Overview: Dual enrollment for homeschoolers is a popular option, but is it right for YOUR teen and YOUR family? Here are some things to consider.
Dual Enrollment for homeschoolers is a big buzzword these days. It may seem like the best thing since sliced bread — my teen can get high school and college credit at the same time? Sign me up! It’s the best way to prepare for college, right?
But there are many things to consider when making the decision to do dual enrollment with your homeschooled teen. Here are several aspects you may not have considered.
Spoiler: NONE of my kids had dual enrollment, and they all got into colleges with scholarships just fine. But listen for more things to think through before you jump on the dual enrollment bandwagon.
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This episode is sponsored by SchoolhouseTeachers.com.
Getting started with your homeschooling journey can be overwhelming—especially if you don’t know where to start. Get started on the right foot this fall with a SchoolhouseTeachers.com membership. Sign up today for a 30 percent discount on their Ultimate Quarterly Membership. Pay only $35 by using code: HOME at checkout during the SchoolhouseTeachers.com Keep Your Children HOME, Mama! sale. Order today and receive a FREE Hey, Mama Bear! Tote while supplies last.
This incredible homeschool company provides moms with the knowledge and the support they need to teach their children at home, whether they have ever had teaching experience or not. Parents can access every single grade, beginning with preschool, with an ultimate membership. They are able to soar through their homeschool adventure with ease with the variety of tools and resources found within a membership. Downloadable and printable courses are available with the click of a button. Videos can be streamed immediately upon sign-up as well as menus, preschool skill checks, and a daily planner! Use code: HOME to begin your SchoolhouseTeachers.com journey today!
Episode 64: Dual Enrollment for Homeschoolers – is it right for YOU?
More discussion on how to decide about the extras of homeschooling high school can be found in my book Save Your Sanity While Homeschooling High School.
Hi, I’m Ann Karako and you’re listening to episode 64 of the It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School podcast.
Can we not stand strong on the fact that our homeschool transcript is just as valid as any public or private school high school transcript? Why do we feel the need that we have to over achieve in order to show our worth?
Welcome to another episode of It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School, the podcast for real people. So you can confidently, competently, and even contentedly provide the high school education that best fits your teen and your family — and live to tell about it. I’m your host, Ann Karako, from annieandeverything.com.
Hello, everyone; I hope you are doing well today. I just got back earlier this week from the last Great Homeschool Convention of the season, out in Ontario, California. And there was a topic that came up there with several people, and it does keep coming up over and over again no matter where I go. Let’s discuss it today.
What is the topic you may ask? It is dual enrollment. The question is, “Is dual enrollment right for you?” It is a buzz word out there right now; everybody is talking about dual enrollment. The question is, is it right for you, and I’ve got some thoughts for you to consider. Just because everybody’s talking about something, doesn’t make it right for everybody. So we will talk about that today.
Here’s the thing. I’m always going to say this no matter where I go: anybody who lists all those “should’s” that you’re supposed to do in order to not ruin your teen and successfully homeschool high school is placing a burden on you that may have been right for them but isn’t right for everybody. I am here to tell you that there are so many things you don’t have to do, and dual enrollment is one of them. If you come away from this podcast with nothing else, please come away from it knowing that you do not have to do dual enrollment. You can decide for yourselves whether or not it is going to be the best thing for you.
My job today is to present all of the considerations to you so that you can decide for yourself and not be swayed by the masses or this feeling that because everybody else is doing it, your kid is going to miss out in some way.
Nope, that is not the case. In fact, I’m just going to come clean right from the beginning. None of my kids had any dual enrollment, and that’s not because we had decided from the start that we were never going to do it. We actually were considering it. We actually did want to do it. We had heard about it, and it sounded like a wonderful thing. Sure. Why not? But as the time got closer, there were a lot of considerations that came into play that we hadn’t realized before. And so we ended up not doing dual enrollment for any of our kids, and guess what? They all got into college. They all got scholarships even without dual enrollment.
So this is by no means a have to, a must do, you’re missing out ,and your kid is not going to get into college if you don’t do this. None of that is true, so please get that out of your mind right now. Again, if you want to turn off the podcast right now and say, “okay, good, I don’t want to do it, and now I know I don’t have to,” then great; go for it. For the rest of us, let’s go through some things to consider about dual enrollment, to see if it really is a good fit for your teen and your family and you.
What is dual enrollment?
It’s probably a good idea to start out with a definition of what dual enrollment is, just in case somebody’s listening and they’ve never heard the term before. So dual enrollment is when you enroll your kid in a college class — maybe at the local community college or online, or maybe there’s a four year college nearby that your kid can go to — and the idea is that they’re taking college classes in high school, and they’re getting both high school credit for these classes and college credit for these classes.
This is supposed to provide many benefits. We’ll go over some of those today, see if they really are all that they’re cracked up to be. But that’s the idea, that your kid can get double credit, or dual credit by enrolling in college classes during the high school years. Thereby getting high school credits towards high school graduation and as well, getting college credit to save them some courses that now they don’t have to take in college, because they already took them in high school. So that’s what dual enrollment means.
Is it a good fit for you? Let’s think about a few things.
First of all, one of the biggest reasons that people want to do dual enrollment is the cost savings. We all are aware of how expensive college is these days, and dual enrollment sounds like a great way to reduce those costs. And there are some states where dual enrollment is free, which obviously makes it all the more tempting, right? If my kid can get college classes for free — obviously there’s the cost of the books, and college books can be pricey, but that’s beside the point, mostly — it can be tempting in those states where it’s free, but a lot of states, including my own state of Missouri, it is not free. Some states give a discount that can be fairly significant, however I don’t believe my state has a discount; I could be wrong.
So for many of us cost does play into it. Some people say that the credits at the community college are less expensive than the credits at a regular four-year college. That may very well be true, but let’s look at the long-range prospect here. One thing to remember is that many colleges have set tuition for a full-time credit load. A full-time credit load is usually defined as 12 credits or more, up to a maximum number of credits. And often that maximum number is 18; it might even be as high as 21, but I think 18 is probably more common.
Now a usual college course is three credits. So, the college is charging the same amount of money for any number of credits between 12 credits and 18 credits. That means you’re going to pay X dollars for 12 credits. You’re going to pay the same X dollars if your kid takes 15 credits that semester, and you’re going to pay the same X dollars if your kid takes 18 credits that semester. That’s what a full-time tuition amount is usually set up like at your typical college.
So we’re talking about two more courses for the same amount of money. But then you’re thinking, well, we paid a little bit of money to do those dual enrollment classes on the front end, and now you’re telling me that I could get two more each semester for the same amount — how is that really saving me any money? And I think we forget that, so please bear that in mind as well.
Now in the states that dual enrollment is free, I can see that the cost savings might be substantial. I have heard of kids getting their Associates degree before ever leaving high school, and if that’s a good fit for your kid, then great! I’m going to say, even in the free states, it’s not always a good fit. It’s not always the thing to do, even if you can do it for free.
And frankly, when you’re looking at the full-time credit load tuition amounts, you can get a lot of “free” classes in there, a lot of extra classes for the same amount of money over the span of four years. So I’m not certain that I’m thinking that the savings on the front end is really going to make a difference on the back end.
It’d be interesting to do an actual cost analysis there. How much did you spend on dual enrollment ahead of time? How much did you spend on tuition going forward from there in the four year college, and was there really a huge cost benefit? This would be my question.
For many of us budget is a factor every day, every hour. We’re picking up the gallon of milk to see how many pennies we can save on that. So when it comes to shelling out money for dual enrollment courses, we might not have that kind of cash. And that was the case with our family. We just did not have that amount of extra, available, discretionary money to put towards a dual enrollment class for our kids — even one. There were too many kids in the house to take care of.
So for many people, budget is a consideration. If you don’t have the money for dual enrollment, that’s okay. Again, it’s not a must do for every child. It’s not even a must do for any child. It is an extra that can be chosen if it’s a good fit but does not have to be chosen. Let’s talk about that some more.
All right. Here’s another thing to consider. What is your kid going to be exposed to in these dual enrollment courses? So there is several different aspects of this. One is I have always thought, “I am keeping my kid home from the public high school. Why would I want to put them in a college setting?” This is one of the things that hasn’t made a whole lot of sense to me.
One of the reasons I was keeping my kid home from high school was because of the things they would be exposed to in the high school environment. Sex, drugs, and incredibly inappropriate conversations, if the conversations I used to have in high school are anything to go by. So, why would I then want to take my kid and put them in a setting where the students are even older, and therefore even more adult content is going to be available to partake in, conversation-wise? And this isn’t just walking back and forth between classes; this is in class.
And so then you think, well, maybe if we do all online dual enrollment that will protect my kid. Not necessarily. Online classes often have a forum component as part of the grade, where the student has to go in and participate in forum discussions. They have to post questions of their own, and they have to interact on questions or comments that other people have made in order to get a portion of their grade. And so those forums are a place where our kids can get exposed to a lot of topics that we might not be ready for them to be exposed to. Especially if we’ve chosen to homeschool high school for the reason of protecting our kids from the things that they would be exposed to at the public or private high school. Something to think about.
And it’s not just the students; it’s the professors themselves. College professors have a lot of leeway when it comes to deciding what’s going to be taught in a given course. One of the things I tell my kids before they go off to college is you have to learn what that professor wants and give it to them, even if you don’t always agree with it.
Now, obviously there are lines to be drawn there. I still remember the college professor when I was taking an art — I thought it was an art history course, might’ve been an art appreciation course instead — he had written a textbook of his own, and that’s what college professors love to do is write a textbook and then use it for their own courses. His textbook said that art did not have to be understood; in fact, the less understood a piece of art was the better the art was. Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with that. But guess what? I spit it back to him on the final exam, because that’s what he wanted to hear. That’s how to get the grades in college is to know what the professor wants.
Well, any professor can pick any textbook, any literature, any books that they want to present as things for students to study. And your kid will have to read that book and discuss that book and write papers about that book, take tests about that book, write essay questions about that book. The question is, is it a book that you want your high school aged teen to be exposed to? And that is a question we all need to weigh based on our own family values, our own ideas about that. But it is definitely something to consider.
Be sure that you are ready for your teen to be exposed to these types of topics, that maybe the reason you’re homeschooling was to avoid those in the first place. That doesn’t make dual enrollment acceptable then, does it?
Just jumping in here to say that this episode has been sponsored by Schoolhouseteachers.com. Getting started with your homeschooling journey can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start. Get started on the right foot this fall with a Schoolhouseteachers.com membership. Sign up today for a 30% discount on their ultimate quarterly membership. Pay only $35 by using the code: HOME. That’s H-O-M-E at checkout during the Schoolhouseteachers.com “Keep Your Children Home, Mama” sale. Order today and receive a free, “Hey Mama Bear” tote while supplies last.
This incredible homeschool company provides moms with the knowledge and the support they need to teach their children at home, whether they have ever had teaching experience or not. Parents can access every single grade, beginning with preschool, with an ultimate membership. They are able to soar through their homeschool adventure with ease, with the variety of tools and resources found within a membership. Downloadable and printable courses are available with the click of a button. Videos can be streamed immediately upon signup, as well as menus, preschool skill checks, and a daily planner. Use code HOME to begin your Schoolhouseteachers.com journey today.
Here is another thing to consider: how mature is your kid, as far as taking responsibility for themselves? The college environment is completely different than being home with mom. Mom can remind, mom can nag, mom can bribe, mom can do what it takes to keep her student on task. A college professor is not going to do that. The student gets a syllabus at the beginning of the semester, and it is the student’s job to follow that syllabus day-by-day — make sure they’re getting the homework done, make sure they’re getting things turned in on time that are done thoroughly and well (they’re not going to get a second chance on them), make sure that when it’s midterm day they show up to class fully studied up and ready to take the midterm. They also have to be able to communicate with the professor when there’s any questions about content or grades. Is your student ready to do that?
Many homeschoolers are a bit introverted. And I don’t know if that’s a function of the parents being introverted and that’s why they want to homeschool, or if the kids are introverted. I know that at least two of my kids are incredibly introverted and possibly more. It would have been like putting needles in their eyeballs to have to communicate with a college professor at high school age; that would have been very difficult for them. They maybe could have handled the academic level of the work, but they were not ready for the responsibility that was entailed by being a college student at high school age. And that is something to consider as well.
Mom, you cannot help with this, especially if you’re wanting them to get college credit for it, in addition to high school credit. That means your kid has to be a college student in order to earn college credit; you cannot be the one reminding them about things. They absolutely have to be able to handle this all by themselves. Is your kid ready to do that? Something to consider.
Along with, maturity and responsibility comes the idea of academic readiness. Here’s something that a lot of people might not think about: Is your kid ready to take a college course and get a good grade in that course?
If there is any doubt at all that your kid can get a good grade in a college level course, then do not enroll them in a college level course, even if it is absolutely free. Because if they get a C or D in that college course, it has to go on their high school transcript. Any class that is taken at an official institution such as a community college or a college, or even the public high school (and that’s a topic for another day, but that’s also a credit taken at an official institution) — any credit taken at an official institution must be listed on the high school transcript. Colleges that your kid applies to later will expect full disclosure on that.
So that C or D that your kid gets on that dual enrollment class is going to go on their high school transcript. It’s going to affect their high school GPA. College admissions officers will see that and wonder, “Well, if the kid has proven that they’re not capable of doing super well on a college course already, then why should I think they’re capable of doing it now?”
And that GPA is a number that they look at without really examining the details of how it got there. And they’ll use that initial GPA number to sort through kids pretty quickly and kind of shove some aside and then look at others closely. And if that GPA is lowered because of your kid’s dual enrollment class, that may keep them from some opportunities. And you thought you were giving them opportunities by enrolling them in a college course in high school, but sometimes if the kid isn’t ready academically, then later on that can actually reduce their opportunities — because that GPA gets decreased. And if we had just stuck with the high school classes, they would have been just fine and had a nice GPA.
Again, these are all just things to consider. I am by no means telling anybody what to do, but these are things that we should consider — oops, I used the “should” word! — these are things that I highly recommend you consider before jumping on the dual enrollment bandwagon.
Okay. Here’s another thought. Do you think colleges expect all high school kids to have college credits in high school? No, they certainly do not. College admissions officers expect high school transcripts to have high school level work on them. College level work is not required, not necessary, not expected. Okay, you say, but the reason I want to put it on there is to validate our homeschool. When colleges see that my kid is capable of doing college level work, then they know that we gave them a good education in our homeschool.
Well, here’s what I want to say about that:
Why is it it necessary to validate our homeschool? Can we not stand strong on the fact that our homeschool transcript is just as valid as any public or private school high school transcript? Why do we feel the need that we have to over-achieve in order to show our worth? Guess what, we don’t.
There are plenty of colleges out there that your high school homeschool transcript will be sufficient, completely full of high school level courses, no college courses at all. As I told you all five of my kids, with no college courses on their transcript, all got into great schools that were suited to them with scholarships.
Colleges are not looking for dual enrollment; they don’t expect it. And I think we need to be willing to take a stand against this idea that the only way to be proven valid as a homeschool is to take dual enrollment classes. I disagree. Our homeschools are perfectly valid without the above and beyond than other kids — high school age — have to do. That was a little bit of a soapbox there, but I feel pretty strongly about it.
Last, but certainly not least — and I hope I’m not missing anything in this list of things to consider, but I think it’s a pretty good list. But here’s something else: what about how the family is going to be affected by your kid being in dual enrollment? So, a couple things to think about here. One, just logistics, schedule. How are you going to get the kid there? If this is a local school and your kid doesn’t have their driver’s license yet, which can be the case pretty often, how are you going to get the kid to class either two or three days a week? Are you going to have to wake up kids from naps, or disturb everybody else’s homeschool day in order to trek your kid back and forth that many times a week? And what are you going to do while they’re in class; are you gonna have to sit there and twiddle your thumbs or do school in the car? Sometimes that can get old very quickly.
And if your kid’s a driver already, then great; but what about the car that they’re taking? Do they have their own car or does that mean you’re going to be without a car for that time period, that many times a week? That can be frustrating, too, especially if you have something that is kind of an urgent situation, and you really need to get somewhere fast. But now, oops, sorry; the kid has taken the car to his dual enrollment college class, and we can’t go anywhere. That can be annoying at the very least. What’s the overall stress level that is being caused by this dual enrollment class in your family?
Is the “college kid” — the high school kid that’s taking the college classes — are they stressed about the class? Are they feeling like they’re in over their head? And then we’ve got the trickle down theory that that’s affecting everybody else, because they are so in angst about it. Families are interdependent units, and when one is hurting, we all kind of end up hurting to a certain degree one way or the other. How is this affecting the stress level in the household?
What about you, mom? Are you stressed about it? Maybe your teen isn’t doing so badly, but maybe you are stressed wondering how they’re going to do. That’s valid. Maybe you’re stressed wondering what they’re going to be exposed to. That’s valid as well. You know what, as homeschool moms, we need to have veto power for just about anything. Now, granted, we’re not going to want to just say, “oh, I don’t like that idea. No.” “Oh, I don’t like that idea. No.” We’re going to want to thoughtfully consider how things are going to affect us. I don’t think it’s right to just willy-nilly say, “No, I don’t feel like it.” However, we need to feel the right to veto something that is going to impact us in a way that puts us beyond our comfort level on the day-to-day.
We’re the parent; parents should always have veto power. Teens do not always understand the implications of the decisions they’re making. We are their parents, and I’m not going to stand down from that idea. And when it comes to dual enrollment, if this is going to cause undue stress, either for the family as a whole, or even only for you, homeschool mom, it’s okay to say no.
So we’ve been through several things to consider about dual enrollment. These are things that I’ve thought about and shared with people over and over again. And many have said, “Wow, I hadn’t thought about those things. And you have eased my mind.”
So many people don’t want to get on the hamster wheel of doing all of the “shoulds,’ all of the things that the “experts” tell you to do. Remember those “experts” most of the time have super intelligent kids who are capable of doing these things easily and well. For the rest of us, that’s not always the case. So evaluate for YOUR teen, and for YOUR family, and for you, whether this is a good fit or not.
Now, again, I’m not telling anybody “don’t do dual enrollment,” I’m saying to evaluate; and if it is a good fit, then great, go for it, more power to you, I love it. But make that decision for the right reasons. Make that decision because it meets your goals for homeschooling high school, because it does not hinder your WHY for homeschooling high school, because your teen is ready and up for the challenge and motivated to do it, because it’s not going to affect the family adversely, because you have the money to afford it. For all of those reasons, then go ahead if they all line up.
Don’t make the decision to do dual enrollment based on fear that your kid is going to be behind somehow — nope. Or everybody else is doing it and so we’re missing out if we don’t do it — nope. Or I have to validate your homeschool in order to show colleges that my teen is capable of college level work — nope. None of that is necessary. Don’t make the decision to dual enroll for those reasons; make it for the right reasons. And then you can feel confident and not overwhelmed and intimidated.
That’s my job — is to take away the overwhelm, to remind you that you can competently, and confidently, and contentedly homeschool high school.
So I will be putting a bunch of resources and links to resources on the show notes page. You know how to get there — go to annieandeverything.com, click on Podcasts in the top menu. Look for episode 64 and click on that. There will be a bunch of links to related articles and podcast episodes that will help you with this topic even further — how to decide what’s right for your family.
It was really fun at the Great Homeschool Conventions to hear how many people already listened to the podcast. And it is growing; feel free to share it with your friends. As always, I enjoy being here with you.
Remember, it may not always be easy to homeschool high school, but it doesn’t have to be that hard. See you next time.
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