Posted in HS4CC

Bella’s Graduation Story

With gratitude, I’d like to thank our HS4CC Military Facebook Group Moderator Jennifer Tillson, for sharing each and every wonderful detail of her daughter’s classes and cost breakdown for her homeschooling program and graduation! Bella’s story is an example of how one mom followed her daughter’s gifts and talents and went all in. I know you’ll enjoy reading this as much as I have!

Written by Jennifer Tillson, Bella’s mom.

Homeschooling for College Credit has been a wonderful journey for our family. My middle daughter, Bella Tillson (16.5-years old) is graduating this year with 117 college credits!

Our journey was not planned, and we circulated into it beginning after her 1st grade teacher noticed she was gifted and wanted to advance her a grade level but under Florida Law they couldn’t do that until 2nd grade. She wanted to circumvent by giving her 2nd grade work while staying in her 1st grade classroom. I thought homeschooling with a gifted curriculum and joining a local co-op for a year was the better option.

After the year of homeschooling, she rolled back into public school as a 3rd grader. During the next 1.5 years, and even after enrolling her into the gifted program, she was very bored with traditional school and we were unsatisfied with the push to common core. At the same time, my youngest was diagnosed with an Auditory Processing Disorder. We felt homeschooling was the best option for both of them.

We practiced year-long homeschooling, and they flew through elementary and middle school curriculum at an astonishing rate. By 12 years old she was ready for high school curriculum. Knowing from experience that the first 2 years of college is basically a repeat of high school classes and most kids get too bored and never finish their Associates Degree, I wanted to incorporate an AP style high school curriculum that could potentially give them college credit and after researching like crazy found Homeschooling for College Credit (HS4CC).

Bella decided self-paced homeschooling core classes while taking 2 electives at the public school and remaining active in our local homeschool co-ops was the jackpot for her. She stuck with a year-long schedule, slotting 4 new classes every 8 weeks (24 classes per calendar year). It seems like a lot (and it is) but she kept up all A’s while joining school clubs, volunteering 100 hours and even added a part-time job this year. With so many class slots & many interests, her schedule has always been elective heavy. She wanted to explore every option, and even with constant career research/testing, she changed “what she wanted to be when she grew up” so many times over the next 4 years I got dizzy- LOL!

Meanwhile, with the help of HS4CC, I was learning how to create transcripts, calculate GPAs, the difference between types of credits, colleges that were transfer credit friendly, the difference between degrees, degree planning, and much more. Bella gave me a lot of practice degree planning- from Veterinarian to Librarian to Forensic Scientist to Police Officer to Political Activist to Chef to Astronaut to Nutritionist to Graphic Designer to Animator! I would arrange interviews, explore labor statistics & try to find classes with every new interest, mostly credit bearing but sometimes not. We were fortunate as a military family to know so many people around the world, have awesome co-ops, experienced living overseas in Japan for 2 years without many homeschool restrictions, and have exceptional online resources.

By the time Bella decided on Video Animation and said she was ready to graduate, we realized she had earned 117 college credits over 4 years! She was accepted last month in Southern New Hampshire University Game Art & Development program where 90 of those credits successfully transferred, making her a college junior at 17-year-old!

We have used most of the 30 ways to earn college credit suggested on Jennifer Cook- DeRosa’s website & Chapter 2 of the Homeschooling for College Credit book. We saved a ton of time and money, and now I am so excited to help others in our military homeschooling community obtain their goals!


  1. What worked? ACE credit was a goldmine for Bella, especially when Sophia ran their FREE for COVID special with a follow-on BOGO annual membership for $149.
  2. When did you start? She started at 12-years old.
  3. Why did you want your teen to earn college credit? She wanted to save time with an advanced curriculum. I wanted to incorporate college credit in high school to reduce drop-out rates & cash flow credits as cheap as possible over her high school years while still allowing freedom to explore interests.
  4. Did your teen overcome learning challenges or motivation challenges? After a
    disappointing class, she would shift interests again and loss a little motivation until she got excited to explore something new.
  5. What do you recommend for the parent who is nervous about that first college credit? Look at the 30 ways to earn credit on the HS4CC website, pick your child’s favorite class and line it up with their learning style (video, reading, in-person or online, test or no test) and just go for it. Along the journey, keep exploring the HS4CC website & Facebook pages for tips.
  6. What kind of money did this cost? $5,230 for 117 College Credits (or $44.70/credit). ***Note: Because Bella changed her mind frequently (I encouraged an environment where freedom to explore and change her mind during this time was important), she earned way more credits than she needed and we spent some extra money. Still affordable and cash flowed over 4 years (no loans), but looking back we could have traded American Military University & Liberty University Online Academy for Dual Enrollment (which was FREE after moving to Florida). This would have brought our cost for 117 credits down to $1,450 ($12.39/credit) vs the actual cost of $5,230 ($44.70/credit).
  7. What’s next for your family? I have an older daughter going to Music School at Liberty University with a goal of joining the Navy Band, and a younger daughter on track for her Bachelors in Psychology at Excelsior with the goal of earning her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and also joining the Navy. My middle daughter, Bella, wants to finish her Bachelors in Game Art & Animation at Southern New Hampshire University in 2 years and go to Savannah College of Art and Design or The University of Central Florida for her Masters in Animation where she plans to study abroad in Japan. We predict she’ll earn her Masters by 21 years old and then go to work for Disney, Pixar or a Japanese Animation Studio. My husband, who has been active duty for 24 years now, is waiting to retire until we get all 3 girls through college and then we’re going to jump in our RV and get lost for a while!

Jennifer Cook-DeRosa’s comment about costs: The average cost of college credit is currently $400. Had Bella paid rack rate tuition for her credit, she would have paid (or borrowed) about $47,000 so far.


SOPHIA, 76 credits, $75

  • Developing Effective Teams
  • Essentials of Managing Conflict
  • Introduction to Business
  • Visual Communication
  • Information Technology
  • Project Management
  • Business Law
  • Principles of Finance
  • College Readiness
  • Foundations of English
  • English Comp 1
  • English Comp 2
  • Ancient Greek Philosophy
  • Approaches to Studying Religion
  • Art History 1
  • Art History 2
  • Introduction to Ethics
  • US History 1
  • US History 2
  • Introduction to Sociology
  • Macroeconomics
  • Microeconomics
  • College Algebra
  • Foundations of Statistics
  • Introduction to Statistics
  • Environmental Science
  • Human Biology

CSM LEARN, 3 credits, $39

  • CSM Math

STUDY.COM, 12 credits $560

  • Public Speaking
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Nutrition
  • American Government

STRAIGHTERLINE, 6 credits, $351

  • Personal Fitness & Wellness
  • Survey of World History

ASU Earned Admissions/Universal Learner, 3 credits, $425

  • Pre-Calculus

Liberty University Online Academy, 9 credits, $1,650

  • Introduction to Drawing 1
  • Introduction to 2D Design
  • Introduction to Graphic Design

American Military University, 8 credits, $2,130

  • Biology 1 with Lab
  • Chemistry 1 with Lab


  • KHAN SAT English & Math: FREE
    • American Sign Language 1 & 2
    • Sculpture 1 & 2
    • Physical Education + Weight lifting
    • Computers: Video Production
    • Clubs: GSA, National Honors Society
    • National Art Honors Society, Hands
    • Sports: Roller Derby, Dodgeball
  • CLEP w/ Modern States Missed by 1 point, FREE
  • GLENCOE Reading & Literature FREE
  • DUOLINGO Japanese & Spanish FREE
  • Community Outreach: Volunteer 100 Hours FREE
  • RED CROSS: Babysitting & CPR $75
  • MEL SCIENCE (5 months + 1 FREE) Divided by 2 kids $90
  • Girl Scouts: Cybersecurity Certification $100
  • GREAT COURSES, $20/mo. TV App Subscription, $100
    • Super Star Student
    • English Pathways
    • Spanish
    • Nutrition
    • Home Gardening
  • OUTSCHOOL, $145
    • You Decide: Juror,
    • Murder Mystery: Detective
    • Chemistry1 & 2
    • Science Lab Camp 1 & 2
  • Private Science Tutor: Bio & Chemistry $200
  • Private Math Tutor: Geometry, ALG $200
  • HOMESCHOOL CO-OP CLASSES, average $75/year $300
    • Geography
    • Poetry
    • D&D
    • Culinary Arts
    • Drawing
    • American Literature
    • Engineer
    • Writing
    • Logic vs Fallacy
    • Zoology
    • STEM
    • Origami
    • Anime
    • Debate
    • Photo Journaling
    • World Cultures
    • Cooking Lessons
    • Anatomy & Physiology
  • SAFETY Driver’s Training +Private Instruct $350
  • STUDY.COM, $360
    • World Geography
    • GED Math
    • Intro to Philosophy
    • Causes & Effects of Vietnam War
    • Holocaust & WW2
    • Personal Finance
  • UDEMY x18 Courses in Animation Intro Pricing $370

Non-Credit Bearing Classes, 0 credits, $2055

Are you a military family? Join our HS4CC Military Facebook group!

If you’d like to explore degree planning and how to do for your teen what Jennifer did for hers, START HERE.


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit

One thought on “Bella’s Graduation Story

  1. Such a fantastic inspiring story, thanks for sharing!

    I wanted to comment that EVEN if you find the average of $400/credit insane (maybe you have access to cheaper credits through tuition discounts or a small community or religious college), even the cheapest colleges are $100-$200, so they STILL saved substantially over even the bare chepest possible tuition rates.

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