Monday, March 16, 2009

High School Transcripts--Not as scary as you think...

I talk to lots of moms and dads every year who ask about transcripts. They are not just concerned, but many are actually very worried about this aspect of homeschooling. There are all kinds of books, classes and lectures that focus on transcripts and getting into college, and many are very good, but this post is just to give you the basics. If you want more information, I suggest you might want to get the Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook

In my experience, with our two homeschool graduates, it is not something to stress out over. Do not let the thought of making transcripts keep you from the joy of homeschooling your high school student. My homemade transcripts were not questioned by the state universities and Christian College my kids applied to. But, I do have some helpful hints:

  • Keep REALLY good records, starting in 9th grade, or 8th grade if you child is doing high school level courses such as Algebra, a foreign language, Biology, etc. I suggest keeping a spread sheet with the course title, the text or books used, authors and publisher, and a course description. I will put a simple course description at the end of this post.
  • If it is a course that is more hands on or does not use a traditional textbook, then you might want to keep a record of time spent on the course. For example, for a class like "Fine Arts" you might want to record events and times at the events over the course of all 4 years. You could include trips to art museums, attendance at music events and so forth. Over the course of 4 years this could be enough hours to count for 1/2 to 1 credit. A regular traditional school credit is generally equal to 140-150 hours. Most people figure since it takes less time to school using a tutorial method, it would be about 120 hours of homeschool time to count for one credit. This can vary, but this would be a fair estimate.
  • Every quarter or at least every semester, award a letter grade to the course.
  • Contact the colleges or universities you are interested, or at least go on their website to see what they want courses they want to see incoming freshmen have. I would do this when my child is in late middle school and check at least annually. Gear your 4 year high school plan so that you include what they want to see.
  • Make up a transcript-you can email [] me for a sample- and keep it current. If you do this at the end of 9th grade and update it annually, it will a fairly simple thing to do. If you wait till your child is applying to colleges, it can get overwhelming. I used a combination of an Excel spread sheet and a Word document. You can find samples on-line or in the Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook
  • Remember transcripts can look many, many different ways. Every school district does theirs different, so there is more than one right way. You can organize the credits by year or by topic--for instance putting all the English credits together. Either way is acceptable.
  • Generally, all transcripts needs a cumulative GPA, a chart for telling what point value you give to each letter grade, an official signature, the name and address of the school, name and address and birth date of child and it must be dated. Check with the colleges you are interested in to see what they require if you have any hesitation. The admission officers are looking for a reason to accept your child, so they are very helpful.
  • Remember, you child's transcript is like a resume. It should include all classes as well as a listing of extra curricular activities-these are generally included on a separate sheet, with the actual list and grades of classes all on one sheet.
  • Keep a copy of everything you send in. Also, keep a copy of your child's best written work, term papers, a sampling of math work, and other work, just in case you need to show a portfolio. We were not asked, but you would be wise to keep a sampling, just in case.
If you have further questions, please email me or ask here.

Sample Course Descriptions:

Algebra 1
1 Credit
An interactive course emphasizing the understanding of Algebra and Algebraic terms and concepts. Topics include real number system, number theory, algebraic expressions and sentences, linear and quadratic equations, inequalities, operations with polynomials, relations and functions, graphing equalities and inequalities, radical expressions, factoring polynomials and systems of equations.

1 Credit
This course covers the applications of geometric relationships and principles. Topics include a wide variety of constructions with compass work, inductive reasoning, points, lines, planes, angles, triangles, similarity and congruence, circles, three dimensional geometry, area, volume, trigonometry, and coordinate geometry. Understanding and real life application emphasized.

Personal Fitness/Physical Education
1 Credit
This course revolves around competitive swimming including, but not limited to: extensive practice and instruction, proper stroke formation, understanding of rules, participation in conference competitions, sportsmanship and teamwork.

Conversational Spanish
.5 credit
An interactive course emphasizing conversational Spanish with native Spanish speakers. Particular emphasis on listening and understanding basic Spanish phrases and words.

Social Studies
1 Credit
This course explores the foundations of other cultures, including their economics, geography, governments, religions and histories. This study is taught through a thorough look at Eastern Hemisphere countries. It utilizes map and encyclopedia work, as well as extensive literature, video clips, and in-depth look at how different societies and cultures have changed over time. Special emphasis on critical thinking and understanding people who are different than us. Taught in conjunction with English I.

Intro to Computers
1 Credit
Introduction to basic computer skills. This class will teach basic keyboarding, how to use the printer, digital camera, access the internet, email, on-line research and other basic applications. It will also introduce the use of Excel Spread Sheets, Word and other common software. Ethical and privacy issues will be discussed, as well as web safety.

As a note of disclaimer: I am not any sort of authority on this subject. I am just one mom telling you what has worked for us. If what I have recommended is helpful, great--but you should read some books, ask some folks and talk to admission counselors if you have any questions. Also, I have heard that there is various software available to help you with transcripts, diplomas etc. Perhaps you may want to Google "homeschool software" and see what comes up.

For ideas on how to grade non-test subjects, you may want to read this post on Contract for Grade.
And for ideas on how to give credits for Sonlight Cores, you can go here.

For helpful no-cost brochures on Record Keeping, Developing a High School Plan, Planning for College or Work, a Timeline for Keeping onTrack and You Can Homeschool Through High School; click here.

[Pictures of our two youngest children who graduated from our homeschool]

Another blog post on transcripts.


  1. That is a great source of information and encouragement, Jill. Thanks for sharing!


  2. This is great information. My daughter is finishing eighth grade, so she starts high school next year and I've been stressing about the whole record-keeping thing. Thanks for helping me relax.

  3. I am glad this is helpful. Keep tuned to my ideas for grading high school subjects when there aren't tests. I will post this in a couple of days.

  4. This is very thorough!! The colleges that my daughter wants to attend, our big state college, require verification for each course on the homeschool transcript, which would mean four SAT subject tests, in addition to her SAT. So we have found a helpful, "umbrella" school which will give my daughter her credits based on our homeschool work, and will issue a transcript. They require documentation from us, which we found not hard to do, and I am glad to know there are still some colleges that accept a homeschool transcript itself!

  5. I think it varies a lot from state to state and using an umbrella school sounds like a great choice in your situation. We live in Kentucky. We do not have umbrella schools here. My kids went to University of Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University with homeschool transcripts. I have found that through the years more and more universities and colleges, and even the military, accept homeschool transcripts and the number is growing year by year.