Wednesday, February 27, 2013

College Common Sense, never too early


This week, I am reviewing  College Common Sense , and I already know what you are thinking... Starting a bit early? eh? ;) Yes, my oldest student is only 5th grade, so I was surprised to be given this review, but here is why. Read on...

PhotobucketThis month I've been enrolled in an online subscription to "Going to College and Paying for it Online Video and Workbook"  Which retails for $25/year, or you can order the Book and DVD for $50 (plus $5 shipping), if you will be using it year after year.

While Tyler is only 5th grade, and Emma in 4th, this program had activities for them to consider to prepare for college funding.  The activities are for children ranging in age from elementary through college age, parents of any age student, and anyone thinking of going back to college.... basically anyone, of any age, can glean something from this program. 

When I was homeschooled (WAY back when... lol), I remember spending most of my junior and senior year of school driving myself in to the local high school guidance counselor's office, so I could research grants and scholarships. Even with all that time investment, I didn't get much guidence there, and didn't find much money. My plans to attend a lovely private Christian college, changed to a local community college that was more in my budget. While I know in hindsight, this was the path God had for me, I wish I knew then what I know now. Getting funding for college is a worthwhile "occupation", and it's never too early to begin. 

With the average private education costing $$$, for a 4 year degree, getting all those scholarships lined up is really more like bringing in another income... especially if you have 4 kids who may be college-bound, like we do. Kids graduate from college with massive debts that often influence all of their early adult life decisions. Things like having children or staying home to educate them become hardships. I don't want my kids to be in that position. So this was where my mind was before I even began this review. 

Here is what I found:

As I said above, I received the online subscription, which gave me a log in to the website. On the first page, you will see the workbook links and the videos. Don't rush, and be sure to read the Welcome and Instructions. I missed it the first time, and it really does lay the groundwork. In that section Denise Ames (the author) explains that the assignments in the workbook are broken down by age group:
A. Elementary Students' Parents
B. Middle School Students AND Parents
C. High School Students AND Parents
D. College Students AND Parents
Denise also explains that the videos and workbooks are written and directed to the student. Although we as parents must know it well to guide them, they must OWN this information if they want to be successful. 

After reading the first PDF file, "Welcome and Instructions" you will see a PDF links and a videos alternating down the page. There are 6 videos and 6 PDF files alternating down the page.  The first PDF should really be numbered with them, bring the total to 7 PDF and 6 videos.

I tried opening each file, reading it as I listened to the video. This did not work for me, and I had to take another run at it. I found that the video helps explain the information in the workbook (the PDF files), but that they don't necessarily break in the same places. This made it hard to follow, for example the first video covers the same info as the PDF linked next to it "The Big Picture". The second video covered the same as the second file. The third video covered more info from the second PDF, and then they didn't match up from there on out.. I found it to  be really beneficial to look at the material a little differently than the way it was laid out on the page. 

I opened all 7 PDF files, including the welcome, and read them all. You could save or print them too. I would highly recommend printing them and having them to page through as you watch the videos. This way the page breaks and section breaks are not so distracting from the AMAZING information. Then go ahead and watch the videos, making notes on  the pages. The videos are not word for word like the PDF files, so you really need to read and watch it all. 

It may sound overwhelming, but they were really not difficult. Each of the 7 PDF files ranged from 5-10 pages, and the first one was only 2 pages. This made printing it very simple. The videos were of reasonable length, although the material is a bit slow moving. I agree with the author that for elementary age it is really more for the parents at that point as a child might get bored or confused watching it. A high school student would get a lot of information though, and should watch it. A college student will be enthralled, and probably taking notes!

Pay attention as you go through the text for the letters "A" "B" "C" and "D" as they will show what kinds of hands on assignments the kids in each age group (mentioned in the Welcome and Intro) should be doing. 

Most assignments for young kids like mine were thinking and brainstorming, and documenting in a notebook of accomplishments and goals. It recommends they talk about what they want to do someday, and act out a presentation for the family.  There were great assignments and links in the lesson plan emails (which are a free subscription for anyone!) as well, and they really do help. For example one lesson plan recommended practicing timed tests, and recommended a site to do that with. My kids LOVED that assignment, as the recommended site was fun and easy to use.

Here's what I liked:

  • The this is timeless information, and you can buy a copy once and use it with all of your children. 
  • I liked that Denise was constantly encouraging the student to be pro-active and think positively.
  • The free online lesson plans (via email subscription)
  • The links she provided in the text and lesson plan emails were great outside sources for encouragement and enrichment. 
  • The fact that is written directly to the student, who needs to be proactive.

Here's what I didn't like:

  • The way the PDF files didn't quite match up with the videos.  But, as I shared above, this was remedied by printing all 7 and reading them together.
  • The layout of the first page after logging in, even with the "Welcome" PDF, as I struggled with how get going with this program. I think it would help if there were separate tabs for separate age groups. I also imagine this would not be an issue if you just purchased the physical book and DVD, which would be a wise investment if you will use this year after year.

The bottom line:
This has a lot of great information. Denise has a heart for students and you can see it everywhere on her product. It is overwhelming to try and get started, but just like cooking up an elephant, you just start carving the meat and eventually you can begin to understand college funding in bite sized pieces. It will just take time, which is why it is never to early to learn the ropes. I appreciate that about this product!

For more reviews of this product, be sure you check out the rest of the crew:

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

©2012-2013 Loving and Learning on the High Plains. All rights reserved. All text,
photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. 


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