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No. 2

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Want well-rounded students?
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by Erin Schellhase
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Explore AP* Courses

Are you homeschooling a college-bound high school student? If so, you have probably heard something about Advanced Placement (AP) courses—college-level courses that high schoolers take to prepare for subject exams created by the College Board. You have probably also heard that doing well on AP exams can save students time and money later if they attend one of the many colleges where qualifying scores can earn them college credit.

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Of course, excelling academically is only one of many goals for the high school years. You want your student to prepare for all that’s ahead—not just for college, but also for a God-honoring vocation, responsible adulthood, and continued growth as a Christian.

Can AP courses challenge your student to grow in godliness and personal maturity, as well as in academics?

To help families answer “yes” to this question, HSLDA and Patrick Henry College teamed up in 2009 to found Patrick Henry College Preparatory Academy, an online distance learning program offering an uncompromisingly Christian approach to AP courses. Since the program started, PHC Prep Academy has enabled more than 500 students from 48 states and several countries around the world to study at the AP level with a Christian worldview.

“I have been personally blessed and stretched by Patrick Henry College Preparatory Academy,” commented Luis. “The teachers displayed a dedicated love and sacrifice as they taught and aided me to prepare for the AP exam … . The classes also look at the bigger picture of God’s ever-present hand-growing students, like me, for the plans He has in the near future.”

What are some specific ways that taking Christ-centered AP courses in an online environment can help students grow?

PHC Prep Academy
Adam Rohner
PHC Preperatory Academy Director


For many students, a PHC Prep Academy class is their first taste of the intensity of college-level work. AP courses are intentionally challenging—designed so that students will truly master the subject for the AP exam, and beyond.

Additionally, rigorous courses equip students by shaping the character and personal habits with which they will approach future challenges. “This course required me to step beyond my level of comfort,” remarked Lydia about her experience in AP Calculus AB. “I learned much about diligence and perseverance, in addition to the course content of calculus.” Such lessons are not easy, but the results are rewarding.


One of the things the Academy’s teachers and staff most enjoy seeing each year is the powerful class dynamic that develops among online students. For Karese in AP Macroeconomics, interaction with fellow students and the teacher was “the best part” of the class. “"Everyone tries to be helpful to each other in understanding confusing or difficult concepts,” she said. “Even though we are thousands of miles away from each other, everyone is still able to connect.”

“While I have not personally met my AP Physics students, I feel we do have a relationship because of our weekly get-togethers in the live lecture,” explains Dr. Mike Kucks. “We have some very lively and entertaining conversations!”

Economics instructor Amy Raybould agrees that the ability to meet with students “live,” in real time, is key to helping them grow in an online environment and is a strength of PHC Prep Academy’s class format. If one of her students is struggling with a concept, she can even arrange a one-on-one meeting in the live classroom to help that student.

In class discussion forums, where students answer posted questions, respond to fellow students, and engage in healthy debate, the biblical idea in Proverbs 27:17 that “iron sharpens iron” is often in action. “It always happens that my best students—the students who earn the highest grades—are the students who are most active on the weekly discussion forums,” says Dr. Robert Spinney in his course introduction video for AP U.S. History. “When you participate, it reinforces material, it raises new questions for you, and it causes you to think about the course material in new ways.”

Interactive learning also requires students to work well with others, whether they’re completing a lab assignment or revising assigned essays in a writing group. And, because all the interaction happens online, students must learn to use technological tools creatively—and responsibly—to communicate with their teachers and peers. In a world where so much communication takes place online, and so much of it is informal, learning to convey ideas to others clearly and respectfully across the internet is an invaluable skill.


AP English Language and Composition teacher Aubrey Heki has received thank-you emails from students delighted to discover the real-world application of their studies. Tyler, just a few weeks into the course, wrote to her about researching presidential candidates: “I am finding startling evidence of the difference between direct, clear writing and indirect, ambiguous writing.”

Another student, Kristiana, wrote, “Right after we worked on hooks in introductions, I was asked to write a letter to a potential donor to our organization. I used the hook concept in my writing, and my boss was very pleased with the results.”

Academic discipline, teamwork, job skills—all of these have long-range benefits. But the most important, most lasting value of Christ-centered education-and what motivates PHC Prep Academy teachers to do what they do—is something different.

Melanie, an AP English Literature and Composition student, expresses it best: “I am walking away closer than ever in my relationship with my Savior … . I have been continually pointed to Christ.”

When students are pointed in His direction, opportunities to grow abound.

* Advanced Placement and AP are registered trademarks of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.

About the author

Erin Schellhase is the PHC Prep Academy program coordinator.