This semester marked a milestone for our family: all five of our children have either graduated or are currently in college. It’s been an interesting journey.
We started thirteen years ago, when our oldest daughter was a sophomore in high school. We had no idea what we were doing, and neither did the college. We decided it was wise to begin with a class where our student knew most of the material, in order to learn “classroom”. We hit on “Fundamentals of Music,” basic music theory. Then it got complicated. We started with SAT/ACT scores (which were high enough for admittance to the college) and a homemade transcript, and I trudged up the stairs to the registrar on the third floor. I was told she needed instructor permission as she was underage. I tracked down the professor – not too hard as he was her orchestra director – and then trudged back up the stairs. Then I was told that we needed this and that, and I swear, I lost ten pounds on those stairs! The final straw was being told, “The school won’t pay for it; she’s not a junior.” I whipped out my checkbook and exclaimed, “HER school will pay for it. Do you want this money or not? If not, I’ll be speaking to the college president.” The tune changed dramatically. We finally got her accepted and registered, and the college figured out how to put her in the computer.
All was good: she had the highest grade in the class; and she learned how to deal with folks wanting to borrow notes and other students trying to cheat off of her. She went on to graduate high school with over 31 credits, all of which transferred when she began her undergraduate degree at Hillsdale College. Hillsdale even helped design her senior year to insure credit transference. It allowed her to graduate with Honors in four years.
We learned something new with daughter #2: to be cautious with the college as, unexpectedly, they matriculated her (i.e. they declared her a high school graduate and a degree-seeking student). This made her ineligible for high school sports and could also have fouled up NCAA eligibility. We learned to check EACH year that they hadn’t graduated her, again. We ran into another unforeseen question: if she was a full-time college student, would she be ineligible for high school sports? We could not get a response in writing from the high school athletics association, so she dropped a class. We also navigated placement tests with this daughter, as she wanted to take math classes. She took some music theory, several science courses, battled some calculus, and took a bunny trail of several architectural classes.
She added something new to the mix: several overseas classes from Hillsdale College. The course on WWII was a life-changer. She was standing under the Eiffel Tower on the 4th of July when she recognized Sgt. Malarkey of “Band of Brothers” fame. That chance encounter set her on a new path, one that lead to appointments at the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy, and the Coast Guard Academy. She chose to sing “Anchors Aweigh” and now flies helicopters for the US Navy. None of her dual enrollment credits transferred, as the academies don’t accept outside credits, but we were told her 45 DE credits were what got her accepted.
Our middle child’s interests did not lie in academic pursuits, but in more hands-on experiences. With that in mind, she began her college career with Lifeguard Training. Again, we picked a course where she could excel as she was a strong swimmer. It was a tough first semester, with 3 hours of swimming for lifeguarding, coupled with 2 hours a day of high school swim team, along with an hour per day of diving. We could smell the chlorine on her from across the room. She did some academic classes, such as science, writing, and programming, but she much preferred Emergency Response and Firefighter I. Again, we kept a close eye on matriculation status. She graduated with 29 credits, most of which transferred to the University of Wyoming.
Our son has thrived in the college setting, taking such things as academic writing, three physics classes, four programming classes, three math classes, Emergency Response, and the ever-popular Lifeguard Training. He will be just under full-time status this final semester. Again, the university matriculated him. With a change in how high school students are registered, we are now paying far less per semester hour than previously. That’s a relief, as he’ll graduate with 47 credits. We found that having a wide range of professors to write recommendation letters is a very good thing. We purposely chose our son’s courses so as to have English, science, and math teachers. He also took the WWII class from Hillsdale College, and again, it was a profound experience. He wrote one of his college application essays on his thoughts while standing in the American cemetery at Normandy Beach.
This brings us to our youngest. She’s begun her college career at 14 with Music Fundamentals, earning the highest grade in the class. She’ll tackle Lifeguard Training next semester, keeping up the tradition of reeking of chlorine. Next fall, she’ll jump into computer applications. From there we’ll see where her interests lie.
The kids have learned a wide range of subjects and have been taught by some leading experts in their fields. It’s exciting to hear my son come home jazzed about the presentation from his physics professor or the latest cool trick from his computer science professor. They’ve learned time management skills, group dynamics, deadlines, and organization. As parents, we’ve learned to have early ACT/SATs, to have strong up-to-date transcripts, to pick the first few professors carefully, and to keep on top of the registrar. We’ve learned to be flexible with home school courses during college midterms and finals. I’ve been there to show the kids how to navigate a college bookstore, explained the importance of keeping the syllabus, and what prerequisites mean.
Dual enrollment has been a very successful part of our homeschool journey, and we’re grateful that our children have had a chance to experience it.
Heart Cross Ranch is the mom of five children, three of whom have graduated. She is in her 26th year of homeschooling, with just three left to go! She lives high up in the Colorado mountains, in the nation’s icebox, on a cattle and sheep ranch. She enjoys being heavily involved with Boy Scouts, taking sports photos for the local paper, and anything chocolate. She confesses that much of her “homeschooling” consists of throwing interesting books at her children.