One reason to start blogging is that it makes bragging a lot more convenient. I can also tell you about my mistakes so that you don’t have to make them.
This week’s brag is about our 14-year old homeschooled daughter. Last week, she passed the Calculus CLEP with a score of 62/80. Passing is generally recognized as a 50/80 by most colleges and universities. Some don’t recognize CLEPs at all, but for those that do, this is a nice notch on her academic belt. It also officially signals the end of her math curriculum in homeschool, having previously taken Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Advanced Math. You will notice that Geometry seems to be missing. But, because we use the Saxon Math curriculum (pre-watered-down versions), those three courses, plus Saxon Calculus, have more geometry in them than most public school kids will ever see. And, by the time your student hits about the halfway point in the Saxon Calculus text, they are ready to take the CLEP and pass.
She also previously earned 9 college credit hours in US and world propaganda (at age 11), and she has passed Level 5 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Tests (she will be taking the test for Level 4 in December). She also does a lot of our IT work, such as building our Linux-based computing infrastructure and web administration, including this and other related blogs and forums.
Several years ago, our son maxed the Calculus CLEP at age 16, just before he started enrolling in brick-and-mortar college courses, and this is where some of my mistakes come in. My main mistake back then was not paying attention to the CLEP system at all. CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program, and is administered by The College Board, the same people who administer the SATs. I had heard about it here and there, but didn’t really know what it was. It only bubbled into my consciousness in a serious way when I asked an administrator at Macon State how we could get our son tested for validation credit in various courses, and he told us CLEP was the first step in that process.
Once I started looking into it, I realized what a great opportunity we had been missing. While our son was in his first semester of college, he started plowing through the CLEPs: macroeconomics, chemistry (8 hours, including lab), biology (another 8 hours including lab), and two semesters each of US and world propaganda. We missed out on composition, literature, political science, psychology and sociology because he was already in the enrollment track for many of those. He then tested out of a lot of engineering subjects using departmental exams, and graduated with an ABET accredited Electrical Engineering degree from a brick and mortar university at age 19, all without a dime of student debt. It would have been age 18 if the department had allowed exams for his final semester, consisting of 5000-level courses, and 17 if I had known about the CLEP years before.
The CLEP and departmental exams aren’t the right answer for everyone, just as college isn’t the right track for everyone, media bias to the contrary. In case it turned out that he wasn’t interested in college or getting him in would be difficult from a homeschool background (it wasn’t), we paved the way for alternatives with various skilled trades by getting him immersed in electrical and other building codes (those guys, especially the top ones, make a lot more, and keep more, than many college graduates/baristas), as well as practical hands-on experience in hydraulics, diesel and gasoline engines, buying and selling at auctions, and so on.
Also, many parents’ life circumstances don’t allow them to homeschool, the kids have needs that can’t be met in homeschool, or the parents are concerned about whether they can. I’m going to try to help the latter change their mind.
For those homeschooling kids who do have their eye on college, in a future article I’m going to lift the veil on the CLEP system, as well as the practical and political issues involved in arranging departmental exams for topics the CLEP does not handle. This information will also be helpful for those advanced kids who are slogging their way through public school and want something more substantive from the experience than interpretive dance about why trees cry.
Assignment #1: check out the CLEP pages at The College Board’s website. We’ll be back with more soon, including more mistakes, and how to avoid them.