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APs or Advanced Placement Courses can seem daunting.  They can also seem like something that a homeschooler can’t accomplish but we have found that not only can the class be taught at home, our most successful courses have been designed by me instead of through an outside class.

There are several things that must be understood about APs.  All courses that are called AP must be approved through the College Board.  However, that doesn’t mean you have to go through an AP class to take an AP Exam.  Anyone can take an AP Exam as long as they can find a local high school to allow them access to take the test and that they are willing to pay the fee (usually its around $100). AP or Honors (I call AP classes that I design Honors Classes on my kids transcripts) Classes are worth more for GPA’s.  An A on an Honors or AP course is woth 5 pts instead of the usual 4.  B’s are 4, C’s are 3 and so forth.

Why AP’s?

I get asked fairly often why we do APs rather than Dual Enrollment or Cleps? Dual Enrollment means that I am no longer in charge of picking their curriculum or their teacher as I do with online courses which makes me uncomfortable .  I want a firm Biblical Worldview for my kids and Dual Enrollment classes are generally secular.  I am still working on their Biblical foundation during these ever important formation years.  If I choose something like  Thinkwell, which is secular, I balance it with a resource with a Biblical foundation.  Not to mention, I am still actively involved and can have discussions about Worldview with my kids when it is needed. There can also be a downside to Dual Enrollment when enrolling your kids into College.  If they have more than about 20 credits (this number varies by school), then they are no longer eligible for the ever important freshman scholarships. Let’s say that my son had 20 DE credits going into school and that made him a Sophomore.  Okay, we saved, with room and board, about $26,000. My son received freshman scholarships totaling over $54,000.  That’s enough to pay for the majority of his tuition.  That means that instead of saving money, we would have lost money. He had 12-15 AP Credits but they didn’t count towards his freshmen status.  So why did we choose APs rather than Cleps? For the rather simple reason that the Selective Schools, Programs and Scholarships that my oldest applied to didn’t accept the Cleps that he did have.  Fortunately, we had done both APs and a few Cleps so it wasn’t a total loss.  After talking to a lot of College registrars for Selective Schools and Programs, we came to the realization that Cleps weren’t worth our time and money.  The twins are looking at the same level of Schools and programs so we chose APs as the best option to help prepare them for College.

There are several way you can teach and prepare for an AP Exam-

The Online Class

There are several online schools that offer AP classes.  Their courses are approved by the College Board and they have designed the class to teach and prepare for AP Exams.

PA Homeschoolers – They are by far the largest provider of online AP homeschool exams.  Many of the classes are hard to find elsewhere.

HSLDA Academy – Newer to the AP online courses, I haven’t used them or know of anyone who has.  Still, it’s HSLDA and they probably have a very Biblical Worldview. I think the Social Studies Courses (Government, Economics and History) would be excellent and would have a point of view that many of us agree with.

Thinkwell Homeschool – Thinkwell isn’t a live class, it is a video lecture with online homework.  This makes it much less expensive.  We use Thinkwell for math and will be using them for several APs. However, they are a secular organization so tread carefully, I usually combine Thinkwell with books that are from a distinctly Christian point of view for balance.

The Non- College Board Approved Online Class

We have taken several classes that haven’t been approved as an AP class but are clearly designed to prep kids for those classes or are just so advanced that they work beautifully.  Generally, you will need to add AP review books from Amazon.

Art of Problem Solving – AOPS is an extremely rigorous math curriculum and online school.  Their Calculus course covers most of the topics in Calc AB and Calc BC.  By looking at their scope and sequence and the AP Exam, we realized that this course was more than what we needed.  It also taught math in a way that two of my kids respond to.  Connor did very well on his AP Exam after taking this course.

Well Trained Mind Academy – We have taken courses from WTM and they are excellent.  I use much of their materials to design our AP English Lit and Composition Course.  They do have an AP test prep course for Advanced US History.

Homeschool Spanish Academy – Connor went through all 4 levels of HSA and during his Senior year and we debated long and hard whether to have him take the AP Spanish test.  In the end, he just didn’t want to as he was already taking 3, but after having looked at their scope and sequence and talking to his teacher and customer service, I think he could have taken it successfully.  HSA doesn’t claim to prep for the AP, but their curriculum is thorough and rigorous and if your student is interested in the AP Spanish, I would talk to their teacher and see if your student could be prepared to take it. 
Designing Your Own Class –

We have done this several times and while it is the most work on the homeschool teacher’s part, it also gives you the most control over curriculum. The trick to this is to know what’s needed on the AP Exam.  The College Board will have the course descriptions on its website but I find it easier to just get the AP Exam review books from Amazon. I usually get the Review book and then I find the curriculum to fit our needs.

Here’s a few examples – 

AP Psychology – We used Sonlight’s Psychology Course this year and we thought it was good.  I liked how it had a Christian perspective to read right along side the secular textbook.  I think my twins gained a lot from taking this course besides being able to take the AP.  They learned more about people.  They learned about brain function, personalities, and a basic understanding of mental diseases.  I have found my twins using this information in their daily lives in an effort to better understand the people and situations in their life which I think has been well worth it.

AP English Lit. – For both Connor and the twins, we have used a combination of Sonlight’s British Literature and Well Trained Mind Press’ Writing With Skill 3, to put together an AP English Lit class.  This one requires me to look through the review book carefully to make sure we cover everything but I really like both of these curriculum’s so it is worth the extra work to me.  I am still trying to teach my kids what they need to learn and not just teach to a test which is why  I often choose a curriculum or program that I love and then use an AP Review book to cover all the bases.

AP Biology/Chemistry/Physics – I like to design my kids AP Science courses as I still want my kids to learn from a distinctly Biblical Worldview alongside the AP Science.  For these my kids do both the basic and advanced Apologia books (for example Biology and Advanced Biology) and then have them do a secular AP book/program alongside.  We are using Thinkwell to go alongside Advanced Biology for Caileigh and Advanced Chemistry for Collin. Connor used MIT’s OpenCourseware alongside Advanced Physics in his senior year. 

Regardless of what you choose to use for APs make sure your child has ample time to get through ALL the material and then review, review, review! We like Varsity Tutor’s online practice tests.  They are free and immediately show your kids where they need to study more. 

Finding a School to take the Exam –

The AP tests are given the first two weeks in May but you will need to find a school that will allow your student to take the test.  You should start this process in January. I call all the high schools in our school district starting in January to find a school and get my kids signed up.  I found it easier to just skip calling the College Board and just call the schools directly.  The fee may vary but they are usually around $100. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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