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3 College-Prep Resources for Home-Schoolers

Co-ops and community college courses can help parents home-school through high school.

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Home-schooled teens can gain valuable college experience – and credits – at their local community college.
Home-schooled teens can gain valuable college experience – and credits – at their local community college.

Home-schooling a teenager can be challenging. Subjects become harder for parents to teach and teens can be, well, difficult. Then, there is the question of college applications and admissions.

College prep is typically built into traditional high school curricula, but can take some extra effort in a home-schooled environment. Parents don't have a guidance counselor on hand to walk them through the necessary steps, and college recruiters probably aren't setting up booths in your kitchen over the lunch hour.

[Find out why home-schooled teens are ripe for college.]

There are plenty of resources to help parents home-school their students through high school, though, if they know where to look, says Mary Ann Kelley, publisher of TheHomeSchoolMom.

Kelley lives in Virginia and currently home-schools one daughter, who is in 10th grade. Her other daughter enrolled at Germanna Community College after graduating from home-school and plans to transfer to the University of Mary Washington next year.

"Home-schooling high school requires the same things that all home-schoolers find necessary for success: flexibility, knowledge of the child's learning style, good communication, knowledge of online resources available and knowledge of the local resources," she says.

Online resources include massive open online courses, commonly referred to as MOOCs, video lessons from sites such as Khan Academy and TED-Ed, and test-prep sites such as College Board.

TheHomeSchoolMom also has online planners and credit trackers to help parents build a transcript for their home-schooled teen.

Below are three other ways for parents to help their home-schooled teens build their college resumes and finish high school.

1. Home-school co-ops: The home-school community is an active one and many areas have co-ops that allow parents to pool their resources. These groups are especially helpful when advanced subjects are over a parent's head, notes Heather Sanders, who home-schools three children. The eldest, Emelie, is in high school.

"Could I adequately teach Emelie about Algebra? No," Sanders wrote in a 2011 blog post. "I started asking around and found a woman in our Homeschool Coop is a Math genius."

Home-school parents should tap into local groups to connect with other families, Kelley says. These resources can be scarce in rural areas, she says, but parents can reach out to state organizations to find home-school groups nearby.

2. Community college: What better way to prep for college than by taking actual college courses? In many states, students can enroll in community college courses as early as age 15.

[Learn why business leaders advocate for community colleges.]

These classes allow students to do more than simply experience college-level course work. Some states allow high school students to take the courses for free, and students often earn dual credit for their classes. Kelley's oldest daughter finished her home-schooling with 33 college credits.

"Since our goal is a four-year degree for each student without debt, it has been a huge benefit to be able to count the community college courses toward both high school and college," Kelley said via email.

3. Volunteer and intern: Home-schooled students don't have student government and in some states can't participate on the high school sports teams. But home-schooling offers at least one benefit that traditional schooling doesn't: flexibility.

Instruction isn't confined to the hours of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., so students can volunteer or work during the day and build up valuable experience for their college applications.

"This year my 10th-grade daughter is taking Chemistry and Spanish 3 at a co-op, Geometry at home using a video program, world history and world literature at home with various resources," Kelley said. "The flexibility allows her to also work at our local county parks and recreation teaching gymnastics while competing with a year-round gymnastics team."

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