From Luke's Inbox: What About AP Classes?

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What do you think about the push for dual credit and AP classes? We sometimes feel we are behind since we aren't in that super competitive circle. And yet, I feel our more peaceful approach has not left us any less educated than our stressed and pressed for time peers.

It is nice to get college credit before going to college where credits become expensive. But it's very easy to make that overkill. Far better to love learning and continue to lay a foundation for a life of further education. You are absolutely right: Education is more than simply taking classes and passing tests.

Which Is Right?

Having said that, I do want to give a big nod to Ken Chapman's series Why Skip High School. That was not at all my path, but having seen the careful planning and great results, I think this idea makes a ton of sense if you want to pursue that. I loved and hated my high school years; a community college campus is likely more mature than a bunch of high schoolers (not surprising at all). Opting to dual enroll in homeschooling and a local college may be much better for your student than a local high school experience. Notice that their goal was not to have young college graduates and add stress, but to spare students four wasted years in a cruel and stupid world.

I took a far more traditional route, transitioning from homeschool to high school. I took two AP classes (Economics and Psychology) and a math class that also earned me college credit (dual credit). I needed Psych and Math for my degree, so I was able to skip both at Biola. Economics came over as an elective. This freed up my college schedule a bit so I had more options and flexibility, which was nice. This fit with my schedule and allowed me to enjoy certain topics at more depth, but I never felt pressure to cram in AP credits.

Some of the kids I know today, however, take, like, five AP classes a semester. They are stressed to the max and do not enjoy their studies. Plus, despite all this effort, they've had to take many classes all over again in college. More beneficial would be to slow down and really learn the content, such that you could take a random Psychology test at a University for fun and do just fine (that's a testament to how great my high school Psych class was).

If an AP or college credit course looks appealing to your student, go for it. If skipping four years of bland social interaction seems like a much better use of your student's time, do it. And if taking these four years to learn and grow at a peaceful pace would be more beneficial, do that.

We definitely do not need more pressure on our kids. Take opportunities that make sense, and be free from any guilt for those things that don't fit.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

P.S. On Friday, I plan to dig a little deeper into the idea of what it means to be educated. I think it is important to flesh out why a more peaceful approach to learning may not leave you "less educated" than those taking tons of classes.

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  1. Cindy LaJoy

    I can see this from both sides. For some kids, I think dual enrollment makes a lot of sense, and I actually think that is wiser than AP anything...might as well make it a real college course if you are going to replace a high school course with college level work.

    However, from the other side of the fence, it is a little disturbing in that it follows the trends we continue to see in public education. Let's insist on pre-K for every single child, starting sometimes at the appalling age of 3 years old. Let's keep rushing them through as quickly as possible so we can claim "success", when often it is not that at all but very shallow learning and exposure to concepts at ages too young to really digest the deeper meanings or cognitively work with it all. I can point to countless young people I know who have taken AP Statistics, but can't make change, or who took AP History courses, but can do little to explain WHY events happened, or even recall key dates. I have a feeling that for the majority (I will always acknowledge the exceptions to the rule) of students, AP courses are more of the same that we experience with standardized testing...cram, test, repeat. It is one reason that a few universities are no longer accepting AP course work for college credit, because they have seen the results and realize the test may have been passed for credit, but those students are truly not equivalent to students having taken a college course.

    I have to ask, why the rush at every stage? Why can't high school work just be high school work, and lay a good solid foundation for the next level? Why must we always try to hurry through the years?

  2. "I can point to countless young people I know who have taken AP Statistics, but can't make change, or who took AP History courses, but can do little to explain WHY events happened..."

    Yep. Yes. Exactly.

    I may be overstating this a bit, but the only reason to rush through content is if the student is flying through the content naturally. We want students to master ideas and concepts and skills, not just pass some test and move on to the next thing. I had not heard the reason why so many of "my kids" end up retaking classes, but AP classes designed merely to get you through the test sounds like a big part of the problem!

    Thanks for sharing, Cindy!


  3. @Cindy Lajoy - This statement really resonates with me:

    I have to ask, why the rush at every stage? Why can't high school work just be high school work, and lay a good solid foundation for the next level? Why must we always try to hurry through the years?

    I think this is a very, very good question and is worthy of long and thoughtful analysis and discussion. We are some of the ones who skipped high school and went directly to college. There was definitely some down side for our children in going so fast, but the upside with what we did was much greater for our kids than the other options available to us. If the traditional schools--public and private--in our area would have provided a social environment that was not detrimental to our children, we probably would not have done what we did, even if the academics were inadequate. We believe we could have fixed the academics with "after-schooling". In our case, it had nothing to do with the brilliance of our kids because the reality is that they, as are most of us, are of pretty average intelligence. It was about saving them from a traditional school culture that would absolutely teach them things that were diametrically opposed to our worldview.

    We are pretty sure we did not do everything right, but are happy with the results from AP like classes even though the kids did not get credit for many of the classes they took after arriving at a big, four year, state university. It DID help them cover the appropriate material. The big thing for us is that we were in a position to make the individual choices about when and whether to send the kids to a college class or take a CLEP or AP test because we followed a well structured program (in our case it was Sonlight) very closely. I hope there are additional comments on this post and/or additional posts like this because I am very interested in seeing how other people made this decision and whether they thought they were well served by advancing there kids more quickly through the high school years.

    Caveat: Of course every kid is different when it comes to these types of decisions.

  4. Pingback: What Does It Mean to be Educated? | Sonlight Blog