 'science kid' at home....
Kathy Wingert, 3/22/2010

Kathy Wingert is a longtime homeschooling mother in Central PA, and she's written several previous articles for our print newsletter Pennsylvania Homeschoolers. I'm proud to have been the family's evaluator throughout their son Daniel's high school years. Daniel is now a graduating senior in the PHAA diploma program, and he has also taken part in a very wide range of our AP Online classes, always showing exceptional interest and involvement and ability. Kathy has also taught a wide range of classes at their area homeschool co-op.

The blanks for “Intended Major” on all of our senior son’s college and scholarship applications are uniformly filled in with the words, “molecular biology.”  I didn’t think much about those words until my mother asked me at some point this year what they meant.  “Uhhh…,” I stammered.  “Er … biology…at the, um, molecular level?”  Rest assured I have since figured out that molecular biology is like a traditional biology major except that it includes an extra emphasis on chemistry and physics, but my initial inability to answer my mother’s question glaringly illuminates (like a neon sign in the Antarctic) my personal lack of natural bent towards the sciences and my highly deficient formal educational preparation to teach a kid with such aspirations.  I never took high school physics and felt clumsy (and queasy!) when it was time to dissect the earthworm in 10th grade bio. Now, lest you think I am married to a nuclear physicist husband who picked up the slack in our homeschool science studies, think again.  He, like me, is a completely right-brained English major.

So, how did we do it?  How did we navigate the murky (for us) waters of science--especially the upper level lab ones-- for the 13 years we have homeschooled our son, Daniel, and come out at the end with a kid who has the intellectual passion and necessary academic preparation for rigorous post-high school studies in buildings we never even dared walk through in college?  Looking back, here is what I think we, by God’s grace, did right....


Comments: 0

College Application Essay-- It is a Wonderful Thing to Want
Michael Matheny, 3/17/2010

Michael Matheny is a homeschooling senior from Delaware, and has been homeschooling since 2nd grade. He's also the son of our wonderful AP Statistics teacher, Carole Matheny, who shared in the previous post about the process Michael went through in crafting this marvelous personal essay for his college applications. As you read the essay, try to imagine yourself as a college admissions staffer-- and see what sense you get about Michael's ability to take on challenging tasks and contribute unique skills.

Most colleges do have at least one question that basically asks, "Tell us about yourself" Here's what the current Common Application (www.commonapp.org ) has as the essay guidelines and options:

Personal Essay Please write an essay (250 words minimum) on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below, and attach it to your application before submission. Please indicate your topic by checking the appropriate box. This personal essay helps us become acquainted with you as a person and student, apart from courses, grades, test scores, and other objective data. It will also demonstrate your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself.

  • Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
  • Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
  • Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
  • Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
  • A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
  • Topic of your choice.

 As so many colleges do use the Common Application, students really can get started on thinking about their application essays well in advance. And if you start feeling overwhelmed just thinking about college admissions, check this page on the Common Application website, for some perhaps much needed perspective and common sense advice: http://www.educationconservancy.org/we_admit.pdf And, again, if your student has written a memorable college application essay that might inspire others to really reflect in a meaningful way on any of these Common Application questions above, do either email the essays on to richmans@pahomeschoolers.com for posting on this site, or post as a 'comment' to Michael's terrific essay.






It's a Wonderful Thing to Want...

            It started on a trip to the Adirondacks St. Regis Lake region with some borrowed kayaks. It was not my first time in a boat, but it left a lasting impression that nagged at me for months afterwards. I started surfing the web, constantly, looking at kayaks, trying to figure out how to get my own. I become obsessed easily, not over ideas or TV shows, but over projects....











Comments: 1

Writing Your College Application Essays-- Helps at the PHAA High School at Home Conference
Carole Matheny, 3/16/2010

Carole Matheny leads the PA Homeschoolers online AP Statistics course, and also homeschools her own children. Here's she's sharing about the process her son went through in crafting his main college admissions essay, using ideas gleaned from our annual PHAA High School at Home Conference. We hope you will be able to attend our conference this year-- we'll have many helpful sessions once again for parents, students, and homeschool evaluators. Many of our AP Online teachers present sessions-- Ruth Green, who led the very helpful session on application essay writing, leads one of our AP English Literature sections. We'll have full info on registering for this year's PHAA conference, set for Friday, July 16, 2010, up on our website soon. As always, there will be an 'early bird' special rate, so sign up early if possible! Tomorrow we'll post Carole's son's actual application essay about his sea kayak-- you'll love it! We welcome others to send on unique sample application essays for others to read and gain inspiration from-- just email to Susan Richman, editor, at richmans@pahomeschoolers.com. The very best advice I ever read about writing an effective college application essay is that the student should make sure that no one else in the entire world could possibly have written that essay, because it is so uniquely that student.


*Carole Matheny on a family hiking trip in Glacier National Park-- they hiked over 300 miles that summer!*  

July 17th, 2009, I drove from my home in Delaware to Carlisle PA to the 14th Annual High School at Home Conference. For the day I would be wearing two hats, one as the AP Statistics instructor for PA Homeschoolers and the other as homeschool mom.  My oldest, a rising senior, would have benefited by coming along  but he chose to spend the day working on his 18’ sea kayak.

I looked over the session topics and decided to attend Mrs. Ruth Green’s session, Writing the College Application Essay—Help for getting YOU down on paper. With a rising senior....


Comments: 0

Ask the Dean.... and get your college admissions questions answered!
Peter Van Buskirk, 3/7/2010

Peter Van Buskirk is the author of Winning the College Admission Game and former dean of admission at Franklin & Marshall College. His student-centered messaging informs, motivates and entertains college bound students and their parents nationwide. To learn more about Peter, read his weekly college planning blog, or participate in his bi-monthly webcasts, go to www.TheAdmissionGame.com. Also look for his excellent book Winning the College Admission Game: Strategies for Parents/ Strategies for Students in our online store. His blog site includes such current topics as whether or not students should add a YouTube presentation to their application package, how to make sense of admissions decisions, the importance of finishing your senior year strongly, and much more-- you'll find much there of help.

Ask the Dean

The college admission process can be a daunting task for any student let alone those for whom school-based career resource centers and college advisors are not readily accessible. In “Ask the Dean,” former dean of admission Peter Van Buskirk addresses questions from home schoolers. For Peter’s perspective on what home schooled students can do to compete for college admission, contact him at Peter@TheAdmissionGame.com.

Dear Peter,

I took the SATs twice. The second time, my score was only 10 points better in Critical Reading but worse in Math. Do the schools really overlook the lower scores? ....


Comments: 0

College Admissions-- help is out there as you navigate the process!
Jeanette Webb, 2/26/2010

Jeannette Webb is a longterm homeschooler, whose two children took several of our AP Online courses when in high school at home. I was delighted to see what she is now doing to help other homeschoolers who are looking at competitive college admissions. Her website www.aiminghigherconsultants.com is filled with excellent and inspiring information. Here's the letter that I recently received from Jeanette-- and I hope many of you find her approach and ideas a great help. Though we can all gain much from college admissions guides aimed primarily at traditionally schooled students, it's always especially helpful when advice comes from within the homeschooling network.
I would like to introduce myself, although you might remember two members of our family.  My daughter, Natalie Webb, took Dr. Richman's AP Economics class a few years ago and really enjoyed it. She is now a sophomore engineering major at Princeton.  She also took AP Chemistry.  Natalie and my son, Austin, both took AP Biology with Dr. Gross.  Austin graduated with honors from Caltech and is now pursing a Ph.D. in theoretical computer science and math at the University of Washington in Seattle. We recommend your courses in our workshops, in our writing (Austin and I write for Practical Homeschooling magazine) and to our clients.
As a homeschooling parent, I found very little help....


Comments: 0


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