At a certain point and with certain teens, we need to bring outside expertise into our homeschools. Miss 17, for whom reading and writing are almost as important as breathing and eating, needed a higher level of English than I could teach, so last fall we enrolled in Alexandra McGee’s online AP English Language and Composition course.
It was one of the best homeschooling decisions we ever made.
Although Miss 17 had written several novels, has many up-votes on her comments to national news sites, and reads extensively, she needed to improve both her writing and her reading. She needed to organize her thoughts more logically and present them more clearly, and she needed to understand how other writers and speakers did this to accomplish their goals. The AP English Language and Composition course taught her these things.
Over the past year Miss 17 studied rhetorical analysis, fiction and philosophy, the argument essay, the synthesis essay, research papers, style, meaning, logical structure, idea development, and persuasion. There were lessons, assigned readings and videos, online discussions with other students, analyses of other students’ writing, and discussions with the teacher. She read, wrote, and struggled with ideas and words. It was a very intense course and she learned an enormous amount. (More course details available here.)
Although Miss 17 was a good writer before this course, she can now express her ideas much more clearly because she has practiced organizing her thoughts which, of course, clarifies them. She has learned more about in-depth analysis of non-fiction writing, videos, and media reports. She is now more equipped to take her place in the world as an adult, engaging the important ideas of our time, and I pray God will bless her unique abilities.
In my earlier review I listed a few reasons why I think the AP English Language and Composition course, which is a university-level course, is a better option than dual credit enrollment at a secular institution. The main one is this:
Alexandra McGee is a Christian. She uses her teaching talents to equip students to understand challenging material and to communicate effectively in an environment where Christianity is respected, whereas at most universities the Christian worldview is either mocked or ignored. A Christian teacher can model wisdom in dealing with difficult subject matter so that our teens can focus on learning to read and write at an advanced level instead of floundering while trying to both learn and deal with anti-Christian instruction.
Because it truly is the teacher who makes or breaks a course like this, I will include one more paragraph from my earlier review.
Alexandra McGee has several degrees and many years of experience teaching, both as a homeschool mom in a foreign country and as a formal teacher in homeschool coops, various traditional schools, and online. She loves to explore ideas in theology and philosophy, and as such is an ideal teacher for this course. She focuses on teaching the students rather than just getting through the material, and adjusts the course to the students’ interests. As this is an AP course, it is important to know that Alexandra’s course has been accredited by the College Board and that she has been specifically trained to design and teach it. You can read more about Alexandra here, and learn about her philosophy of teaching here.
Due to a serious illness in the family, Miss 17 was unable to complete the entire course as planned. Alexandra was compassionate and flexible, maximizing the learning while being accommodating. She also prayed, and that brings me back to my main reason for recommending her course. When you engage an outside teacher for your homeschooled teens, you really, really want to find a qualified and skilled person who loves the Lord and who will support your teen’s faith while discussing material that will challenge it.
Although AP English Language and Composition is an expensive course, it should be seen as an investment rather than an expense. Learning to think, read, and write well provides life-long benefits and can also result in scholarships that far outweigh the price of this course. Also note that the price tag for this course is significantly cheaper than the college/university tuition for a comparable one. If your teens write the AP exam after this course and do well (and that should easily be possible), they will be given credit for a first year English course in their post-secondary studies.
My daughter’s writing improved significantly in time for the SAT, and her excellent SAT results contributed to a significant scholarship. Of course many other factors were involved, but her SAT score and the fact that she was taking AP English certainly helped.
If your teens are thinkers, readers, or writers—or all three—and you are no longer able to challenge them or teach them with authority, you need an outside English course. We recommend AP English Language and Composition with Alexandra McGee. As discussed above, it is so much better for them to take such a course at home from a Christian teacher than at a secular institution. However, I know that making decisions about the last year of homeschooling can be very difficult, and that the tuition is expensive. May God bless your family’s homeschooling decisions.
For application information, FAQs, course outline, reading list, sample assignment, and tuition, please see Pennsylvania Homeschoolers AP Online Classes.
Disclosure: We were given free access to this course in order to be able to review it. Now that I’ve seen how it benefitted Miss 17, I would gladly have paid for it myself; it is truly a worthwhile investment for an advanced student.