Monthly Archives: February 2014

Home-school students do well first time in college

Springfield State Journal Register
Home-school students make transition to higher education smoothly, thanks to a plethora of resources and social acceptance
By Amy Choate-Nielsen

  • Posted Oct. 30, 2013 @ 12:01 am
  • Updated Oct 30, 2013 at 6:26 PM

When Cade Taylor considers what career he’ll choose, there’s a little voice in the back of his mind that inspires him to aim high.

It sounds like his mother.

Taylor is a college freshman who, up until now, has been home-schooled by his mom his whole life, but the next step after college is one he hopes will make her years of sacrifice all worth it, he says.

“I feel guilty I took up so much of her time,” Taylor says with a little laugh. “I feel like I have to succeed at something to make myself feel like her spending all of that time on me was worthwhile – so I have to do something cool with my life.”

Taylor is one of a growing population of home-schooled students whose first experience with a brick and mortar school is walking onto a college campus. As the rate of students attending home school is increasing, so too is the rate of home-school students attending college, thanks to a marked increase of available resources and a softening of public perception.

Now more home-school students than ever are making the transition to college life with better skills and preparation in some cases than their non-home-schooled peers, studies show. The 20-year-old Taylor wants to make his mother proud by becoming a pediatrician or an anesthesiologist. Data comparing home-schooled students’ scores and skills to his non-home-schooled peers show that his mother’s investment might already be worth it.

The home-schooling choice

Lisa Taylor, Cade Taylor’s mom, didn’t initially plan on home-schooling her kids.

Years ago, she was in college herself, majoring in biology and English, with plans to go on to graduate school, when she had her first baby – a little girl who was diagnosed with Down syndrome. From that point on, her life changed.

Parents choose to home-school their children for a variety of reasons: they like the freedom of setting their own schedule, they like having a flexible curriculum or they have ideals not being met by a standard school setting. Lisa Taylor did it because she thought it would be fun. For the most part, she says she was right.

“Especially if you start when they are young, it becomes your lifestyle; it becomes something you do,” Lisa Taylor said on a recent fall afternoon from her home in Herriman, Utah. “There are some days that aren’t as fun as others. And there are some days when you think, ‘Why am I doing this? I could be out shopping someplace.’ “

Even though Lisa Taylor didn’t initially plan on being a home-school mom, her family fits the mold of home-schoolers pretty well. Families that home-school their children generally have more formal education than the general population, according to “Homeschooling Across America: Academic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics,” a study published in 2009 by the National Home Education Research Institute. The study was commissioned by the Home School Legal Defense Association, a nonprofit group that promotes home-schooling across the country. According to the study, 66.3 percent of fathers and 62.5 percent of mothers had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Read more:

7 Myths About the FAFSA and Applying for Financial Aid

Posted on January 3, 2014 by Guest Blogger


I’m currently a junior in college, which means the 2014-15 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSASM) will be the last time I complete the FAFSA. However, my sister is going to be starting college in the fall and will be filling out the FAFSA for the first time. Luckily for her, she’ll have me to help her along the way.

Looking back to the first time I completed the FAFSA, I remember some misconceptions that I had about filling it out —and some of my friends had the same ones. Turns out these myths weren’t true. The FAFSA really is an easy-to-complete, online application that will help you plan for and finance your education.

I wanted to share some of these common myths about the FAFSA and applying for financial aid with you. You can also check out Federal Student Aid’s video that addresses these common myths!

  1. I won’t qualify for financial aid because my parents (or I) make too much money.
    Actually, there isn’t an income cutoff to qualify for financial aid. Your eligibility for financial aid is based on a number of factors and not just your or your parents’ income. Plus, many states and schools use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for their aid. Fill out the application and find out what you can get!
  2. I don’t have good grades, so I won’t be eligible for financial aid.
    Completing the FAFSA isn’t the same as applying to college. Most federal student aid programs don’t take your grades into consideration when you apply. Just remember, once you’re in college, you do need to maintain satisfactory academic progress  in order to continue receiving federal aid.
  3. I’m too old to qualify for financial aid.
    Federal student aid programs don’t take your age into consideration.
  4. The application is too hard to fill out!
    Since it’s available online, the FAFSA is easier than ever to complete. The form uses “skip logic,” so you are only asked the questions that are relevant to you. If you’ve filed your taxes, then you can transfer your tax return data into your FAFSA automatically. And as you go through the application, there will be guided assistance in the margins to help you answer each question. Plus, the FAFSA website has a Help page that addresses most frequently asked questions.
  5.   I have to wait until I (my parents) file taxes.
    Since some colleges have FAFSA deadlines that are before the tax filing deadline, it’s important to complete the FAFSA early. You can use estimates on your FAFSA by basing them off of last year’s taxes. After you file your taxes, you can log back into the FAFSA and input your updated tax information.
  6. I support myself, so I don’t have to include parent info.
    This is not necessarily true. Even if you support yourself and file taxes on your own, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. You can determine your dependency status by answering these questions. If you are independent, you don’t need to include your parents’ information on your FAFSA. If you are dependent, you need to provide your parents’ information.
  7. I completed the FAFSA my freshman year, so I don’t have to complete it again.
    As I said, this will be my fourth time completing the FAFSA. You should complete the FAFSA each year you plan to attend college or career school.

What are you waiting for? Start your application now at!

Mark Valdez is a student at Brown University and an intern with the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Blended learning models taking hold in California schools

Elementary schools using different model than are high schools

Blended learning is becoming entrenched in California schools, but elementary schools and high schools are taking different approaches whenintegrating learning technology.

Elementary schools are using the “station rotation” model, in which students in small groups may spend 20 minutes in a reading center, followed by 20 minutes at a computer using an online learning program, and an additional 20 minutes of small group instruction with the teacher.

Elementary schools throughout the country are now adding the online component to the rotating classroom models that have been used for decades, says Heather Staker, a senior education research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute, a nonprofit dedicated in part to researching and promoting blended learning.

Fast Facts

  • Some 66% of school leaders say they use a blended learning model, compared to 34% who say they primarily use a fully online learning model. And 81% of schools now offer online courses, compared to 66% in 2012. Source: K12 Inc. 2013 Benchmark Study
  • Only 33% of middle school students can collect and analyze online data to identify solutions and make informed decisions on school work. Source: “21st Century Skills Assessment

“The real attraction to these models is they greatly improve a teacher’s ability to deliver differentiated instruction to small groups,” Staker says.

Though just 19 percent of California’s elementary schools are using blended learning, another 20 percent are planning implementation, according to 2013 research from the California Learning Resource Network, a statewide education technology service of the Department of Education. And of those using blended learning, some 80 percent employ a rotation model.

On the other end of the education spectrum, 73 percent of California districts use online learning at the high school level. Almost half of those districts are using the “a la carte” model in which students take one or more courses entirely online while continuing to take traditional classes at school. Many districts are increasingly requiring students to take an online course before graduation.

“It’s a natural fit for elementary schools to use the station rotation model, since they aren’t quite ready to take complete ownership of their learning,” says Allison Powell, vice president for state and district services at the International Association for K12 Online Learning. “The older a student gets, the more flexible they get and the better the learning choices they can make.”

The Clayton Christensen Institute predicts that by 2019, 50 percent of all high school courses nationwide will be delivered online. However, elementary schools are likely to continue with the blended model because students don’t need the specialized AP or advanced language classes that will only be offered online in some districts.

Schools can improve traditional classrooms by exploring blended learning options that personalize instruction, Staker says. Middle school and high school administrators can also identify content areas that are missing in their schools, such as AP courses, and try to find online learning solutions. “We’re remiss if we don’t embrace the rapid pace of innovation that is presenting itself to the K12 sector,” Staker says.