College for high school students

Helping teens get a jump on college
Are you homeschooling a teen who’s anxious to get on with life, and maybe a little impatient with the boundaries of homeschooling? One of the things we’ve done with all of our high school kids is to allow them to take a class or two outside the home during high school.

Driver’s Ed

Driver’s ed has been the first out-of-home class for most of our teens. Yes, we could do some kind of online driver’s ed, or just teach them ourselves. But we feel like the in-class instruction time offered by a driver’s ed class is an easy way for our home-schooled kids to experience a typical classroom setting, and get their first experience dealing with deadlines and assignments given by a teacher other than mom.  Most kids are pretty motivated to pass driver’s ed too, which makes it likely they’ll give it their best effort and have good success.

Foreign Languages

A common first college class for our high school kids has been Spanish.  We always do some introductory language learning at home with a computer program such as Fluenz, and then (usually in their senior year of high school) we sign them up for Spanish at the local community college.  Most colleges have a dual enrollment program for high school students, which allows kids to get college credits for half the cost that it will be after high school.  So far our kids have been well able to handle an introductory Spanish class at the college level. In fact, one of my 15 year old sons with a strong interest in languages is currently excelling in a college Spanish class.

Lab Science

Frog dissectionIf your teen wants to attend a college where lab science from an accredited institution is required for college admission– University of Washington is one such school– consider having him or her take biology or chemistry at your local community college rather than at your local high school.  This allows your teen to meet the college’s admission requirements AND earn college credits at the same time.  Do be sure that your teen has a good base in algebra before attempting college chemistry, however.  It can be a challenging class.


Another great way for kids to get a jump on college while still at home is to take CLEP tests to earn college credits.  Basically you study up in a specific area, such as psychology, algebra, or literature interpretation, then pay $80 to take a test.  Pass the subject area test and you earn the credit you would have earned by sitting in the class for a whole semester.  One of our sons passed the psych CLEP and earned 3 credits before college, which along with his 8 Spanish credits, and 3 English credits (earned via SAT scores)  meant that he hit his first semester of college with 14 college credits already under his belt.  We have a second son who is studying to take the psych CLEP soon.   Some teens have earned the equivalent of several years of college simply by taking CLEP tests, for much less expense than two years of normal college.

Know your teen;  some can take on projects like these with very little supervision, and others may need help breaking down the work into manageable portions and organizing their time to fit in adequate study.  But however little or much guidance your teen needs, I believe that experience like this before college leads to a better organized and better prepared student during college.  And it’s a huge morale boost for teens to be taking such tangible steps toward an independent future.

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  1. Leslie Creech says:

    Mary–Thanks for the idea about community colleges. My son started high school this year and I can tell it’s not challenging enough for him plus he would like more independence. Our local community college just might be an option for him. I recently went to our community college to take all of my prerequisites for nursing school which I start in January. Community colleges are great–they really focus on teaching/learning rather than research like the bigger universities. By the way Mary, do you miss nursing? I remember in one of your posts you mentioned being a OB nurse. As usual, great post.

    • Leslie, I loved helping women in labor (and I have to admit the salary is sometimes appealing) but I really hated leaving my kids at all hours. I don’t really miss it all that much. One more hint I forgot to mention about college classes: it’s a great idea to check the professor reviews on a site like to see what other students have to say about the various professors available to teach the class that your teen is considering. Gives you at least a bit more idea what to expect.


  2. Would you mind sharing the resources your kids used to study for the Psych CLEP? My girls are working on that one right now (as part of a fun “CLEP club” my friend is leading) and I was curious about your study materials.

    We have been working our way through “Psychology: A Christian Perspective”. My girls don’t love the subject but they’re both pretty excited to earn those credits so that, along with the fact they’re in the club with good friends, keeps them on track.

  3. Do you know of any resources/options for people who live in rural areas with little to no access to college campuses?
    Most on-line classes are set up for the part time or full time enrolled student and not so much for a high school student working from their home.

  4. “Most colleges have a dual enrollment program for high school students, which allows kids to get college credits for half the cost that it will be after high school.” This actually depends on the state you live in. In my state, the dual enrolled classes are completely free. I’ve known several people who nearly had their AA before they graduated high school and hadn’t paid a penny for it. I don’t remember for sure, but I think even the [crazy expensive] books were included. I was very annoyed with my son for not taking advantage of it. I hounded but simply could not motivate him enough to do it. No point forcing a child to take classes he won’t put any effort into and will ruin his college GPA.

    • Wow, free! That would be amazing! Here in Idaho, if our kids were in public school, it would actually be $15/credit instead of the $65/credit that our kids are paying. Our current high school/college kids applied for a scholarship (wrote an essay) and the course fee was refunded for both. They did still have to pay for books (psych was $80, and Spanish was $180 but is also for Spanish 102/Spanish 201). But it was still much cheaper than waiting til they were officially in college.

      And yes, I hear you on not pushing a kid who doesn’t wanna. I am amazed at the drive of my one 15yo (hooray!). It is a first for us to do college that early. But I am not disappointed that my other 15yo’s aren’t interested– that is more normal in my experience. I do think we will have them do at least once class senior year tho, whether they have developed an interest or not just because it is a good experience.

  5. In Florida, I think community colleges offer dual enrollment to homeschoolers for free Pretty sweet. 🙂 I am not sure I’d want to send my 14-18 yr old kids to take all of their classes that way, unless I felt they had a good solid discernment (biology will not be taught from a Christian perspective, for example), but if getting a college diploma is a goal, then it makes sense to get as much of it early and cheaper as possible!