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Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp
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Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp.  All rights reserved.
about the book
The Homeschool Diner's Guide to
Homeschooling Special Situations
Gifted Homeschooling
by Julie Shepherd Knapp

What's the low-down on gifted homeschool
kids taking college classes?

It is definitely an option... but there are pros and cons...

Gifted homeschool students are free to learn at their own
 But, kids who whiz thru their curriculum-- completing 2 or more
years' worth of study in a single year --may find themselves
academically ready for college-level work in their early or middle
teens!  What do homeschooling parents do at this point?

Some of these gifted students are actually ready (both academically
and emotionally) to go off to full-time college a few years early.  A
handful of colleges do have programs in place for early entrance of
gifted students, even including special dorms for the younger kids.  
(See the Other Resources listed below)

Parents who have expertise in particular subject areas may be able to
continue homeschooling at a college level.  Parents can hire tutors or
may turn to college-level distance learning courses for help.  Or,
students can use college textbooks and free online college lectures to
create their own homeschool honors, Advanced Placement, or
independent study courses.  But, sometimes, there doesn't seem to
be any more logical option than to just take a few college courses, as
a part-time student.  

The first hurdle is getting your under-17 student admitted as a
part-time college student
.  Will this be a problem?  It depends on
where you live.  Admissions policies vary by state and by institution.  
Some are pretty easy-going about admitting young students part-time;
some have firm policies against it.  Often community colleges are more
open to the idea than 4-year colleges.  

Some states have a dual enrollment policy in place that allows high
school students to take college courses while still in high school-- at
no extra cost to the student!  The courses count as both high school
credit and college credit.  Unfortunately, not all of the states allow
homeschool students to participate in these sponsored programs.

Many schools will require the prospective student to have acceptable
SAT or ACT scores.  (Your student can register for these tests online
each fall --they may be taken at any age.)  Some will require a high
school diploma.  A homeschool-issued high school diploma usually
meets this requirement (but check with your college, just to be sure).  

So, provided you can find a community college or 4-year
college that will let your child in to take classes -- what are the
pros and cons?
 Here are a few for your consideration...

On the thumbs-up side -- the challenge!
Gifted students often thrive in a college environment.  They are finally
presented with a suitable level of challenge, and an appropriate class
pace.  They enjoy learning and studying with students who have
similar academic interests and career goals.  They can focus on
courses that truly interest them.

Another big positive -- college credits look good on a high
school transcript!
 it's generally believed that college admissions
officers feel better about a homeschooler's academic ability if the
student has a few  "formal" classes on their homeschool transcript.  
Having successfully completed college-level courses provides good
proof of a student's abilities.  It also shows that a student is seeking
out the most challenging courses available to him or her.

On the down-side... college classes are expensive!  At at some
colleges they're outrageously expensive!  The costs are usually tallied
on a per-credit basis -- at hundreds, to even thousands of dollars per
credit -- and most college classes are worth at least 3 credits.  So,
shop around!  It may be worth driving to that college that's an hour
away, if it saves you thousands of dollars.

Not all colleges are created equal.  Whether public or private,
providing 2- or 4-year programs, or offering graduate degrees --
colleges tend to specialize.  They put more funds into developing
certain major fields of study and barely cover others.  This effects the
level of rigor in the various departments,  the quality of the instructors,
and the opportunities for research, internships and outside
opportunities.  The result?  Your gifted student may find that they are
already working at a higher level than your local  college's introductory
courses... and that there aren't many higher-level courses to choose
from down the road!  If your student has been using a private tutor
you might find that the tutor is more qualified than the professors who
would be teaching your student!

Not all college instructors are created equal. Just as you have
been carefully researching to find appropriate homeschool curriculum,
you should also research the prospective teachers your child will have
and the content of their classes.  Some classes may be taught by grad
students with little teaching experience!  Visiting websites such as can give you an idea of the quality of the
instructor and the materials used.  Another concern --  young students
have, at times, been unpleasantly surprised by the inclusion of mature
adult content in class discussions, movies, and required reading
assignments.  It might be a good idea to meet with prospective
teachers beforehand, to discuss concerns.       

If you were hoping for a little free time for yourself while
someone else educated your student (for a change!) -- you may be in
for a surprise.  Some colleges require a parent to sit in on all classes
a young student takes! This is mostly seen when the student is under
16.  (But, hey, maybe you wouldn't mind sitting in on a few college
courses? ;-)  And What about transportation? Who's driving your
student  there and back each day?

Racking up college credits may cause problems down the road.
Of particular concern to those hoping to take several classes each
semester -- universities typically limit the number of previous college
credits that a student may hold and still be considered an entering  
"Freshman".  At a university where the limit is 30 credits, if your child
applies with 31 credits they could be considered a Sophomore
transfer student, not a freshman --this could affect scholarship
eligibility.  It's possible that universities won't accept some of the
credits, but best to keep a close tally.

On the bright side-- many course credits that colleges accept will be  
prerequisites for upper-level courses.  This means that students  won't
have to take the slower-paced 100 level courses (often held in huge
lecture halls) -- they can move right on to more interesting and
meatier upper level courses.    

Earning less than an "A" in a community college course may cause  
complications if that course credit has been accepted for credit at their
4-year college.  At some universities, a C or D, even though earned
when a student was young and inexperienced, may be averaged in
with a student's college grade point average!  If the course was in
what became a student's declared major, the lowered GPA can affect
scholarship eligibility and Honors standing.  

Probably the biggest complication of having lots of previous
community college credits is that, down the road, your child's 4-year
college may decide that your student has met their graduation
requirements after only a year or two of full-time college.  They may
insist on early graduation or a move to graduate student status!  If you
were counting on early graduation -- no problem.  If not -- big

So, what is a parent to do?  If your child truly needs the academic
stimulation and challenge that only a college environment can provide,
then you really need to explore the option.  

My advice?  

Stay informed.
 Join parent support groups where you can discuss
your options, common issues, and get help working out problems.  

Always ask about exceptions to rules.  Accept that by sending
your student to college early you may need to blaze some new trails--
it may not be easy to arrange what your child needs.  

Research instructors and course content . Be sure the course is
really worth your student's time (and your money! )

Be alert to college credit issues.  Investigate possible
complications if your student is earning a lot of college credits. Watch
out for changes in college policies regarding credit.

Strive to get agreements in writing.  

Try to be flexible.  Accept that you and your student may be forced
to change plans and goals several times along the way.  

Rejoice!  You have finally found a learning environment that really
suits your gifted student!  That's what makes the struggle worthwhile.

But, what if you can't get your student admitted?  Or what if
your young teen just isn't ready for a college learning
environment (for whatever reason)?
 Or you just can't manage
the financial burden of college tuition?
There are many ways to
"stretch" the homeschool high school years beyond purely academic
experiences!  Students can opt to spend more time pursuing other
interests, such as community theater, sports, music, art, or community
service, or family  travel.  They might decide to dedicate themselves to
deeper research into their favorite areas.  See the Diner's
Is Early
Graduation the Only Option? article for more ideas.  

Support Groups Open to Discussing Early College:
TAGMAX -- an online support group for homeschool parents of gifted
students of all ages. (click on "Join or Leave TAGMAX" and follow the
directions to join)  
hs2college -- an online Yahoo! support group for homeschool
parents preparing for college

Other Resources
Radical acceleration and early entry to college: A review of the
research by Miraca Gross -- this article discusses public school
students who go to full-time college early, but many of the advantages
and challenges mentioned could apply to homeschoolers, too

Check out some early college entrance programs -- for full-time
college students
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