Should Your Child Take AP Courses in High School?

I should have probably written this last spring before all of Joey’s friends started signing up for their freshman classes but hey, better late than never. I’m not an expert in scheduling or a guidance counselor but I do have two step-sons in college (Josh and Joel), a high school senior (Andi) and a high school freshman. I have been through the college application and financial aid process with Joel, high school scheduling/AP classes/GPA process with Andi and now it’s Joey’s turn.

With school starting tomorrow, many kids are posting their schedules and asking who has classes with them. Joey is still in Germany ( a post to come soon) but I am discovering that very few kids are in the same classes as Joey. Why might that be?  It is because Joey is not taking early bird or AP classes.

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Our high school pushes taking both of those things. AP classes are college level courses that students can take in high school. They do cost extra, but less than what it costs in college. However, you have to get a certain score on the final exam to get the college credit and not all colleges accept those credits. Early bird students take an additional course at 7 a.m., instead of starting their day at 8. That means we have 14-year-old kids taking seven classes and college courses. Neither of my children are morning people so early bird wasn’t even an option in my house. However, taking AP courses was.

Andi had always been a strong student with a good GPA. She was placed in higher level courses and chose to take the AP level classes that were offered. It didn’t go quite as planned her sophomore year. She suddenly found herself struggling in English and history (both AP courses), which had never been an issue before. She wasn’t the only one. Several of her classmates received much lower grades than they were used to and didn’t receive college credit. We were convinced that this was because 10th grade is a difficult year, they hadn’t taken so many AP courses before, etc. So we decided to continue with the AP track her junior year. And found ourselves, like many others, in the same situation. Halfway through her junior year I had wished that we had done things differently.

Some will tell you that colleges want to see that you took AP classes before considering scholarships or admission. This is true to an extent. Competitive colleges (Yale, Harvard, Stanford, etc) want to see that you took these courses and did well. But I will tell you that Joel was accepted to every college he applied for – University of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University, Morehead and the University of Louisville – and none of them cared that he didn’t take AP classes or early bird. They wanted to know his GPA and ACT score. That is all that really mattered.

Andi’s high school years would have been a lot less stressful if she would have skipped some of the AP courses. Her GPA would be much higher (it’s not bad) if she would have taken more regular-level high school classes. A higher GPA would mean more opportunities for scholarships. And believe me, you want more opportunities for scholarships.

Andi is going to take AP Spanish her senior year because she plans to minor in Spanish and having the basic level course out of the way will be helpful. But other than that, she is taking regular classes. She will take regular English, math, science, art and computer tech. She will enjoy her senior year and hopefully boost her GPA a little. But I’ll tell you a secret… Colleges are really looking at your GPA as of your junior year because you will apply in the fall of your senior year.

So we decided to take a different approach with Joey. He can take AP classes if he wants but we won’t push it. I would much rather him take classes that challenge him and allow him to focus on a higher GPA than take classes that are going to cause extra stress and might not even transfer to the college he chooses. Since Andi and Joey attend the best school district in the state of Kentucky, even the regular courses are challenging. He is taking PE/Health, Principles of Engineering, Spanish 2, English 1, Alegebra 1 and Intro to Physics. There are no AP classes or early bird on that list but I don’t expect him to be bored.

goofballs

Joel, Andi & Joey – They are all goofballs but unique in their own way

We all want our kids to succeed but we have to remember that they are 14 to 18 years old. They will be stressed in college as many of them figure out how to pay for undergrad, work at least a part-time job and go to school full-time. Expecting every student to suceed in college courses at the age of 14 is unrealistic. Pushing seven classes on them in addition to school plays, sports teams, homework, circus (my son works with Circus Mojo), part-time jobs and a well-rounded social life is also unrealistic for many.

I know it’s hard to say no to AP and extra courses when the school administrators are pushing so hard to do it all but I suggest that you and your child make the best decision for your student. What’s best for one of your children, might not be best for your other children. I do send big kudos to all the kids who succeed in early bird and AP courses, just remember, it’s not for everyone.

 

 

Letting Our Babies Grow Up

I started this blog years ago as a single mother of two tweens, hence the name raising2tweens. My daughter Andi turned 17 last month and will enter her senior year this fall. My son Joey is 14, going to Germany without his parents for three weeks this summer and will start his freshman year in August. Totally cliche but wow, where did the time go?!?!

These two photos represent how I still see my little girl.

But this is what everyone else sees.

 

Andi is in ACT boot camp this week and will take the test on Saturday. We are doing a college visit Friday. Actually, a lot of this summer will be spent visiting colleges, thinking and talking about her future and applying for scholarships and college.

We will also spend a lot of time trying to let her be more independent. She’s 17. Although she will probably go to a local college, we have to teach her to be responsible for herself, how to pay bills, to do homework without being told, to go to class when it’s technically an option and just take care of herself. This is hard as a parent. It’s hard to let her drive or go out with her friends and not worry. My husband Nick and I want to implement so many restrictions and rules but we have to remember that we really only have one year left to teach her to be a responsible adult. This is the year we need to let her try and fail and try and succeed. It’s this year because we will be there to catch her when she falls and help her get on the right track again. We can’t be helicopter parents this year and then just expect her to do it all on her own next year. So here we go…

Teaching her to be responsible for herself doesn’t mean there are no rules. Let’s face it, there are rules and expectations in life whether you are 5, 12, 17, 35 or 90. It’s going to be all about balance.

Andi already has a job and a car she paid for but I’ve always managed her finances. This year we will change that. She will have to learn to budget her money, save and pay her share of the car insurance. I will also have her do her own taxes for 2016 with little guidance from me.

She will still have a curfew but I have to trust her enough to make it a little later and allow her to be responsible for her actions. She still has to tell us where she is going, for safety purposes, but again trust is key. Andi has always had migraine issues that are triggered by exhaustion and bad food choices. We have limited activity in the past due to this. It’s time to let her manage this on her which might mean a few extra trips to the migraine clinic but hopefully she will quickly figure out how to care for herself.

This year is the year to teach her basic car and house maintenance. It’s time to make sure she knows how to cut the grass and use a weed eater. It’s even time to teach her how to get a spider, stink bug or centipede out of her room all on our her own room without screaming like a nut.

Letting go is really difficult but like I said, now is the time to let our almost adult fall so we are there to pick her back up. If we wait until she is on her own, there is no one to dust her off. Now hopefully we’ll have the strength to actually do these things and start to see her the way everyone else does.

andi drives

I’d love to hear how the experienced parents “let go.”

 

Our First College Visit

With our daughter finishing her junior year, it’s time to look into colleges. Although Andi doesn’t plan to attend Illinois State University, we scheduled our first visit for ISU in Normal, Illinois. We chose this because our 14-year-old son Joey hopes to attend there for its well known business program and the circus, as an extracurricular activity, they offer. We planned the trip around Gamma Phi Circus’ spring show. We also thought visiting a school she didn’t have her heart on would give Andi an idea of what to look for in other colleges.

We weren’t quite sure where to go when we arrived on campus so we asked a student in the parking lot. Instead of just trying to tell us where to go, she walked us to the building even though it was out of her way. That was definitely a great first impression. The visit started with information about the campus, including tuition contest, types of extracurricular activities, are information and other specifics to the University.

andi and joey

The campus was absolutely gorgeous and very active with students playing Frisbee, riding bikes and walking around campus.

It is common for student groups to leave to promote events by writing on the sidewalks in chalk.

circus chalk

After touring the campus, we met with members of Gamma Phi Circus, the oldest collegiate circus program in the United States. This an extracurricular activity but does require students to be committed by training several times a week. Joey currently trains three days a week with Circus Mojo in Ludlow, Ky. so he will be ready for this commitment. GPC starts training the in the fall for its spring show, which we were able to see.

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My kids, along with a couple other kids from Circus Mojo, were able to meet with the performers after. They were incredible nice to the kids, letting them ask tons of questions about the Gamma Phi Circus and college life.

circus 3

I have to say that our first college visit was a success.

Ringling Brothers presents Circus Xtreme

Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey  present Circus Extreme  March 3-6.

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Tickets can be purchased at http://m.ticketmaster.com/US-Bank-Arena-tickets-Cincinnati/venue/180631.

Attending the circus at US Bank Arena has become a family tradition. My 14 year old son is so in love with the circus that he has doing Circus Mojo and someday hopes to be a professional circus performer.

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This is the last year you can see the elephants perform so be sure to buy your tickets today.

 

Running off with the Circus

Joey Holt, a 14-year-old Fort Thomas resident who is an 8th grader at Highlands Middle School, is running off to Germany with the circus this summer. My son Joey really is an extraordinary kid who has defeated a rare disease called Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis. The cancer attacked his hip bone causing him to need a bone graft and making doctors wonder if he would ever walk again. After months in a wheelchair, years of physical and occupational therapy and counseling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, not only can Joey walk, he can perform in a German Wheel and do tricks on a cable wheel.

joey german wheel2

Joey met Paul Miller, owner of Circus Mojo, and some of his team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital while waiting to see doctors in 2010. Joey enjoyed their entertainment so much that he asked me to schedule his appointments for when they would be in the waiting room. They taught him to balance a feather on his hand, spin plates and a little bit of juggling. The next year was quite a battle for Joey. He was in a wheelchair, doing therapy, dealing with nerve pain, in and out of the hospital as an inpatient all while trying to go to school. He was a fighter though.

joy wheelchair

joey walker

joey hospital

The next summer, 2011, I won a week of camp to Circus Mojo from a local blogger. Joey was ready to go learn more tricks but was using a wheelchair and crutches again due to pain. Paul said they would work around it and to send him to camp anyway. Joey was so determined to be able to do the silks, German wheel, cable wheel and everything else the circus had to offer that by the end of the week, Paul was balancing the wheelchair on his chin and Joey balanced the crutches in his hand.

joey balance

Joey fell in love with circus that summer and has been working with Mojo ever since. He trains every Saturday, performs for the public every chance he gets, attends summer camps and practices constantly at home.  His hard work has paid off. Circus Mojo is taking Joey to Germany this summer to train with Circus Pimparello for a few weeks. His trip is estimated to cost approximately $2000. Joey is for hire to perform at parties, teach kids circus tricks, babysit, take care of pets and do other odd jobs. All money earned will go toward his trip.

joey flyer

You can also help give Joey a chance of a life time by sponsoring a portion of his trip with a tax deductible donation. Donations can be made to Circus Mojo’s Foundation, The Social Circus Fund, at https://socialcircus.wordpress.com. Just click on Donate Here. Donations can also be mailed to the Social Circus Foundation, 326 Elm Street, Ludlow, Ky., 41016. PLEASE write in the memo or comments that the donation is for JOEY HOLT’S Germany Trip.  Please contact Gina (gina5620@gmail.com) or Nick Stegner (nstegner68@gmail.com) with questions or to hire Joey.

Note: Learn more about Joey at http://local12.com/news/local/circus-helps-teen-recover-from-rare-disease

Prepare for the Big Bumps in Life

be thankful

I was walking out of select soccer registration on September 27 when I noticed my 16-year-old daughter Andi sent me a text to call her immediately. I was trying to dial as another text came through from my husband Nick telling me the same thing. I immediately felt sick to my stomach. I knew something had to be seriously wrong. In the five seconds it took me to dial, I wondered if something had happened to my pregnant stepdaughter, if a family member had passed or something had happened to one of my stepsons. Both of my bio children were safe at home. Nick answered the phone with a shaky voice. “Joel has been in a car accident in Elizabeth Town and has been air cared to a Louisville Hospital. I’m not sure if he’s okay, I’m not even sure where he is.”

My heart sunk. Joel was 19 at the time and just started his first year at Eastern Kentucky University. I thought he was spending the weekend resting in his dorm so my first thought was they were wrong. They had the wrong kid. But then it sunk in. He was on his way back from visiting his girlfriend at Murray – a five hour drive. I don’t even really remember driving home from soccer registration. I just had to get to my husband.

I quickly packed a few basics and we jumped in the truck with his brother Chris, picked up my step-daughter and started the two hour drive to Louisville. It was a long drive. I remember thinking “don’t throw up, just don’t throw up.”

That night was the beginning of a three month stay in hospitals. I watched my step-son fight for his life and win. Doctors were baffled on how he survived but he did. He is still in recovery but is going to be as good as new. Family support, prayer, friends, amazing health care providers and his determination made him survive.

This wasn’t my first experience with hospitals and praying that a child can overcome the odds. My now 14-year-old son Joey was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis almost four years ago. He had to undergo a bone graft of the hip, spend months in a wheelchair, years in physical therapy and lots of a counseling for PTSD. He is doing amazing now (I have to give partial credit to Circus Mojo in Ludlow, Ky, for that. They have kept Joey physically fit and give him something to look forward to).

joey german

Joey’s diagnose changed me for the better. I became much less of a worrier and my anxiety reduced tremendously. Although this is the opposite of what most people expect, it really was a natural reaction. It took that diagnosis for me to realize that there is no reason to worry over every little thing and life and really the only thing that matters is our health.  That didn’t mean that I didn’t lock myself in the bathroom and cry about Joey’s condition sometimes. Of course I did. This is my son and I wanted him to be okay.

I shed many tears over the last 3-1/2 months worried about my step-son because that is normal. But I have also regained perspective. Life is valuable and it can be taken from you at any moment. It’s important to surround yourself by positive people who build you up and don’t focus on petty bumps in life because the positive people in your life are the ones who will help you get through the big bumps.

 

optimistic

 

DIY: Decorate for Fall on a Budget

I don’t often write about crafting because to be honest, I’m not very crafty. But once in a while, my job requires me to step out of my comfort zone and make a few things. Making fall lanterns for a Fox 19 segment gave me the crafting bug so I made a few things for my house and a friend’s. I chose very simple and inexpensive crafts.

Fall frames

Fall Picture Frames

Fall Picture Frames Supplies:

  • Four picture frames ($4 – Dollar Tree)
  • Card stock or scrapbook paper ($3 – Michael’s)
  • Chipboard letters ($5 – Michael’s)
  • Craft Glue ($3 – any store)

Fall Picture Frame Instructions:

  • Cut the card stock or scrapbook paper to fit your frame
  • Glue the chipboard letters to the paper
  • Frame the paper and letters
Wine Bottle Vase

Wine Bottle Vase

Wine Bottle Vase Supplies:

  • Empty wine bottle (Free)
  • Artificial leaves, berries, acorns, pumpkins ($4 – Dollar Tree)
  • Twine, ribbon or raffia ($1 – Dollar Tree)
  • Optional: Chalk board sticker ($1 – Michael’s)

Wine Bottle Vase Instructions:

  • Place artificial plants in wine bottle
  • Tie twine, ribbon or raffia around plants stem at top of bottle
  • Place sticker on bottle and write Fall, your last name or other word of your choice
Fall Lantern

Fall Lantern

Fall Lantern Supplies:

  • Mason jar, vase or glass bowl ($1 – Dollar Tree)
  • Glue dots or craft glue ($3 – any craft store or Target)
  • Battery operated candles (2 for $1 – Dollar Tree)
  • Bag of artificial leaves ($1 – Dollar Tree)
  • Optional: Twine, raffia or ribbon ($1 – Dollar Tree)

Fall Lantern Instructions:

  • Glue the artificial leaves inside of the jar or vase (Tip: The glue dots make this very simple)
  • Place a battery operated candle inside
  • Tie raffia, twine or a ribbon around the jar
Fall Lantern, Ghost Jar, Candle Platter

Fall Lantern, Ghost Jar, Candle Platter

Candle Platter Supplies:

  • Fall scented pillar candle ($2.50 – Michael’s)
  • Fall colored tealight candles ($5 for box of six – Michael’s)
  • Gold or fall colored tray ($3 – Michael’s)
  • Bag of rocks ($1 – Dollar Tree)

Candle Platter Instructions:

  • Arrange pillar candle, tealight candles and rocks on tray

Ghost Jar Supplies:

  • Mason jar ($1 – Dollar Tree)
  • Ghost Peeps ($2 – Walgreen’s)
  • Candy Corn ($2 – Walgreen’s)
  • Optional: Ribbon ($1 – Dollar Tree)

Ghost Jar Instructions:

  • Fill the jar about 1/4 of the way with Candy Corn
  • Place the Peeps facing out inside the jar
  • Fill the jar the rest of the way with Candy Corn
  • Tie a ribbon around the jar

I was able to make three Fall Lanterns, a Candle Platter, a Ghost Jar, a Wine Bottle Vase and Fall Picture Frames for under $40 since some of the supplies overlapped. I also have extra supplies to make more fun decorations.

What is your favorite fall decoration?

Note: I found most of these ideas online but gave them my own twist.