Living Education: Parent Powered! Spring 2018

All about Group Learning with Living Education Journal

Encouraging Self-Directed Learning, One Spoonful at a Time

I’m excited to be a contributor to the spring edition of Living Education Journal. This issue focuses on parent-led group learning. I discuss how I took more responsibility for my learning starting in elementary school. You’ll also find a fantastic article about writing poems as a group via video chat, a fun painting craft, and ways to foster empathy in your children.

To view the spring edition of Living Education, visit:

Black mortarboard from College Without the Campus

Hillary Harshman at OCEANetwork Conference 2017

What is College Without the Campus?

What do zombie fans, Marvel hero impersonators, and homeschoolers have in common?

They could all be found at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland on the same weekend! My latest Portland adventure took me to the OCEANetwork Christian Home Educators Conference. While this event was going on, there was also the Walker Stalker Con and the Heroes & Villains Fan Fest. The lobbies were filled with a medley of visitors!

At the conference, I vended my book and enjoyed time with my mom and sister who came along and gave me a hand. The thing I loved most was getting to talk with homeschool families about their college concerns. Over the two-day event, three questions about my book were most common:

“Is it a course?”

The most-asked question from people who walked up to my booth was, “Is this a course?” I explained that my booth name was the title of the book I wrote after graduating from college. Though College Without the Campus isn’t a course, it can be used to create a self-directed college course. In fact, the book’s outline follows the stages a student will work through during college and offers first-hand experiences and recommended resources.

“Is it online classes?”

Distance learning can easily be seen as online classes. But learning outside the classroom is far broader: it includes work experience, life skills, previous learning, and travel studies. Outside the classroom, learning takes many forms, both formal and informal. One of my goals in writing a book was to shed light on these alternate learning opportunities. This leads to the next step: how to show a college that what you know is college-level and worthy of credit.

“Is it credit-by-exam, like CLEP?”

For this question, my answer was a happy YES. I get excited to meet others who have heard of CLEP and may have even taken a CLEP exam themselves. CLEP tests are my favorite example of credit-by-exam because the subject matter is doable to learn, and students are often required to study the same material in high school, leading to a dual-credit opportunity. Other tests, such as DSST exams, are also available to earn upper level credits.

This is the essence of College Without the Campus: sharing information about credit-by-exam testing to help students save money and time. Taking the best elements of traditional college courses, online classes and credit-by-exam testing, the book moves readers from aspiration and desire to actualization and completion. And that’s something even zombies and Marvel heroes can get excited about!

Black mortarboard from College Without the Campus

Book Review: Homeschooling for College Credit by Jennifer Cook-DeRosa

• • • • • • • ► Meet Jennifer Cook-DeRosa

I was doing college research on when I first learned about author Jennifer Cook-DeRosa. Because she was both a parent and someone who had earned a bachelor’s degree in social sciences using distance learning techniques, she had experience coaching her teens in earning college credit as well as taking credit-by-exam tests. (Cook-DeRosa has since gone on to earn her master’s degree.) I appreciated her regular posts pertaining to Thomas Edison State University, accreditation, and credit-by-exam tests such as CLEP.

In 2012, Cook-DeRosa published Homeschooling for College Credit. This 200-page book guides parents through implementing courses worth college credit into their high school students’ schedules. She begins the book by encouraging parents that teaching high school is doable and then lists some foundational, but critical, information about college courses.

• • • • • • • ► Transferring College Credits

One of the most memorable stories she shares is how the credits she earned for her AOS (Associate in Occupational Studies) in Culinary Arts did not transfer when she went back to college later in life. Not being able to transfer credits was one of my fears about distance learning, and Cook-DeRosa explains how to avoid this (see chapter 3).

Another helpful tool in Homeschooling for College Credit is her four-year high school planning templates. These are designed to schedule credit earning into your high schooler’s curriculum while meeting the requirements for high school at the same time. Essentially, they’re dual credit plans.

Later in the book Cook-DeRosa covers test resources, test-taking skills, making a high school transcript, paying for college, and taking your credit to a college. Also provided is a list of things she prefers in a college and ten colleges that meet those preferences.

• • • • • • • ► A Valuable Resource

Throughout the book, Cook-DeRosa’s experience as a parent of homeschooled children and as a distance learner give the reader plenty to absorb and put into use. Her love for learning, stretching the family’s dollar, and helping other parents jump-start their teen’s college education make this book a handy resource.

For more information about Homeschooling for College Credit, you can preview the book on and visit the Homeschooling for College Credit Facebook page, which is updated regularly with tips and distance learning news.

This is an unsponsored review to share a book I found helpful.

Black mortarboard from College Without the Campus

CLEP Official Study Guide

Product Review: CLEP Official Study Guide

Sometimes the hardest part about taking a credit-by-exam test is finding the right materials to use to prepare. College Board, the creator of CLEP, has made this process easier by offering the CLEP Official Study Guide. This book gives students an overview of each of the 33 CLEP tests and also provides a nearly full-length practice test for each subject. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty details.

Annually updated

The official exam guide is published yearly and updated to match any changes that have been made to each test. Without having a copy of the past year’s edition to compare with the current edition, it can be tough to tell what (if any) changes have been made. Sometimes book reviewers will note changes on bookseller websites like Amazon, or you can check for posts related to changes. If you are using an older edition of the book, you can double-check the test description online to be sure nothing has changed (e.g. an online calculator is still part of the test).

If you are only planning to take one or two CLEP tests, you may prefer to buy the individual exam study guides. The individual guides feature the same information as is in the book. You may save a little money if you only need a guide for one test: the book retails for $24.99, while the individual exam guides cost $10.00 each.

Not a study guide?

An important note is that the CLEP Official Study Guide does not provide the material to use for studying. In this book CLEP offers suggestions on which textbooks and other resources to use. This information can also be found for free by selecting a specific exam at While you’re there, you can download the exam’s resource guide to view a small selection of free practice questions.

Is it worth it?

By now you may be wondering why this guide is worth purchasing. If CLEP offers textbook suggestions and practice questions online for free, why purchase this guide? What this book can give you is a more accurate practice test experience. With the longer practice tests, students can better gauge if they are ready to take the test and get a feeling for taking the actual test. Plus, the test questions are developed by CLEP, so although you won’t find the same questions on an actual test, they will be very similar.

When you’re looking for a handy resource to get you started on learning to take CLEP tests, the CLEP Official Study Guide is a great way to start! The guide is available at bookstores nationwide,, and at the CLEP website.

This is an unsponsored review to share one of my favorite CLEP products. 🙂