October 22, 2014

The ACT

ACT

American College Testing
www.actstudent.org


PURPOSE

The purpose of the ACT is to determine a student’s proficiency on a national scale. ACT scores are required by most colleges and universities for admission and some also require the optional Writing portion of the test which consists of an essay. The ACT includes tests (35-50 minutes each) for English, math, reading, and science. Skills measured include problem solving, drawing conclusions, and interpreting charts and graphs

SCORES

The ACT scale is 1-36. Check the websites of possible colleges and universities for specific admissions requirements concerning ACT scores. Like it or not, most college admissions (and many scholarships) do rely heavily on ACT scores. For a homeschooled student to be competitive in the college and scholarship application process, the ACT should be taken repeatedly in order to earn the highest score possible. The highest ACT score earned should then be listed on your student's high school transcript. The more objective test scores that a homeschooled student can submit when applying to colleges and for scholarships, the better, including the ACT, PSAT, SAT, and SAT Subject Tests. These test scores also serve to objectively confirm the GPA listed on the student's transcript. Since many colleges and universities now use the online Common Application for admissions, the maintaining of thorough and accurate records during high school will help you to be prepared to complete the application process. Many colleges and universities now have a page devoted to homeschooled students.

WHEN

The ACT is typically taken during the Junior year (11th grade), but a student may begin taking the test earlier for practice. The test may be taken in 12th grade, but keep in mind that the scores need to be reported before college applications are due. Plan to take the ACT more than once in order to obtain the highest score possible. The ACT is offered about five times a year and appears to typically be given on Saturday mornings. Our boys began taking the ACT in 11th grade for a total of 2-3 times each.

REGISTRATION

Registration is completed online and the student's admission ticket is printed out. The admission ticket and a photo ID are required to take the test on test day. Here in KY we had official photo ID's made at the clerk's office where driver's licenses are issued. The ID's look just like driver's licenses except they are in "portrait" format instead of "landscape". Use the Home School Code when registering for the ACT to be acknowledged as a homeschooled student and to have the test results sent directly to your home. 

LOCATION

Check for testing center locations on the ACT website. Our boys took the ACT on the campus of a local public university where students were tested in groups of about 25 students in several classrooms.

COST

The cost to take the ACT is $38.00 ($54.50 with the optional Writing test) and includes score reports sent to four colleges, if desired. Later, when applying for admission to colleges, the best test score earned can then be sent to the colleges of your choice for a fee of $12.00. Check the ACT website for current costs. 

PREP MATERIALS

We used multiple editions of The Real ACT Prep Guide. Each edition has different sets of questions. Using The Real ACT Prep Guide is an excellent way to prepare and our family highly recommends it. After using that book, you may or may not decide to work with additional practice books such as McGraw-Hill's 10 ACT Practice Tests, 1,296 ACT Practice Questions by The Princeton Review, and Kaplan's ACT. Please note that practice books from the same publisher printed in different years (different editions of the same title) may contain the exact same content but have different covers, so purchase practice books from different publishers to assure actually having different sets of questions. We purchased several test prep books at a time from Amazon in order to get free shipping. Test practice books were available from our local public library with a refundable deposit. Many of the questions in the practice books are taken from actual, previous ACT tests and answers are typically provided in the back of the book. Test prep books are not very expensive and proved to be very effective. We saw no need to spend money on the many test prep services available out there. You and your student really can do test prep on your own. Be aware that there are LOTS OF SCAMS involving testing and test prep materials... it is big business, especially since college admissions tests are required and you well know that parents want their students to do well on these tests.

TIPS FOR PREPARING from OUR FAMILY'S EXPERIENCE

The way our family approached test prep is NOT the way you will typically find described in the instructions of test prep books. We believe our approach was much more practical and beneficial. We chose to make test prep a pleasant learning experience, taking all the time needed to answer the questions and learning along the way. Hereafter are the details of what we did and what we suggest.

BEGIN EARLY

Begin taking practice tests early in order to become familiar with the format of the test and the types of questions asked. This will help to significantly reduce nervousness on test day and to help the student to approach the test with confidence.

DAILY UN-TIMED PRACTICE TESTS
Our boys practiced one section (not an entire test) every afternoon "religiously" right after lunch, UN-timed, taking all the time they needed to answer the questions and then they checked and corrected all their errors. Completing just one section each day, UN-timed, eliminates the added pressure of time constraints. Timing a practice test simply adds unnecessary stress to an already difficult task. Take all the time needed on daily practice tests in order to get the correct answers and to build confidence. Increased speed comes naturally with time. Take a TIMED test only occasionally, since timing definitely adds a stress factor. (Note that test prep books typically suggest that you time every single practice session, but we feel that added pressure only stresses and frustrates the students more so that the whole test prep thing becomes a bad experience.)
  

LEARN FROM MISTAKES and LEARN NEW TOPICS

After taking each practice test, it is extremely beneficial for the student to correct all the mistakes made and to learn from them. Sometimes a topic would pop up that hadn't been covered yet in our regular high school lessons, so we would take time to research that topic and have a "crash course" on the spot. This is exactly what happened with trigonometry. Since our boys hadn't taken a trig course yet, my husband prepared a trig "crash course" covering all the basics.

THE OPTIONAL WRITING PORTION

The writing portion of the ACT is optional but is also required by many universities. Our boys found it helpful to have a few general themes in mind that could be readily used and adapted for the writing prompts. Students should be mindful of the audience that reads and scores the actual essay written for the test and write content accordingly. 

SUPPLEMENT HIGH SCHOOL COURSES with TEST PREP
Test prep is not just test prep. Since the work a student puts into test prep can be demanding, time consuming, and a very real learning experience in itself, the time devoted to English, reading, math, science, and writing can definitely count towards high school credits as supplemental activities for those subjects. Since so many practice essays were written during our daily test prep practice sessions, they were included in our required high school English courses for credit and the essays included in our boys' writing portfolios. The Writers INC handbook proved to be an extremely useful resource, providing step-by-step instruction and samples for the various types of essays.

THIS APPROACH WORKED FOR US
This was our low-cost, low-stress, full-benefit approach to test prep, but it did require a commitment from each of us to practice regularly. For us, test prep was every afternoon, Monday through Friday, immediately after lunch. Our boys were motivated to work hard and do what was necessary because they realized that higher scores meant better chances at being accepted to top-ranked universities. 


YOU CAN DO THIS!
With the flexibility we have as homeschoolers, we can adequately prepare and equip our students to be confident and competent test-takers. Begin preparing your student for college admissions testing well before high school by utilizing rigorous curriculum and by giving tests regularly (quizzes, chapter tests, unit tests, standardized tests, etc.) to build a strong academic foundation and to approach tests without "freaking out". There is a big difference between "studying to the test" and developing strong test-taking skills. The approach that I explained above worked for us... and hopefully some of these tips will help you and your student, too.

June 11, 2014

The High School Diploma

High school graduation... what an accomplishment! How exciting!

Now, what about the diploma?

Diplomas In Kentucky 

Here in Kentucky, according to The Kentucky Homeschool Information Packet found on the Kentucky Department of Education's Home School page, when a child graduates from a home school it is the responsibility of the home school to issue the diploma. Not in Kentucky? Check your state's requirements for high school graduation and for the issuing of a high school diploma.

Customized Diplomas

When our twin boys graduated from high school (after being homeschooled all 12 years), I decided to create personalized diplomas for them. After searching the internet and gathering ideas for various styles and wording, my diploma forms were edited and tweaked in Word until they were just right. Then they were printed out, signed by my husband and me, framed, presented to the boys, and put on display in their rooms.

Keepsake Documents

With their framed diplomas proudly on display, I stepped back to admire them. And then it hit me. A major milestone had been reached. Our long but rewarding homeschooling journey had finally come to an end. Their high school diplomas are not just documents stating they have completed a particular course of study. They are precious reminders of the many memorable moments and accomplishments made during our family's unique educational journey.

Free Diploma Form

This same diploma form is available as a free, fully editable download (Word doc) to customize for your high school student along with a finished sample for reference.
  • Edit the red text and any other text as desired.
  • Change all text to black.
  • Proofread. Double check all names and dates.
  • Print two copies. One to file with permanent records and one to frame.
  • Add signatures in ink.
  • Frame. Display. Admire. Reflect.

Disclaimer

The use of this diploma form does not confirm the completion of any particular high school course of study or program. 

Related Links

Donna Young
HSLDA
Let's Homeschool High School
Homeschool Diploma
Microsoft Office

April 4, 2014

The High School Transcript

The high school transcript is an official document detailing a student's academic record. The transcript includes a list of courses, grades, GPA, credits, and test scores, along with an overview of honors, awards, and extracurricular activities.

An Official Transcript Form

In order to prepare transcripts for our homeschool, the internet was searched extensively and all pertinent information was compiled and organized into a concise two-page document. This form was used successfully in the college admissions process. You are welcome to utilize these blank copies of the form that we used.
High School Transcript Form - pdf

High School Transcript Form - doc

The Transcript as a Planning Tool

A blank transcript form may be used as a handy high school planning tool. Pencil in your student's required and elective courses for each year. Be sure to check state homeschooling requirements and possible college admission requirements.

Maintaining a Transcript

  • Maintaining a transcript can be accomplished easily by updating the document on a regular basis. 
  • At the end of each quarter or semester during high school, transfer grades from report cards to the transcript (or simply add the grades to the transcript if your homeschool does not use report cards) and assign credits earned.
  • Several resume entries relating to a similar activity or topic may be condensed into a single line on the transcript. For example, if on the resume several entries relate to 4-H, they may be condensed into one line on the transcript, such as "2010-2014  4-H Club".
  • Record the highest test score obtained for each type of test.
  • A transcript should not exceed two pages in length; therefore, adjust font sizes, page margins, and table settings as needed.
  • Keep a transcript for each student with your homeschool's permanent records. 

College and Scholarships

The student's high school transcript is typically required for college admissions and scholarship applications. When applying to some colleges and universities, the Common Application is used. Having an up-to-date transcript will make the task relatively easy to transfer the required information to the online forms.

You Can Do This!

Yes, you can compile an official high school transcript for your homeschooled student. 
  • Download and/or print out a blank transcript form.
  • Begin editing text and filling it in.
  • Update the transcript on a regular basis.
  • Customize the transcript according to your needs and preferences.

Sample Transcripts

The Home Scholar
Mary Baldwin College
Home School Incorporated
Eclectic Homeschool Online

Related Links

HSLDA
Donna Young

Oklahoma Homeschool
7 Sisters
Examiner


Extra Tip

Compile an elementary and/or middle school transcript for a younger student as a way to practice for preparing the high school transcript... and to document your student's early academic years as well.

January 28, 2014

The Student Resume, Part 2

How to Build a Student Resume


It's never too early to begin building your student's resume. Collect information relating to the student's activities and accomplishments by searching through the following:
  • calendars
  • e-mail messages
  • permanent records
  • notebooks
  • certificates
  • trophies
  • scrapbooks
  • journals
  • ticket stubs
  • event programs
  • photos
  • websites
  • newspaper clippings
The student resume may not be limited to the high school years. In fact, entries may be included from the elementary and middle school years, especially to document participation, achievement, and excellence at an early age. Soon after you begin compiling your student's resume you will be pleasantly surprised at how many educational opportunities your student has participated in during the homeschool years.

Blank Forms

Many high school student resume forms are available online. I developed the two forms listed below that you are welcome to use, too. Tips are included in italics.
High School Student Resume - pdf
High School Student Resume - doc

Section Tips

Underneath each section of the resume, list entries chronologically by year with the most recent entries listed first.
  • Education
    List the name of each school and the years attended. Specify homeschool, umbrella school, private school, public school, college or university, or online program.
  • Honors and Awards
    Include contests, competitions, winnings, special recognitions, trophies, and placing at qualifying events.
  • Organizations
    List local clubs and homeschool support groups, as well as local, state, regional, and national organizations. Include any leadership positions held.
  • Extracurricular Activities
    May include field trips, museum and art gallery tours, special events, recitals, competitions, fundraising, and independent projects.
  • Employment, Internship, and Apprenticeship
    Include part time jobs, summer jobs, and assisting parents with home based businesses.
  • Certification and Training
    List certification and training in areas such as CPR, first aid, and EMT training.
  • Contacts
    List teachers, instructors, tutors, mentors, professors, coaches, coordinators, and employers. These key individuals may be asked to write letters of recommendation for the student when needed. 

Entry Wording Tips

Resume entries consist of short phrases rather than complete sentences. Begin entries with action words, concrete nouns, and positive modifiers to precisely describe your student's active involvement and achievements.
 
action words
accomplished, achieved, assisted, attended, coached, completed, conducted, contributed, coordinated, created, developed, demonstrated, designed, directed, discussed, established, evaluated, facilitated, generated, implemented, initiated, instructed, interpreted, improved, launched, led, maintained, managed, mastered, operated, organized, participated, performed, planned, presented, programmed, proposed, provided, scheduled, set up, solved, spoke, supervised, taught, trained, translated, utilized, and won.

concrete nouns and positive modifiers
ability, actively, capacity, competent, consistent, effective, pertinent, proficient, qualified, resourceful, rigorous, significant, substantially, technical, versatile, and vigorous. 

Length

Typically a resume is only one page long, but for homeschooled students in the college and scholarship application process, the more detailed information that can be provided the better since the abundance of information helps to accurately describe, confirm, and validate the student's unique homeschool experiences to the reader. 

Update

Update your student's resume on a regular basis. Make entries as soon as possible so they are not overlooked or forgotten later. Carefully proofread for typos and correct them. Double check all dates and other information for accuracy. When updating a resume file on a computer, save the current file as a new file with the current date. Be sure to back up important files often. Keep a printed copy of the resume with your homeschool's permanent records.

Final Copy

Print final copies to submit with applications on heavy resume paper. A professionally prepared document makes a good impression.

Helpful Links

How to Create Your Resume' by the College Board
Resume's for High School Students by Money-Zine
Student Resume' by My College Calendar
High School Resume' Examples - Job Searching, About.com
Resume' Tips for High School Students - About.com

Your High School Resume' by College Confidential
Top 12 Tips to Perfect your College Application Resume' by Accepted to College
High School Student Resume: Building a winning resume by StudyPoints
Examples of Resume's for High School Students at eHow

 

Extra Tip

When people ask you about what your homeschooled student does, show them a copy of the resume! They will be impressed, with both the student's active involvement and with your detailed record keeping.

January 26, 2014

The Student Resume, Part 1

Why Should a Homeschooled Student Have a Resume? 

 

Activities and Accomplishments

The student resume is a document listing all of a student's extracurricular activities and accomplishments. Detailed entries listed underneath the various sections provide an overview of who the student is by describing interests, talents, skills, involvement, leadership, special achievements, and demonstrated excellence. For the homeschool parent, the student resume may be seen as a detailed timeline of the student's growth and progress throughout the homeschooling years.


College, Scholarship, and Employment Applications

A student resume is often required when submitting applications for college, scholarships, and employment. This document introduces your student to college admissions officers, scholarship committees, and potential employers. In order to be competitive in the college and scholarship application process, everything a homeschooled student does is relevant and everything should be listed. The Common Application, an online form used by many colleges and universities for the admissions process, requests information that can be easily obtained by referring to the student's resume. By accurately listing every activity and accomplishment, the resume will put the spotlight on your individual student, helping to set him or her apart from the rest.
 

Transcript

The student resume, when regularly updated throughout the homeschooling years, is an extremely useful tool when gathering information to be recorded on the high school transcript. Several resume entries relating to a similar activity or topic may be condensed into a single line on the transcript. 


Interviews

The resume is a handy reference for a student when preparing for interviews for college or employment since the various activities and experiences the student has had may be discussed. 

Related Link
Learning Liftoff - Why High School Students Should Have a Resume


Next: The Student Resume, Part 2... How to Build a Student Resume

June 1, 2013

Preparing for the PSAT / NMSQT

Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test

National Merit Scholastic Qualifying Test


One of our sons qualified as a National Merit Scholarship Finalist! We are extremely proud of him and commend him for his hard work. Competing for National Merit Scholarships begins with taking the PSAT during the Junior year of high school to qualify. I'll share what we learned about taking the PSAT to help you prepare your students for college admissions testing and scholarships.

Purpose

The purpose of the PSAT is to prepare for later taking the SAT and to determine National Merit Scholarship Program semi-finalists. Some universities require this score for admissions. To qualify for scholarships, students must obtain scores in at least the 97 percentile range. The focus of the PSAT is on critical reading, math problem solving, and writing skills.

When

The PSAT is given once a year in October with registration in mid-September. Test dates for 2013 are Wednesday, October 16 and Saturday, October 19. The test takes about 2-1/2 hours to complete. Scores only count when taken in 11th grade, but students in 10th grade may take the actual test for practice.

Where

Contact the guidance counselor at your local public high school in early September to register and ask for a copy of the Official Student Guide which contains practice tests. Mark your calendar now! Registration is processed through the school, not online. The registration code for homeschool students is determined by the state they live in.

Cost

The cost to take the PSAT in October of 2013 will be $14 per student.

Practice Books

PSAT practice books are available and may be ordered from the College Board website or from Amazon for about $10 to $15 each. The practice books we preferred were from the College Board, Barron’s (especially for math), and Kaplan’s.

Tips

Students should begin taking practice tests during the summer before 10th grade in order to be ready to take the PSAT (for practice) in October. Our boys completed one practice test section each day, UN-timed, in order to become familiar with the test format and the types of questions. An important part of daily practice was to learn from the errors made by looking up and understanding the correct answers. Increased speed came about naturally as they completed more and more UN-timed practice test sections. Imposing time restrictions on every single practice session may frustrate and discourage students. We only gave timed practice tests occasionally. Each timed test did take less time to complete than the previous timed test.  Note: This method is NOT the practice method outlined in the practice books. The method described above is how WE decided to best accomplish daily test practice, which proved to be an effective AND pleasant experience for our boys.

For complete details about the PSAT, visit the College Board website.

National Merit Scholarship Program

About 1.5 million Juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2013 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2011 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. In order to advance from Semifinalist to Finalist standing, a detailed scholarship application was submitted in which we provided information about our son's academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, and honors and awards received. In addition, our son maintained an outstanding academic record throughout high school, was endorsed and recommended by a leader in the community, wrote an essay, and earned SAT scores that confirmed his earlier performance on the qualifying test.

The National Merit® Scholarship Program honors individual students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies. For more information about the competition, please visit the National Merit Scholarship Corporation website.

Begin preparing for college admissions tests early!

It is important for college-bound homeschooled high school students to have several objective test scores, such as the PSAT, ACT, SAT, and SAT Subject Tests, obtained outside the home in order to confirm grades earned in the homeschool setting and to be competitive college applicants. Tips about the ACT, SAT, and SAT Subject Tests will be shared in future posts.

May 8, 2013

The National Geographic Bee

Homeschoolers in our neck of the woods here in Kentucky are thrilled that a local homeschool student won the state-level Geographic Bee in April and is advancing to participate in the national competition in Washington, D.C. later this month!

Participation in the National Geographic Bee is a wonderful educational experience that is open to homeschooled students. This past January it was my pleasure to serve as Moderator at the school-level Geographic Bee organized for homeschool students in our area, and I look forward to serving in that capacity again in 2014. Here are a few tips to help your homeschool support group organize a school-level Geographic Bee in your area.


Registration

In early September, a letter and registration fee are sent by your homeschool support group to National Geographic requesting contest materials and designating a teacher (not a parent of a participating student) to be the recipient of the contest materials. The recipient of the contest materials must be the one who directs the Bee and later administers the qualifying test to the winner. There is a minimum participation requirement of six students in grades 4 through 8 for the 2013-14 school year in order to conduct an official school-level competition. The registration fee for the entire group is $100 and is due in October of 2013. This amount can be divided up equally among all participants, so the more participants, the better!

Date and Time

Announce to your homeschool support group that plans are being made to hold a 2014 school-level Geographic Bee, begin a sign-up list, and later schedule a date and time for the event (probably early January 2014). Working around the schedules of several students to set a day and time for the event can be tricky, so begin working to pin down a date and time as soon as the time frame for holding the school-level Bee is announced. 

Location

Secure a location well in advance for holding the event. You will need a large room with tables and chairs placed in the front of the room for the participants, a podium for the Moderator, and seating for the audience. A name card placed on the table in front of each participant adds a nice touch. A large community meeting room, school classroom, or church class/fellowship room should work well. When reserving the location, allow a couple of hours for the actual event, plus ample time to set up and later clean up the room. 

Get Started!

With this much advance notice, students have plenty of time to study and prepare for the 2014 school-level Geographic Bee... maybe consider having a special focus on geography during the summer and/or the fall months. Click here for complete details about the National Geographic Bee, as well as study tips, resources, and more.