Welcome to the month-long series “Homeschool HIGH SCHOOL Made Easy,” a follow-up to the popular “Homeschool Made Easy” series (now published on kindle). I’m sharing tips from my experience as a homeschool graduate and homeschool mother, showing YOU how easy and enjoyable these high school years can be for you and your teen. Be sure to sign up for the entire series so you don’t miss a thing!
Besides creating a transcript, navigating college entrance exams is the next scariest issue for homeschooling high school. Parents and teens are understandably nervous because a lot of money is riding on the results of these tests.
And let me say right up front, this is another opportunity to keep a wise perspective on our homeschooling. No single test can measure the value of your homeschool. Write that down, post it in your lesson plan book and on your white board and on the refrigerator and on your first born son’s face. The value of your homeschool is infinitely greater than the sum of any test score.
And you’ll forget that, just like I do. Because we lose sight of our homeschool why sometimes, we forget that all-encompassing purpose that led us to teach our children at home, to take the responsibility and privilege of educating them counter-culturally. For most of us, this wasn’t an economic decision. We didn’t decide to homeschool our children so we could raise the next billionaires, so they could win millions on TV’s Jeopardy, or even so they could secure thousands of dollars in college financial aide. Right? We’re homeschooling because of the different adults we pray they will become, because of the relationship we yearn to cultivate in their hearts, because of the commitment to God and others we want to inspire.
The value of your homeschool is infinitely greater than the sum of any test score.
No matter how stressful the college entrance exams may be, no matter how confusing or tricky or frustrating this process is for us and for our students, it’s vital we keep our end-game in mind. Satan would like nothing more than to distract us from the character issues at stake. The world would like nothing more than to convince us that the dollars are the most important. And our own pride is so tempted to work hard for the points and the glory. Let’s not fall for it — we are close to the finish line. Let’s continue our race with patience and faith.
Preparing Your Homeschool High School Student for College Entrance Exams
That said, most of our students will need to pass through the valley of the shadow of testing before they graduate from high school. And in the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you the truth: it’s really not that bad. Back in the dark ages, before homeschoolers were common representatives in testing facilities, I still managed to survive, earning a score in the top 99th percentile of students that year. I passed on much the same strategies to my son, who is not a natural test-taker, and he still earned a respectable grade and won some financial aide and Ivy League recognition. You can do this, I promise.
How do you help your student prepare for what may be the most important test he ever takes? Here’s my plan for test success.
Seriously, I can not emphasize this enough. The more you relax about this test, the more your student will relax. This is so important because student’s minds don’t work under stress. The test questions will require quick thinking, creative problem solving, and sharp instincts, three mental abilities that are hindered under pressure. If you keep your cool in the months leading up to the test, your student is more likely to remain close to his peak mental capabilities.
No single test can measure the value of your homeschool.
More importantly, this test is a tremendous opportunity for you as a parent to teach a valuable life lesson. Though there are high-pressure moments that do define the direction of our lives, the real test is how we handle the pressure and the outcome. The test day isn’t really what you are preparing your student for. You are really preparing him for how to handle his results.
2. Focus on core subjects.
Whether you take the ACT or the SAT, the majority of the test deals with the core subjects students work on throughout high school. The single best way to prepare your student is by providing a strong English and Math foundation in the first two years of high school.
Your student needs to know the rules of grammar, usage, and punctuation instinctively. He should recognize sentences and know how to fix fragments and run-ons. He should also be aware of basic paragraph structure, how to recognize good writing, and how to fix poor development.
Your student also needs a strong understanding of Algebra. He should have memorized the basic rules and functions of algebraic equations. He should know what is the right way to solve for inequalities and quickly recognize illogical or sloppy equations. He also should have a working knowledge of geometry functions and have memorized formulas for areas and volumes of different shapes. Even if he has not yet taken trigonometry or precalculus, he should have been introduced to some basic ideas like sin/cosine/tangent and what those ratios mean.
3. Choose the right test for your student.
I naturally gravitate to the ACT; it’s the test I took, and it just makes so much sense to me. Yet we still did some research before choosing the right test for our student.
Check the university. For his top pick schools, our son researched what tests they accepted. All of his favorites allowed students to submit whichever test they preferred. We also learned that his top choice school didn’t even read the writing portion of the ACT. So it would have been a complete waste of time to prepare for that portion of the exam. This immediately took a load off his mind.
Try tests on for size. Both tests provide free sample tests online. This is a great benefit for students who are unsure which is right for them. Have your student take one of each and see which gives him a better grade. Find the sample ACT test here and the sample SAT test here.
4. Let him study ahead of time.
Once your student has chosen a test, encourage him to begin preparing. Ideally, he should study daily, but at least weekly. Again, leave this in his hands. The test is for him, not for you!
Each testing company offers sample questions and study materials online, both free and paid. Your public library also has free study guides. You will need to reserve them ahead of time, though, because all the teens in town are after them.
5. Take the test early.
Register your teen to take the test his junior year. This allows him to finish two full years of high school so the material is familiar to him. But it also gives him plenty of time to retest later, if he wishes.
6. Allow the student to retest.
In our homeschool, we purchase the first test and study materials (from the test publisher) for the student. If the teen wants to retest, he can pay for it himself. This gives students an additional financial incentive to study, and it also teaches them valuable lessons about investing in their future.
Our son, for instance, received good but not outstanding scores his first try. His math and science scores were very good, but his reading score was abysmal. He was confused, but I found it humorous: how did he succeed in half the test if he couldn’t read? Instead of revealing aptitude, I think it was a stronger indication of his interests; he found the reading selections incredibly boring, so he skimmed and missed important details.
He found that his total score was only one point away from a larger scholarship in his first-choice college, however. He also learned that retaking the ACT raises the score for 60% of students, regardless of how much they study. So he had a statistical advantage to bettering his score with some serious work on his reading and English skills. He chose to play the odds and pay for another test.
It worked. He actually raised his score three points and obtained the scholarship he was looking for. And he did it all himself. I only worked with him on reading comprehension for about 30 minutes one afternoon.
7. Keep the scores in perspective.
Have I said this enough? Remind yourself and your student that this is just one test. He has many options once it’s over, and how he handles his score reveals a lot about his self-awareness, humility, and perspective on life. Use this teaching moment wisely.
And also remember that this test does not predict future college success. Remember the high math scores and low reading comprehension on my son’s test? His college experience has been the opposite! All of his general classes, including Bible, psychology, and English writing, have been easy A’s his first semester. The only class he’s struggling in? Calculus, his favorite course. Go figure.
Is your teen preparing for college entrance exams? How do you help him?
This article contains affiliate links to help support this site, but all recommendations are products I actually use and love. I am not a legal expert on graduation requirements in any state; please do your own research and plan accordingly.