What Homeschoolers Need to Know about the SAT

Homeschooling big kids is tricky business. 

The weight of having a child's entire high school education on your shoulders can be daunting and often times scary. 

In recent months I have been researching what homeschoolers need to know about the SAT.

While I do preach "faith not fear", it does pay to be prepared when it comes to important things like transcripting, choosing courses, and standardized testing. 

In these high school years, I am looking to experts to help me with some BIG decisions. My go to guy for all things SAT is Mr. D, or Mr. D Math. My oldest has taken Algebra Readiness, Algebra I and Geometry with Mr. D, and she is doing SO WELL! 

 I'm so happy Mr. D agreed to share with my readers about what  homeschoolers need to know about the SAT.

With that - today I am turning the blog over to Mr. D! 

What Homeschoolers Need to Know About the PSAT & SAT

As you can imagine, I am often asked many different things about homeschoolers taking the SAT.

What should a student expect to see on the SAT or PSAT?

When should a student take the SAT or PSAT?

What is the best way to prepare for the SAT or PSAT?

What are the PSAT and SAT?

The SAT stands for the Scholastic Aptitude Test. It was first administered in 1926 and was originally used to figure out who is awarded scholarships for Ivy League Schools. The SAT has become known as the test to take to “predict” how successful students would be in college.

The first PSAT Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test was administered in the fall of 1959. The test is a shortened form of the SAT and is designed to help students become familiar with the question types and format of the full exam. 

What to expect on the SAT 

Let’s look at the most current changes from the old version of the SAT to the new version of the SAT.

The SAT has been redesigned and the first “new” SAT was given in March 2015. The PSAT is now in effect as well.

Many people want to know how are the old and new tests differ. 

While many things have changed, some things remain the same especially when it comes to math.  

Here is a quick overview about the changes on the math portion so you can be prepared!


Old:                                                                  New:

3 tests                                                            2 tests

20 questions 25 minutes                              20 questions 25 minutes - No calculator

18 questions 25 minutes                               38 questions 55 minutes - With calculator

16 questions 20 minutes


Old:                                                                   New:

Algebra I, Geometry, some Algebra II            Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II Trigonometry, Data Analysis (Probability and Statistics)     

There will be free response and multiple choice questions on the new SAT as there were on the old SAT.  

The style of the questions are similar from the old test to the new test but the new test requires a higher level of math skills. 

Higher Level of Math Skills Required on the New SAT

For the new SAT, students will need to have a broader range of math skills through Algebra II and into a Pre-Calculus class that has Trigonometry.  Students will also need to recognize and work with function notation.  Finally, students will need a solid grasp of workingwith probability. 

The best way for students to prepare is to practice and get familiar with the kinds of questionsthat will be asked on the new SAT.  

The scoring will be similar out of 800 possible points except now there will NO LONGER be points subtracted for wrong answers.

When should students take the PSAT?

Students usually take the PSAT during the 10th grade year in October and then take the SAT the following year as junior. Students can take the PSAT as a  th grader if they are ready.

What do I mean by being ready?

That would be students who have completed Algebra I, Geometry and are at least ½ way through their Algebra II curriculum.

In the past if students had completed Algebra I and Geometry they were ready for a first time attempt at the SAT or PSAT. Now, with the new broadened amount material, it is wise to wait.

Students who attempt the new SAT format without having completed Algebra II feel like they were seeing things they had never seen before. They are correct as they just haven’t seen it yet without completing Algebra II first.

Math Topics to Be Familiar with on the SAT

Math Topics to Be Familiar With on the SAT

 Slope of a line and what does it mean. (I will share more about this later in this article.)

 Y intercepts.

 X Intercepts which on the SAT are called zeros or real solutions to a quadratic equations.

 Systems.

 Sine, Cosine and Tangent relationships

 Alternate interior angles, corresponding angles, same side interior angles, transversals

creating parallel lines.

 Proportions.

 Compound interest

 Indirect and direct variations.

 The Pythagorean Theorem.

 Triangle relationships.

 Matrices.

 Probability.

 Relationships between the Mean, Median and Mode.

 Equation of a circle and identifying the center.

 Equation of a parabola in standard and vertex form.

 Identifying the vertex or zero of a parabola.

There are more of course, but as you cans see, this is a much broader list than the older version of the SAT.

What is the best way to prepare for the SAT or PSAT?

First, let’s start with the best ways NOT to prepare:

1. Do not take the SAT or PSAT to get a baseline of where a student is.

(I know this is a tough one for some moms!)

Students who have never seen the format of the test are now dealing with not only the content, but the style of the question and the time limit constraints. The baseline you will have is not a true assessment of where the student really is. There are likely questions they could have answered if they understood the style and formatting of the question.

Translation - They knew the material but did not know what they were being asked.

2. Do a question or two a day for several months before the SAT test date as the only preparation. The SAT comes at you in a timed fast pace setting. While the “question a day” is a great tool, don’t let it be the sole source.

3. Practice 50 problems of slope then 50 problems of alternate interior angles formed by parallel lines, etc. The SAT doesn’t deliver the content in this format, so saturating yourself with drill and practice on these topics usually doesn't produce the intended result.

Let’s look at the best ways to prepare:

1. Learn the language of math.

Here are some examples!!!!

a. Slope - when a question on the SAT or PSAT is asking about the slope of a line, it will likely not say “what is the slope of the line?” Instead, it will ask what is the rate of change or how many hours per month or for each inch. The word “rate of change”, “per an interval” or “for each unit” refer to slope. Slope is a rate of change looking at how one variable is changing in relation to the other.

b. Y- Intercept – The y-intercept students will say happens when a graph crosses the y axis. What they sometimes miss is that the y-intercept occurs when the x value of the graph is 0. The x axis usually refers to time which means what is happening when something begins. The SAT will when asking about a y-intercept will use words like “start, begin or initial.”

2. Take practice tests.

The SAT publisher, has prepared some great practice tests that are available on their website.

3. Use a timer with the practice tests and take the test the way it will be given.

Once a student has seen what they know, how the test is structure and what to expect,

preparing becomes a game plan as opposed to a guess. What I see over and over again with students these days is young people are just as busy as their parents.  

Students tell me often,  "I have to make time to study for the SAT."

Something I have noticed about the word "study" is that it is a little like going to the dentist. We should but if we can put it off, we will.

Something I have noticed about the word "study" is that it is a little like going to the dentist. We should but if we can put it off, we will.

For me, studying for the SAT is something that doesn't really work anyway.  While there are plenty of 700 page "study" guides for the SAT, what students really need to is practice.  Just like an athlete, artist or musician, the way to become great at something is to practice.  

When I ask students when they are going to practice for the SAT, they are not as opposed to picking a time and then doing just that, practicing for the SAT.  Knowing how long to practice and what to practice makes all the difference.  

Having a scheduled time each week or even a few times a week as the test date draws near is the best approach.  Just like dance class practice or soccer practice, the practice is scheduled and you know you will be going. 

SAT Prep With Mr. D

The live 6-Week Online Math SAT Bootcamp gives you immediate access to the Mr. D Math Test Prep Portal with over 6 hours of video training for the SAT math sections, plus online practice tests and additional resources for the SAT, ACT, and PERT tests in all subject areas. 

In this interactive program, we will cover everything your student needs for success on the math portion of the SAT.  

In addition to test-taking "secrets" and strategies mentioned above, we'll review all the formulas they'll need to memorize. Students will take multiple practice tests so they can see the results of what they've learned in action. 

Dennis DiNoia has been immersed in education for over 25 years. He holds a M.A. in Education from the University of South Florida and has been a Florida State Certified Secondary Mathematics Teacher since 1988.

Mr D image

10 years ago, Mr. D left the public school system to develop an online curriculum for all levels of high-school math, from pre-algebra to pre-calculus. His unique and effective approach teaches students to understand math as a language, and he infuses problem-solving skills that transfer to everyday life.

Mr. D has had great success in assisting students to raise their test scores on SAT/ACT/FCAT and other standardized tests. Due to the need for assistance in this area, he created specialized test preparation seminars and online videos based upon his years of experience in the school system and private tutoring industry.

Thank you, Dennis, for equipping and empowering high school parents everywhere! 

I can rest easy knowing we have a plan for SAT prep for Anna over the next couple of years.

Do you have additional SAT math questions for Mr. D?  Leave a comment here and we'll do our best to help you! 

5 Simple Tips for the Foundations Tutor

I am so thankful we have chosen Classical Conversations

Our current year in CC has been so sweet for our family. I know that we will look back on this year with many fond memories and stories of God's faithfulness. 

After being in an established community for three years, this year I have the great joy of  helping a dear friend of mine start a new community.  And (here's the exciting part) after observing my son's tutors for three years, I am now doing the tutoring myself!

I spend each Tuesday morning with 7 precious Abecedarians, and we have SUCH FUN!

 You can learn so much being on the other side in a community. Tutoring not only helps me teach my own child more effectively, but it also gives me greater insight into the Classical model.  (It took me a while to realize the memory work was enough!)

As a Foundations tutor, I am finding the job of modeling a "stick in the sand" approach for the parents in my classroom to be of the utmost importance. I actually do them a DISSERVICE if I stray from simplicity in Foundations. 

I've discovered a few simple tips that have made my life abundantly easier  - and ultimately make the class experience more effective for students and parents. 

(If you have a tendency to go overboard - make elaborate games - spend hours on your board - plan "extra" activities to enhance the memory work - this post is for YOU! And really, it's for me, too.)

5 Simple Tips for the CC Foundations Tutor

When teaching my own boys or when tutoring CC students, I always ask myself this question: If I only had a stick and sand, could I engage and effectively dialogue with my students about the concept I want to teach them? Asking this question helps us to rely more on modeling, dialogue, and relationship than on the false sense of accomplishment a flashy presentation can leave.
— Leigh Bortins

Hand Write Your Board 

CC Connected is full of beautiful resources for you to print and use AT HOME.

During community day, however, the tri fold board should be simple - stick in the sand - and it shouldn't take you hours to prepare.

CC Foundations Tutor Tip #1: Hand Write Your Board

There is one part of the board, however, I always print, and that is the geography memory work. I find that a quality color map helps when we are labeling our maps in class. 

I print the maps from user trvaron on CC Connected to use on the tri fold board.

Everything on the board is also in the same place each week. My little ones need the predictability of Latin always being in the upper left, English Grammar being in the upper right, etc... 

And of course - GOD is always at the center of it all.

Keep the Schedule Consistent

Again, so much goes back to consistency.

We have the same schedule every Tuesday morning. It looks roughly (because of course we need to be flexible sometimes) like this: 

  • 9:00-9:30 - opening assembly
  • 9:30-10:00 - introduction of new grammar
  • 10:00-10:30 - snack and presentation
  • 10:30-11:00 - fine arts
  • 11:00-11:30 - science (usually involves being outside if we can swing it)
  • 11:30-12:00 - review

This consistency lets my students feel like they have control over their time and they function so much better when they know what is coming next. 

5 Simple Tips for the CC Foundations Tutor

My little guys love routine so much that they picked up on the fact that we always do a little "get your wiggles out" activity right before science each Tuesday. Last week I forgot - and someone said "Hey - we didn't get our wiggles out!"

Again, keep the routine simple and predictable. It means less planning for you and more enjoyment and better behavior for everyone else. 

Choose a Few Fun Extras

Notice I say "a few" - because my tendency has normally been to go a bit overboard. (I am a recovering public school teacher, after all!) You shouldn't have to spend a lot of time or effort to pull off a fun Foundations class. 

My tutor bag of tricks contains just a few fun props that we use in pretty much the same way each class session. 

5 Simple Tips for the Foundations Tutor

Among our favorites:

  • Leo the Latin Lion - This puppet only comes out during Latin. He's oh so precocious and loves to kiss pretty girls on the cheek, nibble their hair, and be silly while he is holding the pointer in his mouth.  Often times children will feel more comfortable with the puppet than they will on their own.  We love Leo!  
  • Shaky Eggs - these are great for all of the chants, songs, and anything else that has rhythm. You would be amazed what good behavior the children will have just to have a chance with these little maracas. 
  • Sweet Swats -  These extendable fly swatters are perfect for swatting the English Grammar memory work. They've been particularly helpful with all of the pronouns we have to memorize. I put each pronoun on a sheet of paper, and then a child swats each one as we say them - usually with a fun rhythm. 
  • Big Foam Dice - There are a million uses for these big dice. We use them to play a simple review game at the end of class. 
  • Hand Pointer - You really cannot live without one of these!
  • Voice Cube - I found a template on CC Connected and glued the different voices to one of the big foam dice. The kids LOVE this. 
  • Crown - There are so many history sentences that deal with kings and queens. A good crown will serve you well in acting out history memory work, and just for being silly in general. 
  • Nerf Suction Dart Gun - awesome for review time - and it certainly will get used in your home, too! 

Know Some Discipline Tricks

While it isn't the tutor's job to "discipline" the children, it certainly helps when the tutor sets the students up for behavioral success.

In my many years of classroom teaching I did learn quite a few positive discipline techniques. So much of a successful community morning depends on positive reinforcement and creative discipline.

Some ideas: 

  • Have a few snappy "call-backs" - by this I mean something YOU say, and then the students respond with something else.  Or, just something catchy that you say to get the children's attention. For example:
5 Simple Tips for the Foundations Tutor

Teacher:  "Macaroni and Cheese"

Students: "Everybody Freeze!"

Teacher:  "Eyes on the Ceiling. Eyes on the Floor. Eyes on the Ceiling. Eyes on the Door. Eyes on Miss ___________________."

Teacher:  "1, 2, 3"

Students:  "Eyes on Me!"

You can also Google "Classroom Callbacks" to come up with other clever ideas. 

  • Positive Reinforcement - Simply noticing when a student is doing something well goes such a long way.

"Mary, I love the way you are sitting quietly and waiting for instructions. That is AWESOME!"

"Johnny, thank you so much for listening. You may be our next pointer."

  • Proximity - Often times you don't need to SAY anything to get a desired behavior from a child. A simple hand on the shoulder or standing next to a student will send the message that you are watching their behavior.

You will soon discover which students this works well for, and which students it might not work for. 

  • Use Your Parents! - The parents are in the Foundations classroom to assist YOU. Have a parent sit between two children who might need some redirection. Communicate to the parents in the room that they are FREE to ask a child to be quiet or help them make the right decision. Don't be afraid to take advantage of your greatest resource in the room - other parents! 

Plan Extra - Just in Case! 

There are some days with my Abecedarians that there simply isn't ENOUGH time to get in 30 minutes of review at the end. 

Then, there are other days when science, presentation, or fine arts hasn't taken up the full 30 minutes of time. 

The worst thing to happen is to be stuck with dead time and NOTHING to do. (Ask me how I know.)

5 Simple Tips for the CC Foundations Tutor

It's a good thing to have a tutor bag of tricks that you can pull from when you need that extra something.  These things have saved me on many occasions:

  • Geography Blob Maps - Our children can never have too much practice with mapping the world. Put blob maps in page protectors and let them trace - then turn on the other side and ask them to draw from memory. 
  • Sidewalk Chalk - You can always take your kids outside and skip count the times tables on the pavement! Or, you can write English memory work and hop on pronouns. The possibilities are endless on a sunny day. 
  • Inflatable Globe - You can throw the globe from child to child and identify geography memory work along the way. 
  • Classical Music - Use some of the musical selections for the cycle you are in. Load them onto your phone and if things get a little out of control, or if you just need some quiet time at the end of class, pass out those white boards - let your children draw while listening to music they will be hearing (or have heard) during that cycle. Or, you can turn off the lights, play that music and just have some quiet time to form a picture in their heads.  You will be AMAZED at how much children enjoy this. 
  • Books - I always try to keep a stash of seasonal books in my tutor bin - or books that go along with our science, history, or fine arts. I could give you a huge list, but I'll just list a few favorites.
Ish (Creatrilogy)
By Peter H. Reynolds
The Day the Crayons Quit
By Drew Daywalt

Remember, your students don't want flashy and shiny. They don't want you to spend hours of your time preparing for community day.

What they truly crave is order, discipline, and a tutor who is well grounded in the Classical model. 

Keep it simple and bear a few simple tips in mind and you will have a GREAT year!


Are you a CC Foundations tutor?  Do you have any additional tips to share? 

5 Simple Tips for Foundations Tutors

Favorite Picture Books for Fall

My kids know when I go to the basement storage room I might not be back for a while.

I was searching for picture books to read to a class of little ones I teach each week. As predicted,  I fell down a rabbit hole - pulling out all of our favorite picture books from this time of year. 

It's like opening presents when I sit with those Rubbermaid storage tubs in my basement. 

Precious, precious presents. 

Make time to read to and with your kids and you will never ever regret it. 

It fits into the BIG PICTURE of homeschooling!

When I pulled out How to Bake an Apple and See the World - both of my children said (in unison), "Awwww. I remember that book!"    

As I showed them the Corduroy's Best Halloween Ever they immediately remembered grandma reading this book to them years ago. 

Cranberry Thanksgiving brought found memories of the sweet friend who had recommended that book to me as a young mom. 

We sat for a long time - my big kids and me - and just read those books together. Once again we created a memory.


*This post contains affiliate links.

Favorite Picture Books for Fall

I am so glad I invested in these books so we can pull them out now to relive the memories. We always had a library for each season - when the fall decorations came out my kids knew the orange tub held all of the fall themed books. 

So, here's my list of favorite fall picture books - I hope you can enjoy a few with your little ones!

Over the years we have adopted the philosophy of "less is more" - as I look back I can see this was wise. A few things done well - a few books read year after year - it all adds up to childhood time well spent. 

Picture Books About Fall

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves
By Julia Rawlinson
Because of an Acorn
By Lola M. Schaefer, Adam Schaefer
Hocus Pocus, It's Fall!
By Anne Sibley O'Brien

(We had to snap a picture of our ALL TIME favorites from the orange fall book tub -- it's so fun when your kids have shared memories through books! )

Picture Books About Leaves

The Falling Leaves
By Steve Metzger
Autumn's First Leaf
By Steve Metzger
Leaf Man
By Lois Ehlert
We're Going on a Leaf Hunt
By Steve Metzger
Leaf Jumpers
By Carole Gerber

Picture Books About Pumpkins & Apples

We recently went to North Georgia to pick apples. My 15 year old has such good memories from our row of How to Make An Apple Pie and See the World - we picked apples and have been making pies, cakes, applesauce, and more. 

A book can hold oh so many memories.  (And yes, we read that book when we got home!)

Favorite Picture Books for Fall
Pumpkin Moonshine
By Tasha Tudor
Pumpkin Soup
By Helen Cooper
Pumpkin Pumpkin
By Jeanne Titherington
The Apple Pie Tree
By Zoe Hall

Picture Books About Thankfulness & Thanksgiving

There are so many good books in this category -- again, just a few of the BEST because we believe less is more! 

The Thanksgiving Story
By Alice Dalgliesh
Thanks for Thanksgiving
By Julie Markes

What is your favorite picture book for this time of year?  I'd love to know! 

Favorite Fall Picture Books