Report Cards, Transcripts, and Grades

This is a very tricky topic in homeschooling. Generally speaking, homeschoolers don’t need to be “graded,” as grades are a means of communication between school and home, and between a teacher and two dozen or more students when one-to-one feedback is impractical in a school setting. However, the institutions with which we must interact are familiar with grades as a meter stick, and expect us to produce them. We’ll talk a bit about grades, report cards, and transcripts. Keep coming back to visit, because we will also add links and templates to help you get started if you don’t feel comfortable creating your own!

As Delaware homeschoolers, instances were we might need to produce either a report card or a transcript might include:

  • Applying to college, trade school, the military, or a job (transcript)
  • Obtaining a Good Student Discount from your auto insurance company (report card)
  • Qualifying for state-paid Driver’s Education (report card)
  • Registering for courses with prerequisites at a community college or university while still in high school (report card or transcript depending upon situation)
  • Returning to public school (K-8: report card; 9-12: transcript)

Note that not all of these instances apply to all homeschoolers. A few homeschoolers have reported success in applying to college, for example, without providing grades on a transcript. Taking such a step requires excellent communication with the admissions office, however!

Assigning Grades

Many homeschoolers educate subjects to the point of mastery, rather than simply moving from topic to topic on a set schedule as a school must do regardless of whether the students have grasped the material. If your child has put forth excellent effort and has mastered the subject material, a grade of A is perfectly fair. Be realistic. If your child drags his or her feet, never puts forth best effort, and only accomplishes the bare minimum, consider carefully whether that A is warranted– remember the people who interact with you, your grade report, and your child might be forming their initial opinion about the validity of homeschool grades overall, and your decisions can affect not only your own child, but other homeschoolers.

Be able to describe, if asked, how a grade on a grade report was established. For some homeschoolers, a traditional book of exams, homework, papers, and assignments and a 90-100 grading scale is familiar and easy to deal with. For many homeschoolers, though, evaluation takes place more through Socratic dialogue, long-term observation, dinner table discussions, and application of learning across new situations. This is actually a fair thing to say; just be prepared to explain your criteria if asked, including giving some examples of what formed exemplary work (such as giving a lucid presentation at a 4-H fair, writing a short story about a time period in history, or creating a video–whatever notable thing your student did). Many homeschoolers never actually assign a numeric or letter grade to an assignment or paper during the school process, because our students are receiving thorough feedback directly from us on a continuous basis, and revising their work until it meets or exceeds expectations! However you choose to translate your child’s achievements onto a grade report, take some time to reflect on how you will respond to a question regarding how these grades were assigned.

Report cards

In Delaware, report cards are not required unless you need one for a specific reason such as one of the reasons listed above, or you simply don’t want another argument about homeschooling with your extended family– Look! She has a report card! We’re respectable! Let’s eat! But on a general quarterly basis, there is no agency or authority requiring one from you, and presumably, you already know how your child is performing and don’t need to communicate this to yourself.

However, if you find yourself in need of a report card, or simply want one, the good news is that you can have one in a matter of minutes. You can simply create one using any word processor or spreadsheet program– include your child’s name, subjects studied, grades achieved, attendance recorded, GPA (if high school) the school year, grade level, and a place for you to sign it. You don’t need to get fancy. If you are not comfortable creating your own, you can download one of our templates (more to come) or a template from elsewhere on the web– there are many. A report card is a relatively simple document, as it only records the grades and standing for the current academic year.

More links will be added over time!

If you need a template, and can use Adobe Acrobat, please feel free to use this template that will allow you to simply fill out the simple 2-page form and produce a report card for any use you might have.

Transcripts

Once your student hits high school, it is a good idea to keep a current transcript from the very beginning. You can keep a simple transcript– simply a list of courses, grades, and credits covering grades 9-12– in one document, and other related records as separate documents, or you can keep a complete annotated transcript all as one document, depending on your own preferences. An annotated transcript will include all information requested by different colleges or employers, and may include, depending upon your needs, a list of courses, credits earned, and grades; a complete list of books read, including textbooks and literature (with ISBN numbers); a brief description of what each course covered; a description of how the student was evaluated in the course; and who taught the course. Re-creating a transcript from scratch in a panic during the senior year is not a lot of fun if your child decides to apply to a college that wants all of the information named! Start in 9th grade. A simple transcript can be completed on one sides of one sheet of paper; an annotated transcript might require 30 or more pages.

There is often disagreement, surprisingly, about what to include on a transcript. Generally, a high school transcript contains a list of school work completed during the high school years, rather than a list of work the parent believes to be “high school level” completed at any time from K-12. There are some sensible workarounds to this dilemma. First and foremost, you want to be honest. Never misrepresent (even through omission or reorganizing information) anything on your child’s transcript. It could cost your child their position in college, or cost them a job, if the deception is ever discovered. If your child took a “high school course” in 7th grade and you wish to note it on the high school transcript, be honest, and note that the course was taken prior to high school. Generally, including these courses will prove unnecessary, because if the child is that advanced, they will take even more advanced courses in the same subject area during high school, and those course records will supercede the earlier course– if a student takes AP Biology in 10th grade, it is unlikely to impress anyone that they took “high school biology” in 7th grade– the A in AP Bio and the 5 on the AP exam are already enough to establish credibility in biology! Similarly if the student is taking calculus as a freshman, there is little need to claim credit for algebra–pre-calculus, though you might note that those courses were “Taken prior to high school with grades of A achieved in each.” A college admissions counselor is going to expect that student to continue taking advanced math courses and not stop taking math in the freshman year, so the student should still achieve 4 credits of math by graduation. However in the end, each family must decide these matters for themselves– the only caveat is to clearly represent courses that were not taken during high school, so as to avoid academic dishonesty; some college admissions pages specifically prohibit counting courses taken prior to 9th grade!

Transcripts: Organizing schemes

Most people think of a transcript and picture it organized by year. That works for a lot of families, and it can highlight a strong schedule year by year. But what if your student started chemistry halfway through9th grade and finished it sometime in 10th grade? Or took 2 years to finish calculus? What if your student has decided to major in political science and you really want the transcript to highlight the fact that she took more than twice the usual number of history, government, and political science courses during high school, because it was her passion? Or your student is a seriously driven STEM kid and you want to be sure that fact jumps off the page to whomever is skimming the transcript? You can also consider organizing a transcript by subject, rather than year! Suddenly those 10 social sciences courses or 15 science and math courses are no longer buried under the details, but become the headline. In short, you want a transcript to be clean, uncluttered, and complete, but this still leaves some room to organize the information logically in a manner that lets your child’s strength jump off the page. Particularly these days, when many more people are becoming familiar with homeschooling as a normal part of life, a slightly unusual transcript is justified without much explanation because the homeschool approach is unique and not always suited to a traditional approach. If you have an opening to highlight what makes your student stand out, use it.

Is your homeschool decidedly cross-curricular, or unschool oriented? Play with the format a bit, or find out if a document other than a traditional transcript might be accepted, that will allow you to highlight the strength of your child’s education, which is specifically tied to being nontraditional. It can sometimes be frustrating to spend 13 years educating our kids in a unique path, only to be forced to try to make it look like a public education! Sometimes it’s worth the effort to demand the ability to represent our work more accurately– and more institutions are beginning to welcome this approach.

Transcripts: Assigning credits

Assigning credits isn’t hard. 1 high school credit = about 120 hours of work (source: The Well Trained Mind) although the range has been stated as anywhere from 120-150 from various sources. Generally, a complete course in a core class such as algebra or US History or chemistry is worth 1 credit. If laboratory time is extensive, an additional half credit might be warranted. So how do you know what courses should appear in your child’s high school career? Start talking about what the future holds, then do some research to discover what the requirements are for that future. If your child is aiming for a specific college, visit their homeschool admissions page and regular admissions page, and look up what courses that college expects to see from their applicants. If your child aspires to join the military, contact a recruiter and find out what the requirements will be, and plan accordingly.

Whether the aspirations are the work force, professional school, military, or college, as a Delaware homeschooler it is up to you to research and understand the requirements your child will need to meet to make those dreams happen. If your child wants to be a homemaker more than anything in the world, his or her education should include all the knowledge and skills needed to be an educated citizen who can understand the news, civics, nutrition, household chemical reactions, household repairs, illness and disease– and to be prepared in case life throws a wrench in the works and a new plan is required, making a job or further education necessary after all. The most important part of considering the high school transcript is planning before high school– what education will meet my child’s future needs– even the ones I don’t anticipate?

Resources

Check back on this page periodically for updated links and templates for report cards and transcripts!