Accommodations for College Admission Exams: A Guide for Homeschoolers

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This post was originally published at Simplify. To utilize Simplify‘s services please contact us here.

Homeschoolers are often judged more on their test scores than their public and private school peers because of the fact that their education is evaluated at home and often by parents. Having an outside test score or scores to back up the information on a homeschool transcript is essential. In addition, test scores are often used in awarding merit scholarships at many colleges and universities and AP scores can be used for awarding college credit. For many homeschoolers the SAT, ACT, and the APs are a very important part of the college application.

For homeschooled students with disabilities, whether they are physical disabilities or learning disabilities, this is also true. But the process to get accommodations approved can often seem overwhelming and confusing to a parent just starting out. This guide is to help you get through the process.

The first thing you need to decide which test you need accommodations on. If your student will be taking the ACT then you will be working with the ACT only. If your student will be taking the SAT, SAT Subject Test, the PSAT, or the APs you will need to go through The College Board for accommodations. Both of them do work with homeschoolers but the process is different for both. One thing to remember is to start early on accommodations as sometimes they are not approved in a timely manner.

ACT ACCOMMODATIONS

Step 1: Register for the ACT first – you have to actually register your student prior to requesting accommodations. When registering indicate that your student will need accommodations. Select the type of accommodation or accommodations that are needed and complete the registration. ACT will send you an email about working with your school. As an independent homeschooler you will not need to worry about this.

Step 2: You will need to complete the Request for ACT-Approved Accommodations Supports form. It is also recommended that you, as a homeschool teacher, fill out a Teacher Survey Form to provide more information on your student and the accommodations your student receives in your classroom.

Step 3: Gather all supporting documentation that you have in regards to your student’s disability, the teacher survey form, a copy of your student’s ACT admission ticket, and the support form you filled out and email it all to actaccom@act.org.

If you are unsure about what supporting documentation you need please see ACT Policy for Accommodations Documentation.

After ACT has received your request they should get back to you within a timely manner. Depending on what test date your student has signed up for the deadlines are as follows:

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COLLEGE BOARD ACCOMMODATIONS

For anyone wanting their student to have accommodations on the SAT, PSAT, SAT Subject Tests, or the APs you will have to work with the College Board. In previous years the College Board was very hard to work with and more times than not accommodations were not approved not only for homeschooled students but for public and private school students as well. With accommodations so hard to come by there was a great deal of backlash and in response the College Board has made some changes to the process and made it simpler for qualified students to get their much-needed accommodations. Remember to start the process early in the year especially if you are trying to get accommodations for the AP exams.

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Step 1: When you begin researching accommodations through the College Board you will see that they have moved to an online platform. Homeschool parents will not be using this platform to request accommodations. Instead you will need to email the College Board at ssd@info.collegeboard.org and request a paper Student Eligibility Form. Make sure to include your physical address in the email as the form will be sent to you through the mail.

Step 2: You and your student will need to fill out the Student Eligibility Form. Instructions will be included with the form The first half of the form is easy to fill out as it is just student identifying information. Sections 13 through 16 deal with the accommodations requested, the student’s disability, and documentation. Make sure you, as the parent, fill this section out and read the instructions for each step prior to filling in your student’s information. Section 17 is for schools only. As a homeschooling parent you do not need to worry about this section.

Step 3: Gather all supporting documentation you have to justify the accommodations. You can get more information on what documentation to send by visiting the College Board Services for Students with Disabilities here.

Step 4: This is not a required step but I do highly recommend it. Download the Teacher Survey form from the College Board and fill it out. This form gives you, as the homeschool teacher, a chance to explain accommodations that you use in your homeschool for your student. You also have an opportunity to discuss if you give your student extended time and what the impact of having accommodations has on your student. If you have another teacher that works with your student and has insight into their accommodations they may also fill out a form. Remember: when it comes to getting accommodations, the more documentation and information you have on your student the better.

 

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Step 5: Place all the forms and documents you have in the envelope that the College Board sent you and send it back in. You can send it via regular mail or if you are worried about the highly personal and sensitive information you may want to send it via trackable mail. After mailing the materials you can expect to hear back from the College Board within seven weeks. The decision will be mailed to your student and will be available online if a student has an account on My Organizer.

Step 6: If your accommodations have been denied, don’t give up yet. Usually, they are denied because more documentation is needed. Or, they may be partially approved. Either way your letter from the College Board will explain everything and give you your options to proceed. For more information on denied accommodations head over to the College Board.

Having a student who needs accommodations in order to perform at their optimal level can sometimes feel overwhelming. Hopefully, this guide helps you work through the steps needed in order to receive accommodations for whatever test or tests your homeschooled student needs to take. If you would like further help with this process or any other part of the college admission process please contact Simplify. We would love to work with you!

Homeschooling the Twice-Exceptional Student – There Will Be Gaps and That’s OK

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This young man is incredibly creative. He makes movies, writes stories, animates, composes, records original songs, and works on other creative endeavors all day long. He is never idle, never bored. My son works from the moment he wakes up, which is usually before 7:00, and stays busy until around 10:00 at night when he finally tires out and heads to bed. Sleep usually comes an hour later when his mind finally calms down.

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Most days I am in awe of all he does. It really is amazing. But it is also incredibly frustrating, and at times, overwhelming and tiring to watch. Traditional school work falls to the way side often, and when he can settle long enough to work on academics, it usually doesn’t go the way I imagine. Math is an exercise in frustration, reading hurts his head, and handwriting practice is painful. Science can be fun, history is mostly boring, but analyzing literature is a favorite. He usually has the energy to concentrate on academics for no more than 2 to 3 hours a day, a few days a week.

This is what I am working with, and I can never forget it as I homeschool him. My son is not going to school in any sort of traditional matter, and I have to remind myself of that often. He is a twice-exceptional student, and things are different for twice-exceptional kids. Their paths look different from other students. Their days look different.

Parents who are homeschooling 2E children and teens need to remind themselves of this often otherwise they may end up feeling like they are failing their children. There will be areas where their student may be behind (for my son it is math) and other areas where they have no interest at all. There will be gaps along the way and as homeschool parents we have to learn to let these gaps go because there will be other areas where they are working so enthusiastically, so passionately, that they do not have time for it all.

I have to remind myself that what my son is doing is significant (even with the gaps) and that he will find his own way. His path may be different and atypical but it is also unique and meaningful. He is creative and productive and confident and happy. And in the end isn’t that all that matters?

————————————————————————–Are you homeschooling a twice-exceptional or gifted homeschooler? Are you looking for support? If so please join our new Facebook group for 2E homeschooling parents here and follow our Facebook page here. Thank you!

A Secular, Eclectic, Academic Homeschool Education for Twice-Exceptional Students

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SEA: Secular, Eclectic, Academic – What does that mean and look like? How does this approach benefit students who have been identified as twice-exceptional?

Secular is obvious and I am not going to spend much time on this component. To say the least, the materials that one chooses are free from a religious worldview (to learn more  about why this is important please read Blair’s post here). This is especially important in regards to science materials that one chooses to use with one’s child.

Eclectic means that one draws on a wealth of materials and does not need to stick with just one curriculum provider or one form of homeschooling. Eclectic also allows for one to work with their student on their level in each subject and to try many different methods. It allows a parent to individualize an education plan for each child. This is a wonderful benefit for twice-exceptional students.

Academic is, much like secular, obvious, but worth noting. Having an academic standpoint means that one sees the value in intellectual endeavors. This is also a benefit to twice-exceptional homeschoolers.

So why is a SEA approach such a good match for 2E kids? There are many reasons for this, but before I list them I want to define what twice-exceptional is. I have talked about twice-exceptional students before here at SEA, but I wanted to to revisit the term for those who are not familiar with it. A twice-exceptional student is a student that has been identified as gifted and identified as having a disability or condition. To put it another way:

“This group of gifted children are exceptional both because of their strengths and because of their limitations. Coupled with high intelligence, these children also may have one or more learning disabilities, attention deficit, autism spectrum disorder, emotional or behavior problems, or other types of learning challenges. ”    

(From 2E Newsletter – http://www.2enewsletter.com/topic_2e_what_is.html)

Now, back to why a secular, eclectic, and academic approach is a wonderful one to take for this group of kids.

  1. Flexibility – This approach allows for flexibility, which is such a necessary part of any 2E program. Flexibility in the subjects studied, flexibility in the materials used, and flexibility in the methods used to teach.
  2. Ability to develop passions – Twice-exceptional students often struggle in one or more area and this struggle can sometimes make the student feel like a failure. By taking a SEA approach to their schooling, the parent has time to spend on the areas that their child excels at. The parent also sees the value in doing this, and working on areas that the student excels at allows a child to build up their confidence.
  3. Keep on a schedule – This is where the academic part comes into play. By keeping the focus on academics and on the continual growth of mastering various academic goals, the parent has to stay on a schedule, and schedules are great for 2E kids. For some the schedule may look loose  and for others it may be more strictly regulated. Either way, a schedule helps these kids, for they work better knowing what is expected from them each day.
  4. Work at their own level – Twice-exceptional students are all over the map academically. Being able to meet them at their level is wonderful for them and helps them succeed. Some students may be ready for algebra at 9 but struggle with writing a complete sentence. Others may be writing novels but struggle with basic math problems. Either way, by tailoring their education, you will be able to work to their strengths and help them with their weaknesses.
  5. Option to explore many topics – 2E students tend to have a variety of interests and passions and by choosing an eclectic path you become open to studying those passions. And by recognizing that there are many worthy subjects to study outside of the traditional subjects, you give the gift of exposure to your child. Through this exposure they may discover a passion they never knew they had.
  6. Option to use many different approaches – There are many different approaches to education in the homeschool world. Some parents follow a Charlotte Mason approach, some parents follow a Classical approach, some follow a traditional school approach, and some parents follow an unschooling approach. A wonderful benefit about choosing to be eclectic is that you can use multiple approaches for your student in the different areas you study, which is a good way to match ability, interest, and learning styles to your child.

So what does an eclectic, academic approach actually look like? To read the rest of the article please see the original post at SEA Homeschoolers.

Twice Exceptional Students and Homeschooling

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Someone asked me the other day about home schooling a 2E kid. What does it look like, how do your days flow, what kind of work does your child do? I shared with them what homeschooling looks like at my house with my youngest, and I thought I would share here too for anyone wanting to learn more about homeschooling these very unique kids.

First off, let me say that this is only one view of homeschooling the twice exceptional. There are many other ways to do it, and what works for one family will not always work for another. Also children and teenagers who are identified as twice exceptional vary in so many ways and struggle with different disabilities that techniques and routines that I use may not work for other families. Having said that I will share what works for us. At our house the key to homeschooling a 2E kid is flexibility, compassion, following passions (whatever they may be), and having support.

Flexibility – Flexibility is key to a smooth homeschooling journey for a 2E student. You need to be flexible in your routine, flexible with your curriculum choices, and flexible with your approach. What works one year may not work the next. What is scheduled in a curriculum may not be the schedule you follow. What you have planned for the day may not be what you get done. If you start your journey with flexibility in mind then you are able to bend easier without getting frustrated and overwhelmed. Changing your expectations goes hand in hand with this. Don’t expect school to look like the perfect vision you have in your mind, don’t expect it to look like other homeschooler’s school, and don’t expect it to look like a sibling’s school. It will be different than others, different from day to day, different than what is planned. And that is ok, and it is normal when schooling a twice-exceptional student. In our homeschool we may go weeks with the same schedule, and then hit a brick wall and need to take a break and reassess. Flexibility is the key to getting through times like this.

Compassion – Being a twice exceptional student can be hard. Some subjects come so easy to them, while other subjects are a constant struggle in frustration. These students may be working on work that is many years ahead of them and then they may struggle with work that is many years below them. My student’s strengths lie in writing, art, animation, and game making. He struggles with math. It is painful for him (and me!) to work through a math lesson that we have covered many times before, but that he still struggles with.  Compassion is the key to dealing with this frustration, this struggle. And compassion should be shown not just to the student, but towards yourself.

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Italian Scooby Doo books – One of my son’s passions that have lead to many interesting educational activities.

Passions – Twice exceptional children are going to have passions, and most of these kids will feel very strongly about what it is they love. I have found that discovering your student’s interests and supporting these pursuits should be an important part of your homeschool. While you may feel drawn to the idea of your homeschool reflecting a traditional school in the subjects you need to teach and the skills your student needs to learn, it would probably be helpful if you leave that idea behind. Instead balance the skills and subjects that you believe are essential to your child’s education with the areas your child wants to study. For 2E kids passions often lead to work that is very meaningful and spending time on these pursuits will be rewarding to both of you. Our days consist of an hour or so of essential school work that I want to get done, and the rest of the time is his own in which he works on what he feels is important. In our house that means writing for hours a day, working on animation projects, reading books of his choice. For other kids it means working on math for hours a day or on a specific science project. Passions will vary from student to student but having time for them will benefit them all.

Support – Homeschool a 2E kid is very rewarding, but it is also frustrating and demanding at times. Give yourself a pat on the back, on hard days allow yourself to put the work away and call it a day, and if you are ever feeling overwhelmed talk to friends, call on a relative, lean on a support group (whether in person or online). There will be days, weeks, or months were you struggle and you need some help. If you are really struggling don’t be afraid to see a professional whether it be your pediatrician, your neuropsych, or another person that can give you advice and/or a fresh perspective. Also if you think your child may have a learning disability please have them professionally assessed. Many times people in the homeschooling community can be weary of getting a professional opinion, but it really is helpful to have. Ask around the homeschool community if you want someone who is familiar with homeschooling and supports that choice, as it can make a difference. Either way, arm yourself with a support group for yourself and for your child.

Where to find help/support online –

The Well Trained Mind forums has a Learning Challenges board that is a great community of parents that support one another in regards to many issues facing 2E kids. I highly recommend starting there if you need some advice.

Gifted Homeschoolers Forum has a Twice-Exceptional section that is very helpful.

SEA Homeschoolers has many parents with 2E kids if you are looking for a general homeschooling support group.

Also I found a wonderful gifted/2E support group in my area with meetups and park days through Meetup. It was really great to meet families in person that struggled with some of the same issues, and it was wonderful to meet friends that understood my kids. I highly suggest looking for a group in your area, and if there is not one, consider starting your own.