Having recently graduated my eldest from homeschool high school, I was looking forward to reviewing High School Prep Genius by College Prep Genius. I had been researching how to homeschool the high school years for the last five years and college prep for the last two. I approached the book warily, realizing I was about to read not just the good news: what we had done right, but also the bad news: what we missed or could have done better during my son’s four years of high school.
The goal of High School Prep Genius (sells for $29.95) is to provide answers to the many questions parents and homeschool educators have about high school: when do we do what? What paperwork should we be doing? When and how do we apply for college? And how will my sloth like child transform his untamed, myopic makeup into an adult who is responsible, educated, and ultimately successful?
Navigating the high school years the first time is daunting. I went to presentations at our local homeschool conventions, talked with other homeschool moms who were in the thick of it, and read many books during my son’s eighth grade year. I scoured the web for resources, and searched for practical transcript templates. Looking back on the work I had done to enter high school confidently, I can tell you that High School Prep Genius would have been an invaluable help to me. This 400+ paged paper back book is your academic guide to excellence. There is nothing I want more for my children than for them to each reach their individualized bar of excellence.
The book is written in a conversational style to both the parent/teacher and the student. I don’t advise reading it from cover to cover, rather browse the index, and choose the sections you want your student to read. Devote about an hour a week, each of you paying attention to the areas you wish to focus on. At the start, the author encourages your high schooler to keep a College and Career notebook. That’s one thing I could have done better. We scrambled senior year and were forced to leaf through tons of old files and notes gathering the data we needed for college applications.
High School Prep is divided into four sections:
Introduction: Here is where you will find the foundations for the four year high school plan, the requirements for graduation, checklists and inventories, tips and timelines for each grade, especially the indispensable twelfth-grade checklist. You will find a sample transcript in the appendix
Foundation for Personal Success: This is the section we spent the most time on, and it proved very fruitful. Here your teen will be challenged, as it suggests it is time to get serious about becoming an adult. What are his interests, his beliefs, his values? Does he know how to eat well, is he emotionally healthy, and what about support systems? Does he have good friends and influencers? As a family, we read and lingered over page 127: Ten Common Virtues and Their Meanings. We took turns reading a virtue aloud, defined it, and then expressed what it meant to us. We also asked each other if they saw those virtues in our lives. It was enlightening, and a sweet time of sharing. And it reminded us that as we strive to excel academically, we must never forget to excel our character. I was impressed by the author’s bold statement about the list of virtues:
Do not hastily read this list and go on to the next topic. In fact, if you get nothing else from this entire book but a strong desire to improve your character, your time will be well spent. I must confess that I mulled over this section of the book for the bulk of my review period.
My sixteen-your old son was in a rut. He was bored by the mundane routine of school and was getting behind in his studies. We spent lots of time discussing his situation, and his growing dependency on his computer and digitally related entertainment. After he filled out the section on discovering your interests I was inspired to give him an abbreviated “sabbatical”. For three days he put his school work aside and unplugged his computer. He rested, sketched, took nature walks, made dinner, played with the dog, did creative writing, and finally finished George Orwell’s 1984. It was that much needed break from “school” that helped him find his way. He’s rediscovered his buried hobbies, and is pretty sure he has now chosen his career path. I’m ecstatic!
Foundation for Academic Success: This section discusses the habits necessary to do well academically. Everyone wants to get good grades. But it takes work to excel in this area. However, there is no point in doing well on a test if you aren’t really learning the material. Here your student will read why rote memorization is not the road to understanding a subject. Effective studying, good note taking, how to approach test taking, and getting oneself organized are discussed. This is a very important section that is practical and useful. Oh, and here I learned another thing I did wrong – last year I neglected to ask my son before I signed him up for a volunteer job.
Me: Good news! Your signed up to volunteer at the LPGA.
Him: What?! I don’t want to do it, I don’t even like golf!
Me: Of course you like golf. Besides, you get twenty free golf dollars to spend on concessions, and a free t-shirt!
Him: I don’t care about the food or the t-shirt. It’s too early to get up. I’m not going.
He had a few moments of fun. Ate several hamburgers. Hasn’t worn the t-shirt since, and no, will not be going back this year. I learned your teen should get to choose where he would like to volunteer.
The final section is:
Foundation for Future Success: Here’s where you will make your future plans. What career path will you take? University? Community College? How do you find scholarships? What are the financial aid options and what is FAFSA and when do you file it? This is all good information that you will need to be thinking about. I had previously read most of this information and had my son constantly look for scholarships, we applied for FAFSA, and here’s what my graduating senior had to say about this entire experience:
I spent hours looking for scholarships, and used all the recommended websites. I found nothing I qualified for. The online applications for the colleges I applied for were ridiculously tedious and I basically wasted hours of my time. When I finally got to the point where I submitted my application, they denied it – I missed the application deadline. It was much easier applying to our community college, and I plan to do the 2+2 program and transfer to a State University after earning my associates. I’ll get my 4 year degree and not go in debt. No one should start their adult lives with a huge debt.
High School Prep is an excellent resource, and contains all the vital information (and a whole lot more) that you should know to help your child succeed in high school and formulate a continuing education plan. For me, it was all good news. Even with a few blunders, my first high schooler graduated a semester early, achieved perfect vocabulary and math scores on his junior year stanford achievement test, was president of the homeschool honor society, served as a missionary in the Dominican Republic, scored high on the PSAT on SAT(took just once). And, above all, he is the most virtuous, humble, dedicated, excellent, loving Christian man I had hoped he would become. Yes, it is more than good.
Read more reviews of this product at the Schoolhouse review crew blog.