Saturday, August 24, 2019

What Curriculum Do I Need for the American SAT Exam?

This is a question that seems to crop up a lot. In the UK when you take IGCSE's and A-Levels, you would check what exam board your nearest exam centre uses, you would then buy the Edexcel/Cambridge/AQA etc course for English/Maths/Fill-in-your-subject. Right?

The American system is different. That is not how it works and actually...therein lies the beauty of it all. You are able to choose whatever curriculum works best for your children. If Apologia Science works for them then that's what you go for, if its BJU than go for that.

You can choose to follow whatever method of education that works best for you whether that means a Charlotte Mason, Classical, Unit Studies...whatever method you have followed you can keep following. 

You could pull your own course of study together from various curriculum providers or you could go through an umbrella organisation such as A.C.E, Christian Liberty Press, Alpha & Omega and so on. On a side of my favourite curriculum providers has to be Christian Book. You can get just about anything from the.

The advantage of going through an umbrella organisation is that they will do a transcript and High School Diploma (HSD) for you. You will need to meet their individual requirements of and send in test scores etc each year. This is usually the more expensive option but if you lack the confidence or energy to do it yourself, at least you know all bases are covered. They will have their own curriculum for each grade and you will need to use that if you want the HSD and transcript and that could take away some of the freedoms you have in what you choose to study.

If like us, you choose to take a more eclectic approach and pull your own course of study together for each year then you would decide what subjects you will cover each year (usually always Maths, English, History & Geography, Science), then you add in your electives each year i.e what interests your child. It could be a language, art, home economics...the list is endless. They will earn credits (explained in a later post) for each course they do. You will need to make sure that you cover World History and U.S history. Often history and geography are tied in together. 

Again...use whichever curriculum you prefer but I would say one thing - buy American resources! American curriculum is written and geared towards writing the S.A.T so it makes sense.

Can You Show Me Exactly What You Mean?

Of course! Listed below are some posts I've written with regards to curriculum and resources. I highly recommend you read a  couple of posts I did a few years ago where I went into much detail on how I plan and choose a course of study for a high school year. These posts will give you a nitty-gritty look into what I've just said above so please don't skip over these posts. Take time to read them to gain a clearer understanding if you are wanting to take the American S.A.T route.

A Homeschool Plan:: Knowing the Big Picture
A Homeschool Plan:: Choosing Curriculum and Setting the Course
The Ultimate List of Free & Affordable Homeschool Resources

Now That You Have A Clearer Idea...

This is where the fun part begins! My summer ritual was to sit down with the Christian Book and Amblesideonline websites open. I would decide what I wanted each child to cover individually in each subject, and what things we would be able to learn together. 

Things like English, Maths and sometimes Science were all grade appropriate. (We used Llatl for English, Math-U-See for Maths and Apologia Science for science - just in case you wanted to know)

Most years we covered History, Geography, Nature Study, Art Appreciation, Composer Study and Read Aloud together - no separate curriculums. We've used some wonderful resources over the years (KONOS, A Childs Geography, Handbook of Nature Study and lots of Amblesideonline recommendations etc), a lot of what we used is listed in the post 'The Ultimate List of Free & Affordable Homeschool Resources' post above.

I would sit outside if the weather was good with a cup of coffee and pull our learning plans together and ordering what books and curriculum I needed in good time for a September start.

Why We Chose The S.A.T Route over the A-Level Route

It's quite simple really. It meant that we didn't have to compromise on a rich, rounded education which still held God at its centre. We could choose whatever resources we wanted to use and we could continue to learn using living books and implementing Charlotte Mason learning methods. 

We did not have to sacrifice nature study which we would have had to have done if we had taken the IGCSE and A-Level Route due to the heavy workload.

We did not have to sacrifice field trips, elective interest subjects or the fun seasonal learning and activities I planned each year.

We could keep God, our Bible time and discussions at our core and choose Christian resources.

We were able to remain faithful to our original calling to homeschool without compromise and I believe because of that our daughters received a rich, balanced and well-rounded education, stored up a lifetime of precious memories, build strong family bonds and the cherry on top is that both have been accepted into British universities.

Read About Our Personal S.A.T Success In:

Faithfull Homeschooling
Post Homeschooling Update

If You Missed The First Two Posts In The S.A.T Series of Posts

The American SAT:: An Alternative to A-Levels For British Home Educators
Exam Tips For Taking The S.A.T

I hope that this post and all its links have adequately addressed the question of curriculum for the American S.A.T

Please do consider joining the HE Success Without UK Exams Facebook page for a bit of interaction with other British families who have successfully taken this path and homeschooling families who are interested and looking into it.

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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Living the Seasons :: Blackberry Picking

August is the month when blackberries start coming into their own. This year seems to be a bumper year for blackberries, they are all so big and juicy although this early harvest is a little bitter. I think a few more weeks of sunshine should strengthen the sugar content.

There are still many, many berries on our brambles so I am looking forward to blackberries well into September. Of course, I'm sure you know the old folklore myth that blackberries become unpalatable after the 29th September which is St Michael's Day and that is because the devil was cast out of heaven by St Michael, he landed on a bramble bush and cursed it. Hence after St Michael's Day blackberries should not be picked.

This year I have many ideas for these little jewels. I have used this first little harvest to make my Apple Bramble jam. But here are some of the recipes I've found on Pinterest that I simply have to try this season.

I plan on stocking up the freezer with all these goodies so we can enjoy them through winter.

As you can see from the picture above, it's not only us who will be enjoying this late-summer early-autumn hedgerow fruit. The insects simply love them. This wasp was buried head deep feasting on this, particularly ripe berry. I spent ages watching sweet.

I thought I'd share this little photo of my entry hall (I just love how the light is streaming in). I still have a few homeschooling books up on the unit, I haven't had the courage to pack them away yet. That would seem so final. My homeschooling planner is still on my desk along with my other planners. There will have to be a weekend soon when I tackle all of that and decide what to keep and what to get rid of. Changing seasons can be bittersweet, can't they?

Right now autumn is right around the corner. I'm so looking forward to autumns arrival and all that it holds but it is kind of sad that that means saying goodbye to summer and the long warm days. Its the same with life seasons. I am definitely learning to look forward with anticipation and back occasionally with warm fondness and blessed memories but not to keep looking back!

My new season is actually quite exciting. As you know I am a magistrate judge (Justice of the Peace) and enjoy sitting on the bench every few weeks. On Friday I was in court and boy was it a busy day. We get the usual cases through of 'repeat clients', those that seem unable to rehabilitate and keep offending. 

But then we have those ordinary, everyday citizens like you and me who find themselves on the wrong side of the law through one single bad decision and are clearly remorseful. We had a few of those on Friday. A couple of them were in a state and I realised that I am meeting these people under what could be arguably one of the most stressful events of their lives. 

I wondered how God would use me when I was applying for this position last year. Now I think I know. To show kindness, empathy and respect from the bench whilst still remaining true to my role in upholding the law has to be worth something.

It gives me something to think about as I ponder on what area of law I wish to practise in once I am qualified. That, however, is a season for the future. 

Right my lovelies, I hope you are having a lovely weekend and I look forward to seeing you back here for a little more chit-chat next week.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Exam Tips for Taking the American SAT in the UK

Exam season is over for the year which is just as well, for nerves are stretched knowing that so much rides on doing well in these final exams. For our family, June saw the end of our homeschooling journey. We have taken the American SAT route with our youngest daughter and at the beginning of June was the last opportunity to sit the SAT Subject exams in the UK for the 2018/2019 academic year.

It seems strange that after 13 years of homeschooling, the end has finally come. It's been bittersweet from my point of view as I have loved this season of life but my daughter is more than ready to move onto the next life adventure and I am excited to see her fly.

If you are considering taking the American SAT route in your homeschool rather than the traditional British A-Levels, you may want to get a basic idea on what this is all about. For an overview, you can read my post, "The American SAT:: An Alternative to A-Levels for British Home Educators". As I mentioned in this post, the SAT and the SAT Subject exams are all multiple-choice with an essay option. Don't be fooled into thinking that it's a doddle because of that, take a few practice tests yourself to see what I mean.

With this being a bit of a different system, I thought I would share a few things we have learned along the way to make preparing for, booking and the actual exam day a little easier to navigate.

Booking the SAT Test

In order to book the test, your student will need to register a CollegeBoard account, which is free. It is on this site that you can register for your SAT exams; find an exam centre; see all the test dates available for the academic year and it is where your test results will be returned to you. You cannot register for the exams without a College Board account.

You will want to have a good look at what exam centres closest to you are open for each SAT date. My daughter took the SAT in December, March and May. We had an exam centre in Shrewsbury that hosted the exam in December and May but not the March sitting. For that, we found an exam centre in Manchester.

Practical Tip: At the beginning of the academic year, I recorded all the available SAT test dates; their deadline registration dates and the exam centre location in my homeschool planner so I had all that information available at a glance.

The Week Before the Exam

Your student has been diligently studying for their exam using Kahn Academy's free practice tests and Varsity Tutor's free SAT Subject tests. They have done everything they can to prepare now it's over to you. There are a few things you will want to make sure you have a handle on before exam day arrives.

  • Print off your student's admission ticket if you have not done so already. They will not be allowed to write the exam without this.
  • Make sure that your student has an acceptable ID such as a passport.
  • Hop onto google maps and plug-in directions from your home to the exam centre. Make a note of how long the trip is (adding a little extra for delays, we had to wait for a herd of cows to cross the road from one field to another on one trip) and what time you will need to set the alarm for on test day.
  • Check College Board for any exam centre closings, this is really important as it is quite conceivable that your test centre could be closed for whatever reason. By checking College Board for closures you will ensure that you have the revised test centre address and contact details.

Exam Day

You will almost certainly be up bright and early. Getting a teenager up at 04h30 or 05h00 in the morning is a big ask so try to make it as pleasant as possible by marking it a bit of road-trip adventure. I got up a little earlier than the rest of the family, switched on my favourite praise and worship music and prepared some bacon and cheese butties. Who can resist waking to the smell brewing coffee of frying bacon in the pan? It's sure to get your day off to a good start.

Enjoy your drive! Your exam centre will more than likely be a little drive away so be excited about seeing a new part of the countryside you have not yet seen. Enjoy watching the sun gently light up the land, revealing our beautiful landscape bathed in that special early morning light.

We have wonderful memories of exam day travels and I feel blessed to have had those times with my teen, for all too soon she will be off to university and those times will become less frequent, so treasure getting up early and beetling across the countryside.

Post Exam

Your student will get their exam results in 2 weeks...2 weeks! I think that is fabulous! No waiting all summer to find out if you have attained the grades you need. When you get your results you can download the report from your College Board account, save to your computer and then email them through to the admissions team at your son/daughters university. As simple as that.

We chose to write the SAT 3 times, 1st time to gauge where our daughter was at and what areas needed work. The 2nd and 3rd were all about improving her score, which she did with each sitting. We sent only the highest score to the university.

I hope that you have found this post helpful. If you have any questions please do leave a comment. If you are a British home educator please do join the HE Success without UK Exams facebook page. There are quite a few of us who have successfully. It's a wonderful source of support, knowledge and experience of others who have travelled this path.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Weekending & Winter Garden Plans

I have a confession to make. July was a bit of a tough month. I'm not sure if I have shared here but towards the end of October last year, a very dear friend in South Africa told me she had stage 4 appendix cancer that had spread. She was very upbeat about doing whatever it would take to beat it.

Then in January another close friend here in the UK told me that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 skin cancer. The doctors told her that it was too far along for them to do anything. They offered her treatment of course but the prognosis was not great.

In July, both these strong Christian women lost their fight and passed on to glory within 5 days of each other. I have peace knowing that I will see them again but that does not stop me from grieving their loss.
Last week, our conveyancing secretary announced that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. It has sent me into a bit of a questioning what it is that is causing this seemingly rise in incidence of this disease? Stats in the UK is that 1 in 2 women will get breast cancer and 1 in 3 will get cancer of some form. That is very hard for me to digest.

So the questions that have been swirling around in my head are: Is it our modern stressful lifestyle? Is it our genetically modified over sprayed food? Is it just that we are more aware of it these days and it is highlighted so much?

I don't know and I know that regardless, our times are in God's hands. But I have decided that we need to do what we can as individuals and families to look after our health.

So we have decided that we are going to take a more serious approach to growing our own food and buying organic where we can. We will only buy organic meat and just cut down on our meat consumption in general as we all know how pricey organic meat is and we do still need to observe a budget at the end of the day.

So our winter garden project is going to be establishing and preparing a small orchard, which we will put in the area pictured above where the mushrooms are growing and the raised beds...well that is still to be decided as DH and I have differing opinions on that.
Now, we have a HUGE garden. Let me correct that...we have a lot of space, a lot of lawn and only a few measly planted beds. Do you know what that means? It means that it could quite easily cost a small fortune to establish and proper garden. So what's the solution?
Propagation! Whether by intent or accident I'm willing to take advantage. Above I have about 20 new foxglove plants, all self-seeded from two that I bought in the spring. This weekend I potted them up and will nurture them over the winter and next year I shall have an impressive display of foxgloves.
I've also discovered one area along our patio that is absolutely crammed with plants. They are all squeezing each other out and none of them are really thriving as a result. So once the weather cools down that will be our autumn project, to move as many shrubs as we can into new beds.
I shall also be propagating new hydrangea plants from the ones have bought this year, I do love hydrangeas! They grow so easily and always give an impressive display.

Another little thing that I did over the weekend was some batch cooking. I joined Slimming World on Saturday as I just cannot shift the 5 or so KG's that have crept up on my. It is of course all down to my weak will power. I know the principles of good old Slimming World eating and I know that it works, but an ice-cream here and a doughnut there are things I just have not cut out.
I finally got to the point where I am sick of making excuses and need accountability so I joined up. Working and eating correctly can be tricky but pre-planning and preparing is one of the keys to success so that's what I did in-between trying to get the weeds under control in my garden.
That's the end of this little nonsense post. I'll be back tomorrow with another post about taking the American SAT (not to be confused with the British SAT's). I know that it won't appeal to all but there are a few people who are interested in taking this route with their homeschooling and I get tonnes of questions. It's easier for me to create an informative little series of posts that anyone can dip into at any point.
Hoping your week is off to a fabulous start everyone 😊

Thursday, August 08, 2019

The American SAT :: An Alternative to A-Levels For British Home Educators

Did you know that there is an alternative to A-Levels for British home educators?

What if I were to tell you that you don't have to ditch how you learn, your educational philosophies or your favourite resources. What if I told you that you could continue to keep God at the centre of your home education and that you can ditch GCSE's and A-Levels, would it interest you?

If I then told you that you could do all this and your children could still get into British Universities would think me crazy? Well, I'm here to tell you that all this is possible with the American SAT. How do I know? I know because we have done it and we are not the first. You can read our story here. There are a growing number of British families who have taken this route with their children having gained university entrance.

A Basic Understanding of the American Education System

It is helpful to understand the difference between the two education systems. While British secondary instruction focuses on GCSE's and A-levels, each of which is examined separately, the American systems only real standardised tests are the SAT and ACT and are taken at a national level. That means that you do not write exams at 16 years old, rather you continue in your chosen courses of study and in the winter of 11th grade the General SAT exam (for the 1st time) which tests on the cumulative skills gained over high school. The SAT standardized test is meant to show colleges and universities how prepared the student is by measuring key skills like reading comprehension, mathematical ability and clarity of expression. By sitting the exam at the end of your 11th grade year it gives you a good benchmark of what needs to be done for your test in 12 Grade.

Tell Me About the American SAT Test

The SAT is administered by the College Board and is a 4-hour long multiple-choice test. The test is taken on a Saturday morning and tests in three core competencies namely critical Reading, Math and writing with an option essay component.

What are the SAT Subject Tests?

These are college (university) admission exams on specific subjects such as U.S History, Science, Maths and more. These are the only American national tests that the student can choose to showcase their strengths and interests. Often British universities will want a combination of the General SAT as well as a specified number of SAT Subjects if there is not a high school diploma available or if the course the student is applying for is particularly academic. Each SAT Subject exam is 1 hour long and is multiple choice.

SAT Pro's

  • They are much cheaper than GCSE's or A-levels. The cost of the SAT General Reasoning test is roughly $80 and for each SAT Subject test around $22
  • You can take the SAT exam as many times as you want. Only the most recent 6 scores are kept on your College Board account and you can choose which score to send to your university
  • You don't have to worry about exam technique as you would with GCSE's or A-Levels. All the tests are multiple-choice. Note: this is not the easy option as you will spend about the same amount of time on your chosen courses throughout high school as you would on your GCSE and A-Level courses.
  • There's no waiting all summer for your results! You can expect to have your SAT score back in 2 weeks and for your SAT Subjects 4 to 6 weeks.
  • It's one test, on a Saturday. No drawn-out testing period of weeks on end that puts immense pressure and stress on students.
  • There are numerous test dates throughout the year so there will always be a date that is convenient for you.

SAT Con's

  • You may have to travel a little distance to your nearest exam centre.
  • You could have a different exam centre for SAT Subject tests than for your SAT test. Not all test centres offer sittings for every single test date.

How Do You Prepare For the SAT?

We have used Khan Academy to prepare for the SAT exam and VasityTutor for the SAT Subjects. You can purchase revision books off Amazon if you wish.

So, Are You Keen To Find Out More?

This is the first in a continuing series of posts on taking the SAT in the UK. I will be looking at related topics such as setting out your 4-year high school plan, transcripts, how to calculate your students GPA, how to record credits, dealing with the universities admission teams, curriculum, college preparedness and much more. If you have any questions please do leave them in the comments and I will try to answer them in a Q & A post or they will be answered in a future post.

Please do consider subscribing to my blog if you are wanting to find our more about the American SAT for British home educators.

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