Most high school counselors begin recommending dual-enrollment to capable students in 10th or 11th grade. If you are not familiar with dual-enrollment, it is a program that many colleges offer where students can earn college credit while still in high school. This is completely free and a great opportunity for your child to get a head-start while saving money on college. As a homeschooling student, it’s a little different. The parent serves as the child’s guidance counselor and can therefore recommend the child for dual enrollment beginning in 6th grade. My son started the program two years ago when he was only 11. While this is absolutely not for everyone, I do believe many students can benefit from this program. Here’s some more information on how your child can earn college credit while homeschooling in middle or high school.
Related: My Homeschooling Journey
Is dual-enrollment right for my child?
There are several points to consider when deciding whether earning college credits while homeschooling in middle or high school is right for your child. Your child may be 12 and fully ready for that experience or they may be 16 and not yet ready. Every child is different, and each family dynamic is unique. Your child may be ready to move forward, but the family dynamic may not lend itself to starting just yet. Take some time to consider the following points.
Is your child socially and emotionally ready? Are you emotionally ready?
The first thing I would take into consideration is the social and emotional state of my child. What they know is never my main priority, but rather how they are growing and adjusting.
Does your child have any issues of anxiety or a hard time focusing?
If your child struggles with anxiety or high stress levels, I would continue working on coping and developmental skills. These may include role playing different scenarios, setting deadlines, chunking work, organization skills, daily schedules, analyzing personal strengths and weaknesses, setting goals, etc.
Is your child a responsible, independent learner?
If your child is going to be taking college classes that are counting towards a degree, he/she must be able to do the work mostly independently. This is a big step and they should not expect mom or dad to guide them through every assignment. If they have not shown that they are responsible, I would not consider this an option for them. Their final scores will affect their official college GPA and remain on their permanent record. So,if you are not confident they are ready, it is best not to risk their academic future on it.
Is he/she driven and looking forward to this opportunity?
This is not something that should be forced. They should not feel pressured if they do not actually feel ready. Some children are excited at the opportunity and want to challenge themselves. Sometimes kids who are mature enough to understand the benefits and want to help the family save money, will jump into it without really wanting to. Make sure they understand everything it entails.
Would you feel comfortable with him/her sitting in a college class without you? Would he/she feel comfortable?
As dual-enrolled students, they are fully responsible for everything concerning their college work. The college will not give you any information or allow you to make any decisions or schedule changes without your child present, even though he or she is a minor under your care. You are not going to be able to attend classes with your child; they will be fully independent. While there are some online options, there will also be some hybrid classes or fully on-campus classes they will have to take. While I prefer my child to take online classes, he prefers on-campus classes. He says they are less work and he has more opportunities to ask his professor questions without having to wait hours or days for an email response.
Is your child prepared academically for the challenge ahead?
How is your child doing academically? Do they have test-taking skills? Are they above average or advanced in reading and writing or mathematics? If so, they have a good shot at passing the entrance exams. Just note, there will be no exceptions or accommodations made because of your child’s age. They will be responsible for the exact same things their adult peers are responsible for.
You think your child is ready to earn college credit while homeschooling. Now what?
1. Look into local colleges.
What are your child’s strengths and goals for the future? Is an associate or bachelor’s degree desired or would a trade-school track be best?
2. Research entrance requirements.
Once your child has an idea of what school he or she would like to attend, go online and look up the entrance requirements. (For my son, it was the PERT test.) Then search practice tests online to see how they score. Depending on the results, you may want to continue homeschooling to get them ready and fill in the gaps they seem to be missing or they may feel ready to try the actual exam.
3. Meet with a college adviser.
Set up a time to speak with an academic adviser to discuss what tracks and degrees are available and get permission for your child to try the entrance exam.
4. Take entrance exam(s).
Once you get authorization, your child can choose to start with either literacy or math, depending on their comfort level, or can take all entrance exams. My son is strong in math and writing but missed the reading test by 3 points. He has gotten all his required math out of the way and is taking social sciences, history, etc. In the meantime, we are working at home on reading comprehension and vocabulary for whenever he decides to try again. Your child doesn’t have to be on college level in every area to take advantage of this opportunity.
5. Enroll in college courses.
Start slow. Again, your child’s GPA is permanent, and this is their first college experience. Let them try one class to start, two max. I would encourage them to try a class on campus if possible, as they may receive more support in person. They will not get any preferential treatment because of their age but at least they will be able to meet classmates and ask the teacher questions while in class. I would also be aware of what courses are for more mature students. You may not want your child exposed to certain topics or literature, especially if they are on the lower end. Doing a bit of research beforehand or discussing it with the adviser is a good idea.
6. Time management.
Make sure your child creates a schedule at the beginning of each semester so that he or she can manage his/her time well and not become overwhelmed. Though I wouldn’t help with the work, I would suggest helping with the time management aspect of it.
7. Check in weekly to make sure they are on track.
If you’ve gotten this far, your child is most likely taking this seriously. However, if they begin to struggle in a class, they may not want to share it with you. They may feel like they will catch up or eventually get it while actually falling deeper behind. It’s best to be aware of it as soon as possible to provide moral support as necessary.
8. Monitor your child’s learning and effort.
Though you won’t be as hands-on as you may be used to as a homeschool mom, be careful not to give your child too much freedom. They may begin to run with this idea of being a college student and start to think of themselves as older and more independent than they really are. Still be involved. Make them work for it but also recognize opportunities to incorporate those topics into your homeschool lessons. If they struggled on the quiz, have them do extra work on the topic so that they will be ready for the final test or project.
I hope this information has helped you in thinking about whether or not dual-enrollment is right for your child. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave a comment below or email me at [email protected].