Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Look at This Loan

"Tell your mom friends who are still homeschooling about that."

Such was the advice I received from a friend as we were discussing college and how our students are paying for it.

She was telling me about the Texas Be On Time Loan (or BOT).  How had I missed this no interest loan that would be forgiven if a student graduates in 4 years and maintains at least a 3.0 GPA? 


I probably discounted it due to the nature of its name:  loan.  We prefer our students not need to take a loan for undergrad.  However, this loan intrigued me.

What my friend Melanie wants you to know, however, is that this loan requires students to have completed a "Recommended or Distinguished Achievement Program - Advanced High School Program or its equivalent."

In a nutshell, this requires 4 credits of English, 4 credits of Science, 4 credits of Social Studies, 2-3 credits of Foreign Language, plus other required credits.  You can see the required plans here

My interpretation of this loan is that it is for serious students who will succeed in college; students who have excelled in high school, but need financial help for college.

Acquiring the needed credits does require  planning for you, the teacher. 

What can you do if your student missed a year of a subject?  Take a college course.  One semester of a college course can count as one credit of high school credit when taken as a dual credit class.

This loan is administered through the Financial Aid office and you do have to qualify for it based on your FAFSA.

However, it is definitely worth looking at.  It also applies to community college and transfer students to a university.

The Texas Be On Time Loan is only for Texas residents or those who qualify for in-state tuition.  

So, now I have told you - just like my friend told me to do.  You have been apprised.


Were you aware of this no interest, forgivable loan?
Does your state have a comparable loan?




Shared at 
Hip Homeschool Moms

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Can I Write a Letter of Recommendation to Colleges for My Student??


Part of the college application process involves asking for letters of recommendation from school counselors, teachers, and other people who know the student well.

Homeschool students often run into the problem of who to ask for a letter of recommendation.  If students have been involved in co-op classes, dual credit classes, music lessons, or community service, they should have plenty of choices for letters of recommendation.

Can you, the parent/teacher/counselor write a letter of recommendation for your own child?  Yes, you can, in some cases.

I have written several letters for my high school senior this year. It was a little strange at first writing a letter telling how awesome my son is, but I figured out how to give a balanced (hopefully objective), view of my student.

 I have used the following basic outline to write my letters.

1. Check with the school or scholarship program to make sure they will accept a letter from the parent as the teacher/counselor recommendation.

2.  Be as objective as possible.

3.  Don’t repeat the transcript or resume’ in your letter of recommendation

4.  Tell a story or two that demonstrates strong points of your student - characteristics that might not be obvious by looking at the resume’ or transcript.

5. Tell why your student would be a good fit for the college you are writing the recommendation for.

In my letters I have included a statement that indicated I was trying to be objective even though I am the parent/teacher. 

Don’t be intimidated by writing a recommendation for your own child.
But, don’t embellish the facts, either.


Have you written letters of recommendation for your student?







Friday, February 20, 2015

Family Favorites Friday: Banana Wedding Cake

My second oldest got married in January.  She made her own cakes and did a fabulous job!  Not wanting the traditional white cake (who really likes white cake, anyway?), she made a tiered banana cake and two mexican chocolate cakes.

banana wedding cake
The cake in the middle is the Marvelous Banana Cake


Today's recipe is for the banana cake she made.  We have made this recipe from my Southern Living Cookbook over the years and it always turns out delicious.  She made the cakes when she was home in December and froze them.  She frosted and decorated them the day before her wedding.  Beautiful and delicious!

For the frosting, we used the Fluffy Buttercream recipe from One Cheap Utah Chick.  It turned out great!  I did make it ahead and freeze it, then my daughter just re-fluffed it again before she used it.

Marvelous Banana Cake

1 cup butter, softened
3 cups sugar
2 cups mashed bananas
4 eggs, beaten
3  3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsps baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBSP bourbon or orange juice
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Cream butter, gradually add sugar, beating well at medium speed of an electric mixer.  Add banana; mix until smooth. Stir in eggs.

Combine flour and soda.  Add to banana mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Mix after each addition.  Stir in vanilla, bourbon or juice, and pecans.

Pour batter into 3 greased and parchment paper lined 9-inch round cake pans.  Bake at 350 degrees 35-40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes our clean.  Do not over-bake.  Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans.  If freezing, wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil while still warm.  To help keep the cake flat, put on a cardboard cake circle before wrapping to freeze.

Yield:  One 3 layer cake

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

College Applications: Now We Wait


Even though I have been silent lately on my son's college application process, it doesn't mean he hasn't been busy.

He has applied to:
2 in-state private schools
2 in-state public schools
1 out-of-state private school 

Along with the college applications, he has filled out numerous scholarship applications and written the required essays

college applications now we wait


Even though I provided him (and you) a way to keep up with all the different requirements and deadlines, he has almost missed at least one of them.  I think one reason may be that when he was looking for applications early in the school year, some schools may not have had the information on their website yet!

For most of the colleges, he met their early application deadline of December 15.  Since he is applying as a dual engineering and music education major, he also is required to audition for the music departments.

His first audition at a private school netted him acceptance into the college of music.  He had applied early action (not to be confused with early decision) to this university and was also accepted to the engineering college.  He was offered some nice scholarships, but is hoping for more since this is a private university.  The decisions for some of the other scholarships he applied for at this school will not be made until mid-March.

So, we wait.

His second audition was at a very large public Texas university that required a preliminary video audition to make it to the second round of auditions.  He passed the first round of auditions and had his live audition in January.  This school has not sent out university acceptance letters of any kind, but he learned yesterday that he did get accepted to the music school (contigent on acceptance to the University)  Those acceptance letters don't go out until mid-March, along with any scholarship offers.

So, we wait.

The same week-end he auditioned at the large public school, he auditioned at a private school that had not originally been on his top 5 list.  While he was auditioning, I attended a parent meeting and discovered that not only does the university not offer the type of engineering that interests my son, they also don't encourage dual majors for music students.  We haven't heard from this school yet, but unless they offer some amazing, too good to pass up deal, they are off the list.

His last audition is this week-end at a branch school of the 'big Texas university'.  It was not originally on his list either, but I found some generous scholarships that would definitely make the school very affordable, plus they offer both majors he is considering.  Also, his voice teacher recommended one of the voice professors, so it is definitely a contender at this point.

He has been accepted to this university, but has not received financial aid/scholarship information.  Most of that goes out mid-March.

So, we wait.

What about your student?  Have they finished applications?  Are they just waiting, too?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Welcome to the Real World, Part 6 (final)


This class was taught during 10 class sessions at our local co-op.  I have combined some of the weeks into this 6 week blog series.  The tenth class period was spent making display boards to display during our afternoon of enrichment.

Last week, students were required to find a home they could afford to buy and research a little about home loans.

Some of the students learned that they didn't have enough savings for a down payment or didn't have enough income to afford to buy a house, yet.

In class, we discussed types of loans and some decisions that need to be made when purchasing a home.

Some of the in class teaching included:

ARM- Adjustable Rate Mortgage: 
generally, these are not a good idea for a long term loan.  Even though the initial rate is lower, the rate can fluctuate annually.

A comparison of these two mortgages can be found at Wells Fargo.

Fixed Rate Mortgage: 
I showed students the cost savings of a 15 year mortgage vs. a 30 year mortgage.  Often, the monthly payment is not much more for the shorter loan period, but the overall savings is significant.  The option to pay more on the principle to pay off a 30 year loan (or any loan) sooner was also taught to the students, using a personal example.

To add to the 'real world' scenario, couples participated in a baby 'lottery' this week.  

The couples drew slips of paper that either said "congratulations, it's a boy", "congratulations it's a girl", or "no".  The probability of any of the 4 couples getting a baby was 25%.  

One couple added a baby girl to their family and had to adjust their budget accordingly as well as decide if the mother would continue to work or be a full time mom.

In an attempt to replicate real life, students were given raises and new job offers as well.  If the job was in a new location, the student had to choose to accept or decline the offer as well as research housing in the new location.  

Giving high school students the opportunity to participate in a 'real life' simulation is a fun way to teach them about finances, budgeting, and decision making.

However, you must keep in mind what I told my students at the start of the class:

I do not have a crystal ball and cannot predict the future.  The 'perks and pitfalls' students were given in class was not an indication of how I think their life will be.  There are too many variables in 'real life' that keep us from being prepared for everything that may come our way.  Sometimes, we do have to learn as we go.

Does this mean we should not try to be prepared?  No, good financial habits and decision making are excellent life skills to possess.

I hope this series has been helpful or at least thought provoking for you.  If I was unclear about anything, feel free to comment and ask questions.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD, part 5

I am back from my blogging hiatus and ready to finish my series on Welcome to the Real World.

In part 4, students were given homework that included finding a place to live and making a budget.

Most of the students found that rent was more than they expected.  Making a budget was  a little difficult for them because many expenses were estimates.  Students did research the cost of utilities, cell phone plans, and transportation.

During class students were given a menu plan worksheet to plan a realistic menu for one week.  They were required to include snacks.  Using provided grocery ads, the students planned their menus and calculated grocery costs for one week.  

"Married" students were required to plan together.   This proved to be an interesting exercise in learning to compromise in a relationship.  One person might love hot dogs and the other might hate them, therefore they had to come up with a meal plan that both parties would enjoy.

Menu planning also helped the students realize that their original grocery budget was not realistic and most of the students needed to increase that category.

As part of the menu planning, each student was given a 'perk' or a 'pitfall' to plan around.  Some of the perks or pitfalls included planning for:
 potluck at work- bring a dish to share
plan a special meal for spouse's birthday dinner
invited friends over for dinner- plan for extra people
travel for work- lunch is paid 

Students were also given 'perks' and 'pitfalls' to add to their budget and plan how to include them.  Some of these real world scenarios included:

rebate- $50
tire blow-out, buy two new tires- $200
had a garage sale- earned $100
buy used refrigerator- $300

The final 'marriage' lottery occurred at this point which left the class with two bachelors who were happy not to be required to include a spouse on their meager salary.

Homework for the week:  
Find a house you would like to buy that you think you can afford. 
Research a little bit about house loans.


 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

How to Achieve Your New Year's Resolutions

I don't make New Year's resolutions.

Turning the calendar to a new year does not motivate me.

What motivates me to consider exercising more, eating better, or cleaning more is the end of the holiday season.

Besides, a year is too long to try to achieve a goal.

So how do you achieve your New Year's resolution (if you made one)?

Make the resolution smaller.

Would your resolution/goal be easier to achieve if it was only for a month? 

or a week?

or a day?

Break your big resolution/goal into smaller steps.

Want to lose 10 pounds this year?  That's less than one pound a month.  What do you need to do to achieve that?  Cut out 100 calories a day?  Exercise 15 more minutes per day?  

Doesn't that sound easier?

Is your goal to de-clutter or keep up with the cleaning?

Break it down to little tasks every day.  At the end of the year, you should see noticeable progress.

Did you set a new resolution or goal?

Every big goal, to be achieved, must be divided into smaller daily goals. 

 Make a daily resolution and at the end of the year, you will have achieved your New Year's resolution.

The hardest part of achieving your goal is implementing the steps to achieve it.
  
How do you implement your resolutions?

 
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