There’s little dispute over the need for a homeschool transcript. It is widely understood that colleges require them, athletic organizations may require them, scholarship committees may request them, and so on.
But, there is another document needed for high school record-keeping: a list of course descriptions. I always recommend making a list of course descriptions for every high school student in the homeschool. I suggest starting the document early on (say, in 8th or 9th), then adding to it every year, before things are forgotten. (Starting early also insures it’s complete by the time the student finishes high school.)
The purpose of the list of course descriptions is to explain, in some level of detail, all the classes a student completed in high school. The list will correspond exactly to the transcript, such that if the two documents were placed side-by-side, one could look at a class on the transcript and easily find the course description on the corresponding list.
This exercise may seem excessive to those who’ve never done this before. Some may find it too “school-y” or an act of conformance they’d rather not participate in. In my work with families, I am often asked, “Isn’t our transcript enough? I thought we didn’t have to keep the same records as schools do.”
The truth is, in some cases, a transcript really is enough. But, think of it this way — homeschool experiences vary quite a bit. The lack of standardization in home education (by itself, a good thing), means all homeschool transcripts are different, too, therefore some will be easier for others to figure out than others.
A list of course descriptions acts as insurance, so there is never any misunderstanding about what a student really accomplished in high school. Imagine a college admissions officer or potential employer being unable to figure something out on the transcript? Imagine the possible impact of someone being unable to discern the content of a class from the transcript alone?
Attaching a list of course descriptions could literally mean the difference between getting an acceptance letter, a scholarship, a job, or something else — or not. Isn’t it worth doing?
When preparing a list of course descriptions, be sure to include things like:
- Course title
- Course number (if taken at a community college or somewhere else)
- Number of credits awarded (how to award credits)
- Textbooks and other materials studied (include ISBN numbers if desired)
- General description of the course
- Name of professor or teacher
- Duration of the class (particularly if several combined together to form a course or credit)
- How the grade was awarded (include a breakdown of percentages if you like)
You’ll find an example at the top of this page, one that looks rather similar to traditional course descriptions at a school. While this is a traditional format, homeschoolers may choose any format they are comfortable with, plus include any details they feel are worth writing about. Overall, the goal is that anyone reading the document should be able to glean an accurate picture of what took place in each course, each year.
Here’s another course description for a 1/2 credit on the transcript entitled Driver’s Ed:
Student combined online study guides with DMV-provided materials to study for online driver preparatory and permitting courses. Passed Drug & Alcohol exam and Road & Rules test; certificates issued via ABC Online Driving School. Obtained Texas Learner’s Permit in one attempt. Student received driving instruction from parents and began basic road training. Grade based on successful class completion, and receipt of learner’s permit.
As you can see, descriptions should reflect whatever took place, and may be written in any clear language that is likely to be understood by those reading it.
Some additional tips about course descriptions are in order:
1. If the same course (truly identical) is completed more than once, only a single course description on the list is necessary. Families often treat physical education this way, when the same kinds of activities are completed for Physical Education (P.E.) each year. On the other hand, if a course changes (even just a little bit) from semester to semester, list it twice, noting the differences in each course description. English I, English II, English III and English IV, for instance, are clearly four different courses, taught at different levels, ostensibly using different materials, and expecting different outcomes, thus requiring four different course descriptions.
2. When multiple classes, experiences, subjects and resources are bundled together to form a single course on the transcript (see CREATIVE COMPOSITE) this information should be included in a single course description for which credit was awarded. This is akin to the “unit study” concept, where multiple activities are combined in the study of one specific thing, thus all of the separate activities used to award credit should be described in the course description.
3. When searching for great course titles or if confused about how to word things in a course description, it can be very helpful to consult the web site or handbook of a high school or community college. Ideas can sometimes come out of browsing course listings at these institutions, sometimes providing inspiration for how to write homeschool course descriptions, too. Talking to other homeschool families is another good idea, since just hearing what other families wrote can provide insight as to how to create a list of your own.
All kinds of homeschoolers and unschoolers will benefit from creating this additional documentation, even if they’re not college-bound. Remember to file a copy in the student’s comprehensive record, too.
To your success,
Dr. Marie-Claire Moreau is a college professor who traded in her tenure to become a homeschool mom 20+ years ago. A homeschooling pioneer and the founder of many groups and organizations, she works to advance home education, and is an outspoken supporter of education reform coast to coast. Her book, Suddenly Homeschooling: A Quick Start Guide to Legally Homeschool in Two Weeks, is industry-acclaimed as it illustrates how homeschooling can rescue children and families from the public school system, and how anyone can begin homeschooling within a limited time-frame, with no teaching background whatsoever. A writer, a homeschool leader, and a women’s life coach, Marie-Claire mentors in a variety of areas that impact health, education and lifestyle. A conference speaker, she has appeared at FPEA, H.E.R.I., Home Education Council of America, The Luminous Mind, Vintage Homeschool Moms, iHomeschool Network, and many other events. Her articles have appeared in and on Holistic Parenting, CONNECT,Homefires, Homemaking Cottage, Kiwi, Circle of Moms, and hundreds of sites and blogs nationwide. Marie-Claire can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.