Friday, October 2, 2009

College Prep Genius: Scholarship Central...Cha-ching!

Though it is evident my ninth grader has a looong way to go before she is ready to take the SAT, I also have hope that she will be confidently prepared when the time comes, thanks to College Prep Genius from Jean Burk. This is part two of my review of this program. The first being my overall impression of the material, and this second one after I have tested it on my guinea pig/daughter (I’ll refer to her as “D”).

Knowing that putting my daughter through all the paces of the program in about a month may certify me as an insane homeschooling mother, and desiring to neither be locked up nor to have CPS come for a visit, I opted for taking on just the Critical Reading Section. Two reasons: first, D is just now in Algebra 1 so it would not make much sense to test her on what she is just beginning to grasp. Secondly, reading comprehension is not her strength and therefore I wanted to see how the material would help her.

My oldest daughter graduated this past spring and she had an SAT practice book that had several practice tests still in tact. Therefore, I picked out the three Critical Reading Sections from one particular test and did a sort of “before” and “after” experiment. I had D try one section on her own, prior to any help or advice. Um…she might not like my publishing the score, but for the sake of the review, I must. It was 25%. Yeah, pitiful.

We then moseyed to the DVD player and popped in the DVD on doing the Critical Reading Section. I had already watched it once, saw the great logic behind the advice, and appreciated the tips in the form of acronyms. Ms. Burk pointed out that the SAT is not an IQ test but a logic test. (This may not be news to some of you but it was novel to me!). There are patterns that all SAT (or PSAT or ACT) tests use and once you understand those patterns you are on the road to improving your score dramatically.

I had D watch the DVD and follow along in the student workbook. After this, I had her take the other two portions of the SAT test, allowing her to view the various acronyms that apply to that section. In reality, a student would need to memorize these acronyms using flashcards, so that they could bring their usefulness into the testing site stored in the gray matter between the ears. Well, it wasn’t realistic at this point to have D commit the acronyms to memory (there are six different ones, most using each letter to start a sentence rather than just a word) so we “cheated” a smidge and left the book open to the acronyms that applied.

When D was finished, I asked her if the hints helped to clarify the right answer for her. She said that it helped some but she did not yet completely understand the hints, either. The subtle differences between some things such as eliminating: additional information, contradictory information, irrelevant information and obscure information left her a bit befuddled. However, I would only blame this on having been so recently exposed to the material/concepts and not having time to assimilate it (coupled with the fact that, as I stated, reading is not her strongest point. She is a math-minded gal). I find the hints in the acronyms are very helpful and, once clarified and memorized by the student, can see that they would give a definite advantage when approaching this part of the test.

So…the result? Was there an improvement in her score? Well, I wouldn’t say she is ready for the real deal but, yes, there was definitely improvement. In one section, she scored 39% (still in the “pitiful” range), the other section she had a whopping 62%, which is vastly better but still needs work!

The verdict: after looking through the material and viewing the DVDs, and doing a test run, there is an enormous amount of help to be gained through College Prep Genius. Ms. Burk breaks down the amount of time needed to be spent in study to prepare for the SAT, doing it her way, and shows how it pays off in the dividends of scholarships. It is realistic. It has been done by others. It will be done by my daughter :).

When my oldest daughter was preparing for the SAT, we enrolled her in quite an expensive class that she attended for six or eight weeks. One of the projects required was making stacks; I mean huge hunks, of vocabulary flashcards. It was grueling! One thing College Prep Genius insists on is that there is NO NEED to memorize vast quantities of vocabulary words (of which you may not see even one of on a test), if you will learn their secrets to decoding the meaning and eliminating wrong answers, you are vocab-ready!

This system will still take a lot of work and effort to pay off. Nevertheless, it is streamlined and very doable, not overwhelming. Ms. Burk has done the research and set up some excellent strategies to give students the edge and confidence they need to score well on the SAT. It is a worthy investment of your time and money, one I am glad to have come across! I can hardly believe it is time to start preparing D for this big test, but it is. Having College Prep Genius leaves me no excuses!

The website for this program,, is full of helpful articles on scholarships, raising test scores and more. Check out the testimonials of students that did awesome on their tests thanks to College Prep Genius. The entire program, (DVD, workbook and text) are available for a special introductory price of just $79 dollars (regularly $115). Even at the regular price, this is waaayyy cheaper than the class we put our oldest in last year! This is one small investment that could really pay off in big ways in the future. I hope you’ll look into it!

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At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.