Praying over my students at the start of each Cedarville University chemistry class, I regularly ask God to grant these aspiring scientists, pre-meds, and pharmacists a sense of stewardship. They are blessed with time, energy, and gifts. Their education is not really about amassing credits or even earning a degree—it's about arduous equipping to perform those "good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10) As homeschool parents, we want each of our students to be prepared for his or her life calling, and that means higher education in many cases. Why not get a jump start on college? Before you sign up for dual enrollment, let's explore it more fully and think through the issues.

Dual enrollment (a.k.a. concurrent, postsecondary, or joint enrollment) allows students to earn both high school and college credit for a college-level learning experience. Forty-six states have statewide policies for such programs. Homeschool students can easily add dual-enrollment courses to their schedule, but parents usually have to pay for tuition because state-funded grants (often financed by lottery revenues) are often coordinated with the local public school system.

Dual-enrollment courses are offered in various formats; the most common involves face-to-face instruction over a traditional semester or quarter. Many colleges and universities offer courses in an online form or a blend of face-to-face and online. Be warned that the quality of online course design and depth of learning can vary tremendously! A high-speed Internet connection is generally needed to access media, and simultaneous participation will be required at times for synchronous course delivery. Asynchronous courses allow students to work according to their own schedules on group projects, discussion forums, and course materials. Online courses don't require travel or limit options to the colleges in your area. Due to the flexible learning environment, online learning options are becoming much more popular. According to a large national survey, public and private high school student participation in online learning for credit increased from 10% in 2008 to 18% in 2009.1

Besides the mode of content delivery, I think it is much more important to consider the values of the institution. Most dual-enrollment courses are offered by public colleges and universities. In fact, many states describe the public school system as a preschool through college enterprise (P-16). Part-time enrollment in public school may be required to qualify for free tuition—check with your state's department of education. Some public high school teachers are authorized to teach dual enrollment courses in the public school, further blurring the borders between secondary and higher education.

Although there is a place for public education, most homeschool parents I know insist on Biblically based instruction from role models living out Godly character. A Christian college or university seems to be the best solution, and in fact, many offer dual-enrollment courses (e.g., Cedarville Academy, Liberty University) in face-to-face and/or online delivery. Some online Christian schools include opportunities for homeschool dual enrollment (e.g., Sevenstar Academy). Homeschooled students can explore additional options through which they can earn college credit: Advanced Placement (AP), College Level Examination Program (CLEP), or camps/conferences/ministries with credit options (e.g., Worldview Academy, Summit Ministries).

Whatever the delivery format or type of institution, the goal for the Christian student is the same: becoming better equipped for kingdom service. I encourage students to seek academically challenging courses and peer groups in which to exercise their gifts. Too often students struggling in my chemistry class tell me their previous dual-enrollment coursework was substandard, despite the "good" grade. Capabilities are much more important than credit.