By Janice Campbell
I like to make things simple. There are few things sadder than a homeschooling parent who would like to homeschool through high school, but is considering giving up because keeping high school records and creating a transcript sounds like an insurmountable challenge. I’ve been through the process four times with my own sons, and I’d like to share the basic steps that helped make recordkeeping simple. If you’re like me and you’d rather spend time with people than paperwork, you may find this five-step process helpful as well.
Create a Transcript: Five Simple Steps
1 Understand the purpose of the transcript and basic formatting guidelines.
2 Create a plan that covers core high school requirements in a way that is appropriate for the student’s learning style, abilities, and goals.
3 Accumulate essential records using Subject Worksheets and other organizational tools.
4 Create a blank transcript form on your computer and fill it in, semester by semester.
5 Calculate grades and record the grade-point average for each semester as it’s completed.
The Purpose of the Transcript
If you understand the purpose of the transcript, you can keep exactly (and only) the records you need. A well-made transcript is similar in form and function to a résumé. In just one or two pages, it briefly summarizes knowledge and experience in a way that allows an evaluator to easily compare your student to others. A transcript can also be a marketing tool that helps a college admissions officer see the breadth and depth of your student’s experiences.
Create a Master Plan
There are core subjects that need to be covered on every high school transcript (see sidebar), and there are many ways to fulfill these basic requirements. You can choose traditional textbooks, a literature-based curriculum, satellite school, classes in a co-op or community college, or other options. As you create your high school plan, be sure to talk with your teen to discover special interests or preferences. You’ll also need to consider his or her learning style, plans for the future, and the resources you have available. Just as in earlier grades, you’ll find that learning happens more easily when information is presented in a way that is appropriate for the student’s learning style. Auditory learners do well with audio and video resources; visual learners do well with books; and kinesthetic learners do best when they can move around and experience learning in a hands-on way. Each of the required subjects can be covered in a way that fits the learner.
If your student is college-bound, or if he or she will be earning college credits while in high school (my book, Get a Jump Start on College, explains how and why to do this), you must not only keep excellent records, but you also need to ensure that the classes you’ve planned meet or exceed the admission requirements of the college your student hopes to attend. Most colleges list these requirements, along with the academic profile of the average student admitted, on the college website. State graduation requirements are minimums — it is the college’s expectations that should guide your high school plans.
Keep Essential Records
I suggest creating a Class Profile, with an outline of readings and assignments, as a plan for each specific course. You may also record extra activities and readings by subject, on a form called the Subject Worksheet. In addition to Class Profiles and Subject Worksheets, have your student keep reading and activities logs so that you’ll be able to include extensive topical reading and non-traditional activities on the transcript. Other items to keep, include representative copies of student work, certificates and awards, and test scores. Keep these organized in a notebook, and you’ll have easy access to everything you need to create a transcript, and to provide supporting evidence for the grades you grant.
Create and Fill In the Transcript
There is a children’s song that has the line, “Little by little, inch by inch; by the yard, it’s hard; by the inch, what a cinch…” and it’s so true. If you fill in the transcript semester by semester, you’ll find that it’s quite easy. If you wait until the night before your student’s college application is due, it’s going to be harder (but you can do it). If you’re late in starting to keep records or create the transcript, don’t waste time feeling guilty — just get started! There’s a reason that Transcripts Made Easy begins with instructions for exactly where to start in the process, depending on what grade your student is in—recordkeeping is a job that is easy to postpone.
When your student begins to fulfill high school requirements, create a blank transcript form on the computer. The three sections you’ll need to include are:
* Identification Section: Contact information for the student and school;
* Course Record Section: The main body of the transcript, containing the list of courses studied, grades received, and quality points earned;
* Basic Information Section: The grading scale, key to abbreviations, and brief notes about important test scores and awards, and a signature line for the certifying parent.
There is no “one right format” — you may choose to organize by semester or by subject. As long as all three sections are included, the format is clean and uncluttered, and standardized test scores support the grades you have given, your student’s transcript will meet the goal of showcasing your student’s academic history.
Grades and Credits
At the end of each semester, record classes and grades on the transcript. Rather than listing just “English” as the class name, choose a title that offers specific information about what the student has learned. For example, if you list “English III: Survey of American Literature,” this identifies the class as the student’s third year of high school English, and clearly states what was covered. Similarly, “Multivariable Calculus” is more descriptive than “Math III,” and “Western Civilization to 1608″ is more specific than “History.” Your goal in creating descriptive class names is to provide a clear picture of your student’s academic interests and strengths.
Assign grades for each class as the student finishes the semester. Each letter grade has a numerical equivalent that is used to calculate the grade point average (GPA): A=4, B=3, C=2, and so forth. If the student is taking honors or college-level classes, the quality points assigned would be weighted, or have an extra half or whole grade point added, so that ‘A’ would equal 4.5 or 5 quality points.
To calculate the cumulative grade point average, add together all the semester grade point averages and divide by the number of semesters. Do not add the current semester to the previous cumulative grade point average, or your total will not be correct. To make the process extra simple, you may want to visit the free GPA calculator at www.FreeGPACalc.com. No matter how you figure the final grade point average, you can be sure that each college that receives your transcript will refigure it to ensure that all student transcripts they receive are calculated in the same way.
Remember the Goal
If you’ve been worried about recordkeeping through high school, I hope you’ll find that these steps take some of the mystery out of the process. Remember that while recordkeeping and transcripts are important, the ultimate goal of the high school years is help your teenager grow into a mature, well-grounded adult with a solid academic and spiritual foundation. As you include your teen in the planning and recordkeeping process, you can move together toward this goal. I think you’ll find that homeschooling through high school can be a time of encouragement and blessing for your entire family.
Bio: Janice Campbell is the author of Transcripts Made Easy, Get a Jump Start on College, Excellence in Literature, a classics-based, college-prep English curriculum for homeschoolers, as well as Evaluate Writing the Easy Way. She is also Director of the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.NAIWE.com).