A Plan for High School for Ontario Homeschoolers

QUESTION: If my admission will be based on only 12U credit courses or standardized tests written in my last year of home schooling, then how do I structure the earlier high school years?

Plan backwards: Determine when you will need final grades and scores and make a reasonable timetable of study working backwards. Generally, 1-2 years is a good length of time to study for a high-stakes standardized test. Subject tests (SAT II or AP) will require at least a full year’s worth of study to prepare for the test, but also may require 1 – 3 years of prerequisite study of earlier topics leading up to the tested material.


Choose a curriculum method:
You may find it easy to pick one series of textbooks and generally follow it up through the high school grades to ensure that you are following a comprehensive curriculum. You may prefer to design your own “skills/knowledge” based curriculum where you research the specific skills and topics required (e.g. Quadratic Functions, Trigonometric Ratios) to achieve your goals and then simply use a variety of texts or internet resources to research and study each particular topic.

Be disciplined: Don’t put off studying simply because the test is so far away. These tests may only be one day events, but they are intended to measure years’ worth of preparation.

Read: Read anything you can get your hands on, and read critically. Read not only to understand the content of the text, but also how the writing style itself conveys meaning. Make every text an opportunity to discuss how an author gets his meaning across to the reader. Don’t just study literature; read newspaper and journal articles, textbooks and other non-fiction works.

Write: Writing may not feel like a natural activity, but strong writing skills are essential to success in most university programs. Encourage any kind of writing such as journals, letters to the editor (or mom and dad!), stories and book or film reviews. At all times, stress clarity of thought and expression. Remember that writing is an attempt to communicate and successful writing is writing that gets its point across well!

QUESTION: How early do I have to start planning?

The answer will depend on whether you choose to include standardized tests, 12U credits and/or a portfolio in your university application.

High School Diploma: start taking credit courses in “Grade 9″
Standardized Tests: follow a challenging English/Math program through “Grades 9 and 10″ and begin test prep in fall Gr. 11
12U credit courses: follow a challenging English/Math program through “Grades 9 and 10″ and begin with one or two (easier) 12U credit courses in fall of Grade 11
Portfolio: document activities starting in “Grade 9″ and start producing samples of admission-level work in “Grade 11″

General Admissions Timelines
“Grades 9 and 10″

  • Decide on your admissions strategy (Standardized Tests, 12U credit courses (“Top Six”), Portfolio/Transcripts, Mature student entry)
  • Research admission policies at your schools of interest (Do they have a homeschool policy already in place? Is there a homeschool contact person in university?)
  • Contact universities to confirm policies and establish relationship
  • Personal thinking/planning about future (Am I a “science” person? A “history” person? Do I have a specific profession in mind? Do I want to attend university right after high school?)
  • Begin formal documentation for portfolios/transcripts
  • Consult Ministry of Education course descriptions for lists of curriculum topics by grade
  • Collect samples of work, externally-evaluated if possible)
  • Keep exhaustive list of activities and use edu-speak to translate into courses
  • Start regular, academic writing (Argumentative/persuasive writing, report writing, grammar and style, research and documentation, organization and structure)
  • Analysis of texts and literature (fiction and non-fiction) including reading for meaning and content; understanding tone, perspective, and bias; use of figurative language; themes and character development in works of fiction
  • Regular diet of algebra including basic arithmetic and order of operations; integers, fractions, decimals; solving equations; rate, ratio, percent and proportion; linear and quadratic functions; linear and quadratic equations and systems of equations; analytic geometry; polynomials and factoring

“Grade 11″ – credit courses or personalized study program for standardized tests

  • Attend university fairs (usually in the fall)
  • Visit university campuses – when students are there!
  • Language Development
    • Continue regular writing and revising – style and sentence variety
    • Work on improving, enriching vocabulary – consider studying some elements of Latin, Greek
    • Read challenging texts, including those which are open to interpretation
    • Studies in current events/world issues
    • Elementary Logic, especially logical reasoning and fallacies for the purposes of evaluating arguments, identifying faulty reasoning
    • Traditional Grammar Study for clear, concise communication
  • Mathematics Development
    • Humanities students: Continue studies from Grades 9 and 10, working towards proficiency in these skills, and/or SAT preparation
    • Business students: this should be a pre-calculus year with an added emphasis on statistics and probability-if possible, write AP Statistics exam this May-(or with the intention of pursuing this next year)
    • Social Science students: studies from Grades 9 and 10, working towards proficiency in these skills, and/or SAT preparation with an emphasis on statistics and probability (or with the intention of pursuing this next year)
    • Science students: this should be a pre-calculus year (physics students should also consider this a pre-linear algebra year)
    • Math/Computer science students: this should be a pre-calculus and pre-linear algebra year. Completion of the equivalent of 11U Mathematics (Ontario) or Algebra 2 (U.S.) should be the goal.
  • Standardized Test Preparation (if applicable)
    • Start prep for SAT (and any AP exams) in the fall
    • Write SAT (May or June)
    • Write AP exams (May)
  • Credit course route
    • Take one or two 12U courses in first semester (easy ones!)
    • Take one or two 12U courses in second semester
  • Research universities – Method A: By School
    • Close to home vs. far away?
    • Finances and Scholarships?
    • Size of campus/classes?
    • Size of city/town?
  • Research universities – Method B: By Program
    • Where is the program available?
    • Co-op or internship possibilities?
    • Specialization or general?

“Grade 12″

  • Visit OUAC website in the fall
  • Contact OUAC in September re: applying as a home schooled student to receive appropriate login information or paper applications
  • download copy of INFO (available late Sept/October) for specific program requirements and application information
  • Language Development
    • Read and respond to challenging, classical texts – explore the universal themes of classic works and the elements of language used by the author to communicate his or her message
    • Use academic journals (instead of newspapers) to explore current issues
  • Choose some subjects to be studied “from the textbook” and develop the skill of learning independently from a textbook (perhaps choose a text you may be using next year in university – e.g. intro to psychology)
  • Look for opportunities to present your learning to others – form a study group or join a community organization and volunteer to present
  • Attend local seminars held by museums or local colleges/universities
  • Join or form a book club with deadlines for reading and discussion dates
  • Mathematics Development
    • Humanities students: No further mathematics is required beyond studies from Grades 9 and 10, and/or SAT preparation.
    • Business students: study calculus (formally or informally) this year with an added emphasis on statistics and probability if not previously studied. Plan to write SAT II Mathematics and/or AP Calculus in the spring, and AP Statistics, if not previously written.
    • Social Science students: Plan to write AP Statistics in May.
    • Science students: study calculus (formally or informally) and possibly linear algebra. Write SAT II Math and/or AP Calculus in the spring
    • Math/Computer science students: study calculus and linear algebra (formally or informally) with the intention of writing SAT II Mathematics and/or AP Calculus in the spring
  • Standardized Test Prep
    • Revisit prep for SAT in the fall
    • Start AP and/or SAT II preparation in the fall
    • Rewrite SAT (before December)
    • Write AP exams (May)
    • Write SAT II subject exams (Spring)
  • Credit courses
    • Take two or three 12U courses in first semester (ideally, have 6 done!)
    • Take one or two 12U courses in second semester, if desired/necessary
  • Other options
    • Volunteer placements
    • Internships, job shadowing
    • Online university/college courses
    • Competitions (e.g. music, academic)
    • Special camps/activities hosted by universities or community groups
    • Offer tutoring and/or mentoring to younger students
    • Outside certification courses (e.g. cooking, technology, athletics, public speaking, technical writing, swiming) in areas of interest and/or teaching classes in these areas
    • Specialized research project
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High School Credit Courses for Ontario Homeschoolers

Many families choose to include accredited Ontario high school courses into their high school home school program. These are courses that are taught in a classroom, online or by correspondence by an accredited Ontario school (or school board) including courses from the ILC (Independent Learning Centre).

Although it is possible to get into university without any high school courses, some universities do offer academic merit scholarships on the basis of 12U grades alone. Some universities have stated that they prefer students to submit 12U marks for university admission because it simplifies the process of comparing home schoolers to the traditional pool of applicants.

With many Ontario universities accepting the “Top Six” for university entrance, you do not have to take all 30 credits required by the provincial high school diploma (OSSD) to gain admission to an Ontario university. In many cases, simply taking six 12U courses is acceptable. However, if you want to enter the credit system and jump right into Grade 12, then it is your responsibility to plan a reasonable program of study a few years in advance so that you’ll be ready for these senior level courses.

Also read Sarah’s article Virtual High Schooling: Is it right for me? to gain added insight into these courses for home schoolers.

Schools offering 12U credits to home schoolers:

Independent Learning Centre – Ontario Credits by Correspondance
TDSB Virtual School (Toronto)
Virtual High School Homepage
Virtual Learning Centre
AMDEC
Canada e-School
Bishop Strachan e-Academy

[links updated 2017-05-10]

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Grade 12 Math Resources for Western Canada (BC, AB, MB)

There are a ton of places to get free math resources on the internet. But sometimes, you want Canadian material that follows your own curriculum.

If you’re studying high school math in western Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba – sorry, I don’t think he’s gotten around to making a page for Saskatchewan yet!), then you’ll want to check out the following websites for a complete curriculum, online textbook that you can download and print and practice exams that follow your provincial senior math guidelines:

  • BC – Principles of Mathematics 12 – [link removed – no longer valid]*
  • AB – Pure Math 30 – [link removed – no longer valid]*
  • MB – Pre-Calculus Math 40S – [link removed – no longer valid]*

Even if you’re studying math in another province, these resources will no doubt be helpful as extra practice or a curriculum supplement.

* [These links have all been replaced with a single website:
Mathematics 30-1: Explained – www.math30.ca
focused on Math 30-1 for Alberta but it also includes links to government math resources for the other Western provinces]

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Dealing with Procrastination

Steve Olson has a great collection of resources for beating procrastination on his site.  (Bookmark it, and then write it lower down on your to-do list. You’ll see why in a moment!)

He mentions one of my favourite procrastination articles, Structured Procrastination, where John Perry outlines his methods for making procrastination work for, rather than against, you.

Perry attempts to structure his to-do lists in such a way that procrastinating when it comes to the items at the top of the list (which, he argues, he would do anyway since he is a procrastinator by nature) means that he “tricks himself” into completing items lower down the list.

Of course, not every action he takes while evading responsibility is another item on his to-do list. Sometimes in an attempt to avoid his list entirely, he will engage in social activities. But even these activities (things not on one’s to-do list) can be rich self-development opportunities: making life-long friends, learning a skill, helping others and so on.

One resource not mentioned on Steve’s list is a book I read several years ago: It’s About Time! The Six Styles of Procrastination and How to Overcome Them by Linda Sapadin. What I liked about this book was that it let students identify with a variety of procrastination types and similarly dismiss other types.

Just like models of learning styles or personality types, no one model is the definitive model for categorizing people.  But, when you are presented with clearly distinct types of procrastinators, it becomes a little easier to figure out which behaviours and motivations you do or don’t identify with.  Sometimes when advice is given as a universal truth, it can be difficult to accept its relevance: we all want to think I’m different. Looking at procrastination types gets you thinking more specifically about your procrastination behaviours and might feel a little more relevant and a little less like, “Duh, everyone should <insert generic advice here>.”

Similarly, Paul Graham’s article Good and Bad Procrastination (also from Olson’s collection of resources) attempts to categorize procrastinators.  But, instead of classifying them based on their reasons for procrastinating (fear of failure, need to please, rebellion, revenge, perfectionism), Graham distinguishes different procrastinators by what they choose to do instead of the thing they should be doing: something more important than the original task, something less important than the original task or nothing at all. Reminiscent of Structured Procrastination, this article claims that there are good forms of procrastination. Whether or not your procrastination is actually helping you (even if you didn’t know it), it’s probably a good idea to take a look at what you do while you’re procrastinating.  If you can’t bring yourself to actually work on the task at hand, maybe you can improve your overall situation simply by choosing better distractions.

One of the linked articles suggests that a strict or authoritarian upbringing can rob us of the opportunity to learn to plan effectively for ourselves.  If your daily schedule was decided for and imposed upon you, what happens when you suddenly find yourself as a young adult with complete freedom?  Some will stick with the strict routine they know, and some will consciously choose to rebel. But many students will sincerely try to manage their time and commitments.  Very few students entering university actually intend to be a slacker. But they can stumble if they’re not used to making these tough choices (like when to work vs. when to play) themselves.

Another must-read article on Steve’s list explains how our own brain works against us and why meta-cognition, thinking about thinking, is the best defence against our own mind. Our reasoning is often irrational and biased towards survival strategies from earlier days when life was riskier and we couldn’t always afford to wait for future rewards.  Hyperbolic discounting is our tendency to choose a smaller payoff now rather than wait for a larger payoff later.  In doing so, not only can we end up making decisions of short-term gain that work against ourselves in the long run (like procrastinating) but we underestimate future consequences, tending to focus instead on present consequences.

As a result, we often make commitments to future deadlines that we would never agree to under present conditions.  For example, you can’t write that article for the campus newspaper this week because something came up. But you’ll gladly sign up for six weeks from now because you’re sure that month will be just a normal month. Our idealized picture of the future never seems to include helping a friend move, a Star Trek: The Next Generation marathon, a breast cancer run nor a public transportation strike. (Or as could be the case in Canada, a federal election!)

This potential for being over-committed is a key factor in having an unmanageable to-do list . . . or as described in the article, an impossibly long Netflix queue of high brow films you’ll probably never get around to watching because in the present moment, you always choose Family Guy.  And unmanageable to-do lists can make you appear like a procrastinator (missing deadlines, feeling overwhelmed etc.) even if you’re not normally one.

And finally, for those of you just wanting lists of tricks for beating procrastination or getting motivated, Olson’s article has that too.  There should be more than enough for those looking for actions they can try out right away.

So visit The Smart Guide to Beating Procrastination and give yourself something productive to do while you’re procrastinating!

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Students can improve by being more like salespeople

There’s a lot of information on this site about how to get into university. But it’s only responsible to also write about tips, tricks and tidbits that will help one prepare academically, mentally, spiritually and psychologically for the demands of university.

If you go looking for advice on how to prepare yourself for university, or how to be successful once you’re there, you’ll find no shortage of advice based on the premises that university is:

  • difficult (or, a favourite phrase that Joe and I have adopted from a sushi take-out menu, “raw and challenging”)
  • unlike anything you’ve experienced before
  • requiring intense concentration, dedication and work ethic

The truth is though, that this isn’t the universal first-year experience. Some kids enter university extremely well-prepared academically with not only adequate study skills but also with a healthy curiosity and a solid knowledge-base. Gifted students and/or home schoolers who have studied particular subjects in depth may even find themselves somewhat disappointed at the general nature of introductory courses. They may similarly find themselves more than a little disenchanted by the interest level of not only their fellow classmates but also of the professors who have been given the “baby” classes. There aren’t many books out there about how to cope when university isn’t challenging enough for you.

It would be erroneous to assume that the problems these students face in high school magically disappear once they cross the threshold of a university campus. For some, they do. For others, there can be a profound disappointment when they realize that university life holds fewer changes from high school than they had expected.

Personally, I can only recall one “challenging” course in my five years at Glendon. For me, challenging meant that I had to sit with a text book for hours on end trying to make sense of it. I can’t recall a course that had too much reading for me to be comfortable with (including a women’s literature course in a 4 week summer session that included novels, plays, poems, essays and short stories), nor did I ever have so many assignments that I found it difficult to manage or meet deadlines.

Fortunately for my academic career, though, I wasn’t generally resentful or disillusioned. I took advantage of the opportunity to get involved socially and politically on campus. I didn’t skip any classes, although I easily could have gotten away with it academically, until my last year when I was extremely involved in extra-curricular activities. Even though my 100 person first year Intro to Psychology course had dwindled to more like 40 people during lectures, I continued to attend faithfully. I continued to attend even though:

  • I did the lecture’s reading and made study notes before the lecture
  • the lectures were overviews straight from the textbook
  • the notes I had already made could have been the lecture

When people asked why, I told them that I liked the subject and I thought the repetition would be good for the learning process. It didn’t bother me that I had read it all before. In fact, it meant that instead of scrambling to take notes during the lecture, I could simply add annotations to the notes I already had and leave most of my brain free for listening. We like hearing the same stories over and over again, watching the same movies, listening to the same songs… I happened at the time to be fascinated by introductory psychology and I didn’t think this was any different. Besides, there might be something I’d miss if I didn’t go. There rarely was, but occasionally there were some gems to be had, like my professor slapping himself silly on the back of the head until he “saw stars” to demonstrate where the occipital lobe is, and how you can see things that aren’t really there when these neurons are adequately stimulated. (He proposed that this could explain “seeing ghosts” for example.) This I remember clearly 15 years later, and it wasn’t in the textbook.

It’s taken a while for this post to establish the link between university students and sales people, but here it finally is: little did I know that my tolerance for repetition in the hopes of finding just one new bit of information was an essential quality of successful salespeople. And as it turns out, being able to selectively tune in and tune out at will is just a handy self-improvement skill to have, whether you’re learning for credit, for professional advancement, or for interest.

Reg Braithwaite wrote about this on his website in response to people (computer programmers specifically) engaging in harsh criticism of each other’s ideas in an online discussion, but the point he makes has far greater implications than simply promoting tolerance. After reading his message, I think you’d be hard pressed not to look at education and training (especially the type that would normally make your eyes glaze over with boredom) in a new light.

The article is called What I’ve Learned From Sales, Part III: How to use a blunt instrument to sharpen your saw and isn’t entirely G-Rated, so I’m going to quote here more than I normally would of someone else’s post. Please don’t follow the link if a four-letter word is going to make you spit your morning coffee at the computer screen. 🙂 The observation and analysis is brilliant, and I hope he doesn’t mind that I share a few paragraphs in their entirety with you here so that I can share the wisdom:

In sales, there is a very high, observable, and measurable correlation between attending sales training seminars and sales volume. One explanation for this is that the kind of people who take time off of selling to sharpen their own saw are the kind of people to be top salespeople.

The other possibility is that there is something abut the seminars themselves that make salespeople better. I have asked salespeople about it, and generally I get a variation on the exact same answer: If I can learn just one thing that improves my sales skills, the seminar will pay for itself.

Think about that. They go to an all day seminar, where they will probably hear twenty, thirty, or forty tips. They will probably sit through tip after tip thinking “Yawn, I knew that, tell me something new.” Or they hear something and think: “That is the worst suggestion I’ve ever heard.” But then, suddenly, they hear something new, and they profit from it.

In sales, you are used to making call after call, facing rejection after rejection, but you keep dialing because”¦ the next one could be a winner. So the kind of person who can keep on dialing after rejection ought to be the kind of person who can sit through a seminar waiting to pounce on one new thing that can improve their income.

He goes on to point out that we non-salespeople often take a different approach to learning, or at the very least, others’ attempts to inform us. Here are some of the things we all do, to varying degrees and from time to time, instead of sticking it out waiting for that one idea that could be earth-shatteringly transformative:

  • Feel annoyed that we are “wasting our time” with things we “already know”
  • Hear one thing we disagree with, and as a result immediately discredit everything that person has to say
  • Attempt to correct or argue with someone else to convince them of the error of their ways
  • Make an overall judgment as to whether what we heard/read/saw as a whole was any good

Braithwaite recommends instead that computer programmers participate in online discussions with this mentality: most of what I hear won’t be new; a good portion of it I’ll completely disagree with; however, if I can find just one small thing that makes me a better programmer, the experience will have been worth it and I personally will profit from it.

I say, what a fantastic approach to learning! Think of what we open ourselves up to if we relax our natural tendencies for categorization and consistency and instead allow ourselves to learn from sources without embracing them in their entirety.

When we stop trying to evaluate our sources of information (books, websites, films, people) as “good” or “bad” we can turn the focus inwards on ourselves, and on how that information can be used for our own learning or self-improvement. This works equally well in a university lecture as it does in a training seminar, info session or online discussion.

This is a healthy attitude for all students, not just those wondering why they should attend a lecture to hear what they already know or those who feel their time is being wasted in class discussions with people stating the obvious. But, I think this idea can give real comfort to those who already feel “different” or “out of place” even in a university classroom. They don’t have to pass judgment on those around them; they simply recognize that good ideas can come at any place, at any time (even from bad ideas). And it’s not contradictory (or an embarrassment) to learn something from someone “not as smart” as they are, nor is it a betrayal of one’s principles to be enlightened by someone with a different religious, philosophical or political affiliation.

Did you know that direct mail campaigns (junk mail, envelopes filled with coupons etc.) are conducted with the knowledge that they have a 1% success rate in converting into purchases? Sales people understand that striking out comes with the territory. Ball players are considered star-caliber if they are successful at the plate a mere 30% of the time. Students, however, are indoctrinated with a much higher standard of success. The sooner they realize that “the real world” is all about the journey towards savouring the occasional sweet success, the easier it will be to relax the need for themselves and for others to conform to their expectations of perfection. And then, they just might learn something in places they never expected!

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Accredited by whom?

Go to any homeschooling conference and you’ll see vendor booths selling high school programs. They could be correspondence courses, online courses or credit services. Most homeschooling parents and students know to ask about accreditation, but unfortunately, they usually ask the wrong question.

I have overheard sales people at these booths using potentially misleading phrases such as “equivalent to a high school diploma” (hint: if it’s equivalent to something, it’s not actually that thing). But perhaps the most confusing word for parents out in the alternative high school diploma industry is accredited.

YOU MAY NOT NEED ACCREDITATION, BUT WHEN YOU NEED IT, YOU REALLY NEED IT

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe everyone needs an accredited program to get them through their high school years. I don’t believe that an accredited program is, based on that fact alone, automatically superior to one that is not accredited. If I were homeschooling high school aged children right now, I personally wouldn’t choose to use an accredited program unless I was educating under constraints that made its use necessary. (Stay tuned for a later post on that!) Remember that you might not even need a high school diploma at all, even if you want to go to university.

But, if you’re asking whether or not a program is accredited, that probably means you have come to the conclusion that your child needs or wants the benefits of accreditation. And if so, then you need to ask, “Accredited by whom?” or you may as well not ask at all.

HANG OUT A SHINGLE, AND YOU’RE A CERTIFICATION BOARD

I’m bringing up this topic again because of an article I read this morning in the Boston Herald regarding U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul’s claim to be a board certified doctor. It turns out that Paul is indeed certified . . . by a medical organization that he himself founded and currently heads. The Boston Herald article explains:

Paul, a Republican from Bowling Green and an ophthalmologist, says he’s certified by the National Board of Ophthalmology. But, Lori Boukas, a spokeswoman for the American Board of Medical Specialties, said the organization considers certifications valid only if they are done by the two dozen groups that have its approval and that of the AMA. The American Board of Ophthalmology said Paul hasn’t been certified since Dec. 31, 2005.

From what I gather from this article, the American Medical Association considers certifications issued by the American Board of Ophthalmology to be valid, but not those issued by the National Board of Ophthalmology, the latter being an organization that Paul created himself because he took issue with the certification practices of the former.

I’m not implying that there’s necessarily anything shady about forming your own accrediting body, but you can see how it creates confusion. If you were a budding ophthalmologist, then you would really need to know that the American and National Boards are two different entities, viewed differently by the American Medical Association and probably, therefore, by future employers. While both boards can offer you certification, those certifications are not equally accepted in the medical profession. Presumably there’s a professional organization to advise doctors and medical students. But surely the average patient would be clueless about these certification issues. (“Oh, you are certified by the National Board of Ophthalmology? Sorry, my insurance only covers visits to an American Board of Ophthalmology certified doctor.”)

QUESTIONING (PRESUMED) AUTHORITIES

We see shades of this outside the world of certification. “Super Objective Scientific Plastics Research Organization” (whose website you may visit while researching toxins in plastics) is nothing more than “Petroleum Giant Inc.”‘s PR department with carefully selected pro-plastic information. The “Stop Bill C-crackdown-on-natural-medicine” website is funded by “The Acai Berry Scammers of Canada” … who may in turn be simply a crafty department of “Big Pharma Monopoly Inc.” who have the resources to pull off the best double scam in history: reap the profits from selling supplements advertised as natural (but that don’t actually work) and then expose said natural medicine scams to create laws that make it impossible to sell herbal remedies, leaving pharmaceuticals as the only option.

(As you can see, my years of asking, “Who is really behind this?” have sharpened my creative skills!)

DO YOU KNOW WHO’S ACCREDITING YOUR CHILDREN?

Most of us are aware of the need to question who is behind the sites we visit online and how objective or reliable its contents are. But, when it comes to certification and accreditation, we can really be fooled by authoritative sounding organizations and institutions. We still tend to think that it means something if a person or program is certified or accredited. It may, or it may not.

ACCREDITED HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMAS IN CANADA

Fortunately (for simplicity’s sake), in Canada there really is only one accrediting body for high school credits: the provincial Ministry of Education. If you are inquiring about earning Canadian high school credits and want to ensure they are the official credits that count towards an official high school diploma, the answer you want to hear is that the program is accredited by the Ministry of Education. You want to hear that the program offers a ministry- or government-accredited high school diploma, not an equivalent diploma. There is only one “high school diploma” in each province, whether earned through correspondence, through a private school, at an alternative education centre, through a combination of night and/or summer school classes or at a regular public school – it’s the government-sanctioned, provincial diploma issued by the Ministry of Education.

ACCREDITED HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMAS IN THE UNITED STATES

In the US, however, there are a handful of organizations with super-serious, boring names that do accredit US high schools on behalf of the US government. Not surprisingly, there are also a few organizations with super-serious, boring names that offer accreditation to schools and programs who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for accreditation through the government-recognized organizations. So, if you’re considering a US-based program that claims to be certified, you have a little more work to do to figure out which body certifies the program and then whether that body is one of the government-recognized ones.

RECOGNITION OF HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMAS BY CANADIAN UNIVERSITIES

Canadian universities only recognize high school diplomas from the US that the US government would have recognized themselves. Students with a differently-accredited US diploma can not apply as regular high school students. They can, of course, apply for alternative admission (for example, as homeschoolers) and their diplomas can be considered in the admission process. But, Canadian universities can only accept a US government-recognized high school diploma to satisfy the “has a high school diploma” requirement. If you have one of the “other” diplomas, you do not, in the Canadian university’s eyes, have a “high school diploma” and you can’t apply as if you do. So, that accredited diploma you earn may not come with the door-opening credentials you expect because of the organization offering the accreditation.

CONCLUSION

Not everyone needs accreditation for their high school level studies. But if you do in fact need a government high school diploma, then you need to find out who is accrediting the program and confirm that the diploma is government-recognized.

Related Posts:
High School Credit Courses
Do I Need a High School Diploma?
7 Ways To Get Into University Without A High School Diploma
Homeschool Diplomas – Fact vs. Fiction

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How early do I have to start planning for university?

(This is a part of the document that I used to hand out at my Ontario University Admissions seminar. Just thought I’d get it up online.)

The answer to this question depends in part on how you intend to enter university. Below you’ll find some general tips and suggestions for your high school program that address credit courses, standardized test prep, “top six” and portfolio-based options. Of course, these are just some general, brief guidelines to get you thinking about the process.

To earn the OSSD: start taking credit courses in “Grade 9″ and plan to take roughly 6 – 8 credit courses per year for four years.

To write Standardized Tests (SAT/ACT): follow a challenging English/Math program of your choice through “Grades 9 and 10″ and begin specific test prep in the fall of “Grade 11.”

To take 12U credit courses (“Top Six”): follow a challenging English/Math program through “Grades 9 and 10″ and begin with one or two 12U credit courses in fall of “Grade 11.” Finish the rest of the six courses in “Grade 12.”

To prepare a Portfolio: document activities (begin to prepare a transcript with course names, descriptions, lists of texts used, tables of content followed) starting in “Grade 9.” Start producing samples of graded, admission-level work (projects, essays, tests) in “Grade 11.”

To enter an open university directly: follow a curriculum according to interest and ability in “Grades 9 and 10.” Choose more challenging/advanced programs in areas of future specialization. For interests in humanities, develop solid writing skills early. For interests in social studies, develop advanced reading comprehension early. For interests in math/science/engineering/technical areas, develop solid math skills early. Begin your first course or two in “Grade 11.” Choose an area of strength or interest to start. Look ahead to courses you might take over the next 2 years and if need be, study specifically to prepare for those courses. Complete 4 – 6 courses over the course of 2 – 3 years. Then, decide whether to continue studying by distance or transfer as a university transfer student to a traditional university setting.

General Admissions Timelines – “Grades 9 and 10″

Decide on an admissions strategy to aim for:

  • Standardized Tests,
  • 12U credit courses (“Top Six”),
  • Portfolio/Transcripts,
  • Mature student entry,
  • Transfer from an open university.

Research admission policies:

  • Homeschool policy already in place?
  • Homeschool contact person at university?
  • Contact universities to confirm policies and establish relationship.

Personal thinking/planning about future

  • Am I a “science” person? A “history” person?
  • Do I have a specific profession in mind?
  • Do I want to attend university right after high school?

Begin formal documentation for portfolios/transcripts

  • Consult Ministry of Education course descriptions for curriculum topics by grade
  • Collect samples of work, externally-evaluated if possible
  • Keep exhaustive list of activities and use edu-speak to translate into courses

Start regular, academic writing

  • Argumentative/persuasive writing
  • Report writing
  • Grammar and style
  • Research and documentation
  • Organization and structure

Analysis of texts and literature (fiction and non-fiction)

  • Reading for meaning and content
  • Understanding tone, perspective, and bias
  • Use of figurative language
  • Themes and character development in works of fiction

Regular diet of pre-algebra/algebra

  • Basic arithmetic and order of operations
  • Integers, fractions, decimals
  • solving equations
  • rate, ratio, percent and proportion
  • linear and quadratic functions
  • linear and quadratic equations and systems of equations
  • analytic geometry
  • polynomials and factoring

Establish/Develop areas of academic interest

  • Having an “academic speciality” can go a long way to being noticed as a university applicant.
  • Put together your own “survey course” in a particular field
  • Explore professional/industry/career organizations in that area and familiarize yourself with their suggested links/resources

“Grade 11″ – credit courses or personalized study program for standardized tests

Attend university fairs (usually in the fall)

Visit university campuses – when students are there!

Language Development

  • Continue regular writing and revising – style and sentence variety
  • Work on improving, enriching vocabulary – consider studying lements of Latin, Greek
  • Read challenging texts, including those which are open to interpretation
  • Studies in current events/world issues
  • Elementary Logic, especially logical reasoning and fallacies for the purposes of evaluating arguments, identifying faulty reasoning
  • Traditional Grammar Study for clear, concise communication

Mathematics Development

  • Humanities students: Continue studies from Grades 9 and 10, working towards proficiency in these skills, and/or SAT preparation
  • Business students: this should be a pre-calculus year with an added emphasis on statistics and probability””if possible, write AP Statistics exam this May””(or with the intention of pursuing this next year)
  • Social Science students: studies from Grades 9 and 10, working towards proficiency in these skills, and/or SAT preparation with an emphasis on statistics and probability (or with the intention of pursuing this next year)
  • Science students: this should be a pre-calculus year (physics students should also consider this a pre-linear algebra year)
  • Math/Computer science students: this should be a pre-calculus and pre-linear algebra year. Completion of the equivalent of 11U Mathematics (Ontario) or Algebra 2 (U.S.) should be the goal.

Standardized Test Route

  • Start prep for SAT (and any AP exams) in the fall
  • Write SAT (May or June)
  • Write one or two “easier” AP exams (May)

Credit course route

  • Take one or two 12U courses in first semester (easier ones)
  • Take one or two 12U courses in second semester

Research universities – Method A: By School

  • Close to home vs. far away?
  • Finances and Scholarships?
  • Size of campus/classes?
  • Size of city/town?

Research universities – Method B: By Program

  • Where is the program available?
  • Co-op or internship possibilities?
  • Specialization or general?

“Grade 12″ – STANDARDIZED TESTS or 12U courses

Visit OUAC website in the fall

  • Contact OUAC in September re: applying as a home schooled student to receive appropriate login information or paper applications
  • download copy of INFO (available late Sept/October) for specific program requirements and application information

Language Development

  • Read and respond to challenging, classical texts – explore the universal themes of classic works and the elements of language used by the author to communicate his or her message
  • Use academic journals (instead of newspapers) to explore current issues
  • Choose some subjects to be studied “from the textbook” and develop the skill of learning independently from a textbook (perhaps choose a text you may be using next year in university – e.g. intro to psychology)
  • Attend local seminars held by museums or local colleges/universities
  • Join or form a book club with deadlines for reading and discussion dates

Mathematics Development

  • Humanities students: No further mathematics is typically required beyond studies from Grades 9 and 10, and/or SAT, but you may wish to consider preparing for a SAT Subject Test (Math I) or your university program’s breadth requirement in math/logic/statistics
  • Business students: study calculus (formally or informally) this year with an added emphasis on statistics and probability if not previously studied. Plan to write SAT Subect (Math I or II) test and/or AP Calculus & Statistics in the spring, if not previously written.
  • Social Science students: plan to write SAT Subject Test (Math I or II) and AP Statistics in the spring, if not previously written.
  • Science students: study calculus (formally or informally) and possibly linear algebra. Write SAT Subject Test (Math II) and/or AP Calculus in the spring
  • Math/Computer Science students: study calculus and linear algebra (formally or informally) with the intention of writing SAT Subject Test (Math II) and/or AP Calculus.

Standardized Test Route

  • Revisit prep for SAT in the fall if you wish to rewrite this year (Before Dec.)
  • Start AP and/or SAT II preparation in the fall
  • Write AP exams (May)
  • Write SAT II subject exams (Spring)

Credit course route

  • Take two or three 12U courses in first semester (ideally, have 6 done!)
  • Take one or two 12U courses in second semester, if desired/necessary

Other academic options for Grades 11 and 12

  • Volunteer placements
  • Internships, job shadowing
  • Online university/college courses (for credit or “open study” such as MIT)
  • Competitions and contests (e.g. music, academic)
  • Special camps/activities hosted by universities or community groups
  • Offer tutoring and/or mentoring to younger students
  • Outside certification courses (e.g. cooking, technology, athletics, public speaking, technical writing, swimming) in areas of interest and/or teaching classes in these areas
  • Specialized research project
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AP exams for Homeschoolers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)

A great way for homeschooling high school students to “prove” their academic prowess in specific subject areas is through writing Advanced Placement examinations

The problem with AP exams for homeschoolers in Ontario has always been that these exams must be written in accredited high schools who have registered to offer AP examinations. The chances of your local Ontario high school offering AP exams aren’t all that great, since the Advanced Placement program isn’t nearly as popular here as it is in the U.S.

And, even if a school near you does hold AP examinations, there’s no guarantee that they will allow outside students to write exams at their school. They are not required to open their testing doors to everyone, and some schools have very reasonable restrictions on external students on exam day.

For example, one of the leading AP schools in the province is an all girls school, and they do not allow outside students to write AP exams with their own students. How fair would it be to have their female students suddenly surrounded with boys on high stakes exam days? How fair would it be to say that only female homeschoolers can join the girls for these exams? You can obviously appreciate that there can be reasonable justifications for what may at first seem like unreasonable, exclusionary policies.

I think for a couple of years now I’ve been casually mentioning on various message boards that there’s “some school just west of Toronto” who has been open and welcoming to having homeschoolers participate in their AP exams. Allow me to now formally share the details:

Dear Sarah,

Thank you for your awareness of Bronte AP program, we are offering a wide range of AP exams (about 27 different exams out of 39 exams offered by College Board) we are proud of being the first school offering AP exams for external students in GTA. Each AP exam will cost $150 and we are also offering AP exam preparation sessions for three months prior to exams schedule (Once a week) a copy of our AP exams tutorials for 2008 is attached. If you have any more inquiries don’t hesitate to contact me

Regards,

Dr. N. Gouda
Head of Student Governance
BRONTE COLLEGE OF CANADA
88 Bronte College court Mississauga Ontario L5B 1M9
Tel. 905 270-7788 ext.2042 Fax. 905 270-7828
ngouda@brontecollege.ca
http://www.brontecollege.ca

Dr. Gouda has been personally recommended to me both by the head of the Ontario Council of AP Schools in Ontario and by a homeschooling mom whose daughter took a few AP exams at Bronte College and was very impressed with the whole examination environment and proctoring at Bronte.

Unlike the SAT and ACT tests, AP examinations are held only once per year. Also unlike the SAT/ACT, AP examinations cover first year university level, subject-specific material. In other words, you don’t have the luxury of writing it over a few times a year until you get the score you like (although, you may write again the following year – there is no restriction on rewriting) and the material is much more challenging. Both of these elements combined can make for a pretty stressful exam day! Knowing that you’re in good, competent hands and that every effort will be made to provide optimal test-taking conditions is worth its weight in gold. . . or at the very least, $150! 😉

Like the SAT/ACT, however, the exam can be written “cold.” You are not required to take any AP “classes” before writing the exam. The review classes offered by Bronte College are available to but not required of homeschoolers. Just as with any standardized test, familiarity with the test format and types of questions generally asked is just as important than the content covered by the test itself. So, I don’t actually recommend writing the test with no prep, but preparation can be as simple as a $20 AP exam prep book from Chapters or Amazon (or free from the library).

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Gouda for being a model of accessibility. For many students, AP exams are a fantastic alternative to Ontario high school credit courses. It’s great that Bronte College is promoting this option to a group of students who can really benefit from it.

If Mississauga is a bit too far for you to travel for an exam, you can visit www.ap.ca to find a list of AP schools in Canada.

If you need reminding why the AP program is a path to university that you definitely want to check out, have a look at the university-by-university AP credit policies and how many university credits can be earned for success on an AP exam.

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IB vs AP – Round Two

I’ve written about the differences between the AP and IB programs. In a nutshell, the IB is an entire comprehensive curriculum leading to a diploma whereas the AP program is a series of subject-specific examinations where students are free to pick and choose which exams they write.

Recently, the Thomas B. Fordham foundation sponsored a study “Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate: Do they deserve Gold Star Status?” to compare the academic merits of the two programs, specifically comparing the Biology, English, Mathematics and History offerings of each.

The very act of comparing the two, however, requires some judgement calls: since the IB program requires all students to take a senior math course, there can be as many as six different “levels” of math courses offered by Ontario IB schools. Obviously, the content and goals of these courses will vary widely. Certainly, taking the highest of the “Higher Level” (HL) offerings provides a very different foundation than the lowest of the “Standard Level” (SL) courses. Similarly, there are two AP Calculus exams: AB is meant to cover a half-year college course, while AB is meant to cover the material found in a full-year, first year, American college calculus course. The study chose to compare the SL curriculum to the AB exam, citing the justification that both programs are for students not continuing in a heavily math-based university program.

The first problem I have with the comparison is that students who are not intending to study math (or math-related fields) in university have the option of avoiding AP Calculus altogether. Yet, every IB student must take at least SL level math to graduate with the IB diploma. It’s perhaps a little unfair to compare a voluntary, advanced credit course with a required, high school mathematics program, but the point of the study was to establish whether one or both programs really deserved the reputation as a stellar academic program. So, we’ll go with it for now. 🙂

Given that comparison, I couldn’t comprehend how the IB math program scored higher (B-) than the AP calculus (C+). One of my beefs after several years of tutoring students in the IB program is how students are “pushed through” advanced math topics. This is because senior math is required of all students, and quite frankly, not all students are suited to senior level studies in math. And, given that your final IB “score” is dependent solely on the mark from the IB exit exams, an IB SL program really lends itself to teaching to the test.

When you know, for example, that there will be only one exam question concerning derivatives, probably based on throwing something into the air, it’s not too difficult to teach the least talented of students a pattern-based answer that requires no real understanding of the math concepts. There are few 12 year olds who aren’t capable of mimicking these steps.

Today’s update to the story comes via Jay Matthews at the Washington Post in Professor Says Editors Altered Review of AP, IB Courses:

David Klein of California State University at Northridge posted on his university’s Web site his original assessments of AP Calculus AB and IB Mathematics SL, which showed he would have given a C+ to the AP course and a C- to the IB course. The final version of the report, released Nov. 14, raised the IB grade to a B-, contradicting Klein’s view that the AP course was better
. . .
Klein says he does not consider either the AP or IB courses the gold standard for high school math, although in his original report he said they had some strengths not found in mainstream high school programs.
. . .
Klein also says that many of what he considered his strongest points were deleted by the editors, particularly his view that overuse of calculators could interfere with students’ mastery of analytical skills and conceptual understanding. (The report can be seen at http://www.edexcellence.net.)

This, I get. I’ve long taken issue with how both of these programs overuse calculators and minimize manual calculations. The standard argument in favour of using calculators to remove computational barriers is this: the kids can then focus on analyzing and higher level thinking skills.

The problem is, as any good math student knows, our real understanding of mathematical concepts comes from using the underlying math, not avoiding it.

If you don’t know what dance the numbers are doing, you can’t possibly make meaningful sense of the result.

This is one reason why the MDM4U course (Data Management) is so hard for so many kids. I remember studying statistics at university before computer programs were used for the number crunching. I needed to know, by hand and with no formula cheat sheet, how to compute things like standard deviations and correlation coefficients.

You couldn’t get through that course without seeing all the nitty gritty steps involved in arriving at your stats. More importantly, since you knew exactly what you did with all the numbers, you understood what they meant. In the Data Management course, however, many students are using calculators and computers to avoid the “trivial” act of actually calculating the statistics — as if that somehow weren’t part of the point.

Granted, arithmetic isn’t mathematics, but arithmetic is how most of us come to understand numbers. Take that away from students, and they’re making a whole bunch of advanced conclusions, based on very little understanding.

I’m not arguing that it’s perhaps more interesting for lower-ability math students to be able to answer questions about whether given data shows a particular trend or correlation. But, without the ability to do all the work by hand, or at the very least understand it, these students are never going to be in positions where they’ll get to do that kind of higher level mathematical analysis anyway. So, what exactly is this really preparing them for?

It would be one thing if these programs made it very clear that they are shielding the kids from a lot of the real work. I’m all for a full-disclosure statement that informs the students there is a lot more involved in doing this stuff for real, and that they should use their interest/success in these courses to decide whether they want to actually study these concepts (properly!) in university.

But the problem, and the point of this study, is that these programs are often heralded as models of excellence in education. That’s not exactly consistent with the “warning — we’re taking out the ‘hard stuff’ so you can work at a higher conceptual level” disclaimer that should accompany these courses, at least as far as mathematics is concerned.

Public misunderstanding of mathematics and mathematical literacy (I guess the educrats want us to use the phrase numeracy now) have created a real problem in mathematics education. Because so many people think that math is “hard to do” they don’t realize how easy it actually is to teach and learn math through memorization of procedures and ignore understanding altogether. Therefore, to look at the “hard” questions on an AP Calculus or IB math exam and to see kids answer them looks impressive. Memorizing the encyclopaedia sounds impressive, too. And it is, but it’s a feat of memory and not of understanding or appreciation of knowledge.

For homeschoolers, the choice between the two programs is simple. It’s simply not possible to participate in IB offerings without regular enrollment at a local high schools, so AP is your only option.

Is AP worth taking at all? Yes, for many reasons. But, do so with the understanding that the act of preparing for the exam is separate from the act of learning calculus.

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IB vs AP

[International Baccalaureate versus Advanced Placement]

One of my former tutors asked me to describe the similarities and differences between these two secondary programs, so I thought I’d share.

In a nutshell, IB is a whole curriculum leading to the IB diploma and the AP program is individual exams leading to a score for each subject test you write. IB is perhaps better for European/International universities, whereas AP is probably favoured by American universities. Both are recognized in Canada. The IB is a 2 year, comprehensive program including an independent research essay. AP marks are based only on a single big (mostly multiple choice) exam in May. You don’t even have to technically be in a school that teaches AP in order to write the AP test; you just have to find a school at which to write it. To participate in the IB program, you need to be registered an IB school.

Any student can take advantage of the AP exams, including home schoolers, since registration in a particular course is not required. You can prep on your own with AP prep books from the bookstore/library and web resources. There is a school in Oakville, Ontario who welcomes home schoolers who would like to sit examinations on exam day, and they do not require any kind of official enrollment with the school.

Some other comparisons can be found here:

[some broken links removed, new links added Feb 2017]

PDF file on the Lee County Schools site

PDF file on Westerville K-12 (Ohio) site

PDF file on Zurich International School site

A more reasonable comparison, therefore, might be made between the SAT II Subject Tests vs. AP exams.

SAT Subject Tests (formerly called SAT II Tests) are the equivalent of high school exit exams wheras AP exams are the equivalent of first year university/college final exams. SAT Subject tests are almost exclusively multiple choice whereas AP exams include multiple choice and full-length (free response) questions. Both are subject-specific, meaning you can take one for history, one for chemistry etc. But, the level of study is different. Writing an SAT Subject Test is like writing a final exam for a 12U course whereas writing an AP exam is like writing a first year university/college final exam.

Both tests can be used for university admissions in Ontario in lieu of a high school diploma. The AP program is considered to be an “advanced” program, not available to all students. So, AP’s will never be required for university entrance. SAT Subject Tests, on the other hand, can be written as often and in as many locations as the General SAT Reasoning Test is held, and some schools may require SAT II Subject Tests for admission. (Talk to individual universities to see whether they will allow you to present AP scores instead of SAT Subject Test scores. In Ontario, where none of these tests are required of regular Ontario high school applicants, they likely will let you substitute; they just want to see a mark on some test from a home schooler. In the US however, where these tests are part of the regular admission process, they may not.)

AP exams, because of their advanced academic content, may earn you university credit if you score high enough. SAT Subject Tests will definitely not earn you university credit, but will instead be used to determine 12U subject-specific equivalent knowledge. If a home schooler take the “Top Six” then they will not need to take SAT Subject Tests because this knowledge will already have been evaluated. But, a home schooler may wish to take both the Top Six and AP exams because AP content goes beyond the Ontario Grade 12 curriculum and extends into university-level study.

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