Sunday, October 27, 2013

SAT Prep Resources

 Most colleges now accept the SAT or ACT test for admission.  College consultants usually recommend that students take both the SAT and ACT to see if they do better on one or the other.  Then, if they want to improve their score, the recommendation is to take the test that they did better on initially.  

Do students need to take a prep course before taking the test or before taking it a second time?  That probably depends on the student.  Some students will study well on their own.  Others do better with tips they learn from a class and completing homework assignments.  Some, may do best with one-on-one tutoring.  

My son took a class and did some private tutoring.  I didn't have experience with kids taking SAT tests and I was on my own figuring out how to help him prepare for the test.  For those of you in that situation, I'd like to share some resources for SAT test prep that I found.  Some of then also help with ACT prep but this list focuses on the SAT test.
When we lived in the States my son could attend a local test prep class.  But, once we moved to Germany that wasn't available so I looked for resources that we could use here.  So, whether you live in the US or another country there are SAT test prep resources available.  


SAT Test Prep Resources: This list generally goes from least expensive to most expensive.
The College Board's Official SAT Study Guide
A book with DVD.

Student works on his own or he can work with a group of friends/students.
 Or, students can sign up on the College Board Website for the Official SAT question of the day.
Online course is $69.95.
 "Google" test prep courses in your local area

You can do an online search for local SAT test prep courses and find a course that fits your time frame and budget.
 You can also find tutoring companies in big cities such as Sylvan Learning Centers.

 Brave Writer
Four week SAT/ACT essay class online.  

Write at Home
Two week crash course for SAT/ACT essay.

Twelve lesson DVD course
Local Two Day Class
$149 (early-bird), $199

On demand videos and interactive lessons
Starting at $99.
You can get discount codes.  Contact Katherine O'Brien about getting a discount at Celtic College Consultants

Princeton Review 
Many choices from in-person to online test prep.
Prices vary depending on which method and course you choose.

 SAT Success Secrets
Private individual tutoring company.
Can do sessions via Skype.
Choose single lessons or a twelve or sixteen lesson package.
Each lesson is two hours.
Contact Jeff Bergman for prices. 

Nurturing Wisdom 
Test prep and tutoring
They can sessions via Skype.
Contact them for prices.

Many students prepare for the SAT test on their own.  Some have their parents help them.  I'm sure some don't do any preparation! 

What do your students to do prepare?  
Has the test preparation improved their score?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Homeschool Graduation Ceremony

I blinked.  Then, I realized that my oldest will graduate in the spring.  Spring.  I don't know the specific date yet, but it will probably be at the beginning of June when the local military public school graduates.

Until last year I never thought much about a graduation ceremony for my kids.  One of the thoughts I did have was, "Maybe they would have a party for me as a thank-you for teaching them."  Okay, so that was a fleeting prideful thought- just being honest here.

Then I thought, I'm kinda burnt out.  I'm not going to "do" a graduation ceremony.  We'll just finish school and get ready to send my son to college...kinda act like it's no big deal

Two things made me realize that it IS  a big deal.

1.    Modern Day Knight
We've been doing the Modern Day Knight (MDK) program with our two oldest boys and plan to continue it with our two youngest sons.  The program helps parents to "courageously lead your son into a biblical masculinity that will impact others."  It's helped us intentionally train our boys to become Godly men.  It's a process.  A journey.  A long one.  One suggestion the MDK program has is to celebrate your sons' milestones throughout their life.

We started with a ceremony when they turned 13. That was awhile ago!  I realized we need to celebrate their graduation milestone and commission bless them as they prepare to leave the house. 

So our family will celebrate our children's homeschool high school graduation.

2.  It's a Spiritual Journey.

The second impetus prodding me to have a graduation ceremony is that someone mentioned that our schooling is a spiritual journey more than an academic one.  I knew that, but somehow I forgot.  I've been intent on having my son apply to college this fall.  My main job has been attempting to perfect his transcript- ha.  As a homeschooler, his transcript will look "different."   Hopefully, that "different" will translate to "wow- we want him!" in college admission offices.

So, while my focus recently has been on academics, thankfully a fellow homeschool mom reminded me that homeschooling is also a spiritual journey.  It's NOT about academics.  Really.  It's about what God has been doing in the life of our family and in the life of my son.  God is good and He is doing good things for His glory.  We are going to celebrate that. 

 What will we do?
You might be wondering what I'm going to do for our homeschool gradation ceremonys.  I'm sure that will differ for each child.  We could be living in a different place for each child's graduation.  

Here are some ideas for our first graduation ceremony in the spring:

1.  Invite friends over to our house for dessert and a celebration.

2.  Or, rent a facility and have a ceremony there.

3.  Have my son wear a cap and gown, let him make a speech and present a diploma during the celebration.

4.  "Roast" our son.

5.  Have my son make a speech- if he chooses.

6.  Tell the story of what I see our son's life can be, of how I see him carrying out God's will for him in his life.

7.  Present him with a life verse.  I think I found one!

8.  Give him keys to his brand new Porche.  (Just kidding about that last one!)

While I don't expect our celebration to be extravagant, we will celebrate the young man he has become and bless him as prepares to move to a different continent (we're in Germany and he'll move to the US) for college.  

What are your homeschool high school graduation traditions and plans?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sources to help you teach writing.

Are you looking for some help with teaching your kids writing at home? I can relate.  Although I like writing, I'm not always sure of the best way to teach it.  

There are numerous companies available to homeschoolers offering anything from grading papers, editing papers, coaching your child for a specific project or teaching your child writing for the whole year. 

The courses can either be synchronous (the students must log online at a certain time for their course work), or asynchronous (the students do not have a specific time to be online and can access the class/work anytime).  


They provide asynchronous individualized online writing courses for students in grades 4-12.  The courses range from one month long and continue up to an entire school year.  You can tell them what you want the student to work on or their writing coach can determine what the student will work on.  Students work at their own pace.  This company also has a 12 week grammar course for students age 12 and up that covers all the basics of grammar.  They will help students perfect their SAT/ACT essays and college application essays.  My son just started using this company and so far the coach has given him wonderful guidance on his project.

2.  Institute for Excellence in Writing
Intitute for Excellence in Writing offers classes for all grades on DVD, so you can have Andrew Pudewa teach your kids as you learn with them.  They also have a link on their website where you can find tutors who will grade papers for people using the IEW curriculum. 

3.   Tapestry of Grace
Tapestry of Grace offers numerous online classes that correspond to their curriculum for grade 6 and up.  These classes are synchonous.  The classes are small so that the teachers and students can have meaningful discussions and interaction.  Register early;  the classes fill up quickly.
 4.   Landry Academy
I am always amazed at the number and variety of courses Landry Academy offers.  Their classes are synchronous one and half hour online classes that meet once a week.  The company is professional and accommodating.  Teachers work diligently with students.  
5.  Memoria Press
Memoria Press offers synchronous online courses for grades 4-12.  The courses generally meet once a week for about an hour and a half. 
 6. for military families   or   
If you are a military family and need help with school work this is a great free resource.  My son used it for some help with calculus and the tutor was knowledgeable and an adept tutor.  Non-military families need to pay for the service. You sign on when you need help.  Tutors are available 24/7.

 7.   Brave Writer
 Asynchronous 4-6 week online classes and home study courses for grammar school to college.  They offer a great variety of courses.
 8.  WriteAtHome
This source offers asynchronous year-long middle school and high school writing courses and SAT essay courses and they also offer workshops.  Another great resource they provide is a pay per paper service which is great when you need short term help or just help with grading and not with teaching.
 9.  Dual Credit Courses at Regent University  
Regent University and other universities such as Liberty University and Patrick Henry College offer dual credit English composition courses.  Your high school student can take college level writing courses in high school through countless colleges and universities either online or on-campus and earn both high school and college credit.
10. Education Portal- FREE courses 

While I  was writing this post I found this resource.   They offer a college composition course.  They are fans of Khan Academy and have some similarities.  One difference from Khan is that they "offer a clear path to college credit"   so students in their courses can take the CLEP after completing the course.  (   Review of Education-Portal

I've used the services of number 1-6 for my kids and highly recommend them.  Number 7-9 are well known and respected, but I haven't used them.  Number 10 has 73 video lessons on college composition. 

Have you wanted someone to help you teach writing or just grade papers?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Real Refreshment Retreat in Europe

Tonight was the first night of a two day Real Refreshment Retreat.  Rachel Carmen started these retreats for homeschool moms after she and her husband bought Apologia a few years ago.

I met Rachel last year year at the first 2:1 Conference, which is a conference for homeschool bloggers.  Rachel is real, encouraging, Godly and a fellow Texan!  She tells it like it is which is my favorite type of person.  So, when I found out that she was coming to Germany to speak at a conference, I immediately bought my ticket.

Buying the ticket is the easy part.  Actually getting out the door is not quite so easy.  Before I left I had to:
1.  teach school (it was a "half-day" today!)
2. buy groceries so the fam wouldn't starve while I was gone for 24-whole hours
3. get everything together for my oldest's SAT test tomorrow (print ticket, find #2 pencils, get extra batteries for his graphing calculator, etc.)
4.  pick up a car from the "car hospital"
5.  make sure dinner was covered
6.  tell my husband the schedule for the next 24 hours and get his concurrence that he would get the kids where they needed to game, SAT test, Cross Country Meet, Homecoming dance, etc.

When I arrived at the conference, I hugged Rachel and sincerely thanked her for coming.

You see, my oldest is pretty much done with being at home, with being homeschooled, with being "confined" to living with his family.  He's ready to go.

My dear friend Connie from The Daisyhead Blog keeps reminding me that this is normal for teens.  She says to keep on keeping on.  To have faith.  Give him independence.

I just want to give up-  and my son would like me to give up too!

But tonight, Rachel confirmed what Connie has been saying.  She said that, "When you step out in faith, that's when God shows up."  America has two idols.  They are, "1) quick and 2) easy."  But, we are called to have be diligent.  To stay the course.  To embrace what we were called to do.  Be counter-cultural.  Raise world changers.  And here's the clincher...she said that homeschooling is's painful because God is using it to strip us away and interject His Son. It's not about us.  It's about becoming more like Him.

My son is taking the SAT test again tomorrow to try to improve his score. 

In her speech tonight, Rachel said what I needed to hear again.  "It's about raising a generation of world-changers, not about acing the SAT."

That's right. 

Here's a copy of the message I wrote to my son tonight as a result of hearing Rachel:

 I've been praying for you to do well on your SAT test tomorrow. The truth is, you've already done well when you took it before. The colleges that we visited said that you would be admitted based on your current scores, your transcript and your amazing accomplishments. I will still pray that you do well on the test tomorrow, but doing well on your SAT is not what's really important. What's really important is that you use the gifts, skills and abilities that God gave you to do His become a world changer. What I've always seen in you is strong leadership. People follow you. You lead well. My prayer is that you will continuously strive to hear God and do what He wants you to do. Our country needs you. Our world needs you. God is with you. In the past 14 years that I've been homeschooling you, I've never lost faith that- no matter how poorly I do- as long as I am faithful in my calling to homeschool, God's plan will be carried out in your life. It has been wonderful to see you working so hard preparing for this test tomorrow. That diligence and determination will carry over in the rest of your life and you will be able to do great things for God's glory. I love you and I am thankful for the courageous, diligent, Godly young man that you have become. Love, Mom

Now, instead of rejoicing at being finished homeschooling my oldest at the end of the school year, I will rejoice in the young man he has become and I will send him off with praises and a blessing.

How do you send your kids off when they graduate?  

What are life verses that you have given to your kids?

Click on link above to learn more about homeschooling high school.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My GPS Bag. Worth Every Penny.

I use my GPS...a lot. 

Even when I'm not traveling on vacation, I use it to get around whatever town, state or country I live in even if I've lived there for a year or more.  I rely on it.  Hopefully I don't rely on it to the extent of that older woman from somewhere in or near France, who a few years ago, relied on it so much that she followed it about 700+ kilometers out of the way.  When she started seeing signs in Eastern European languages for a trip that should have taken about two hours, she knew something was wrong.  Ya think?! 

Now that we just moved back to Germany I'm using my GPS frequently.  We don't have one installed in our van so we have a portable one named Michelle. 

Meet Michelle.

My need for organization and pragmatism mandated a bag to put my GPS in when I'm going to and from the car, and for storage at home since I don't normally leave the device in the car once I get home. 

Before we left the US, I stopped in a TJ Maxx store and store and saw a cute-small-thermal-tote for $3 so I grabbed it without knowing what I would use it for. 

It says, "Paris," has the Eiffel Tower on it...and pink heels.

I already had a bag for our family's passports.

We have a lot of passports:  we each have an official military passport, provided by the Army, and a tourist passport.

One day as I was running our of our temporary home (the Army hotel), I grabbed my new bag and put the GPS in so I wouldn't drop it!  Perfect.  The thermal part makes it more protective then ordinary totes.  The size is great.  It has just enough room for the GPS and a few other small articles, but not enough that I'm going to toss large, heavy items in there that might damage it.

I added a local map and some medicine. 

My husband grabbed it one day when we were going house-hunting.  As he strode through the hotel lobby, the friendly woman-behind-the-desk smiled and said, "Nice bag."  Men who have been married long enough usually take comments about pretty bags they carry in stride. 

If you use a portable GPS where do you store it? 
Do you look at a map before you travel or keep a map in your car in case you want to double-check the GPS route?
If you named your GPS what is it's name and why did you chose that name?


Sunday, July 28, 2013

When Chuck Norris says, "Start Reading Now"

Book One.  
When trying to decide which book to read next from my pile of books that I'm attempting to read this summer I was surprised to read a forward by Chuck Norris in one of them.  Apparently I didn't notice his name on the front cover. 


Chuck Norris is both admired and feared by many.  Chuck Norris jokes are's a few:

If you spell Chuck Norris wrong on Google, it doesn't ask what you meant. It simply comes back as RUN. Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door.  Chuck Norris ordered a Big Mac at Burger King, and got one.  Chuck Norris can divide by zero.  Chuck Norris doesn't mow his lawn, he dares it to grow.
I started reading Do Hard Things and I'm thinking of reading it out loud to my teens so we can be encouraged by it together.  The first story about a young teen, who was quiet and timid, captivated my attention.  She did amazing work for a political election.  Work that 24 year old adults may, or may not, be capable of doing.  She did the work because someone thought she was in her 20's and gave the work expecting her to do it.

Chuck Norris wrote in the Foreword that there is only one way to get to the place where God wants us.  That is to do hard things.  At the end of his Foreword he wrote, "Start reading now."  So I did. 

Next book.
 With a 4 year old constantly saying, "Mom.  Mom." I don't get much started. I finish even less. So I picked some easy-to-read books for the summer.

If you wonder if heaven is for real.  Read this book.
If you've had a miscarriage.  Read this book.
If you aren't sure if Jesus is real.  Read this book.  

I think Chuck Norris would agree. 

There is also a version written just for kids.

And...the third. 
My 9 year old daughter is a gymnast.  A few days before we moved to Germany, we visited a bookstore in the United States.   Trying to encourage my daughter to read more, I suggested a few Gabby Douglas books when I saw them there.  Great idea!  She found two.  I already knew that Gabby's mom was a single parent, that Gabby moved to another state and lived with a host family while training for the Olympics, and that she gave all the glory to God.  How did all of that happen?  I wanted to know. 

Her words are simple.  They are real.  She is sweet, faithful, tough, and the first US gymnast "to ever receive both the team gold medal and the individual all-around gold medal in a single Olympic games."*  Chuck Norris never did that. 

The way she found a host family to live with while she trained was...a miracle?   Possibly.  

If you are the parent of an athlete, especially gymnast, read the book.  And Gabby's mom.  A heroine. A role model. 

One more.  
In December I wrote a post about a high school curriculum we were using I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.    The authors of that curriculum recommended this book.  

" In a world increasingly indifferent to Christian truth, followers of Christ need to be equipped to communicate with those who do not speak their language or accept their source of authority. Gregory Koukl demonstrates how to get in the driver's seat, keeping any conversation moving with thoughtful, artful diplomacy." (

I'm going to actually cogitate while reading this book, so I've been putting it off...

My 13 year old daughter wanted to read the Hunger Games.  I didn't want her to.  A book about kids who have to kill each other?!  Really?   Why weren't there adults standing up against this?  After speaking with numerous family and friends who liked the book I decided to read it to see if I would let my daughter read it.  Although it was well written and suspenseful,  I still despise the theme.  I'd love to hear your opinion on whether you think this is appropriate reading for a 13 year old. 

Have you read any of these books? 

From Grace, Gold & Glory My Leap of Faith, by Gabrielle Douglas

Saturday, July 20, 2013

You Know You've Lived in a Hotel Too Long When...

Day 47.  It's not really that long.  I mean, normally when we move it takes an average of three months to get into our new home from the time we left the last one.  So 47 days isn't that long in comparison.

But, this time our temporary home is a hotel.  An Army hotel in Germany.  Usually we stay in a short term furnished rental home, or sparsely furnished "temporary quarters" which is like a combination of an apartment and a hotel.  This is new...different.  Long.  Small.

Since we've been here we...

Spent 5 weeks locating a house to move into and another week or two negotiating the contract in German and English.

We bought a van and got our car that we shipped from the States and got a free 1991 car that needed new brakes.  Since it's the last one we got, we call it our "new" car.

Went to a local German emergency room after my 17 year old accidentally broke his nose.  Treatment:  surgery.  The night before his appointment for a second opinion from the American doctor, his brother  elbowed him in the nose while he was sleeping and crunched it back into place.  No surgery required.

Found a local swimming pool with a 10 meter (about 30 feet) platform diving board...which all my kids, minus my 4 year old, jump from.  My 4 year old tries to keep up by jumping off the low dive and showing off his swimming skills by getting back to the side of the pool.  The young German boys ask, "Wie alt bist du?"  How old are you?  Because most of the German kids that age are still learning to swim.  "He's 4."  They smile!

We've managed to survive easily on the items we packed in our suitcases... back in May.

Ten ways you know you've lived 
in the hotel too long during a military move:

  • When you know the housekeeping staff by their first name and you miss them when they go on vacation.
  • You know the address of the hotel by heart because you have to put "your local address" on every form you fill out when you move to a new place.
  • Tears come to your eyes when you are in the lobby as yet one-more-family stands in the lobby saying a tearful goodbye to their friends they may never see again who came to their "home" to say goodbye. 
  • You've seen 100 cats in their airline cages coming or going to the airport.   Those sad, scared eyes looking through the wire cage door.
  •  You go to the lobby in your slippers for the free breakfast.
  • You cook dinners in the crock pot since there is no oven.  Every. Single. Night.
  • You give out the hotel's business cards with your cell phone number scribbled on it when you meet someone new.
  • The housekeeping staff knows your daily routine and asks how many miles you ran today when you come back from your morning run.
  • The other people in hotel are your "neighbors" because they "live" there too while they are PCSing (moving from one duty station to another).
  • You go to the lobby in your pajamas.  I mean, it is your home.

Two more weeks until we move into our "permanent" home.  Our "temporary-permanent" home.  In three years we'll most likely be in another temporary home looking for our next permanent home.  I prefer to think of it as going on sequential 3 year vacations!

 Genesis 12:1 
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you."

Hebrews 11:9
By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country. do you define home?  

...Where you currently live?
...Where you grew up (military "brats" can't do that)?
...As one of my college professors said, "Where you go for Thanksgiving"?
...Where your parents live?
...Or, something else?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

College Visits (Part 2): What to do during the visit

During the visit.  
What to do/not to do.

Parents.  This is mainly your child's visit.  He leads, you follow.  You can make suggestions when necessary, but your job is to be his cheerleader.  A rather-silent-cheerleader during the actual visit.  To read part one of this series, click below.

Think of the time that you are at the college as an interview.  You are interviewing them, they are interviewing you.  It works both ways, but assume they are watching you.  Either turn your cell phone off or don't bring it.

When you meet with Admissions, Financial Aid, Coaches, ROTC, etc. walk up to them,
 look them in the eye, shake their hand and introduce yourself.  
Be yourself. 

Wear  comfortable, casual, modest clothes.  For boys khaki pants or shorts, depending on the weather/time of year, and a collared shirt.  For girls nice pants or casual skirt.  Comfortable shoes for walking around the campus.

Get business cards. Ask for a business card from everyone you meet.  If they don't have one, write their name and title down and ask for their phone number and email address.  Make sure you note which school they represent. 

What to bring.  
1.  Transcript and a resume.  

The student can bring a copy of the transcript and a resume to give out. One Admissions Counselor was very impressed with the format of my son's transcript.  It was in a "normal" format so it was easy for him to read/understand (put in the "accepted" pile).  A great source for how to prepare a transcript is Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). HSLDA transcript examples. 

The resume should highlight academic achievements like Honor Society, athletic achievements like Team Captain, and extra-curricular achievements like Eagle Scout and mission trips.  The National Honor Society does not allow homeschoolers.  HSLDA has a list of Honor Societies that homeschoolers can join.    National Honor Societies.

I'm sure art and theater type students need to bring portfolios but I'm not familiar with that so if you have any helpful suggestions about that please leave them in the comment section below. 

2.  Questions.  
Below are some bullets with questions.  These are some of the questions that my son asked on visits.  Before we went on the first visit I gave him a long list of possible questions to ask each of the representatives that we would meet:  Admissions, Financial Aid, ROTC and Coaches.  I had my son put 2-3 questions for each rep on a 3x5 card.  During our meetings he pulled out the card and asked some or all of the questions.  I'm sure other students wouldn't need the cards, but it worked well for him. Prepare questions in advance.

Admissions/Financial Aid Office/Professors
Admissions Counselor.   Normally you check in at the Admissions Office.  Since we planned our trips in advance we either received a schedule via email before our visit or when we arrived at the Admissions Office.  I was overwhelmed with amazement at how welcome every Admissions Office made us feel.  Like royalty.  They put the student's name on a special parking space- loved it!

When you arrive you can ask if you can eat in one of the campus cafeterias.  Often the school will give you free lunch passes if you take the tour.  Cafeterias really differ from campus to campus so it's a good idea to check it out.
  • Are you planning to introduce any new majors in the next year or two?  This was one of the best questions.  It really created an open dialog and revealed plans that we would not have known about otherwise.
  • What does your student population look like?  It's like asking, "What type of student attends this school?" 
  • Does your school offer study abroad?
  • Do you have internship programs?  Are any of the internships paid positions?
  • At the end of your meeting it is perfectly fine for the prospective student to look the counselor in the eye and ask, "What are my chances of getting admitted to this school (and you add your particular major if you know it)?"   Then wait for the answer.

Campus Tour.

"On campus visits parents should hang back and let the student take the lead. Let him walk ahead of you into the admissions office to introduce himself and fill out the various forms. Let him ask his own questions, because teens have their own set of issues that matter to them.
On the tour, though, parents can keep a watchful eye for details that may not matter as much to the student, such as campus maintenance and clues about how the school is spending its money.
Make college visits fun. Don’t give your child the third degree after the tour, but walk around the college town or city and browse in the shops or have a relaxing lunch and maybe even take in a game or cultural event on the campus. 
Finally, don’t use the word “we” or “our” when referring to the application process; it’s a dead giveaway that you’ve become too involved!"  Source: The Washington Post

Financial Aid. I find the financial aid portion of the visit sort of tedious and often repetitive at this point.  That's probably just me.  However we met with the Financial Aid Representative at each school and it was worth it.
Ask about scholarships and grants.  
  • Do you have work study programs and other ways to reduce the cost of college?
  • Are you a Yellow Ribbon School?  If you aren't familiar with that I discussed it in Part 1 of this series. 
  • Will you waive the application fee since I came to visit your school?  Some colleges will. 

****One financial aid counselor told me that some private schools 
will lower the cost of tuition for families who have children in private school.**** 
So, they gave grants for homeschooling families.

Professors.  You can arrange in advance with Admissions to meet with faculty and to sit in on a class.  Try to arrange this as much in advance as possible so that you will be there on a day that this is available. 

 Coaches.  It was so exciting to meet with these college coaches.  My son already had emailed with them and/or spoken with them on the phone. 
  • What is your coaching philosophy?  The coach's response to this question was key.  It gave a great picture of the coach and how he likes to play. 
  • What is your schedule like for players year round? 
  • Do you have housing set aside for athletes?
  • Do team members room together?  Some schools have separate dorms for athletes. 
  • Do you have study hall hours?
  • What is an average day like for the team?  They will normally explain the training program during the season and the off-season.

 Army ROTC.  (BTW, I was commissioned through Army ROTC and spent 20 years in the Army.  One of my jobs was with the ROTC program.) 

  • What percentage of cadets get active duty?  This changes every year, but you can ask for the stats for the previous few years to get an idea.  Some cadets who want to get active duty only get a Reserve assignment.
  • How many cadets are in your program?  We visited one school that had no cadets on campus and any cadets who would attend would have to find rides to and from the campus that held the classes which was a 30 minute drive up and down a mountain. 
  • How often do you have PT (physical training)?
  • Are your classes on this campus or another campus?  This is easy to find out before you go, but sometimes the Professor of Military Science (PMS) is creative and even though the campus you are interested in is not the campus where classes are normally held, he/she can make a deal with the school to have some classes on the local campus to make it easier for the cadets.
  • What extra-curricular activities does your program have?   Ranger Challenge, etc.
  • Would I be able to lead PT?  A former  PMS told me that he would jump out of skin, out of sheer joy, if he had a prospective cadet ask that.  When my son asked ask it, I wouldn't say the PMS jumped out of his skin, but it shows that the student is interested in physical fitness and is not afraid to lead. 
  • What type of schools/camps do you send your cadets to during the summer?  This is a great question.  There are some international camps that cadets can attend and some PMSes are more proactive about sending them than others.  There are typical Army schools like Airborne, Air Assault, etc. and cadets can compete for a slot.  

Send thank you notes.  I can just feel the potential resistance from the teens here.  I had my son email them when we went to the hotel at night so it wasn't overwhelming when we got home from the entire trip. I'm sure a hand written note would be best, but we chose the email version.

 Finally, have fun!  I got to spend time with my son in Colorado while looking at schools and then another 5 days with him driving around the East Coast in a little rental car listening to every 80's song ever produced.  It was a special time.  He did a great job talking to a gizzilion adults about majors, money, soccer and the Army, etc.  

This summer my son will be applying to colleges.  
Do you have any suggestions for him?


Friday, July 5, 2013

College Visits (Part 1): Before the Visit

 How do you arrange a college visit? 

I'm sure this differs for every child and every family.  Some students will conquer the entire process by themselves.  Others do virtually nothing;  and some are a combination of the parent and child working together.

My son is considering playing soccer in college and enrolling in ROTC.  He also wants to attend a college where he can mountain bike in the area.  After narrowing down colleges that met the above the criteria plus a few other criteria, we looked at what majors the schools offer.

I think many people start with looking for colleges that have the major the student is interested in pursuing.  My son isn't sure what he wants to major in, so the schools had to have numerous majors to choose from or, at least, majors that he would potentially like.

Here  are some website I like to help find colleges:

College sports add a whole additional dimension to the application process.  (Read that:  A lot of work!)  Each college with sports teams is a member of an athletic association.  The National Collegiate  Athletic Association (NCAA) is perhaps the best known.  There are other Collegiate Sports Organizations other than NCAA;  ie:  National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes and National Christian College Athletic Association.

The NCAA is very helpful and friendly if you call with questions.  Ask for the homeschool representative if you homeschool.  If you homeschool, you will have much more to do for the application process than you would if your child attended public school.  Not insurmountable, but more.  You will have to provide information about each of the classes your child took/takes in high school.  The public school has a list of courses they offer and they send them to NCAA for their students;  homeschoolers have to submit their own.   The NCAA is familiar with many of the curriculum providers so they will have few, or no, questions about the ones they "like."  For example, they know Tapestry of Grace and will readily approve courses from them. 

Register with the NCAA and other athletic associations.  If your child wants to play Division I sports I recommend that you or your child starts the registration process with NCAA during the sophomore year as that's when coaches will start looking at them;  of course the coaches may even scout them earlier than that.  For Division II, register sometime in their junior year.  NCAA registration site. 

Find out what athletic association the colleges your child is interested in belong to and then have your child register with those associations.

Each college has a link for prospective athletes.  Have your child complete this form for any school he/she is interested in attending.  Students need to be proactive in getting recruited.  Do not wait for coaches to recruit.  This is especially true for homeschooled students who don't play on a local high school team where the coach may help the student get recruited. 

 Arranging the visit. 

1. Admissions/Financial Aid Office
  •  Admissions Counselor
 This is the part of the process that I worked on while my son concentrated on the subsequent two:  coaches and ROTC.  After determining what colleges we planned to visit and when we were going, I contacted the Admissions office either by phone or by email and requested a tour and a meeting with Admissions and Financial Aid.  Some admissions counselors also scheduled meetings with ROTC- you can ask them to do that.  They will also schedule meetings with professors and arrange for the prospective student to sit in on classes in his/her intended major.

If you are driving around  looking at colleges there is no problem calling the counselor the day before, or even the day of your visit, and telling them you are coming.  They will normally go out of their way to accommodate you.  Of course, you can even just show up at the school and take a tour.  A tour is best way to find out about the school.
 If you will be at the school at lunch time, let Admissions know and ask if you can have lunch in the cafeteria.  If possible don't miss this chance to check out the food.  Your child will potentially eat two to three meals a day on campus for four years (or more).  Often colleges will give you free tickets to the cafeteria.

  • Campus Tour.  You can schedule a campus tour over the phone, via email, or some colleges have an online campus tour registration link.

  • Financial Aid
Here is a pearl...One financial aid counselor told me that some private schools will lower the cost of tuition for families who have children in private school, AKA:  homeschool. 
When you arrange your visit with Admissions, ask to meet with a Financial Aid representative.  You may here a similar spiel from each of them, but they are the ones who know about scholarships from their school, deadlines and institutional policies like the one I mentioned above. 
 If you have GI Bill benefits ask to speak with the Veterans Affairs Representative (or a person with a similar title) during your visit.  I found the Financial Aid office is not very familiar with this program, but the Veterans Affairs Rep for the school should be extremely knowledgeable about it.  Also find out if the school is a "Yellow Ribbon"  school.  If they are they will pay the difference for the actual tuition and the amount the GI Bill pays.  It's a great deal. 

2.  Coaches 
After completing the Prospective Athlete form on the school website my son emailed the coach to let him know he was interested in playing on that team.  Once we knew the date we planned to visit the school my son asked to meet with coach during our visit.  The NCAA has very specific rules about coaches and athletes communicating with each other- learn the rules.  We had already looked at the team roster and their wins and losses for the past few years.  We knew who was graduating and what positions the coach would need to fill.  Sending the coach video clips is a standard recruiting tool.  So, charge up your video cameras and, use a tripod.

Many colleges offer summer camps for the purpose of recruiting.  Consider sending your child to one of those.  My son went to one, had a great time... and got a really cool t-shirt.  He was able to check out the college a little during that time too.  (I got the bill.)

Here's a website with more details on what parents should do during the meeting with a college coach during a campus visit. Parent's role during a campus visit.

 3.  ROTC
Some Admissions offices have a great working relationship with the local ROTC units.  When you call/email Admissions to arrange your visit you can ask them to set up an appointment with any of the ROTC units on campus.  I prefer to make my own appointments with the ROTC department.  But that's just me...I  was commissioned through ROTC and worked in an ROTC job while on active duty so I'm familiar with the program.

If you have a friend or a family member who has a child one year ahead of your child, pick their brain about the college process

My next post will be about 
"What to do/not to do during your college visit." 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Military Move to Germany: Part 3

If you missed Part 1 and 2 you can click below to read them:

Finding a car and a house.

The military community generally isn't very sympathetic.  Ain't nobody got time for that.  I don't mean they are cold and uncaring;  quiet the opposite.  There just isn't a ton of sitting around and lamenting about things.  We get them done.  Soldiers are gone for weeks, months and a year here and there and spouses don't sit around and say, "You poor thing."  Instead they may list the number of times their spouse deployed. ...."I remember our third deployment..."  etc.

Years ago when I was a Captain on active duty stationed in Germany I had a co-worker/friend named Cyndi.  Cyndi's mom came to visit and she could not believe it when another friend needed a car (I can't remember why) and Cyndi gave the friend in need her car to use.  "I can't believe you just gave someone your car to use," her mom gasped.  That's the kind of thing we do in the military, especially when living overseas.  

 The military pays to send one vehicle so we sold our 12 passenger van and kept the car.  After about two weeks, our car arrived! 
The last time we moved to Germany, 7 years ago, we brought a Suburban.  It was just too big to get around the teeny European streets and parking garages.  Sadly we sold it.  But, we found an 8 passenger Mercedes van that ran on Diesel.  This thing was built to fit in the German/European streets and parking lots!  And, each of the 8 seats was a full size seat.  We drove it for almost 4 years and had to sell it when left because it has German "Specs" and can't be driven in the US. 

The choice is US specs vs. German spec.  If we buy a German spec car, we can't ship it back to the states.  However, we thought we would get another German Spec van with 9 seats this time because of how easy it is to drive here,  the generous size of the seats, and we'd have a extra seat.  We looked for used cars online and went to about 6 places to look at these vans.  One of the places we went looked like Iraq.  Lines of used cars and little cubicles that were "Offices" for the owners of about 50 individual used car dealers.  There were no other women inside the perimeter. Our dealer wasn't wearing a shirt.  He was from Romania and was very happy.  We test drove a van that my husband wanted to get because the price was right.  However, there were holes in the inside panels, dirt that looked like graffiti lined the seat-backs, and there was no air-conditioning in the rear.  We didn't get it.   

 I really wanted to get a German van with 9 seats so that we would have an extra seat.  I gave up that idea when my husband reminded me that we lost a ton of money when we had to sell our van before leaving last time.  That would probably happen again this time so when we found out our friends were selling an 8 seat US spec mini-van we took a look at. 

That was it.  

The van still has the new-car smell, the AC works front and rear...and, hey, no holes in the panels nor graffiti looking dirt!  My friend kept saying, "You're getting a GREAT van."  
We can even keep it when we move back to the States if we want.  

We've been living out of a suitcase for about 5 weeks now.  We're in an Army Guest Lodge which is basically a hotel.  Breakfast is provided.  Maids make the bed and clean the room everyday!  Ah.....

Okay, okay.   We need to find a place of our own...without maid service...  

Did I mention I'm doing most of the car and house German?  Texts, emails, phone calls and appointments all in German.  I speak German, but I'm not fluent.  So, everyday I feel like I've just taken a test.  I'm so thankful I took German in Junior High!  My concern is that just when I think I'm understanding the realtor (Immobelien)  they may actually have said, "There is a zebra in the backyard that comes with the house"  and I just say, "Ja."  So far, no zebras.

Back to the house.  The military provides houses in Germany when they are available.  They are available for some people here now, but not for a family of 8.   So we get to live off-post, "on the economy."  I love living in the little German towns with the local backeries, grocery stores, ice cream cafes.  Unfortunately, with the other military posts closing there a ton of people looking for houses now and very few available to rent.  

We've looked at about a dozen and haven't found the right one yet.  

 Recently I've heard a few people say, "What is God trying to teach me in this situation?"  Come on.  It's summer break.  I don't wanna learn!  Well, maybe it's patience for me.  I've been uncharacteristically patiently waiting for a house that would work for us...6 kids, a dog, homeschooling, close to a bakery, close to the military post, a place for visitors if possible,  and a place for about 15 bikes! 

When we first started looking for houses I was speaking to a German woman who helps people transitioning here with the military.  One of the landlords wouldn't let us rent his house because he said we have too many people for the house.  That's legal here.  I told the woman what he said.  She said that German landlords don't like alot of children.  I said that some of them told me "Congratulations" after asking how many children we have.  She said, "Yes.  They say, 'Congratulations, but You can't rent my house!'"  We've had about six landlords say we have too many people for their house...even one that was over 3500 square feet. 

How German houses differ from US houses.  German houses rarely have closets.  They use schrunks.   There are no garbage disposals.  Kitchens are often teeny.  Refridgerators are about half the size of those in the US.  The Army will lend one to families if they can find a place for it in their house.  The electrcity is 110v so most US electrical equipment doesn't work unless it's dual voltage or you hook it up to a transformer, which can get expensive.   German washers and dryers are small and take forever to run through a cycle.  They don't have door knobs- there a door handles.  They are usually smaller.

It's a process.  A slow process.  We'll get it done.  Almost 20 moves in 26 years.  Like I said above about listing number of deployments, we also list the number of moves we've had. 

Hope you enjoyed the three part series. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Military Move to Germany: Part 2

To read part one, click here:   

We literally took a plane, a train and automobiles to get to Germany.  We got up at 0430 Eastern Time on a Monday and arrived in Germany the next day in the morning.

I've been moving with the military for 28 years (I spent 20 years in the Army and my husband is still on active duty) and here is something very unusual that happened during this move...we got to travel with our friends who were also moving to Germany!  They lived two doors away from us in Texas and when they found out they were moving to Germany I stalked researched their moving dates so that we could be on the same plane!   I confessed my researching to my friend and she said she was glad we were flying together- whew!  Our younger kids and all of their kids played together almost every day in Texas so it was great to share this exciting trip together!  Our friends are going to a separate Post, so after we arrived and were "inprocessed" (Army term for getting checked-in), we went our separate ways.  I'm sure we'll see other soon.

First Ten Things I Did After Arriving in Germany 
During a Military Move
The day after we arrived my good friend picked my up at the Military Guest Lodge and started getting me what I needed to survive.  I had no car and no (required Military issued) driver's license so that was a huge help.  Otherwise I would be riding a bus around from post to post.

My kids slept until about 2:00 pm and I got up early and got a ton done! I have teens now so now I can leave my kids when I need to go somewhere unlike the last time I moved here with 5 kids ages 2-10.

So, here's what I did the first few days in country this time.

1.  Get registered.   The viscous need to get "on post"  (on the military installation) to start getting settled.  To get on post you need to have your military ID registered at a post in Germany.  The registration office is ON the post.  So, you have to explain to the (armed) guard that you just arrived and you are on your way to the registration office.  My ID was "archived" in the computerized system from the last time I lived here so the guard let me on post to get registered.  

2.  Local Bank Account.  I don't think it's possible NOT to get a local bank account when you live here (with the military).  Thankfully, there is an American bank on post.  My husband set this up so now we can use to to transfer money to buy a vehicle, get a cell phone plan, rent a house, etc.  When living here with the military we use both US dollars and Euro because the post takes the American money and we use Euro in Germany and other European countries.  When we travel to countries that don't use Euro (ie:  Switzerland, Turkey) we do a currency exchange at the bank before we go.  Some people have two different with US dollars and the other with Euro. 

3.  Driver's license.  Military and family members are required to get a European driver's license that's issued by the military if they want to drive here.  To get this license we have to have a US driver's license.  Then we have to take a test that has questions about the German driving laws and many of the street signs.  There is a website with a study guide, a printed study guide and a class that you take before you take the test.  This is the third time I've taken the test...I've never taken it without almost falling asleep from jet-lag though!  My husband and I took it a few days after we arrived and we both passed!  Now we can drive.  But, we don't have a car.  Our one vehicle that the Army shipped is on a boat on it's way here.  Thankfully we have wonderful, trusting friends here and one of them gave us his truck to borrow, however we refer to it as der Tank because, compared to the compact European vehicles, it drives/looks like a, um,  tank.  Not complaining though!  It seats 5 so we are still bumming rides when we all need to get somewhere.  Then we took our kids who have military IDs (all Army kids get an ID when they turn 10) to get them registered so they could get on the military posts.

4.  Cell Phones. Cell phone options have changed significantly since we left Germany three years ago.  Last time I couldn't get an unlimited plan so I had a pay-as-you-go phone so I wouldn't go over my allotted usage.  Now there are plans with unlimited calling and text, etc.  Yessss!  However, many people still prefer the phone where you buy minutes as you need them.  We can get mobile phones from stores on US posts or from German stores.  It took me a few trips to the store to see what t5he options and prices are;  there are many.  I chose an unlimited plan with data and I bought a few cheap pay-as-you-go phones for our family so we have "commo" while we are getting settled.  We have numerous friends here so my kids are going in multiple directions with friends already.

5.  Ration Card.  I cracked up when my husband came home from his office the first day and said, "Here's your ration card."  The ration card is an anachronism, left over from post WW II days when items such as alcohol, cigaretttes and coffee needed to be rationed.  To buy those items at the PX or Commissary we need a ration card and we are limited to a certain amount each month.  It's somewhat comical because the Germans don't ration these items and we can go downtown to local German stores and buy as much as we want!  And, it's often cheaper and better.

6.  Went out to German restaurant and a...


 local town festival where people lined the streets eating a drinking.
Street Festival

It felt we were back home at the local festival. 


Nutella Crepes

7. Library Card.  This really doesn't need to be on the top ten list but while I was out and about I stopped at the local military library and got a Library Card.  No books.  Just the card. But it feels good to have accesses...and it's a necessity if you homeschool!

8. Internet/phone access. Ahhh...our Lodge has internet!!  Access to the world!  And, we have "Magic Jack" so we (read that, "my husband") hooked it up to the computer and now we can make phone calls to the US for $20/year- total.  We used the Magic Jack in the States and it cost about $70 to buy it and $20/year to make calls throughout the US.  At night we need to take it off the hook so we don't get the telemarketers calling during our night (we are 7 hours later than Texas time).

9. GPS.   Most Americans who are here with the military have a GPS to navigate in Europe.  The Post Exchange (PX) has numerous GPSs to chose from.  As we look for houses and cars, having a GPS is invaluable so it's one of the first things I bought.  She does sound awkward trying to pronounce the German street names though!

10.  Look for cars and a house...I'm saving this for Part 3.  Check back next week or sign up to become a follower if you haven't already.