Friday, December 20, 2013

McCarter Theatre Costume Design Contest

If your teen is passionate about clothing or costume design, then check out Project Fences: Costume Design Competition sponsored by McCarter Theatre. The contest is open to homeschoolers and the deadline for submissions is Jan. 3, 2014. Happy Designing!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

School is Optional

I am so happy to share this TEDx Talk by North Star's Ken Danford. I encourage everyone to watch the video, but I especially encourage those of you who are:

  • a teen or the parent of a teen who is unhappy at school
  • a homeschooling teen or parent whose friends, neighbors, or relatives question your choice to homeschool
  • a teen or parent of a teen who wonders whether it's possible to lead a happy, fulfilled life (including attending college and/or becoming gainfully employed in your chosen career) without attending traditional school

Thursday, December 5, 2013

GED Update

It's official: yesterday the Christie Administration announced that the NJ State Board of Education has approved the changes to the GED I discussed here on November 2. Beginning in January 2014, three providers will offer the adult education assessment exam in NJ.  There are currently 30 authorized testing centers, many of which are located on community college campuses.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Experiential Learning-- Intern with a Congressman

A recent email from my Congressman, Rush Holt, reminded me of one of the many perks of teen homeschooling: internships. Because homeschoolers are not bound by the hours of brick-and-mortar schools, they are able to intern during traditional working hours. 

Congressman Holt is currently accepting applications for Congressional internships in his offices in West Windsor and Washington, D.C. for the spring of 2014. According to his email:

Congressional interns are selected on a competitive basis and contribute in many ways to my work for central New Jersey, including aiding in legislative research, attending congressional hearings, helping address New Jerseyans’ problems with federal agencies, conducting community outreach, and helping with administrative duties.  Further information is available on my website, and the application deadline for the spring semester is December 12.

An up-close Civics credit plus a chance to check out a possible career path all rolled into one! Rush Holt isn't the only Representative to offer internships, so if this type of experience appeals to your teen and you don't live in NJ-12, why not look into opportunities with your Congressperson? Or keep the experience more local--look to your representative in the NJ State House or your town council. If your teen does pursue an internship, I hope you'll share the experience with us.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

GED News

Every year, some homeschoolers choose the GED path to a high school diploma, but as I wrote back in July, that path is about to change. Not only is the Pearson VUE-GED getting a new look for 2014, but the NJ State Department of Education has proposed offering two alternatives: the ETS HiSet and the McGraw Hill-TASC.

Beginning in January 2014, the GED will be offered as a computer-based test (only those who qualify for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act may still take the test on paper). The HiSet and TASC will be offered on both paper and computer through 2016. All three tests include subsections on writing, reading, math, science, and social studies which must be passed to earn the state diploma. All three tests must align with Common Core by 2016.

To learn more about the exams' history and background, fee structure, testing specifications, and passing scores, see the NJ Department of Education's Discussion Summary.

If you take one of the exams, I hope you'll let us know which path you chose and what you thought of the experience. Good luck!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Heigh, Ho, Come to the (College) Fair!

If you're in the greater Philly/Central NJ or South NJ areas, next week presents 2 opportunities to ask hundreds of college admissions officers your questions about applying to and attending their schools. 

Pennsylvania Convention Center
Sunday, November 10

Atlantic City Convention Center
Thursday, November 14
9am-noon and 6 pm-9 pm
Workshops on college athletics, financing, essay writing/letters of recommendation, the Educational Opportunity Fund, application process

These fairs are BIG. To make the best use of your time, I suggest
  1. Check the "list of colleges attending" to narrow your focus to 10 schools
  2. Do some research to find out the basics on schools of interest (e.g. school size, majors offered, admit rate) 
  3. Prepare a short list of questions to ask each admissions officer. These should be questions that aren't already answered on the school's website. Two questions I like to ask are: What type of student is successful at your college? and What credentials do you want to see from homeschooled applicants?
  4. Check the list of workshop times and remember to allow time to attend any workshops of interest
  5. When you get to the fair, plot out the locations of each school of interest and take the most efficient route 
  6. Take notes!
  7. Consider registering in advance 
  8. For more college fair tips, visit the National Association for College Admission Counseling website

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Experiential Learning: Mock Trial

Last week was such fun: a beautiful fall weekend in New England, tours of 4 college campuses (2 of which, WPI and MIT, were personal tours from former homeschoolers who are current students), and a Harvard mock trial intensive with some of my team members. You can see some photos and read a little about the colleges on my Rapaport Consulting Facebook page. But here, I want to focus on Mock Trial.

Mock Trial Seminar at Harvard
For over 3 decades, the NJ State Bar Foundation, in cooperation with the NJ State and County Bar Associations, has sponsored the Vincent J. Apruzzese Mock Trial Competition for high school students. Mock Trial is the epitome of learning by doing. For example, mock trialers learn critical reading skills by reading and analyzing case materials. They learn persuasive writing and rhetoric by drafting and editing opening statements, closing arguments, direct examination questions and answers, and cross-examination questions. They learn about human behavior by searching for the motivations behind plaintiffs' and defendants' actions. They learn public speaking by rehearsing and delivering openings, closings, directs, and cross-examinations in front of a judge in a real courtroom. They learn about our judicial system by preparing for and participating in a trial. All this experiential learning can be translated into high school credits such as English (writing, public speaking) and Civics.

Some people mistakenly believe that mock trial is only for teens who aspire to law careers, but having coached for almost a decade, I can tell you that our team members have gone on to college to study diverse fields including: accounting, biochemical engineering, computer science, economics, government, music composition, music education, political science, psychology, and vocal performance. A couple of these students do intend to pursue law careers, but most of them have chosen other career paths.

If you're the homeschooling parent of a tween, I encourage you to introduce your child to Mock Trial by observing one of this year's competitions. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Full Ride Scholarships to Marist College

For those who may not have seen this on my Facebook page, I wanted to let you know that Marist College,  through generous support from the National Science Foundation and Goldman Sachs, is offering 17 full tuition, room, and board scholarships to incoming freshmen intending to major in Computer Science or Information Technology and Systems. Marist's Dean has confirmed that homeschoolers are eligible for these scholarships! Please note that homeschooled applicants are required to take either the SAT or the ACT. If you decide to apply, I hope you'll let me know how you fare. Good luck!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

College Admission Talk Recap

For those who couldn't attend the Sept. 17th talk at Princeton Learning Cooperative, here's a brief summary of the information shared by the admissions officers from Rutgers, Rider, and Mercer County Community College. Send me your questions!


  • Applicants should submit a traditional-looking transcript plus an explanation of how learning took place. 
  • Demonstrate a college preparatory program--reading, writing, math, science, social studies, plus 2 years of a second language--and that you took the most challenging courses available to you
  • ACT or SAT required; either test is equally acceptable
  • 60% admit rate
  • GED was suggested, but is not required; the admissions officer's perspective was that a student might need the GED "down the road" so take it now for insurance. Of course, another way to think about this is that one could always take the GED if needed so there's no urgency to take it pre-emptively. 
  • At this time, NJ is still debating whether to continue to offer the GED and/or a different exam
  • CLEP credits are not accepted
  • C or better from college classes taken on other campuses earns you Rutgers credit
  • High school students are eligible to take Rutgers classes while still in high school only if they can demonstrate that they've exhausted the course possibilities at their high schools
  • No minimum age to take a class, but you must be 16 or older to live on campus
  • Courses cost $400/credit plus fees
Mercer County Community College
  • Open enrollment
  • SAT 540/530 or higher or ACT 21 or higher exempts you from placement test
  • High school students are eligible to take classes at Mercer
  • CLEP credits accepted
  • Visit to learn how/whether credits will transfer to 4-yr colleges
  • Homeschoolers who are not enrolled in an accredited high school (e.g. Clonlara) are ineligible for NJStars
  • $142/credit
Rider University
  • Applicants should submit traditional-looking transcript
  • Syllabus may be required for some courses listed on the transcript
  • Must demonstrate graduation from high school--this can be self-certified
  • Interviews are offered and suggested for homeschoolers
  • Some CLEP credits are accepted
  • High school students are eligible to take Rider courses
  • College level writing is very important for success in college
  • $550/credit

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sept 17th Q & A with College Admissions Counselors

As part of Princeton Learning Cooperative's Outside the Box series, college admissions counselors
from Rutgers, Rider, and Mercer County Community College will describe their admissions process for homeschooled applicants. The program is a natural sequel to  You CAN Homeschool through High School and is a great opportunity to get your admissions questions answered from some of the folks who might review your college application. The program is free and open to the public. RSVP appreciated, but not necessary.

When: Tuesday, September 17th
Time: 7-8:30 pm
Location: Princeton Learning Cooperative, 16 All Saints Road, Princeton, NJ 08540

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

First Worldwide Homeschool Conference, Aug. 23-24

Homeschoolers, unschoolers, and anyone involved with alternative or independent education is invited to join in the first worldwide Homeschool Conference. The conference is co-chaired by Pat Farenga of Holt Associates. I especially encourage you to listen in on Friday, Aug 23rd at 4pm, when my long-time colleague, Alison Snieckus of Princeton Learning Cooperativepresents "PLC: Helping teens live and learn without school". It's online and free and interactive--all are invited to join in.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Not-Back-to-School Picnic

The New Jersey Homeschool Association hopes you'll join us to celebrate our freedom to educate our children elsewhere than school. We encourage you to bring games, sports equipment, musical instruments, lunch for your family (and food to share if you'd like), as well as your questions and concerns about the ins, outs, ups, and downs of homeschooling in the Garden State.

Whether you're a newbie or a veteran homeschooler, we hope you'll come to the park to connect with others who are educating elsewhere than school. If you let us know you're planning to attend, we'll have a NJHA membership card ready and waiting for you.

When: Friday, September 20, 2013, 11 am - 2 pm 

Where: Knox Grove, Washington Crossing Park

About NJHA

New Jersey Homeschool Association is an inclusive, nonpartisan organization. We exist 
to protect the homeschooling freedoms
 of all New Jersey citizens and to maintain a favorable homeschooling climate in the state.

NJHA was founded in 1997 by homeschooling parents who felt the need for a state-wide organization that would provide information about "education elsewhere than school" in New Jersey. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rensselaer STAR Program

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute  is offering a special program to introduce academically talented young women and underrepresented minority senior high school students to its undergraduate programs.

The STAR (Science, Technology, Arts at Rensselaer) Program begins the evening of Thursday, October, 24, 2013 with a dinner reception and concludes Saturday, October 26, 2013 at the close of the Fall Open House. Activities include:
· Interactive leadership activity
· Academic experience
· Undergraduate research overview and tour of laboratories
· Campus tour
· Student panels
· Student organizations and clubs fair
· Lodging and meals with current students

If your teen is interested and qualified, have her or him complete the STAR application.  You will need to submit an official high school transcript as part of the application--see my July 6th post on homeschool transcripts if you need help. You may submit an official transcript for your student via email to, by fax to 518-276-6573, or by postal mail to the attention of Michael E. Moore, Rensselaer Admissions, 110 8th  Street, Troy, NY 12180 prior to the deadline date of October 14, 2013. 

Students accepted to participate in the STAR Program will receive a confirmation packet from Rensselaer. 
Students may apply online by October 4, 2013 to participate in the STAR Program.

Rensselaer offers a few travel grants for those who need them. The travel grants are awarded based on need as well as merit. Once on campus, STAR participants’ meals and other costs directly associated with attending the event are covered by Rensselaer.

If your child is accepted, I hope you'll share her or his experience with us. Good luck! 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Philadelphia Museum of Art Homeschool Open House

My family and I have spent many happy hours at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, so I'm delighted to share this announcement:

Join us for our 4th Annual

Homeschool Open House

When:  Tuesday, July 30th, 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
Stop by the Education Resource Center to get a fresh look at our newest teaching resources, update your ARTstor access, browse and copy from our growing collection of lesson plans, and see what the Education Resource Center has to support your homeschooling efforts.

At 10:30 and again at 2:30, Ah Young Kim, one of our Museum educators running the First Wednesday Homeschool Museum Program, will be here for a first look at next year’s Homeschool classes.
You don’t have to RSVP, but if you can it will help us make sure we have enough materials for everyone.

As always, admission to the Resource Center in the Perelman Building is free.

(Reply if you have any questions about this event.)
Steve Wills – Coordinator: Wachovia Education Resource Center
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Changes to the GED

As we discussed at this year's You CAN Homeschool through High School Workshop, the GED exam is about to change.

Once the current version of the GED expires in January 2014, test takers who have not finished and passed the exam will find that their scores have expired too. Consequently, if your teen is in the process of taking the current GED test battery, he or she is advised to complete testing prior to January 2014. The new GED  is a computer-only test and has different content than the current GED. If you're looking for test prep materials, make sure the materials you're using are geared to the correct test version.

In addition, it has been reported that the NJ Department of Education will switch from using the GED to a different test or offer a choice of tests. I'll post more as details become available.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Documenting Your Learning Part III

Creating a Transcript

The transcript is a concise (usually one page) statement of what your teen has learned during his or her high school years. The transcript includes course titles, year studied, credits awarded, and grades earned. How can you compress all that learning into only one page? Here is one example of a partial transcript
Official Transcript
Tranquility Academy
Student Data

Ima Teen
123 Happy Lane
Happy, NJ 08550
DOB: 8/1/92
Gender: F
School Data

Tranquility Academy
123 Happy Lane
Happy, NJ 08550
Telephone: 609.123.4567
Parent: Ima Parent
Junior Year Report

Date Issued: 6/3/2013
Total Credits:          23
G.P.A.:                   4.0

   World Literature

   American Literature


   AP Eng. Lang & Comp*



   Algebra I (8th grade)


   Advanced Algebra





   PHY 111: Physical Science Concepts**

   BIO 114: Environmental Science Concepts**

   CHE 101: General Chemistry I**


   CHE 102: General Chemistry II**


   Biology w/Lab


*  APEX course
** Mercer County Community College Course
Grading System
B= Comprehension
C=Basic Understanding

Since you're the "school," you can organize the transcript however you like. If you need inspiration, a Google search of "sample high school transcript" will generate millions of hits. Whichever format you choose, you'll want to include identifying information about your student--his/her name, address, date of birth, and graduation date--and information about your homeschool--school name, address, phone, name of parent/guardian overseeing the student's education, date that the transcript was generated, and an explanation of your grading system.

If your student takes a community college or online class, include those credits on your master transcript. In the sample transcript above, those types of classes were denoted with asterisks. Your teen will also want to request that brick and mortar or cyber schools send official transcripts as part of a college application.

Two questions that often arise around transcripts are:
1. How do I decide what constitutes a credit?
The term "credit" can be a little confusing. Traditionally, it is a measure of time: how much time did a student spend in "contact" with, or being "instructed" by, a teacher. High schools and colleges use slightly different calculations to determine credit hours; there is also variation among States and even among school districts. To keep things simple, I usually think of one credit as the equivalent of work done in a high school class that meets for about an hour for 5 days/week for one academic year (September-June). This approach can be used for science and math courses with a more standard and narrowly defined content (e.g. Algebra--if you cover the material in a standard textbook, it's worth 1 credit whether it takes you 1.5 years or 0.5 years) and Humanities courses with no standardly defined content (e.g. English I: you determine how much work --number of books read/stories written/speeches orated/plays performed-- equals 1 credit). 

2. How do I decide which credits to include?
College admissions officers often begin to evaluate credits by separating them into 3 broad categories: academic subjects (English, Science, Math, Social Studies, Foreign Language), electives (Industrial, Visual, and Performing Arts), and physical education. In NJ, at a minimum, public high school students are expected to complete the following credits:
·      4 English
·      3 Math (1 Algebra, 1 Geometry, 1 additional that builds on Alg. and Geo.)
·      3 Lab Science (1 Biology, 1 Chemistry, Physics or Environmental Science, 1 additional)
·      1/2 Financial, Economic, and Entrepreneurial Literacy
·      1 World History
·      2 U.S. History
·      1 Visual/Performing Arts
·      1 21st Century Life & Careers
·      1 World Languages
·      3/4 credit per year Health & Physical Education
·      4.5 Electives

Some homeschoolers find it helpful to use these or similar labels when documenting learning on a transcript. So, for example, the trips you took to colonial Williamsburg, Plimouth Plantation, Independence National Historical Park, Valley Forge, and Washington D.C. could all contribute toward a credit entitled "U.S. History I."