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AP Classes, PHC Prep, and You

May 12–16, 2014   |   Vol. 119, Programs 41–45

Are you not sure what to expect from the AP courses offered by PHC Preparatory Academy? This week on Home School Heartbeat, our host Mike Smith is joined by Erin Schellhase, program manager at PHC Prep, and two former students as they share about these online classes.

“We get to see our classes become real communities of learners who collaborate together and build one another up.” —Erin Schellhase

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Are you concerned about the challenges your student might face in upper-level high school courses? Well, don’t be! This week on Home School Heartbeat, host Mike Smith talks with PHC Prep Academy’s Erin Schellhase about what your high schooler should expect when taking Advanced Placement courses.

Mike Smith: Today I’m joined by Erin Schellhase, who is the program manager at Patrick Henry College Prep Academy, which prepares students for higher education with several outstanding Advanced Placement courses. Erin, I’m so glad to have you on the program today!

Erin Schellhase: Thank you, Mike, it’s great to be here.

Mike: Now, some of our listeners, Erin, may have students who are planning to take an AP course. What would you say to students interested in these courses, and what should they expect going in?

Erin: Well, if a course has AP in the title, that means it’s designed to be at the same level as a first-year college course. So they should expect it to be challenging, but because an AP course is more challenging than a typical high school course, I think they’ll also find it extremely rewarding.

I was homeschooled all the way through high school, and one of the turning-point academic experiences for me was a series of literature classes I took as a teenager. I’d always enjoyed reading, but suddenly I was being pushed to read and analyze and discuss all these complex literary classics. The coursework was demanding, but I loved it and that motivated me.

I think many students in our AP courses have a similar experience. What they’re learning really stretches them in terms of time management, critical thinking, expressing their ideas in writing, but it’s interesting, and that makes them want to learn it.

Mike: Erin, this is great information which prospective students and their parents will find very valuable. Thanks again for sharing, and until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Erin Schellhase joins us again today to talk about taking AP courses from PHC Prep Academy. Erin, can you explain what is distinctive about those AP courses at PHC Prep?

Erin Schellhase: I’d say the first and most important distinctive is our program’s biblical worldview. To be considered AP, a course has to meet certain academic standards. These are what all AP courses have in common, but once those standards are met, the teachers have a lot of freedom in terms of how they approach their subject. Since all of the PHC Prep instructors are Christians, they naturally bring their faith with them into their teaching and class discussions.

Another distinctive is the online format we use. In an online setting, it’s important to use technology creatively, so that students and teachers can truly connect with one another as a class, even though they’ll never actually be sitting in the same physical classroom at the same time. Two of the ways we do this at PHC Prep are through online discussion forums and weekly virtual class meetings. It’s exciting because we get to see our classes become real communities of learners who collaborate together and build one another up. Hosting the classes online also makes it possible for us to bring together students from all over the world. Since we offered our first class in 2010, we’ve had students from each of the 50 states and 10 other countries.

Mike: Well, Erin, thank you for being with us this week! And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: It’s my pleasure to introduce Sherry Clay, a college senior and former student at PHC Prep. Sherry, thank you for being with us today!

Sherry Clay: Thank you for having me.

Mike: Now, Sherry, is there a particular aspect of your experience in PHC Prep’s AP courses that you feel has really benefited you the most in college?

Sherry: The thing that benefited me most was definitely PHC Prep’s AP English Language and Composition course. In that class, I actually learned how to write. In high school, I had taken some writing courses, but I wasn’t confident in my writing so my parents signed me up for PHC Prep’s course over my objections, and I found myself completely stuck in the class. But I was completely amazed because by the end of the class, I’d actually found that I loved writing because I didn’t just know how to write, I knew how to write well. And that has been incredibly helpful in my college time because I’m able to write well both creatively and academically, which will help me both in college and in my future years.

Mike: Was your teacher beneficial to that? Did they help you a lot, or not?

Sherry: Yes, they were incredibly helpful. I still have some of the comments they made on my paper and read them over to remind me what I should and should not do.

Mike: Are they available to you beyond just the hours that you were in class, so to speak?

Sherry: Yes, we were always able either to post something on PHC’s site or send them an email about questions.

Mike: Did you enjoy the time you had with other students, did you discuss issues?

Sherry: Yes. I tended to be a more quiet person on the classes, so I didn’t say as much, but I really had a good time getting to know the other people by the posts that they made.

Mike : If you were talking to another young person in high school, what would be the main reason you would encourage them to take a PHC Prep course?

Sherry : The main reason would be, is because you can learn how to excel, but you won’t disrupt your faith while doing it.

Mike: I think it’s probably one of the most important things about PHC Prep. Sherry, I know this will be very helpful information for students who are deciding how to use their high school education to get ready for college. Thanks for your advice, and until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Sherry, do you have any suggestions for what high schoolers who are preparing for college should be looking for in classes that they take now?

Sherry Clay: What they should be looking for is first, classes which they don’t want to take. Because we tend to have certain things that we’re either good at, or we really enjoy to do, and so we tend to go to those areas. But when you get to college, the more foundation you have in a bunch of different things, the easier the college classes are going to be. And secondly, what high school students also need to do is to look for classes that are hard, like AP courses, honors courses, classes with PHC Prep or any other variety of places where you’re not getting the normal high school education but are reaching into college material, because again, the more foundation you have, the easier the classes will be.

Mike: Sherry, you took your PHC Prep courses online, is that correct?

Sherry: Yes, I did.

Mike: And of course, you took courses that weren’t online.

Sherry: Yes, I did.

Mike: How would you compare the two?

Sherry: With classes online, you’re able to relate more to yourself, and to grow individually very well, because there’s only you and then the computer. But when you’re actually with other people, then you’re able to grow as a group together.

Mike: So did you really enjoy the online classes?

Sherry: Yes, I did, because I really enjoyed being able to stay at home and grow in maturity before I ended up leaving.

Mike: Well, that’s great advice for all of us, Sherry, and we thank you for it. Until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Today I’m joined by Esther Ehrenman, a college sophomore who took AP classes online from PHC Prep. Welcome, Esther, how’re you doing today?

Esther Ehrenman: I’m doing great, thank you!

Mike: What was it like for you to be a student in an online AP class, and can you describe the types of things you would do in a typical week during your school year?

Esther: Well, people all across the country would meet for something like a virtual Skype session, where the professor and the teacher’s aid would tell us what the material for the week would be, and then during the rest of the week, we would complete assignments, take a quiz, have online discussion boards. I loved the meeting of the minds because there was this really cool iron-sharpens-iron effect with my peers because we all enjoyed rigorous intellectual discussion and we were all pursuing the same academic goals guided by the professors, who not only modeled a thirst for knowledge but they also were very godly and intellectual people who we could look up to as mentors.

Mike: So would you recommend this for any young person that’s interested in getting some AP courses?

Esther: Oh, definitely! I learned a ton, both in terms of academics and in terms of managing my time and learning how to be a student and a lover of knowledge.

Mike: Well, this is very helpful information, Esther, and thank you for joining us today. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Erin Schellhase

Erin learned at home from kindergarten through 12th grade. She appreciates the flexibility of homeschooling and the freedom it gave her to develop her interests, especially through challenging coursework in high school. As the program manager at Patrick Henry College Preparatory Academy, Erin enjoys helping another generation of homeschooled high schoolers take courses that stretch their abilities and ignite their love of learning. When she isn’t working, she can usually be found reading, writing, or taking a walk outdoors. She and her husband, also a homeschool graduate, live in northern Virginia.

Sherry Clay

Sherry Clay is a homeschool graduate and a proud farm girl from Illinois. She enjoys reading, crafts, volleyball, debates, and time with friends. A student at Patrick Henry College, Sherry is working toward a government degree with an emphasis on American politics. Her favorite thing about being a student at PHC is learning from the campus’s amazing students and professors who have challenged her to grow in many ways.

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