Evaluating Your Homeschool Program – Dual Enrollment
November of 10th grade was when I started seriously brainstorming about making changes in how I was homeschooling my son. Homeschool, as it was happening, just wasn’t working for me. Let me explain.
Homeschooling Tres had always been a struggle. It wasn’t that he couldn’t learn – he just didn’t care. He wasn’t invested. Educating this child had always been a “spoon-feeding” effort. The only way I got through assigned reading in literature, science, and history was for mom to read out loud while the lad played with his Legos (or did some other tactile activity like a big puzzle). I didn’t entirely mind because I was reading books I had never read before!
At one point, when Tres was in 6th grade and I had my doubts, a doctor giving an evaluation (with me out of the room) pulled various books from his shelf to test Tres’s reading ability. The lad wanted to show off and easily read a college level textbook. (He may not have understood all the language, but he had no trouble reading it.)
Now, in his 3rd semester of high school, this kid was still not caring to read what I assigned him. I’d plan and plan, and then I’d give him the day’s assignments. Sometimes he’d say he’d done the reading, and sometimes he’d say, “I’m going to do it.” It was hard to check whether he’d done the assignment because then I’d have to get the book from him, scan/read it myself, and ask him questions. Half (or more) the time he could answer any question correctly without opening the book; he was that bright.
I was feeling guilty giving him credit on his transcript for 9th grade subjects the previous year. I could barely get him to read, could barely get a writing assignment out of him, and could get barely any math out of him (which this year was supposed to be Algebra 2). He couldn’t really understand the math concepts as they were being presented on-line with the Internet math program we were using, and he didn’t have the patience (or interest) to sit with me and let me explain.
I had a pillow-time talk with the “Principal” (my husband) about how bad it had gotten. Please don’t judge me about how bad my parenting “success” (failure) was at this point. It was what it was, and this article isn’t about parenting. Discussing with my husband, we came up with alternatives that we would present to our son:
- Public school (which we didn’t want to consider, and we knew our son didn’t want to do)
- Private school (which we also didn’t want to consider and which we also thought our son didn’t want to do)
- Local home school classes (this was an expensive option which Tres didn’t want to do, but the classes are taught by degreed moms and the courses are legitimate and count on the high school transcript)
- Looking into college Dual Enrollment (Tres turned 16 in November, the age when our local community college permitted Dual Enrollment)
These were the options. Homeschool on our own was just not preparing this kid for college, which was his goal. He wanted to study engineering, and this was already probably not possible. After doing a little research to prepare myself, I presented these options to our son.
While it was scary (Change is often scary for our homeschooled kids!), Tres chose to pursue classes through Dual Enrollment. The first step for us was for Tres to fill out an application (which mom still did because Tres just wasn’t motivated) and to have him take some tests at the local college to see whether he placed high enough to take college courses. (One very challenging aspect was the college Dual Enrollment counselor, who only wanted to talk to the student. We attended these meetings together. She would ask him a question, and he would look at me and wait for me to answer! These were simple questions like “What grade are you in?” He didn’t really know. He didn’t care.)
The college used Accuplacer testing. A student could prepare for the Accuplacer tests, but as was my previous experience, my son didn’t put in any effort he didn’t have to. In this instance, it probably didn’t matter.
We did all the required preparation, paid necessary fees, and Tres took the tests. He placed college level for English and Reading (I was sort of stunned, since I could not get him to do any English or grammar assignments or get him to read high school assignments) and he was not college level for Math (no surprise there!). So, prayerfully, we signed him up for English 101 in the spring semester that year.
My son began his college coursework and our experience (and this has been my experience with all my children) was that my son was very motivated to work hard and excel for an outside instructor. He thrived. He finished college level English 101 with a B. This was going to work!
As summer approached, I realized that I could have my son complete a lot of his high school course work by taking college courses. We still needed a non-college option for his math credits (the college doesn’t let high school students take “remedial” math courses – they can only take math courses that are college level). My son went to a local home school academy to finish some math that was required by our state and was required by most college admissions standards. There were also things that he did at home that I learned I could count towards completion of high school course credits such as physical education (Boy Scout activities, Civil Air Patrol activities), health, music, and art.
Dual enrollment is not ideal for all. Innocent young ladies attending college courses might be sitting next to registered sex offenders in the classroom and never know it, so caution is required. For our situation, though, this was God’s plan for helping us finish homeschool strong with good preparation for Tres’s pursuit of a degree.
How about you? Is November already a time when you are evaluating how well your own homeschool program is going? If so, discuss things with your husband and bathe your situation in prayer. Even if you spent a lot of money on a homeschool subject, if it isn’t working it might be time to make some changes. Don’t feel locked in. It is okay to tweak things or make drastic changes if necessary. No one knows your child as well as you do, and God has a plan for you to follow. Don’t be afraid to evaluate whether you are on the right path.
Diana Malament homeschooled three children over a span of 27 years. She homeschooled with financial limitations, and when times were less difficult. She has homeschooled through many good times and many challenging times. Diana hopes to encourage you on your homeschool journey.