Scholarshipped to be a Peacemaker?Check out Bryan College’s Martial Arts Academy


Bryan College’s brand-new Martial Arts program offers scholarship potential for future students! David Holcomb, the director of the program is a 5th Dan Isshinryu instructor. The Martial Arts Academy provides an opportunity for incoming students to receive scholarships starting at $2,000 and going up based on the students’ level of ability and need.

Why Martial Arts at college? I’m glad you asked! Students who are age 18 and up are being shaped by their choices, challenges and environment. Joining the academy will test the student as a person. 99% of the time the fighting aspect of a martial arts skill is not what a student will use (but when it is needed the student will be prepared). Part of a students’ training at the academy will include learning to have eye-to-eye conversations while standing firm on their beliefs. Students who are accepted into the academy will receive scholarship funds and, in return, they will be expected to train from between 6 to 11.5 hours each week year around. The students will train towards a black belt. They will take part in a series of tournaments and they will represent the college as a team in the community. Current black belts will be honored and will train towards a second black belt in Isshinryu Karate.

Who can join the academy? Students with zero experience, a little experience, or advanced experience can apply to the program. The 2018 class includes 14 white belts, 1 green belt, 1 orange belt, 1 yellow belt and 3 black belts.

Are there particular majors required that qualify a student to be a part of the academy? No, a student can choose any major and still be a part of the academy, but the Criminal Justice major is a great fit for those who plan to work in law enforcement or who plan to join a organization such as the CIA or FBI.

Many times people get hurt because they protect themselves the wrong way. They often over-react to a threatening situation. With training and experience students can learn how to defend themselves in threatening situations. Part of this training includes understanding the importance of patience and self-control in such situations. Many of the lessons learned in the academy will relate to the students’ faith, their relationships, and their confidence. The students will learn to become peace makers, even when walking into conflict. Even though the training involves punching, hitting, and kicking, the students will learn how to live life together well. Progressing as a Christian while in the academy is very important to Coach Holcomb. Philippians 3:14 is a verse David will often quote:  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Many skills are taught in the academy including learning how to do a basic wrist release! Here is a video teaching that skill. The Bryan College Martial Arts Facebook page includes additional videos you may find interesting!

What is Isshinryu and which type of martial arts experience qualifies a student  for this academy? As mentioned, a student can come into this program without any experience. All of the martial arts are a type of Karate, and a student with any form of experience whether it be Isshinryu, Jiu-Jitsu, or another form can join the academy and continue to advance in the art in which they are experienced.

Current student, Thomas Land, who is in the Martial Arts Academy, says, “Looking back at my life, there are three big decisions that greatly impacted who I am today. One is accepting Jesus as my Savior. Two is taking martial arts and, three is attending Bryan College.”

Below is the emblem David designed for the Bryan College Martial Arts Academy. Bryan College’s motto is “Christ Above All” and the mission statement is “Educating students to become servants of Christ to make a difference in today’s world.” Take a look at the explanation for each component of the emblem.

martial arts Patch_Explained

For more information, check out the Facebook page for the Academy. This page includes updates on events as well as videos to watch. Follow the academy on Instagram. 




Making College Affordable — How Your Students Can Increase Scholarship Awards and Take Advantage of Additional Opportunities

a-l-l-e-f-v-i-n-i-c-i-u-s-468838-unsplashThe largest college scholarship amounts awarded to students are generally academic scholarships. In light of the that, having your students do whatever they can to increase their academic scholarship is a worthy goal. In addition to college scholarships, there are often additional grants, programs and events that come with funds for college. Below are a few suggestions to consider in order to make college affordable.

Convincing your students to be intentional about test prep is not as easy as it sounds. Studying beforehand and being rested and refreshed the morning of the test is very important. Earning top scholarship dollars for college while in high school, however, will enable students to attend the college of their choice, graduating with little to no student debt. Unfortunately many high school students want to enjoy the high school experience without being bothered  with thinking about (much less preparing for) college. As nice as that may sound (to the student), the reality is that the students who plan and prepare during high school are the ones who can afford their college of choice, making the college experience more affordable and enjoyable.

Most colleges grant academic scholarships based on the highest test score earned prior to a student being enrolled at the college. Even if the last test taken was a lower score than a previous test, colleges will usually award the scholarship based on the highest score andrew-neel-308138-unsplashearned. (You will see the words “generally,” “usually,” and “often” because this information may vary with each college.)

Some colleges super score college exams which means they will take the highest score earned in each section across numerous test dates. This is beneficial to students who take these tests multiple times, but not all colleges super score and those that do may only super score one of the college exams and not the others. Hopefully, if your students are looking for scholarships then they have also narrowed their top college choices. Find out which exams, if any, the college super scores because it might be to your students’ advantage to take that particular exam multiple times.

If you are not aware, there is now a third college exam in addition to the ACT and the SAT that is accepted by more than 140 colleges. Most of the colleges accepting this test CLT logofor admission, as well as for scholarship awards, are Christian colleges, but not all. This exam is the CLT (Classic Learning Test). For more about testing, check out this article.

The best way to prepare your students to earn academic scholarships is to provide opportunities for the students to test at an early age. The PSAT can be taken years before the junior year (which is the year this test determines National Merit Scholars). CLT has a CLT8 and a CLT10 that students can take for free, from home. The CLT10 comes with scholarship potential as well. Students can take multiple practice tests for free on-line or on paper (via books that give test prep information while providing practice tests).  Once students reach the 11th grade they should take at least 2 of the college exams (and taking all 3 may offer even more advantage). Some students prefer one test over the others, earning higher scores as a result. Encourage your students to take each exam at least one time in order to find their best option.

Spending money on test prep materials often brings a great ROI (return on investment). 36 University is an affordable on-line prep for the ACT. The cost is $15 but when registering, if the code “bryan” is used then the student saves $3 per month. There is no contract or number of months required for enrollment. Another prep many students userawpixel-761474-unsplash is College Prep Genius. The founder of College Prep Genius, Jean Burk, has children who threw away bags filled with full scholarship offers. She is a great resource and often speaks at educational (and homeschool) conventions. Regardless of which college exam the student decides to take multiple times, prepping for any of these tests will more than likely increase scores on any of the exams. In other words, prepping for the ACT may very well enable the student do better on the SAT and the CLT. This article will provide more information on scholarships, including links to independent scholarship opportunities. And this article includes a list of independent scholarships. Word of advice, if you apply for outside scholarships then set up a new and separate email address because you will be bombarded with emails.

Another way to increase scholarship awards is to attend scholarship events when offered. Not all colleges sponsor these events, but when they do it is well worth finding out the criteria for qualification, deadlines, expectations, and all applicable details. Bryan College hosts a scholarship event each semester for seniors who have been accepted to Bryan who have scored a minimum ACT 21 (or comparable SAT or CLT). The event is free and each student who attends will receive anywhere from $500 (minimum) to a full ride. Opportunities such as these are ones your students will not want to miss.

Qualifying for scholarships that stack will increase award amounts as well. Find out which scholarships are offered by the colleges your students are considering so that they can be awarded every scholarship for which they qualify. Be aware that academic and athletic scholarships do not stack at all colleges. If a student accepts an athletic scholarship and then gets injured, he/she might lose the scholarship. On the other hand, if an athlete chooses the academic scholarship over the athletic scholarship and he/she does not maintain the required GPA then that scholarship will be lost. If you decide to attend a college where scholarships do not stack, start talking with your students regarding their priorities in college.  A thoughtful decision on priorities will help determine which scholarship opportunities to take.

Another way for your students to earn additional college funds is to make sure they qualify for state funding opportunities if they plan to attend college in their state of residence. Students in Tennessee have the ability to qualify for multiple state grants, but in order to do that they must be aware of the requirements for each grant in time to qualify. Homeschooled students often have additional requirements than students enrolled in pubic or private schools so if you homeschool your students, be sure you are aware of the qualifications.

Make sure you fill out the FAFSA in October of the student’s senior year. Many times fafsascholarship money is first come, first serve so being in the pool as soon as possible is a definite advantage. If your student is a senior and you have not done this, do it soon!

Many colleges also have work study programs, providing work for students with financial need so that they can earn money working on campus each semester. Also, after the completion of the freshman year, colleges often offer scholarships for ambassadors, resident assistants, and additional positions not open to freshmen. In addition to these programs there may be opportunities to join leadership programs or academies that come with scholarship potential. Your students should spend time looking at the opportunities of each college they are interested attending. Having discussions with admission counselors and financial aid counselors is advised as well.

Unless your student is already a senior in high school, do not wait until the senior year to begin planning for college. No one likes debt so the sooner you and your students plan and prepare, the better! If your student is a senior, there is still much that can be done to make college affordable. Be sure you find out from the student’s top college choices which programs and events are time sensitive so that you do not miss out on any opportunities for increased funding.

Students are inclined to make a final college choice based on finances. How much will be awarded and how much debt, if any, will be incurred. That decision may be impacted by colleges with additional opportunities that, in turn justifies a higher expense (or more debt). For instance, students who attend Bryan College after high school that graduatebryan graduation 1 with a 3.5 GPA can then earn their masters degree tuition free. That’s a huge advantage and one that will end up saving a student a lot of money. Every college is similar in many ways, but no two are exactly alike so be sure to find out everything you can about the colleges your students are pursuing.

Planning and preparing for college with intention can make the experience much more affordable and stress-free (okay, maybe not stress-free, but less stressful) than you can imagine!





Seniors, If You Are Headed to College, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee!


I love it when teens attend my workshops with their parents so that I can tell them, to their faces, that if they are headed to college they need to be intentional about planning ahead. After homeschooling my nine children I am now the Homeschool Specialist at Bryan College and I cannot tell you how often I see seniors in high school miss out on great opportunities due to being uninformed, lazy or, worse of all, not caring about the consequences of their lack of action. Don’t be that student. Below I will list areas where you need to be informed and proactive.

  1. Take college exams seriously. The highest scholarships offered by most colleges are generally the academic scholarships! Preparing to raise your score is like having a full time job in light of the dollars one can earn with a great score. Don’t be afraid to spend a serious amount of time and money preparing for these exams.
  2. Consider taking all three college exams in order to increase scholarship potential. Find out more about the ACT, SAT and the new CLT here.
  3. Take your GPA seriously. If you are dual enrolling, make sure your grades are as matthew-sleeper-124918-unsplashhigh as possible. Scholarships are tied to the GPA as well as to the college exam score.
  4. Take advantage of opportunities in the community to serve and help others. Whether scholarships you are pursuing require that, or not, it will be a great addition to your portfolio.
  5. Narrow down your top college choices by the senior year. Visit and apply to those colleges. In order to find out what all you qualify for, as well as to find out if there are additional scholarship opportunities available, it is important to be accepted to the colleges you have chosen.
  6. If you have not taken any dual enrollment classes at a college, do so! Not only will you earn college credits affordably, but these classes will help you learn to improve your study habits and manage your time well.
  7. Add classes the senior year that will help prepare you for life. Classes such as personal finance, time management, college writing, and speech and debate!
  8. Research scholarship opportunities and take advantage of as many as possible!

Being intentional and prepared will help you avoid the mistakes made by many homeschooling families. Not only that, depending on how successful you are at earning a great GPA, along with high college exam scores, college can then become affordable!

Bryan College is very homeschool friendly and they have an affordable dual enrollment program, offering out-of-state scholarships to juniors and seniors in high school. Bryan dmytro-ostapenko-59494-unsplashalso offers a tuition-free Master’s degree to students who come to Bryan after high school and graduate with a 3.5 GPA. And, of importance to seniors, Bryan College hosts two scholarship events per year (one each semester) for qualified seniors who have been accepted to Bryan, allowing them to earn an additional $500 to a full ride for attending and participating.

Download this free e resource to help you plan the high school years! If you would like to receive more information on Bryan College, either via email or snail mail, send a request to:




Do Not Repeat My Mistake (The importance of speech and debate.)

debate2After homeschooling my nine kiddos for 32+ years, one of my regrets is not getting involved with a speech and debate club until my 5th child was in high school. We homeschooled co-op style, using unit studies, and we required our children to give presentations weekly and, as a consequence, my children developed public speaking skills. My oldest daughter even won a state-wide speech contest in high school and received a $1,500 scholarship. But debate? We didn’t include debate until a Christian, homeschool speech and debate conference came to our town and I attended a session on the importance of teaching debate skills.

Prior to this, several of my friends had traveled out-of-town to attend one of these conferences and, upon their return, they would say, “Pat, you need to get to one of these conferences.” I should have listened to them. But I didn’t. Finally, the conference came to our town and I signed up to attend along with the oldest child at home at that time. To say that I was blown away would be an under-statement. When I attended the workshop for parents I quickly became convinced that this was something we had to add to our children’s educational experience. I found out the students would learn how to:

  • Debate both sides of certain issues                          stoa champions
  • Research reliable information in order to defend a position
  • Spot false logic (and not use it),
  • Follow the “flow” of the debate
  • Be comfortable wearing business attire
  • Be respectful, humble, and kind
  • Be students with integrity

That’s a short list. Students gain so much more during their involvement with speech and debate. What they learn about current events, history, politics, government, the world around them, and more cannot compare to textbook learning. The ability to begin, carry and hold conversations regarding important issues is a huge benefit (and a skill not often seen honed by teens).

There are several Christian homeschool debate leagues and clubs. Some homeschoolers choose which league to compete with yearly depending on the speech opportunities and the debate resolutions (those change each year to a certain extent). Other students choose a league (and a club) and stick with it throughout high school. And, there are students who compete in multiple leagues. The top homeschool leagues are STOA, the NCFCA, and ICCI.

During the fall teams study, prepare, practice and attend practice tournaments. In the winter they begin seriously competing at events. By the spring the top notch students have qualified for nationals and then in late spring, or early summer, they compete at a national event.

debate1If you have never been involved in speech and debate then I would highly recommend you either visit a club or volunteer to be a community judge at a tournament (or both)! If you live in an area where there are no clubs near by, it may be worth traveling to find out more so that you can start your own club. Becoming a part of a speech and debate club became a non-negotiable parental mandate in our home. As mentioned above, I did not not require my children compete unless they wanted to, but if had to do it over, I would probably make competition a requirement, at least for one year. (And, from what I hear, most students who compete, rarely discontinue competing.)

Look up the speech and debate leagues mentioned above and check to see if there is a club close to you. Consider traveling out of town, if necessary, to be a community judge at a competition. If that doesn’t convince you to have your students join the speech and debate world, I don’t know what will!











Scholarship Opportunities

scholarshipScholarships are the best way to make college affordable! The largest scholarships are generally the academic scholarships which are determined by GPAs and test scores received from college exams such as the ACT, the SAT and now the CLT. Being awarded multiple scholarships is an opportunity for high school students to make college affordable without the stress of having to take out huge loans or requiring students to work several jobs while in college. Below are links to independent scholarship opportunities as well as articles that are subject appropriate.

Raising Scores to Earn More Money: When students take college exams seriously then raising their scores in order to earn higher scholarship amounts is a goal that can be reached. Take early tests such as the PSAT and the CLT10 because they come with scholarship potential (and, generally, the more times a student takes a test the more relaxed they will be and they will perform better)! There are multiple free tutorials on-line as well as practice tests available. Two programs that many homeschooling families use are 36 University (register with the code word Bryan and save $3 per month, reducing the price from $15 to $12) and College Prep Genius. Many families have found it worthwhile to invest in preparing their students for these tests by hiring private tutors, or by taking part in test prep classes.

There are several types of scholarships, as follows:sharon-mccutcheon-552616-unsplash

  • State
  • Federal
  • College
  • Independent

State Grants:  Before (or when) your students enter high school, research the grants and scholarships offered by the state in which you live and compare them to the scholarships and grants in the state where the college is located that your students may want to attend (if outside of your state of residence). These scholarships are based on test scores, GPA and/or community service. Students will usually only qualify for state money if they have been a resident of that state during the students’ senior year (or for a year prior to attending college). For some, moving to the state where a college is located in order to qualify as in-state residents and to receive state grants is worth relocating! Knowing ahead of time what is offered will give families time to jump through required hoops or to make a move! We moved back from Florida to Tennessee before my 7th child’s senior year so he would qualify for scholarships specific to the county and to the state. (Bryan College offers a large scholarship to local seniors who attend Bryan and when we coupled that with state and federal grants his tuition was covered.)

Federal Grants: Every student (and their parents) should fill out the FAFSA in October of the senior year. The amount of money a student is eligible for is determined by the EFC (expected family contribution). Some money is limited and distributed on a first-come-first-serve basis so filling out the FAFSA as soon as possible is advised.

boy at boardCollege Scholarships: Almost every college offers a variety of scholarships. Some stack and some do not. Research the scholarship possibilities at the top colleges of your choice to find out what your students might be able to receive. At some colleges the academic and athletic scholarships do not stack. A word of advice: If your student can earn an equal amount with an academic scholarship as with an athletic scholarship, take the academic scholarship. Athletes get injured or dropped from the team and there goes the scholarship. At Bryan College the athletic and academic scholarships stack so students do not have to choose between the two. You might be surprised at some of the scholarships offered by colleges. Because Bryan College is a Christian college, they offer scholarships for students whose parents are in full time ministry. In addition there are scholarships for children of alumni, homeschooled students, and more. Bryan also has a full tuition scholarship for students living in Tennessee whose parents make less than $35,000 a year. Bryan College has scholarships related to music, theater, martial arts, the honors program and more! This is another reason to have your top college choices narrowed down, in order to compare apples with apples once you are familiar with the scholarship possibilities from each school.

Work Scholarships: Many businesses will reward high school students with financial aid for college. If a student is going to have a steady job during high school then finding a company that will help with college would be a bonus. In the past I have heard that Chic fil A, Publix and UPS have such programs, but I have not confirmed that information. If you know of businesses that do this, send me a message or comment on this post!

Independent college scholarships: Before you even begin applying for independent scholarships, set up a separate email address. Why? Because you will be bombarded with emails and offers and your contact information will be shared with other organizations. Is it worth applying for independent scholarships? Absolutely! Every little bit helps. Below are links to get started, but be sure to research your area for local scholarship opportunities that might not be offered anywhere else. Ask friends and family members if they are aware of any local businesses that offer scholarships. It may take some time and effort, but the payoff could be huge. And this article includes a list of independent scholarships. Below is a list of additional links as well as some articles to consider. michael-longmire-689531-unsplash

Scholarship Search Guide

State Scholarships 

Home Education Scholarships

Graduating Debt Free

Scholarship Sharing

Tuition Funding Source

Fast Web

Wells Fargo

Additional Outside Scholarships (Scroll down this page to see numerous additional scholarships.)

bc_9x12Added Bonuses: Check with the colleges you are considering to see if they have any  offers unique to their schools. Bryan College offers students the possibility of earning a tuition free Masters Degree if they come to Bryan after high school and graduate with a 3.5 GPA.

By the junior year in high school students should have a few top choice colleges in mind so that they will be aware of scholarship potential, both from the college as well as the state where the college is located (assuming they will reside there during their senior year). It is okay to apply to several colleges so that one can better compare the offers that come from the financial aid departments. Remember to ask about any specific scholarship opportunities available to seniors. Pursing each and every opportunity available could pay off big time. As we tell our children, “Work hard and sling mud because some of it is bound to stick.” Go get ’em!


Eight Mistakes Often Made by Homeschooling Parents of High School Students

Matt and able at graduationPreviously I wrote a blog post on preparing your students for college. Some students are convinced that they are not going to attend college when, in fact, they discover later that college is, in fact, needed for the career they plan to pursue. This is one of many mistakes students make that could easily be avoided. Read on in order to avoid the mistakes made by Christian homeschooling parents and their high school students. This post addresses students who attend a four year college. In general, attending a community college lessens both the preparation needed for admission as well as the need for top scholarship dollars.

Mistake #1: Not preparing for college. It is better to be prepared and not need college then to find out your students do need/want to go to college and they missed out on opportunities and experiences that would have made the transition to college easier and more affordable.

Mistake #2: Waiting until the senior year (or the summer after) to begin choosing a 32104565_1710862605671951_341012414663229440_ocollege. Discovering 2 or 3 colleges of choice should be done before the senior year so that students can take every advantage afforded them as prospective students. It is recommended that they visit the campuses and ask pertinent questions in order to find out what all needs to be completed in order to be accepted at the top colleges of their choice. Yes, I put colleges – plural. It is not unusual to apply to several colleges in order to receive financial aid packages, allowing you to compare apples with apples. Also, it is important to find out which college exams each college accepts, if they want to the writing portion included, if dual enrollment hours will transfer, and/or if the college accepts CLEP or AP credit.

Mistake #3: Not allowing students to be invested. Homeschooling parents are notorious for being over-involved in their students’ lives (been there, done that). I understand, but the more ownership your students take towards their future, the better things will go! On the other hand, if your child is apathetic and you know at some point he will regret that, do what you can to encourage him to be pro-active about his future! I often teach workshops on preparing for college and I encourage parents to bring their teens to the workshops with them. The more teens are aware of the opportunities and experiences available to them, as well as discovering ways to make college affordable, the more invested they become.

Mistake #4: Not being aware of the scholarship potential. For years I had no idea that the PSAT test score is what determines National Merit Scholarships. (Even semi-finalist can scholarshipearn a full ride to Bryan.) This is an affordable test that 9th and 10th graders can take, but the score that counts is the score earned the junior year. There are four different types of scholarships: Federal, State, college and independent. Do your research. The more a student earns in scholarship funds, the better!! A student in Tennessee can earn at least three different grants from the state if qualified! Bryan College has scholarships for homeschoolers, music, theater, Martial Arts, honor students and more! Our athletic and academic scholarships stack (and we had the #1 fishing team in the nation last year). Bryan College hosts two scholarship events each year (one per semester), and each student who attends receives a minimum of $500 in additional scholarship funds up to a full ride. Don’t miss out on scholarship opportunities! There are two highly recommended affordable prep sites that many homeschooling families use for these exams. One is 36 University and the other is College Prep Genius. Also, be sure you fill out the FAFSA in October of your student’s senior year.

Mistake #5: Not taking college exams seriously. For years I did not place an emphasis on these tests because I did not believe that they are accurate indicators of how well a student will do in college. I still maintain that belief, but I now realize that the highest scholarships are often awarded to those who achieve high scores on these exams. As a CLT logoresult, my older children received less scholarship funding than they could have earned had we put more emphasis on excelling on these tests. Once I accepted this fact, I began spending more time preparing our children for these tests. The ACT and SAT have been the two tests available to students for many years, but now there is a third college exam, the CLT, that over 100 Christian colleges and a few secular colleges accept! Here’s a post that shares more on college testing.

Mistake #6: Assuming you can’t afford a private college. Yes, college is expensive. Yes, moneythere are states that offer college tuition-free to students. However, a free education could be quite costly depending on the out-come. One regret I hear often from Christian parents is sending a student to a secular campus. That is not to say that some students won’t do well on a secular campus, because they can excel there as well (three of my nine will graduate from a secular college). As Christians, we want our students where the Lord wants them. Oftentimes, decisions are made simply on financial concerns without even pursuing enrollment at a private college. I understand! If you had told us (as parents of 9 without spare change) that any of our children would attend and graduate from a private college we might have laughed, but that’s exactly what has happened with several of our children and they have graduated (or will graduate) without student debt. The scholarships offered by colleges can be quite large, especially if they have scholarship events (such as the ones Bryan offers) that include additional scholarship awards!!

Mistake #7: Dual enrolling on a secular campus during high school (not for every student, but for some). Many states offer free dual enrollment opportunities to high school students. In many states, for the students to take advantage of this offer they have to attend a secular college (but not always.) In Tennessee there is a dual enrollment grant and students are able to choose the schools they want to attend, including Christian colleges. Dual enrolling can save a lot of money by allowing students to earn college credit while still in high school, but it is not without dangers. Here’s a post that talks more about this issue. If your students’ only option for taking dual enrollment classes is with a secular college, then you may find that on-line classes are preferable to taking classes on campus.

Mistake #8: Not taking advantage of assistance offered by umbrella organizations. Yes, many families are signed up to homeschool independently, but if you use an umbrella organization find out what is offered, particularly for high school students. In addition to providing needed transcripts, there may be additional options worth pursuing. For instance, Home Life Academy charges a $50 fee only for high school seniors and paid only once during high school years. This covers transcripts (up to one year after graduation), diplomas (cover not included), reviews and counseling during the senior year.

Being aware of this information by the time your student begins high school will help you better prepare for your students’  life after high school! Plan ahead so that you will not miss opportunities and later have regrets! If you have not downloaded the free e resource I put together to help plan for the high school years, you can do so at the e book inquiry found on this page.  Research, plan, prepare, and enjoy the high school years without repeating mistakes often made by homeschooling families!

(By the way, that top photo is my son, Matt, holding a nephew at his graduation from Bryan College and in the picture of two girls, the gal on the left is my daughter, Courtney, who recently graduated from nursing school.) 




Preparing for College During High School

Zeke and sterling at gradCongratulations!  You have a student in high school and you are approaching the end of a journey!  You want your students high school years to end well and, in order to do that, you need to be aware of available options.  Even if your student does not plan to go to college, that could change, so it is better to be prepared for college, and not go — rather than to not plan for college and then find your student has changed his mind! Do not wait until the spring semester of the senior year to make post-high school plans (especially if your student will attend college). Waiting too long can cause stress, failed plans, and a loss of scholarship offers.

Step one in planning for the high school years is to choose which subjects are needed to prepare your student best for life after high school.  An article that discusses many options along with advice on how to choose what subjects to include can be found here. The subjects you include will be influenced by what you discover in step two, so keep that in mind as you plan.

Step two is to help your students determine their talents, giftedness, and passion.  Begin 1M0A0342editedhaving your students participate in opportunities that will help them figure out if they, in fact, love a particular interest or, as is often the case, are not as enamored once they gain experience.  For instance, if your child is interested in journalism, find a journalist that they shadow or intern with in order to see firsthand what all is involved with this career.  If your student knows ahead of time (before college) what he wants to do career-wise, it will help you plan the high school years in such a way that they gain experience before heading to college. If your student has no clue, then taking career assessment tests may be helpful. The Career Services director at Bryan recently conducted a workshop on how to help students discover their interests. A summary of his workshop is found here.

Step three is to make plans for additional opportunities during the high school years including, but not limited to, conferences, programs, camps, ministry opportunities, internships, and community service.  I put together a free e resource for planning the high school years and it includes a time line of events that you may want to consider including in your students’  plans.  Feel free to download that resource here. We had our children attend numerous conferences (many were free) as well as debates (so that they would be challenged to think deeply about issues that matter), pregnancy center banquets (to hear the speaker), campaigns, and more. They also began working at summer camps when they were 12.  We made sure our children joined us when we volunteered for community service or ministry related projects.  As a result, our children are very quick to respond to needs without being asked.  Last year, when a hurricane hit Florida, several of our children spent days with the Salvation Army providing meals for the evacuees.  Some programs and camps may seem quite costly, but we found that it was worth sacrificing (or working harder to earn the money required) for certain programs. In several instances I was able to barter services for the required fees (cooked at a camp, taught classes, babysat, etc.). There are numerous opportunities that will advance your child’s interest whether it be music, theater, politics, business, or almost anything else!  Some opportunities will be easier to find image1 (1)than others.  Ask for referrals from your friends.  When my daughter wanted to gain experience as a videographer I asked our homeschool support group for suggestions and my daughter ended up with two internships, both of which provided invaluable experience in her field. To read more about the varied paths my nine children have taken since high school, go here.

dsc_4089Step four involves narrowing down your college choices to 2 or 3 schools.  Look for colleges that have majors that interest your students.  Yes, I know, this may change.  It often does, but start out with current interests.  Personally, it is important to my husband and me that our children attend a college that teaches classes from a biblical worldview when possible.   My youngest son attends Bryan College and I am the Homeschool Specialist there so, of course, I highly recommend Bryan College if we have the major your student needs.  Begin your search by looking on-line and by asking for referrals from friends.  Visit the colleges of choice in person when possible.  Most colleges have specific visit days, but many encourage you to visit at any time that is convenient to you. Visiting while classes are in session is the best time to visit because if your students are allowed to sit in on classes, they will gain a first-hand experience.  If you are going to be in the area of a college of interest at a time when classes are not in session, it is still worth scheduling a visit so that you can tour the campus and talk to admissions and financial aid counselors.  If your student is a senior then check with the colleges of interest to see if they offer special scholarship events for seniors in high school.  Bryan College hosts two scholarship events each year, one per semester.  These are for seniors who have been accepted to Bryan College.  The events are free and are by invitation according to college exam test scores.  Each student attending receives an additional scholarship between $500 and a full ride depending on an interview, auditions, or an essay contest.  You are not limited to how many colleges your student can apply to and, in fact, it makes sense to apply to your top 2 or 3 choices so that you can better compare apples with apples once the financial packages are awarded.  There are times throughout the year when application fees are waived (applying to multiple colleges can get costly) so check with the colleges of interest about this.  Colleges often offer incentives for applying (or depositing) that reward the student with free products such as t-shirts, mugs, etc.  Plan to attend college fairs that are within driving distance to your home.  Do some research to find out about virtual college fairs as they are gaining in popularity.  Ken Ham, with Answers in Genesis, has a free college fair every November and each high school student receives a free ticket to the Creation Museum and a chance to win a $500 scholarship.  The FPEA, in Florida, hosts a homeschool college fair in November.  Many homeschool curriculum fairs include vendors in the exhibit hall who represent colleges.  HEAV has a separate college vending area at their annual conference in Richmond, VA, as does the NCHE conference that takes place in Winston-Salem, NC. One more word of advice, find out if a college you are looking at offers something unique to that college. Students who attend Bryan College after high school and graduate with a 3.5 GPA can then earn their Master’s degree tuition free!

Step five is planning financially for the college years.  College can be quite expensive, butmoney there are multiple scholarships and grants that can be awarded or earned.  Dual enrolling while in high school is one of the best ways to save money and cut costs.  In some states dual enrollment is totally free, but be careful because dual enrollment is not without dangers.  I wrote about that here. In Tennessee there is a State grant in the amount of $1,200 for DE classes.  At Bryan College we offer an out-of-state scholarship for DE classes which makes a 3 hour credit class cost around $300.  That is an amazing price.  We offer on-line classes 4 times a year.  Bryan College is regionally accredited so our credits often transfer to most colleges.  Taking AP classes and CLEP exams is another way to reduce college expenses because it is a much more affordable way to earn credit.  Be aware, once again, that not every college accepts every CLEP or AP credit.  Once you have narrowed your students’ college choices, then find out their policy regarding transferring credits whether from another college or from CLEP or AP. Academic scholarships are often the highest scholarships awarded and most of the time the amount is determined by the scores earned on a college entrance exam. At some colleges the academic and athletic scholarships stack. If you have a student who is an athlete, planning to attend a college where the athletic and academic scholarships do not stack, if he can receive an equal amount for an academic scholarship, always go with the academic scholarship over the athletic scholarship because athletes can lose a scholarship due to injury or non-renewal based on performance. In addition to making college affordable by taking dual enrollment classes, CLEP and AP tests, and earning scholarships, most colleges offer opportunities on campus such as work study programs and becoming a residential assistant.

Step Six: Going hand-in-hand with Step 5 is this — prepare for the tests. Although I am not a fan of using college exam scores as an indicator of how well a student will do in college, the truth is that most colleges award the highest scholarships according to scores earned. In years past the ACT and the SAT were the primary tests taken by the majority CLT logoof students. Now there is a third option, the CLT! Read here to find out more about college testing. Students should seriously prepare for these exams because the higher the scholarship the less out-of-pocket money required! A word of caution if your student plans to apply for independent scholarships — set up a dedicated email account for scholarship entries or your personal email will be bombarded with solicitations.

Being prepared for life after high school is not that difficult if you have a plan in place to take advantage of opportunities available to your students.

Feel free to contact me at if you have questions or if you are interested in receiving a description of workshops I offer.



ADA Accommodations in College

ada signBecause I often have parents asking me about accommodations for students with disabilities in college, I organized a workshop led by Bryan College’s Academic Success Center Director and ADA Coordinator, Kristi Strode. What I discovered while attending the workshop is that accommodations are regulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990/Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – Section 504. There are also other laws that come into play when serving students with disabilities:  the Fair Housing Act regarding campus housing needs and FERPA regarding the extremely important issue of confidentiality

The governing statutes provide many mandates for colleges; however, in many instances, the law is ambiguous and open to interpretation. Each college must interpret and incorporate procedures for assisting students with diagnosed disabilities, and Bryan College strives to not only meet the law’s requirements but to also provide services in an excellent fashion.  We purpose to serve all students with integrity and compassion in order that those students may have tools to succeed in their academics so they may become servants of Christ in the world, per Bryan College’s mission statement.

When students with disabilities come to college and seek services through the college’s ADA Services department, they can expect to receive reasonable accommodations in classes.  While changing class requirements is never considered a reasonable accommodation, there are other ways of providing students with tools to succeed (accommodations) that will help.  The traditional and typical accommodations for students with disabilities are as follows:

  1. Extended testing time
  2. Quiet testing area
  3. Tests read aloud
  4. Audio text books (when available)

worryIf students are not satisfied with the services they receive through Bryan College’s ADA Services, there is a grievance procedure in place. On our campus, an ADA Compliance Committee is charged with weighing any grievances that come forward.  Kristi has also developed a manual for compliance with the ADA mandates.

At Bryan College, there are an average of 25 students at any time who have diagnosed disabilities and are receiving services. For a student to receive accommodations, the diagnosis must be official, coming from a professional qualified to evaluate the disability. The student’s disability needs to have been diagnosed within the past two to three years. Disabilities may include (but not be limited to): anxiety, depression, ADHD, dyslexia, behavioral health issues and PTSD.

The paperwork required to receive services is as follows:

  1. The application for services
  2. An ADA Informed Consent Document
  3. Applicable releases of information for faculty, staff, and family members
  4. A letter from a diagnosing professional

The letter of diagnosis should:

  1. Be explained on letterhead stationary
  2. Be signed by the professional making the diagnosis
  3. Include the diagnosis
  4. Explain the current treatment as well as on-going treatment necessary
  5. Include recommendations for classroom treatment
  6. Be dated with a date that is within two or three years of the student entering college

Kristi StrodeOnce a student on campus has met with Kristi and figured out a plan for accommodations, then that student must present the needed accommodations through what is known as a Syllabus Addendum to their professors. Kristi promotes self-advocacy, but she will work with both the students and professors.

Also, Kristi can provide a potential listing of professionals who are able to test and diagnose disabilities for $75. Her contact information is as follows:  423-580-2284 (cell) 423-775-7173 Bryan) (email)



College, yes or no? If college, what major?

student on sidewalkNot every child will attend college. Helping your child plan for life after high school should, however, include discussing whether college is the route to take, or not. If college is on your child’s radar, but he/she does not have a clue of what major to choose, that is not uncommon.

College comes with a cost and students often graduate with college debt. (I will address avoiding college debt in another blog.) In order to make a wise decision regarding whether your student needs to go to college, or not, there are many areas to discuss.

  1. Students typically graduate with an average of right around $40,000 in debt. In 2016 Bryan College was ranked #2 of the top 50 private colleges with the least amount of debt. The average debt of graduates at Bryan that year was around $11,000. What will it cost your child to graduate college?
  2. There is an opportunity cost to consider for students heading to college. Four years of full time wages will be lost. In light of that, consider what your child will be doing for the rest of his/her life. Will the time and expense of college be recouped? Is college necessary for your student’s future plans? Some career choices require degrees (teachers, attorneys, doctors, nurses, etc.) while other careers do not (videographer/photographer, mechanic, etc.). However, even if your children’s career choice does not require college, if they plan to be employees than oftentimes a degree brings a higher salary and an increased chance at promotions. And, if your students plan to be self-employed then gaining the connections and skills college affords may be worth the time and cost in the long run.
  3. If your student’s talent, passions, and skill enable him/her to begin working after high school at a job that will provide for the family with the possibility of moving up the ladder without a college degree, then college may not be necessary.
  4. Sometimes children have no idea what they want to do for the rest of their lives, so college may help them make a decision. And, as is the case with one of my sons, he went to college so he could continue to play baseball. The degree was a bonus. Beginning college makes sense especially when scholarships and grants cover most of the expenses.

moneyAs Christians, the decision to attend college should never be based strictly on financial concerns. Jesus certainly cares about your money and how you spend it, but if your child is doing what the Lord wants him/her to do then He can provide financially for your student’s future. If you had asked me, before our oldest daughter came to Bryan College in 1998, if we could afford it (having 8 other children at home), I would have said, “No way. Not without a miracle,” yet between the scholarships and grants we were able to afford her tuition!

At Bryan College we live out our mission statement, “Educating students to become servants of Christ to make a difference in today’s world.” Our main mission is the kingdom of God. Our motto is, “Christ above all.” For a Christian heading to college, families should be asking, “Will college do the most for equipping my student for the kingdom of God?” If the answer is no, then taking a gap year or finding alternative programs (or jobs) may be something to pursue. If yes, then be careful that you do not force your child to choose a major simply because the end result is a high paying job. The world measures success, oftentimes, in terms of dollars earned, but that is not how the Scriptures define success (Joshua 1:8).

Of those heading to college, it is not unusual for a student to enter college without a definite major in mind. Bryan College is a Liberal Arts college so beginning with basics usually prepares most students well for any major. There are a few majors that may require intentional planning beginning with the Freshman year such as biology, engineering, music, and education. However, students may be able to choose those majors and still graduate “on time” depending on how many credits they need for the major they choose. Students who change majors after their Freshman year may find that they have to attend an additional semester (or two) in order to graduate. If this is the case, then taking summer classes may be a way to get caught up while saving money!

As a parent, there are ways to help your child choose a major:

  • Help them think through their interest and goals by allowing
    them to talk.
  • Have them take several personality tests/vocation tests to see
    if any patterns stand out.
  • Take advantage of visit events and encourage your son or
    daughter to meet professors and sit in classes.
  • Consider apprenticeships or internships (or job shadowing).

If they begin college without an intended major in mind, do not stress. Encourage them to take general education courses and keep a big picture perspective. If you are a believer, you can trust God to help direct your student’s path. Luke gave also gave this advice, “Expose your students to godly people who are serious about the Kingdom of God in order to help them with their choices.”  He also said, “The sovereignty of God is real so do not forget your theology as you consider the cost of college or as you consider you son or daughter’s indecisiveness. Your children are not powerful enough to mess up God’s plan for their life. So by all means, plan, but don’t forget that God is in control.”

courtney nursing groupOf my nine children, 4 of our 5 sons will graduate college (and the fifth is doing quite well as a builder and knife maker).  Of my 4 girls only 1 will graduate college as she is pursuing a nursing career. The other 3 daughters are wives and mothers who either homeschool their children, work from home, and/or work alongside their husbands. One daughter attended Bryan one year and then she met her husband. Another daughter attended a women’s discipleship program in Texas where she met her husband. The third daughter worked at a ministry one summer where she met her husband.

We want our students to be where the Lord wants them to be, whether that is in college, pursuing a career, training for a vocation, being a wife and mother (or husband and dad) or being involved in full time ministry. As you navigate these years, pray for wisdom and guidance as the Lord directs your child’s steps to a future that will bring glory to Him, and the Kingdom of God will be advanced.



Nine Children, Nine Different Paths

This post is written in response to those who have asked me to share more about my nine children and their experiences. It is easy to present an unblemished presentation of our family on social media. And, to be honest, I would rather not air our family’s challenges and failures for all to see unless others can learn from what we share or be encouraged by realizing we aren’t all perfect! This article will share experiences that include college, military, discipleship programs, entrepreneurship, rebellion, divorce, and more. Below is the good, the bad and ugly.

all the kiddosHaving nine children is challenging when it comes to figuring out how best to help each individual child pursue the path they should take.  We made a few mistakes.  One of these mistakes was to push our dreams upon our children, hoping they would live out the life we wanted for ourselves, but had not achieved.  At first we weren’t aware we were doing this and, unfortunately, our oldest suffered from this.  We did prayerfully consider options and choices, but who knows if our hearts were always pure and our motives were right?  It ain’t easy being a parent.  We were also more legalistic with our older children (although we were not as legalistic as some), yet I think we found a balance (eventually) between guiding our children versus giving them total freedom in all things or micro-managing their lives. Letting that leash out a little-at-a-time, until the child is able to handle his/her independence is the goal. That looks different for each child.

Here is a brief summary of each child, followed by a more detailed description of their journey.

#1 One year of college, marriage, missionary in Brasil, returned to TN, full time mother of 3 (whom she homeschools), working on a patent and marketing plan for a product.

#2 Spent two summers with Keynote ministry (performing in a band), one year in a women’s discipleship program, marriage, full time mother of 4 (whom she homeschools)

#3 Left home at 18 without our blessing.  Had a few rough years making poor choices.  Has received numerous certifications, but no college classes.  Self-employed in construction and makes knives from scratch. Hard worker, responsible husband and father. Married with 2 boys.

#4 Joined the army right after high school.   Has been an entrepreneur since age 14.  Finished his degree at FSU.  Is a real estate agent who sells, flips, and rents properties.  Co-owns an Engineering firm.  Married and is a father of 3 who are homeschooled.

#5 Attended two gap year programs, Impact 360 and Summit semester.  He’s still working on his degree as a husband and father of 2.  He taught worldview classes while still in highschool.  He took part in numerous opportunities while in high school (he’s the first child we did not allow to have a steady job in high school).  He staffed at three camps:  Camp Charis, Worldview Academy, and Summit.  He’s a natural speaker and a gifted teacher.  He works full time in Colorado Springs while taking classes.

#6 Took part in two video internships after high school.  Staffed at Summit in Colorado where she met her husband.  Married with one 2 year old daughter.  She and her husband are full time videographers.  They were voted “Best Videographers” in Colorado Springs in 2016.

#7 Attends Bryan College, mostly because he loves to play baseball and college allowed him to continue playing.  He will graduate this year with a degree in Communications.  He will, more-than-likely, get a job coaching baseball or he will work for one of his brothers.  He is quite skilled in lawn maintenance, and is a skilled helper in all things construction.

#8 Spent her senior year at a public school (taking 3 math classes and maintaining a 4.0 GPA) and is in nursing school in Florida. She wants to travel after graduating and, at this time, wants to live on a houseboat somewhere.

#9 He attends Bryan College and wants to double major.  He loves learning and he’s a gifted teacher.  Who knows where he will end up.  He also is quite skilled in lawn maintenance and is a jack-of-all trades in construction.  He  is a blessing to have around when he’s home because he is willing and able to take on my many projects.  He wants to develop multiple streams of income so he can be free to do whatever or go wherever he wants.

Now for the details, for those who want to know more.  I will start with the oldest and go down the list.

Information on the first born will be the longest post since, as the oldest, this one was our guinea pig (poor thing).   Our first child was born after seven years of marriage.  We desperately wanted a large family and for a while it looked like it would never happen.  By the time our13178631_10154635690926729_3339336927125588423_n daughter was born we were so ready to be parents.  She was the first grandchild on my side of the family and she immediately melted the hearts of aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  She has not just one, but two entire photo albums (don’t even has about the 9th child and his photos).  We were determined she would be the brightest and she cooperated with our plans by memorizing over 50 Bible verses by the time she was 4 years old.  As a child, I always wanted to take gymnastic classes, but was not allowed.  So what did we do? We enrolled our daughter in gymnastics at a very young age.  At age five a coach saw that she could do a press  and suggested she join a competitive team.  For years gymnastics was a part of her life.  She went to many practices each week and to many competitions over the years.

She loved the Lord and she would line up her stuffed animals and preach to them.  She was active, fun, and obedient.  She was a joy to raise.  What I didn’t learn about my daughter until years later was that she and I are quite different in our make-up.  She’s a perceiver and I am obtuse.  She sees life as black or white, with little gray.  Because of this she demanded perfection of herself and never felt adequate.  It wasn’t until I had her take the test in the book Discovering Your Children’s Gifts that I realized what made her so different than myself.  All of my friends loved this child and would have been thrilled to have her marry their sons.  She had a rather small number of close friends and that was due to the fact that she was as demanding of her friends to be righteous as she was of herself, and that limited her friendships.  The friends she did have were great friends and they were loyal to each other.  In high school she played volleyball and basketball with teams at a local Christian school that allowed homeschoolers to join their teams.  She played quite well (it was always all or nothing) and she received an invitation from Bryan College and Tennessee Temple (both in TN while we lived in FL) to try out for basketball scholarships.  Don and I were ecstatic.  We had gone to a Bible college and loved our years there, but that college was defunct so we were hoping she would attend a sound Christian college.  We assumed, at this time, that every child should go to college.  Those thoughts changed later.  She tried out for both teams and was offered a scholarship from each school.  By this time, she had heard Jeff Myers speak multiple times (he was a professor at Bryan College at this time) and she had attended Summit at Bryan College. We decided this was the best choice for her.  She was not as convinced.  She wanted to go to Word of Life for a year, but that did not come with a scholarship and we felt that the Lord was directing her path by what we could afford so Bryan was the choice. Looking back I wonder if we limited her choices by our lack of faith.  Who knows?  We were not willing to go into debt so we did not really give Word of Life serious consideration.

1267727_1394949340735801_1889005447_oAnother regret is not preparing her for college tests.  We homeschooled co-op style so until she entered college she had never taken an exam until she took the SAT and then the ACT.  She is a smart child, but we did not prepare her well for those exams and she was embarrassed by her score. I did not put much emphasis on these test because I felt like they are not good indicators of whether a student will succeed in college, or not. Once I finally  realized (it took years) the importance of preparing our students for these tests I made changes accordingly.

We moved our family from Florida to Tennessee so that she could live at home.  This was partly selfish on our part.  Having never lived outside of Florida, coupled with the fact that the cost of living in Dayton was so low that we could live there for about the cost of room and board for our daughter, we decided to live in Tennessee. Moving to the mountains was an exciting adventure. That first year of college was difficult for this daughter for many reasons.  As the oldest, we put a lot of responsibility on her (probably too much).  She was contributing financially to the family in addition to being a full time student and a sister to 8 younger siblings.  I had an emergency hysterectomy that year and she and my next oldest daughter helped me recuperate afterwards while my husband was in Florida working.   She was a great student and she enjoyed her classes.  That year she met her future husband and she exchanged her college degree for her MRS.  After marriage she and her husband joined Wycliffe as missionaries (her husband was raised in Brasil where his parents were missionaries for more than 40 years) and moved to Brasil.  They have since have moved back to Tennessee and they have 3 children whom they are homeschooling this year.  She has had several business over the years and right now she is in the process of patenting and marketing a product idea.  If there were a homeschool graduate who could write a blog entitled, “What My Parents Did Wrong,” it would be our oldest.  But, fortunately, she’s understanding and forgiving.

Our second born is married and lives in Colorado with her husband and their 4 boys 26195550_10214261053614056_402097111182456938_n whom she homeschools.  She, too, was a competitive gymnast and she played basketball and volleyball in high school.  When we moved to Tennessee she lost all opportunities to play sports as a homeschooled student and she was devastated.  She begged us to let her go to high school her senior year.  We began the process, but had our doubts that this was a good decision.  The night before the final paperwork was due my husband and I both realized we should not proceed with this plan.  We were about to drop the news on her when our oldest daughter called her sister and said, “You can’t go to high school this year.  It’s our last year to spend time together before I get married. Don’t do it.”  So, before we had to tell her that we had changed our minds, she informed us she wanted to be homeschooled that year.  This part of the story is a wonderful example of how the Lord works in the lives of our children to direct their paths.

No longer able to play the sports she loved, she picked up her guitar and began writing music.  She wrote beautiful songs and we love hearing her sing.  She found out about Keynote, a ministry with CRU, and traveled with a band performing all over the United States the next two summers.  By this time we were not pushing college like we had with our oldest.  On one of her trips with the band the students were sharing where they were going to college and many shared that their parents insisted they attend college, taking out loans to pay tuition.  When our daughter shared that she wasn’t planning on going to college and that we were supportive of that decision the students were both surprised and a little envious.  We were more than content keeping her at home when she wasn’t traveling with the bands.  She began looking at different programs and options and came across a one year women’s biblical discipleship program in Denton, Texas.  When she shared their information with me I noticed that they only accepted college graduates. Calling the lady in charge, I asked if they would consider allowing our daughter to be a part of the program even though she was not a college graduate and they said they would consider that, but that they wanted to interview her in person.  We were in Florida, this was in Texas.  We looked at her band traveling schedule to see if the band was going anywhere near Denton, Texas.  Not only was the band going to Denton, but they were performing at the church where this program takes place (Denton Bible Church).  She was interviewed and accepted into the program.

Here is another regret we have.  In our zeal to be great parents we decided that rather than letting this daughter live with other women in this program, with total freedom, we would have her live with a Christian family.  We thought she would become like a member of the family and have surrogate parents.  The family was quite nice, and they rented our daughter a room in their home.  Unfortunately, and this is not their fault, our daughter was mostly left to herself so now, outside of the classes and work, she was alone in a room.  This was difficult for her.  Having come from a family with 9 children, she was rarely alone.  Having some alone time is nice, but being alone all the time is not-so-nice.  If we could go back we would have allowed her to live with the other girls in the program.  She met her husband while in Texas and, as mentioned above, they now live in Colorado and homeschool their boys.  She has worked several times at jobs where her children could be with her and she has worked from home as well.  Right now she’s a full-time wife, mother, and chauffeur as 3 of the 4 boys play soccer.  She has also begun writing her own curriculum and I am encouraging her to publish it when she is done so that others can use it.

Our oldest son is strong willed, independent, yet also sensitive and kind.  During high school he worked at a steady job, but he also attended co-op.  One day his work schedule changed and instead of having to work he was available for co-op.  By the way, we eventually quit allowing our high school students to have steady jobs and I wrote about that here.  He informed us he was not going to co-op but was going to hang out with his friends.  We told him that while he was living in our home he would do what we asked.  He had just turned 18 and so he packed up and moved out.  The first night he slept in his car and then he found a bedroom to rent in a trailer with a senior citizen.  The next few years (maybe more than a few) were filled with concern, worry, and anguish.  Our son became friends with less-than-wonderful young men and begin making choices that were not wise.  He got into trouble numerous times and, except for the grace of God, could easily have been killed or sent to prison.  He did spend time in jail and that was quite hard on this mama. During these rough years we loved him unconditionally and always welcomed him home.

He heard me repeat an H. G. Wells quote to him more times than I can remember.  The 21032480_1429211470494348_1425784324544583675_nquote is this, “If there is no god, nothing matters.  If there is a God, nothing else matters.”  By this time our son was not happy with God.  He did not want conviction for his actions, and he wanted God to be Santa Claus, granting his every wish.  Fortunately, he made it through these years and is now in a good place.  His first marriage produced a son, who is now 11, but that marriage dissolved.  His second marriage did not even last a year.  He’s happily married now to a wonderful gal and they just had a baby boy.  Our son has always been a very hard worker.  He is not afraid to try anything, he’s quite skilled in all things construction and he makes knives from scratch.  For a few years he was probably the highest paid sibling, working in the oil industry in Colorado.  He and his wife moved back to the south so he quit that job and he now owns his own construction company (still making knives on the side).  Although he never has taken accredited college classes, he has taken numerous courses to become certified in the industries in which he has been employed.  He is quick to see opportunities and will do what it takes to take part in those opportunities.  He won the Florida alligator lottery and has caught and killed one ten foot gator (and he has one more chance for a second gator).  He is our family comedienne and during reunions he keeps us all in stitches.  He is also quite the cook.

Next is son number two (4th child).  This son is the entrepreneur in the family.  During 22218349_10156566936831729_2714762520516199486_ohigh school he was flipping cars, trailers, and scooters before he could drive.  His construction experience is extensive and impressive and he could practically rebuild an engine in a car while still in high school.  He loved all things mechanical and disdained books.  He attended co-op (because he had to), but loved working with his hands.  It wasn’t until he became involved in Civil Air Patrol that he cared about books.  Because he wanted to advance in rank he began studying like crazy.  The Civil Air Patrol loved having him involved because we allowed him to go out on search and rescue missions at all times of the day and night.  After all, he could catch up on sleep and school work later!  (Never miss out on opportunities simply because you are concerned that school work will be neglected.  Opportunities often provide a much richer learning experience than any text book could provide.)  When four hurricanes hit Florida one year he was the commander of his unit and so he was asked to go out with the Governor’s Task Force to assess damage.  He saw that the guard could do so much more than he was allowed to do and so he asked to join the army.

Before the army we took him to an entrepreneur conference in N. Alabama.  Rhea Perry put on this conference.  At first he was not real happy with us because the conference took place during the weekend of his 16th birthday and he had to miss a Civil Air Patrol event and a youth group event.  However, as soon as the speakers began speaking he was excited and became convinced that this event was well worth his time.  Later, he joined the army and began training in Special Forces.  He knew how to iron, sew and polish boots so he was often paid by the other soldiers to take on those tasks for them.  He jumped out of a plane and broke his foot. He is not one to sit around idle so during his recuperation he studied to become a real estate agent in Florida and when he was allowed to return home one weekend he took and passed the test and became an agent. (He also took it upon himself to cut off his cast and he left it laying on my bed.  Crazy boy.)  He bought his first house while in the army for next-to-nothing and began renting it out.  He would find items on the side of the road and post them on Craigslist, not for money, but in exchange for fast food meals or to trade for other items.  His stories kept us spellbound and in stitches.  When he got out of the army he finished his education at FSU.  He pursued a degree because he knew he would be better respected (silly, but true) and the army paid for it.  Now he’s married and a father of three who continues to buy, flip, sell and rent real estate.  He, too, has won the Florida gator lottery and last Christmas his wife and his siblings received a gator wallet, belt, or purse.  He co-owns an Engineering firm and dabbles in many different businesses.  I love when he visits because he likes to stay busy.  At Easter he changed out one of my toilets and took all the men present (including my 2 youngest sons) in the bathroom with him to show them how it is done.  This past Labor Day he came up for a wedding nearby and put in a sink and cabinet in my basement Airbnb. He is generous as is evidenced by his quick response to anyone in need.

Son number three (5th child) is the middle of nine.  He has always loved learning and teaching.  During high school he took part in many activities.  He spent six weeks in Papua New Guinea while in high school.  He attended two gap year programs after high school. The first is Impact 360, developed by Chic fil A family members, located in Pine Mountain, Georgia.  At this program he read great books, listened to many amazing speakers, took part in the Chic fil A leadership program, and flew to store openings on the corporate jet with Dan Cathy and went to Europe.  He received college credit from Union University while at Impact 360.  After that he attended the Summit Semester gap program in Colorado.  He had attended Summit Leadership Camps numerous times and staffed for them as well.  He taught worldview classes while still in high school, so attending this program made sense.  He met his wife while in Colorado and they live there with their 2 children.  He is still working on his degree.  It has been a slow process due to births of babies and the death of his mother-in-law after she was diagnosed with cancer fairly recently.  He is now employed at a video advertising agency in Colorado.  At one time I suggested he CLEP out of classes in order to finish sooner (and affordably) but he loves learning and he loves sitting under professors so he did not want to take that route.  Unfortunately, he soon learned that not all professors are great at teaching and some classes are more laborious than they are educational or entertaining.  More regrets come along with this son’s story.  He had such an amazing portfolio that I knew colleges would want him to apply, and they did!  Unfortunately his top choices were expensive colleges and their largest scholarships were tied to college exam scores.  At this time I had not been convinced of the value of high test scores.  Unfortunately, this hurt him.  His scores were okay, but they were not high enough to earn the large scholarships so his choices were limited.  Had I been aware of the importance of high scores I would have encouraged him to take an entire semester preparing for the college entrance exams in order to increase the score so he could earn larger scholarships.

Next is another daughter (child #6).  This daughter wanted to be a videographer and image1 (1)photographer after high school, but she told me she wanted to go to college.  When I asked her why, the best response she could give was that her friends were all in college.  When we visited local schools and found out how limited the classes in videography and photography were, coupled with what the classes would cost, she was quick to agree that an internship might be better.  After asking our local homeschool friends if they could recommend any local Christian videographers, I was referred to two different companies.  Both hired my daughter.  They taught different types of videography which was great for my daughter.  One man did not pay my daughter in the beginning and, in fact, may have taken slight advantage of her having her clean his garage and babysit his daughter.  However, once he had trained her enough to be helpful to him he did begin paying her.  She learned a lot and does not regret this internship.  The other company began paying her $10 an hour immediately so not only was she learning, she was earning money.  She staffed at Summit in Colorado one summer and was on the video team.  She met her husband while there and once they were married he joined her in the videography business and that is what they do full time.  In 2016 they received the best videographer award in Colorado Springs.  They have a two-year-old daughter and hope to enlarge their family via birth and adoption.  They also own an Airbnb and hope to purchase additional rentals in the future. They plan to have multiple streams of income so that they are free to travel and visit family and friends, and take part in ministry opportunities as they arise.

1462779_10205241112975880_1966266156158843592_oNext is the fourth son (7th child) who will graduate Bryan College this year.  When he was in high school we were living back in Florida.  After discovering that if a senior in high school completes his senior year in Rhea County he can receive a substantial scholarship to Bryan College we decided to move back to Tennessee with this son for his senior year.  In addition, if a student has lived in Tennessee for a year or more he can qualify for the HOPE scholarship which provides college funds from the lottery.  Between the county scholarship and the HOPE grant, most of his tuition at Bryan would be covered.  Also, by this time homeschoolers could now play sports with the public schools in Tennessee (finally) so he could continue playing baseball with the local high school team.  He played baseball and we spent his senior year studying to the college exams because the scholarships he needed were tied to test scores. (It took me a while, but I finally admitted that test scores are key to making college affordable.) He was one point short of the score he needed at the end of his senior year so, upon the suggestion of a counselor, I kept him in high school one more semester and he spent most of his time taking dual enrolled classes at Bryan while studying to increase his score on the test.  He made the score he needed and began full time at Bryan mid-year. His only passion, at this time, was baseball so he was okay with going to college since it meant he could continue playing ball.  The academic degree is a bonus.  Last year he red shirted so instead of playing he helped coach the JV team. His coach recently told me that he has quite the coaching skills and that he can easily get a job after college as a coach.  In the summer of 2016 he went to Colorado for the summer to be with siblings and, while there, he worked for my daughter’s in-laws on their lawn crew.  He saw batting cages at a high school and called to see if he could use the cages.  They said he could use the cages if he volunteered to help coach the baseball team.  He was also asked to join a summer college team and play ball while there!  He interned with his brother’s company this past summer and found he enjoyed that experience as well.  Who knows what he will do after college.  It will be exciting to see!

Our fourth daughter (child #8) is next.  She wanted to attend public school her senior 18893435_1700637523283894_2691769474246184066_nyear for many reasons, including feeling inadequate as a homeschooled student and because many of her friends had done this and had great experiences.  Although I did not think it was the best choice (it meant 3 hours a day on a bus), I knew if a child could handle this well, it would be this daughter.  When I first turned in her transcript I gave her a 3.85 GPA.  When she argued that she should have a 4.0 I realized she was right so I called the counselor and sheepishly asked her to throw away that transcript so that I could replace it with a transcript showing a 4.0 GPA.  The school required my daughter to take 3 maths to graduate that year so she took Geometry, Algebra II, and Physics.  By the second week in physics I could no longer help her study unless she provided me with an answer key.  (My hat is off to physic majors.)  She graduated with a 4.0 and attended Bryan College for one year.

Let’s go back to the high school experience for a minute.  The teachers and the boys befriended her.  The girls, on the other hand, were very stand-offish to her.  The geometry teacher offered candy to students who caught his mistakes.  She received a lot of free candy.  She was shocked (small country town) that students had chew in their pockets and many were already parents.  The students were surprised to found out how little worldly experience my daughter had.  They were first surprised at my daughter’s lack of dating experiences.  Then they asked about drinking and were shocked to hear that she had never been drunk.  Then they asked about her driving record and couldn’t believe she had never had a ticket.  (The education she received at public school this year was far more than academic.)  When she would complain I would say, “I have a solution…” and she would say, “I don’t want a solution, I want empathy.”  To be honest, it was a hard year for both of us.

During her first year at Bryan she realized she wanted to become a nurse so she moved back to Florida and is now in nursing school there.  She has done very well up-until-now and she recently made it through the most difficult semester and is currently in her last semester. 22519263_1841315492549429_1641699557761863157_n

This past summer she spent two months in Colorado with her sister and the day she left to head to Texas to see another sister (on her way back to Florida) she was in a near fatal car wreck in Amarillo, Texas. She was cut out of her small car that was t-boned by a semi and life flighted to a hospital. My husband and I went out immediately as did 7 of our children (the oldest couldn’t make it).  She was in ICU for a week, followed by a week in a regular room after surgery.  Her recuperation is amazing and all of her injuries will heal, eventually.  Meanwhile, she struggled to keep up with school, but she did it!  Most students probably would not even try after going through all she’s been through, but she’s a fighter.  Of my four girls, she will be the first (and perhaps the only daughter) to graduate college.

25659875_1917257178288593_1346852226346834466_nBringing up the end of the line is son #5 who is a Sophomore at Bryan College.  This son is a jack-of-all trades and a master of several.  In addition to working with his hands, he loves to learn and he is a natural teacher.  He is also a deep thinker and conversations with him can last for hours.  He wants to double major in philosophy, and psychology.  He hopes to earn a free Master’s Degree at Bryan when he graduates with a 3.5 GPA or higher.  Right now he has a 4.0 GPA.  He is skilled in many aspects of construction, and wants to be a master electrician.  He is also well trained in lawn maintenance.  In addition, he owns a Harley Davidson motorcycle and he would like to become a Harley mechanic. He has also taught himself to play guitar and piano and his written more than a few songs (which we love and want him to record).  His writing skill is quite impressive and he’s begun writing two books.  There are not enough hours in the day for this boy. He should graduate college with several majors unless he is drawn away by one of his many interests.  He, too, would like to have multiple streams of passive income so he can be free to travel, continue learning, and take advantage of programs when available.  Anytime I mention a project I need done, he is on it.  One day he mowed my grass, changed out 3 outside lights to motion sensor lights, added 4 new outdoor outlets for my Airbnb and took care of a few smaller projects too. He is one of the favorites of all of the nieces and nephews because he is willing to be chased, caught, and pummeled for hours on end.

As you can see, each child is different and each has enjoyed a variety of different experiences.  Most of my children worked at a camp beginning at age 12.  Most attended TeenPact, Wordview Academy and Summit Ministries Leadership Camps. Many dual enrolled.  Many have worked in political campaigns. Most have enjoyed sports and most have had their own businesses.  They participated in many ministry and community projects over the years.  Several own Airbnbs and/or rental properties.

One of the best things I can say about my children is that they love each other and they love children.  When the college kids have a break, what do they do?  They go and visit siblings.  When a new baby is born into the family (15 grands so far) they fight to be the first one to hold the baby.  When a need in the family is shared, they all come to the rescue. One time we heard that a son, out-of-state, was out of money and had his phone cut off.  This was not accurate information, but before we found that out, many had deposited funds into their brother’s account, including one son who was only about 14 and he donated $100 to his brother.  My kiddos are quite generous and when needs arise, they respond.  They hold their money loosely.  I could not be more proud of them and, this is in spite of our mistakes.  So, take heart.  Even if you do make mistakes (and you will), God can lead and guide our children to the place they should be in spite of us!  The road may be bumpy and it may take twists and turns that are hard to traverse, but it will be worth it in the end.  So, hang in there!  Pray for your children and help them discover their gifts and talents so that they will end up being blessed and being a blessing to others.