We’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming about how to log Victoria’s high school years now that she’s in 9th grade.
There’s so much conflicting information out there about high school, homeschool and transcripts, especially when it comes to eclectic homeschoolers and unschoolers.
You could go nuts trying to follow all of the advice out there.
Ultimately, I decided that it has always worked so well for us to homeschool in our own way that it made sense to handle the teen years and transcripts in our own way too.
I have compiled all sorts of links and quotes here that helped me solidify our goals. I’m also sharing how we’re handling transcripts in case it helps others.
I’ve written about the various ways of compiling transcripts (such as traditional and narrative styles) and have compiled lots of links to free transcript templates and information from colleges here.
The first conclusion I’ve come to is that it is not necessary to try to suddenly pretend we’re traditional schoolers.
Here’s a wonderful point from an unschooling list archive about unschoolers and college:
Kelly Lovejoy’s response to this comment:
As I said earlier, I will be putting a transcript together (probably along with a narrative) for her and just wondering what I’ll put on it, if she doesn’t complete more “traditional” classes. I know, not very unschooly of me, but I just think that a more traditional route might be easier for school people to understand if she does decide to pursue college at some point.
So….your goal is have her unique learning experience look like every other traditional high school student’s in the US?*WHY* would that be appealing to a university? What about that would make the college stop and think, “Hmmm…maybe *this* student would be a good match?”
If her transcript looks like every other transcript that passes across the admissions desk, WHY would the admissions officer look twice? Why would he look once? It’s just the same ol’ same ol’—nothing new. Nothing inspired. Nothing diverse.
Colleges and universities are looking for students who SPARKLE! Make her transcript sparkle! SHOW that she’s different! Unique! An *honor* to have her as a student there!
They don’t NEED another “A” student cheerleader president of the student body. Seriously! Those are a dime a dozen.
What they want is diversity. What does *YOUR* child have to offer the school? What does *your* child have that NO other applicant has?
I talked to one unschooling mother on a public Facebook group about compiling transcripts, and she happily informed me that she’d pretty much made everything up on her daughter’s transcripts. She said she listed textbooks she found online, books that were in the house that her daughter had only browsed, and so on. She was unapologetic, blaming colleges’ outdated system and their ignorance about real learning, and reported that her daughter was accepted with no problems.
I am so not comfortable with that – for so many reasons. I value honesty and don’t don’t want to teach my kids to lie and cheat, for two. And also:
I talked to the admissions officer at Stanford University. He told me that if an unschooled kid made up a transcript that made it look like they’d taken classes and gotten grades, and if he found out later that it was all made up, that they’d consider the kid had gotten in fraudulently and they’d evict him from the school. He said he wanted the truth about what the kid had been busy doing during those years, not something made up. He said that courses listed and graded by a homeschooling parent didn’t mean much to him anyway because ALL homeschooling parents pretty much give their kids all “A’s.”
AND he said he’d be FAR more likely to take a close look at a kid without a traditional transcript, too.
This wise mama went on to say:
When we chose to unschool, we chose to NOT school and that meant we don’t get the trappings of school. So – to later make up something that implies that we DID school, that is clearly dishonest. I’d far rather have my kid never go to college then to go based on a complete fabrication like that.
But it really is not a choice of “lie or miss out” – to create a transcript that describes what the child REALLY did, that is honest and can be pretty wonderful, is very possible. It doesn’t have to list courses he didn’t take with grades he didn’t earn and it doesn’t have to be done under the pretense that he “did school.”
If you ask them, colleges will say, “Yes, he must have a transcript.” But the transcript can very often be a narrative, not a course/grade listing. Even when they want it in a more traditional format, it can be without grades, just a list of subjects that the kid has spent time learning something about during the previous few years. It certainly does not have to be a course list divided into semesters with credits and grades EVEN if the college says that is what they want, when they actually get the application, they’ll review it. IF the student has high SAT or ACT scores, they will barely look at it.
There ARE universities that will not take homeschoolers based on coursework at all – unschoolers or otherwise. University of California is one of those. They have coursework that is required and it has to be pre-certified that it meets their requirements. This means they have to have, in advance, approved the textbooks and subject matter for the courses. Most public schools have had their courses approved and some private schools. But there is no way an unschooler is going to qualify based on “coursework”. Still, unschoolers get into UCLA and Berkeley and other UC’s all the time. They often do it based on high SAT scores and they also do it based on community college coursework. And all schools have a “special admissions” category.
When you step outside the mainstream, it is not honest to suddenly jump into the middle of the river and pretend you’ve been swimming along with everybody else all those years. And, it is the nonmainstream activities that will get a child noticed anyway – pretending to have done coursework just like everybody else makes the kid look just like everybody else. Not an advantage for getting into a prestigious university and not necessary.
What are we doing? Well, we’re doing a mixture of everything.
My goals and considerations include:
- Victoria is considering medical school and Harvard, and I don’t want to find out at the 11th hour that her particular high school path got in the way of whatever college path she decides on.
- We have never been traditional school-at-home homeschoolers and none of us have any desire to change our lives now.
- Eclectic, interest-led HSing in our family has led to kids who love to learn, have rich lives full of unique experiences, and consistently score miles higher on standardized tests in almost every subject.
- Victoria will need some rigorous classes in order to get into med school or a school like Harvard. That doesn’t mean they have to be taken in a boring, traditional way, though.
So what we’re doing, together, as a team:
- Victoria is continuing to read through the American Lit list of books, authors and short stories that we developed at the beginning of the year.
- She’s logging those books that she reads, in addition to logging the many fiction and non-fiction books she’s reading on her own for pleasure.
- I have started a google document where I am compiling lists of reading and activities she’s doing in various subjects.
- We are aiming for the basic subjects covered per year of: 4 years of assorted sciences (including chemistry, biology and a combination of half credits for others), 4 years of assorted math (starting with algebra), 4 years of foreign language (not all colleges require this much), 4 years of English, 4 years of social studies (world history, American history and the others will probably be half credits such as women’s studies and government).
- We are logging her many extracurricular activities like acting in the Wilder Pageant, volunteering at historic sites with the family, entering photography exhibits, etc.
- She is allowed to use whatever means she enjoys in order to fulfill the requirements. For instance, she can use Khan Academy, CK-12 flexbooks, library books and iPod apps to cover the learning in Algebra. Any combination of textbooks, living books, you-tube videos, games, apps, magazines, solid Wikipedia articles, etc. can be used. Good mastery and enough hours of study are the only things that matter.
- She is planning on taking PSEO classes in her junior and senior years of high school at local colleges, which will provide additional transcript credits from an outside source.
- She is planning on taking some free college level classes through organizations like Coursera (see links below).
- She tends to test very well, so her SAT scores should also be very helpful on her applications.
- We are researching the specific requirements for each of the colleges that she is most interested in, to be sure we are on track for meeting their requirements. I cannot recommend this step enough.
For the purpose of our records, I am assigning one credit for 150 hours of study on that subject and a thorough understanding of the topic. One half credit is assigned for 75 hours of study.
It is not enough to spend 150 hours reading about black holes (one of Toria’s fascinations) and then count it as a credit in basic astronomy, for instance. If she rounds that out with reading through a basic astronomy textbook or reads a good assortment of general astronomy books so she has really mastered astronomy in general and then supplements that with lots of reading about black holes, that definitely counts.
I feel pretty confident that we can easily satisfy both her need for a rigorous high school education with her desire to continue being in charge of her own education.
This is a kid who got a blood typing kit for Christmas and considered it one of her favorite presents, after all.
So far, this is working remarkably well.
I’ve found that my lifelong learner reads so much and educates herself so well that it is not a problem to come up with the requirement of minimum hours and mastery.
If anything, I’m worried about the appearance that we’ll be padding her transcript, since she will easily earn many credits in the arts and sciences every year with her interests in psychology, astronomy, anatomy, photography, visual arts and more, not to mention her fascination with American government, world issues, women’s issues and social justice. Careful documentation of her resources and her own application and test scores should show that she has earned every credit and more, though.
She is not as enthusiastic about the math portion of her studies, but she understands the need to do it to attain her goals. She doesn’t mind math so much via Khan Academy and she’s willing to do the work because there’s a reason to.
Obviously, this is a very individualized plan. What works best for every student will vary. We may go with a slightly different plan for Anna, then Jack, Alex and eventually Fiona.
I hope it shows just how flexible we homeschoolers can be in navigating the homeschool high school years, though.
As nontraditional homeschoolers, our choices are not merely to adopt some sort of traditional high school model or to make everything up, and our kids don’t have to sacrifice scholarships or college choices because of the way they learn in their high school years.
These articles may also be of interest:
A friend also recommended this book:
*Note: Affiliate link. See my disclosure page.
Also see my Homeschooling High School Pinterest board for lots more.
What about you? What are you doing to compile transcripts? Have you changed the way you homeschool to appeal to colleges?