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CLEP and the College Plus Adventure

About ten years ago, the homeschoolers I knew were excited about the prospect of getting college credit for their students while they were still in high school. In Ohio,that's called post-secondary education. The way it works - a student attending an accredited high school could enroll in a college and get high school and college credit for the courses they completed. For homeschool families with one bread winner and more limited resources (and usually with larger families) this sounded like a good deal!

The downside was of course that home schools weren't considered to be accredited high schools. To get around that, many homeschoolers went to great lengths to join other "08-schools" or formed their own 08 schools so that they could take advantage of the post-secondary education option.

Eventually, there were enough students from 08 and parochial schools dipping into the money set aside for post-secondary education that eventually the well went dry. The state started clamping down on 08 schools and families that were able to gain 08 status found that their students were only able to obtain a few classes.

Some of my friends paid for their own college tuitions. Their kids went to community college and got the credits, but to my mind, paying for it out of pocket sort of defeated the purpose! Other friends dropped their homeschooling so that their kids could enter public school or public online schools and then get accepted to the post-secondary programs. That's fine, but to me homeschool is as much a lifestyle and a philosophy as it was a means of education and I wasn't that willing to give it up for undergrad credit (especially since we had gone the public school/online route before and I wasn't overly thrilled with it.)

There were other concerns too. Having a high school student commute to the local colleges meant increased costs including gas and parking (if indeed parking could be found!) It also meant exposing them to older students as peers and to educators that I might find problematic for molding the young minds I had been carefully tending for years!

So when I discovered the CLEP program I was very intrigued. With CLEP, my kids could study a subject in depth and for around $100 take a CLEP test and get genuine, transferrable college credit! What a great concept and one that I found most of my friends had never heard of before.

CLEP tests aren't for everyone. But for a student who has the ability to learn on his own and the discipline to study regularly, it's a great option.

With that in mind I started getting my second son ready to take the CLEP exam in American History I. We watched movies, read books, and lectures and I constantly drilled him with note cards. But I felt it was mostly my project and my goal - Sam didn't own it! My mom also became gravely ill during this period. Because of these factors our study dragged on for months. My goal was to have him take the test in January. He finally took it in the spring and not surprisingly, didn't pass. But he did get within 8 points. And although we were both disappointed, I think Sam was encouraged by how close he got and if he could just focus a little better, he probably could pass the next time.

Last summer, I learned about College Plus and it occurred to me that this program might just give Sam the edge he needed to pass the next CLEP test. He learned about making life goals, and improving his reading speed and study skills. Armed with this new information, he started studying for what has been billed as one of the easier CLEP tests, Analyzing Literature. Since I had always had Sam reading a lot of books (From The Scarlet Letter, to To Kill a Mockingbird and even Huck Finn) I thought this would be a good course for him too. But although Sam is a good reader, he's not really passionate about non-fiction and especially poetry. So he took the test and again he didn't pass but he was only short 6 points.

With the guidance of his College Plus advisor, Sam zeroed in on his interestes and decided to try the CLEP in College Mathematics. Last week he took the test and passed easily! He finally had 6 college credits banked! With that success, he and I both realize what he has to do to be able to get through with the CLEP exams.

First, we know that at least to start with, we need to pick tests that Sam feels pretty good about and has some passion for. When he gets more proficient in taking CLEP tests, we can aim for the ones that are more out of his comfort zone. Secondly, when Sam took the passing exam, he knew that he knew his stuff. He went in confident and assured. He didn't feel that way the other two times. That's the feeling we want to aim for before he takes another CLEP. Lastly, Sam was nailing the practice exams, not by just a few points, but by significant margins. That's what he has to do before he sits down for the real thing.

There is a boy on Sam's soccer team who is also in College Plus. He has almost two year's of college credits banked. The last two times Sam has been to the testing center, this boy has been in there taking tests. His tenacity and success has been very inspiring for Sam and I see a new intensity lit in him. This has become his goal and his desire - it's not just mine for him any more.

From my vantage point though, I can see that the costs of books, materials and even the money on the three tests Sam took would not add up to as much as one 6 credit class at over $300/credit hour. I know that when my son graduates (which is up to him and his time time table)he will have a degree that is just as valuable as one earned in a brick and mortar school and he will have no debt! Maybe that's one of the best things I am giving him from this entire journey.





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Comments

Alexandra said…
This is encouraging - we were thinking about CollegePlus as well. Thanks for the review. :)
Anne said…
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