Once your student hits high school, it is a good idea to keep a current transcript from the very beginning. (Also see our discussion about grades and report cards.) Reasons you might need to produce a transcript include:
- Applying to college, trade school, the military, or a job
- Registering for courses with prerequisites at a community college or university while still in high school
- Returning to public high school
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!
Simple vs. annotated
You can keep a simple transcript–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. Recreating 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.
What to include – and not
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!
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.
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?