Posted in HS4CC

When Your Teen Fails

“I’ve missed over 9,000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost over 300 games.” -Michael Jordan.

I’ve never lost a basketball game – not once. Of course, I’ve never played a basketball game, so it’s easy for me to have a perfect record. Such is life- it’s easy not to fail as long as you don’t try anything hard. If your teen is trying hard things, they may experience a failed attempt.  Whether they’ve failed a CLEP test, a college course, or even just a quiz, failure happens.  What do you do when it does?

This is an icky topic, I know that. I really didn’t want to ask our membership at large, so, I turned to the leadership team at Homeschooling for College Credit and asked if they’d be willing to share some of their failures.

We have many moderators that run our Facebook community, and they all have teens working on or finishing up college credit. Some are just starting, and others are on their second or third teen. The reason I asked for their help, is because, despite all of them experiencing some measure of failure, they’re all still pushing ahead. They’re getting through it. Failing is always part of a journey.

I decided to omit the names of my moderators to protect the privacy of their teens.

One of my older daughters failed( didn’t do) her entire freshmen year in high school.  -HS4CC Mom1

In my opinion, not all failures are equal. In our home, failing a homeschool quiz almost always means redoing it again and again until mastery is achieved. When I talk to other homeschooling parents, they often stress to me the importance that their kids have a really solid foundation (as opposed to certain grades) and I think that we all share that dedication because we care more than anyone else!

We have a strong sense of responsibility and are committed to their success.  I think that’s probably one of the reasons homeschooled kids do so well because we make sure our kids ultimately get the job done.

I didn’t count it (her freshman year), and made her make it up through summer classes at our local community college plus taking classes at the community college during the regular school year.  -HS4CC Mom1

I believe that the dedication and commitment homeschooling parents have is also why I believe that parents make the best guidance counselor for their kids. When our teens encounter an obstacle,  we can apply our resourcefulness to the problem and help them find success.

My son’s ACT and community college entrance exams could very well be considered failures. He tests horribly and had to drop 2 courses. We decided instead of enrolling him full-time at the community college, to enroll him as a non degree seeking student for 2 courses per semester.

He now has 30 college credits and his GPA is 3.75.

Now he could transfer to another school if he wanted because he has more than 24 credits and test scores wouldn’t be necessary for admission. -HS4CC Mom2

This solution demonstrates how the understanding of the bigger goal (getting your kids out of college) and takes the pressure off of traditional college admissions and instead redirects you back on topic: figure out how to win.

I changed my son’s college so he could meet the math requirement and finish his degree.  -HS4CC Mom3

Leslie Odom, the author of Failing Up, admits that he went to college and graduated with honors, but the only thing that meant, he shares, was that he went through 4 years of college without ever taking a risk!  (great book by the way, highly recommend)

Most of us wait to try something when we’re sure we’ll be successful, and that fear prevents us from even trying. I field a lot of emails about CLEP test prep, and it’s true, we want our kids to be ready, but if you’re finding yourself pushing back that test date, and pushing back, and pushing back, your fear is teaching your teen that it’s better to never try than to risk the shame and embarrassment of failing. Is that the right message?

Seriously, no one ever sees their CLEP score but you. Go for it!

I think there is a bad trend in schools right now to not allow failure. Teachers who don’t believe in zeros or who don’t score lower than a 50 no matter what. I think there needs to be some balance to allowing kids to “fail” but also given the opportunity to come back from it too. -HS4CC Mom4

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, Sean Covey suggests that focusing on a specific outcome (passing a CLEP, earning an A on a test) is precarious (easily gained or easily lost) which is to say it misses the point of understanding how actual success in life is achieved and maintained by people who seem to consistently hit their goals.

Instead, he challenges us to focus on principles that are constant and consistent. These principles can be pursued and achieved separate and apart from whether or not we pass an exam or earn an A. When we focus on aiming to follow principles, missing the grade on a test seems almost irrelevant.

Each family values some principles over others, so there is no right or wrong list, but here are principles anyone can focus on while Homeschooling for College Credit.  These allow you to stay on track in a world full of college credit noise.

Honesty & Integrity

  • Understanding how to develop your own mind and your own opinions without taking credit for the thoughts and ideas of others, especially in writing and composition.  Celebrating independent thoughts.
  • Opting to not use answers to a quiz you’ve accidentally found on the internet. Celebrating honesty.
  • Not sharing tests or questions with other teens. Celebrating integrity.


  • Persistence can be learned. The easiest way to encourage persistence is to celebrate with them when they finish something that took a lot of work. Celebrate hard work.
  • It’s pretty easy to study the stuff we’re interested in, but it’s hard to make ourselves study what we’re not interested in. Celebrate persistence and follow-through.

She was failing at one point, but we did tutoring every week, sometimes 3 times a week. The teacher even retaught her the ones she had the worst trouble understanding, and then we practiced, practiced, and practiced the final review.  She ended up with a high C!  -HS4CC Mom5


My favorite trait among homeschooling parents. I mean really, if you’ve made it this far, you’re clearly VERY industrious and have what it takes to get them through this last academic stretch. You can do this! But don’t stop there. Teach your teens to employ that same industriousness and creativity that you’ve drawn from time and time again.

HS4CCMom6:  Mine was failing horribly and dropped the course (Physics).

Jennifer:  Did she end up retaking it?

HS4CCMom6:  No, switched to biology and got an A.

  • There are hundreds of ways to get through a college degree.  It might not look like what your neighbor is doing, and it might not be at someone’s “first choice” college, but a healthy dose of industriousness will help you teach your kids how to get it done!
  • Shaving the cost of college by using a CLEP exam.  Celebrate stewardship!
  • Taking online classes so you can get your courses to work around your schedule.  Celebrate industriousness!
  • Your teen taking a part-time job so they can get tuition reimbursement from their employer?  Celebrate creativity and problem-solving.

Before anyone accuses me of being soft on academics, let’s pause for a second and look more closely at what we’re talking about. We’re talking about homeschooling FOR COLLEGE CREDIT.  We’re not talking about an 11th grader failing 11th grade Science.  We’re talking about high school (or younger) students attempting to earn COLLEGE CREDIT.   (pssst…. that’s kind of a big deal)

She didn’t pass her AP Calculus AB test. She scored a 2.  -HS4CCMom7

We’re talking about an 11-year-old student that failed to pass college-level Calculus.

My son couldn’t do dual enrollment in 11th grade.  -HS4CCMom3

We’re talking about an 11th grader who failed to test far enough ahead of grade level.

Are these really failures?

When our students are attempting hard things, they may experience “failures” but sometimes the only thing they failed was in their ability to become an overachiever.

It’s easy to compare ourselves and our kids to others, but remember that earning even 1 college credit in high school puts your child ahead! And that’s worth celebrating!

Homeschooling has helped us learn that there isn’t really any failing. -HS4CCMom4


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit