The Volunteer Advantage

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Colleges and universities LOVE applicants with volunteer experience. These opportunities tell how the high schooler used his or her time, in other words, how the young adult spent his or her hours outside of books and traditional learning environments. In fact, some colleges value community service so highly that they are offering scholarships for accomplishments in service. 

And, some states--like ours--require volunteer service for merit scholarships. 

Knowing what universities look for regarding community service and researching your state's merit scholarship may prove beneficial to your high school learner.

Al Nunez, Director of Admissions at Illinois Institute of Technology, was interviewed for the November 12, 2013 issue of U.S. News and World Report. In that interview he encouraged students to highlight their accomplishments.


Applying to a university is your time to brag about yourself. Talk about all the things that you’ve done, including jobs, including whether you’ve volunteered at your church or did community service.

Why volunteer?

  • Volunteer opportunities offer opportunities for high schoolers to learn more about themselves and impact the lives of other people.
  • Community service may provide leadership opportunities. Colleges and universities are looking for applicants who have taken on leadership roles. 
  • High schoolers preferring hands-on, experiential learning with interpersonal interactions can thrive in these environments. Truly, this can be an area where kinesthetic learners can thrive.
  • Service opportunities can help high schoolers fine tune what they enjoy, how they learn best, and what career field they may want to pursue. 
  • Volunteer opportunities also make great experiential stories for application essays.
  • When the time comes to request letters of recommendation for college admission, professionals and supervisors who have worked with the high schooler through volunteer opportunities may be willing to write on the applicant's behalf, commenting about work ethic, acquired skills, and character.

As evaluators, we've enjoyed the company of high school young adults who've benefited from the volunteer advantage. One particular young lady we know served thousands (no exaggeration) of hours which provided her a competitive advantage and helped her land a $25,000 scholarship. 

Why NOT volunteer?

Service hours are just that, opportunities to serve with a sincere heart. They are not requirements or obligations to meet. Often there are people on the receiving end and those people matter. People are not projects or resume enhancements and they don't want to be served with that type of attitude. When volunteer hours become boxes to check off, they are no longer means by which to serve with empathy and compassion. 

In addition, often community service becomes a means by which the parent-child relationship is strained. We all fall into the nagging "Did you log your hours?" trap at one time or another. Stress and fear will affect our high schooler's attitudes toward service. When we do, it is time to back up and reflect on that matters.

Where volunteer? 

Volunteering, like many other aspects of the high school years, is another venue to build relationship and communication skills. Brainstorm ideas together. Talk about volunteer etiquette. Role play requests or phone interviews.

These ideas may be talking points. 

  • serve at local animal shelters
  • raise and train service animals
  • sort groceries in food pantry or shelter
  • serve meals at homeless shelter
  • serve as a police explorer
  • provide service at local horse barn 
  • serve in local teen court
  • help with registration and water distribution for marathons and fun runs. 
  • deliver Meals-on-Wheels
  • serve with Special Olympics or local Down's syndrome chapter (graduate schools often host these types of events)
  • read to children in children's home or residents in assisted living and memory care facilities
  • create floral arrangements for church altar
  • weed flower beds for non-profit or local recreation center
  • be a safety ambassador for National Safety Council
  • design a website for church or local non-profit organization
  • provide counter or concession help for sports events
  • place flags on grave sites of veterans
  • tutor elementary students
  • collect clothing and non-perishables for shelters and crisis centers
  • work with a political campaign 
  • serve on a building team for Habitat for Humanity
  • be a mentor with Big Brothers, Big Sisters
  • serve as a junior assistant coach for youth sports
  • collect food or other needed items for animal shelters 
  • prepare a meal or care packs at Ronald McDonald homes (usually near children's hospitals)
  • pack meals for hurricane or typhoon relief
  • gather crayons, small tablets, or other items for pew packs to be given to small worshippers.
  • usher at local theater 
  • work at the local library
  • volunteer at local science center
  • serve at wildlife rehabilitation or Audubon center
  • provide musical entertainment or puppetry at assisted living and memory care centers
  • play or sing with church worship teams
  • serve on disaster relief teams
  • sew costuming for theatrical performances
  • construct music or theater sets
  • provide babysitting or childcare for Bible studies, MOPS meetings, or parent meetings
  • plan a birthday celebration for residents at assisted living center

Like many aspects of the high school experience, not all colleges require or put equal weight on the same admission requirements. Princeton ranks admission requirements here. Research and knowledge are important. What is beneficial to one learner will not be beneficial to another. 

Will volunteer and community service benefit your high schooler? 

The answer will be unique to your high schooler and may be only conversations and clicks away. Your efforts will make a difference, not only for your high school learner but also for the people who are blessed to benefit from his or her sincere service.

YOU can celebrate high school! 

 

The contents of this post are meant to share personal experience and are not intended to be legal or educational advice. 

 

 

Portfolio Possibilities: What to Include

To keep track of the volumes of work samples for four learners, I am trying something new this year. Well, it isn't really new. I tried it before, but unsuccessfully. 

I decided to give it another try. 

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Different season. It's working...so far! 

In our state, statute requires parents to keep work samples for their children. With four learners, the pile of completed work on my kitchen table grows daily. Books read. Papers completed. Field trip brochures.

If I don't tame the pile, it can get the best of me. 

This year, I am keeping my log of activities (another statutory requirement for our state) on the kitchen table where I can log conveniently. After logging, I place the samples in a plastic tote. Then, sometime over Christmas break, we will have a family sorting party. Each child will receive a binder for their samples. I pass out plastic sleeves for odd-shaped treasures. At the end of the sorting party, each child's portfolio begins to take shape. To lessen the stress, second semester work is placed directly in the binder after it's been logged. The end result will be a portfolio ready for our annual evaluation. 

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What is a sample? 

Samples. Every family interprets the meaning of samples differently. In 24 years of doing home education annual evaluations for other families, we've seen the full range of freedom in terms of samples. One family will bring 5 work samples for each subject while another family brings every.single.paper for every.single.subject. That's the freedom of the law. Parents decide what is needed for their family.

Sample examples. Traditional math lessons come to mind for many. It is what we remember from our school days. Yet, when considering other subjects in light of the variety of educational philosophies held by parents, the possibilities for samples grows. For families with a Charlotte Mason philosophy, there will be book lists and sketches, maybe a nature journal. For traditional textbook families, there will be notebooks of answers and solutions and lists of spelling practice. And those who learn on the road? They may have photos and travel brochures to attest to their learning highlights. 

Over the years, parents we've evaluated saved: 

  • math lessons and scratch work
  • writing or poetry samples
  • journal
  • research papers
  • article critiques
  • reading lists
  • magazine subscription listing
  • book reports or summaries
  • primary source document listing
  • documentary listing
  • lab reports
  • dissection reports and sketches
  • nature notebook
  • sketches
  • theater tickets 
  • movie reviews
  • photography
  • video clips
  • graphic arts samples
  • sports stats
  • sports videos
  • recipes
  • URLs from independent studies
  • community service hours
  • achievement award certificates

Some families happily eliminate paper, capturing everything digitally. In recent years during evaluations, we've swiped I-pads to view scanned work and flipped through PowerPoint presentations of field trips. Other families design digital scrapbooks. In our digital society, portfolio possibilities continue to grow. Be creative! If your family is learning on the go or on the road, consider how you might take advantage of digital technology. 

What about high school portfolios? 

I get this question often, especially since families come back to us year-after-year. As those families move into the high school years, they begin to feel the pressure of credits and college admission. To ease the pressure, I remind them that the types of work samples saved really doesn't change. The point of the portfolio is to show that the learner has made progress at a level commensurate to the ability (at least in our state).

Though the work samples saved during the high school years is generally the same as the elementary and middle school years, I do encourage parents to take special care to log titles and authors of books (in a digital document for easy interfacing to other documents) as well as community service hours (documented on company letterhead). Doing so can save time in the late junior and early senior year when families begin gathering college application documents.  

Taming paper trails doesn't have to be a full time job. I found doing a little bit each week helps keep my long-term sanity. I know you can tame yours as well. Perhaps keeping work samples in one place is a next right step in the positive direction. 

What Much Time Do You Spend on High School Subjects? Part 1: Learner and Subject

Several parents asked me recently, 

"How much time does your learner spend on one subject?" 

There is no clear, cut-and-dry answer to this question. Answers depend on the learner as well as the subject. This has been true for our learners as well as for many learners we know. It also depends on how a learner prefers to schedule his or her day. I will talk about that in part 2. 

The learner. It's no surprise that learners take in information differently as well as at different rates (and that doesn't change in high school). What takes one learner thirty minutes to read will take another learner an hour. Add the factors of listening to audio materials or whether or not a learner values the content and there are yet two more variables to consider. 

The subject. Content matters. Again, there are many variables to consider. If a course is traditionally a one-credit course; for example, Algebra 1 or Biology, the course is written with the assumption the student will spend a minimum of one hour of study and instruction, five days a week. Lessons and content are formulated with the Carnegie unit in mind. 

For non-traditional or elective courses, The student's interest in the content is one factor which can increase or decrease study time. Interest in subject increases rate and retention. On the other hand, interest in a subject may also propel a student to dig deeper in and spend more time in independent study. Instructional level of the material also plays a role in calculating how much time to spend on a subject. If the content is presented at a level higher than the instructional level of the learner, time needed increases. 

Learning time varies greatly dependent on the learner and the subject, even in high school.

There is a general rule of thumb (read guideline) used to determine time spent on each subject. It is based on the traditional high school credit standards.


A one credit course (like math, English, social sciences, and science--even some electives) will require 45 minutes to 1 hour of learning each day--for a total of about 5 hours per week.


We have experienced this difference first hand. One of our learners naturally spent one hour per day on each of his core subjects. He preferred learning on that schedule. On the other hand, another learner naturally liked a block schedule. He would spend 3 hours on biology one day and 2 hours the next. Still another one of our learners learned in chunks. She spent great periods of time learning all she could about one topic. Each of our learners transitioned very well to life after high school. 

Let's say a high school learner is taking college courses while in high school--dual enrollment. The student and content variables remain important, yet there is a different recommended guideline to study time. 


For every one credit hour enrolled, a student will spend approximately 2 to 3 hours studying outside of class time. Therefore, taking three credit hours (generally one course) will equate to 3 hours in class and 6 to 9 hours of outside study time. It will follow that taking twelve credits of courses (generally four courses) will equate to 12 hours of in class work and 24 to 36 hours of outside study time. 


As you look forward to this next learning season, consider the important factors of both learner and subject. Part 2 of this series will focus on scheduling. 

 

 

Empower Yourself and Your Children

Things change.

State statutes.

University admission requirements. 

Employment prerequisites. 

I had one of those moments. 

My second son applied to a local state college almost six years ago.

Admission was smooth and relatively easy compared to the essays I had to write for our first son's application to a highly selective university. Though I haven't personally had a student apply to college for several years (I am excited to be doing so again as we graduated another senior this year), I stay in the loop by researching and continuing education because of the privilege Mike and I have of walking along side parents as they help their learners take their unique right next steps. Keeping in the know is what we love and enjoy! 

This week I was reminded of the misinformation which continues to circulate. It happens innocently with the greatest intention being the offering of assistance one person to another. However, though well-intentioned parents (and "experts") may offer their insights and experiences, it is important to remind one another to do our own research and recheck sources. It never hurts to ask more questions.

Requirements change.

For example, when our son applied to the local state college six years ago, the only requirements were a test score (ACT, SAT, or CPT--now the PERT) and a final home-generated transcript or affidavit of high school completion. This week, however, I learned another requirement has been added: a copy of the student's original Letter of Intent filed with the district when the home education program was established. 

A requirement was added since my son applied. I could have easily given parents errant information, unknowingly of course. However, my intention is to always provide families with as accurate and up-to-date information as possible, hence I was prompted to do a bit of research after talking with several parents. Without a refresher--research into current requirements--I could have easily passed along misinformation to other parents based on what I heard instead of what I knew. 

Let's encourage one another to empower ourselves. 

In addition, keeping track of important papers is necessary. As Mike and I are scheduling annual evaluations, often parents mention they "have no idea as to where the learners Letter of Intent has been placed." After learning of the new requirement (at least for this state college), I see the importance of us reminding one another (gently) to be mindful of where we place legal documents. Yes, indeed the county might have a scanned copy to pass along as a replacement, however, personally I feel more comfortable knowing all my documentation is in one place--perhaps a digital file or a paper/accordion file folder. Older children and young adults can learn to keep and organize their records and paperwork as part of this process. 

Let's encourage one another to keep track of necessary documents. 

Our actions impact our children. Having adult children, I understand (with new fervor) the importance of teaching and encouraging my younger children to empower themselves--the hows, wheres, and what fors of finding reliable sources, collecting information, and solving problems. When children are encouraged to empower themselves, and see parents empowering themselves--asking questions, identifying problems, and then seeking out and finding solutions. They've lived and experienced the results of personal empowerment.

Let's encourage one another to empower our children. 

Things change. 

 

 

 

 

 

Most Popular Posts of 2016

2016 is marked as significant.

Why? Because every moment of our days mattered--the triumphs and the trials. We lived and learned together being intentional about using what was real and relational--from cradle to shingle--toddler to adult. Thank you for walking that journey alongside us! We are grateful for you, our readers! 

As a recap of our year together, I compiled our top 15 posts of 2016. ENJOY! 

 

The Many Possibilities of High School Success

Just as there are many potential pathways to successfully completing high school--the end result of helping a young adult develop his or her divinely-created strengths and giftings--there are also many different avenues to the young adult's future; the years beyond the turning of the tassel.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be encouraged by Real-Life for High School Credit: Care and Concerns for the Elderly.


Preschooling, Naturally

Preschool is foundational for life and learning. In fact, it is during the preschool years that little learners master foundational skills which serve as a base for later learning. More importantly, attitudes and temperaments toward learning are set during the preschool and early elementary years.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be encouraged by "Let Me Do It!" Helping Little Learners Become Independent


5 Comments I Don't Regret

Words are remembered, taken with us through our days. This is true for us and it is true for our children and young adults.

If you found this post helpful, you might also enjoy Legacy: Learning Alongside


The Possibilities of Elective Credits - Part II

When I wrote the first edition (who remembers that first spiral-bound resource?) Celebrate High School I included a sample list of potential course titles--both core and elective. When I published my extensive revision in 2015, I expanded my list based on our experience and the experience of those with whom we work.

If the information in this post was helpful, you might want to continue on and read Part III.


32 Ways to Learn from Real and Relational 

Some of my children love making lapbooks, others prefer unit studies. Still others learn best when we incorporate field trips into our days. And, our middle and high school young adults? They have learned at co-ops, through online courses, and with personal independent study. 

If you are being intentional about keeping learning real and relational, you might also be encouraged by the practical life lessons (and history!) in this post-- Living History: 30 Questions that Bring History to Life


8 Skills Children Practice in Puddles

There was much to learn in the puddles. Each learner carried a small fish net, sand bucket or shovel. They were off on an adventure.

Rainy days are natural wonders which intrique little learners. If rain is falling at your house and you are waiting for a safe pause in weather, try this indoor art activity--Torn Paper Rainbows


Grades...In High School

"How do I give grades in high school?"

If designing a transcript is your next step, this post may be helpful--Transcript Matters


Using 4-H for High School Course Content

"Our high school learner is very active in 4-H. Can we use any of what the student is doing toward high school credit?" 

If you have middle school learners and are wondering how you can help them manage time, organize belongings, and pursue interests, this post--Magnificent, Make-A-Difference Middle School--might be helpful. 


Preschooling, Intentionally

Learning is the natural outcome of everyday living, especially for little learners. With a few intentional questions here and a purposeful explanation there, preschoolers can learn naturally from walking alongside older siblings and significant adults. Through everyday experiences, preschoolers gain a jump start to mastering foundational cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual life skills.  By the time the young learner blows out six candles on the birthday cake, significant progress toward mastery of foundational skills has likely been made.

If you are seeking ways to help your little learners do what they can, 3 Things They Can DO on Their Own, might be helpful. 


Living Books and Independent Studies

An interest evolved into an independent study, a year-long learning adventure. 

Science--especially animal science--is particularly interesting to little learners. If you have little learners with a zest for all things living, check out the book list in Vintage Science Readers for the WIN! 


Nature Adventures Made EASY- A Glimpse into Part of Our Day

Ten minutes later, peering out the bedroom window to check on the adventure, my heart smiled--three little learners discovering, wondering together. Co-laboring in learning. 

Looking for a way to learn math outdoors, in nature, where children crave? Check out Math Adventures!


Using Living Books in High School for Credit

We have used several approaches to formulating classes based on strengths, interests and the future plans of the young adult.

Interested in earning credit for writing college essays? This post--High School Made Simple: College Essays for Credit--might offer some insight. 


SIMPLE Prepositions for Little Learners

Keeping early learning active and fun!

Picture books can encourage learning. Read Aloud to Foster Counting Skills lists some of our favorite math picture books. 


Intentional Cursive Handwriting

Oh yes, there is good reason to teach cursive, teaching correct strokes and rotations. Proper letter formation does make composition easier. However, once initial instruction is complete and letters are formed properly, practice begins. Practice.

Interested in hands-on, real-life, spelling activities? This post--What About Spelling?--has lots of practical ideas. 


Helping Learners Foster Strengths and Interests

A trip to the electronics store. I was hoping to go alone. You know, time to enjoy quiet; time to think without questions. After all, it is ONLY the electronics store. 

If this post made you curious about interest-based learning, The Benefits of Interests: Motivating Learners, may answer a few more questions. 

Want to know more about how your days can be intentional, real, and relational? Click below to sign up for the Celebrate Simple Newsletter. 

The Many Possibilities of High School Success

Tis'  the season for future thinking and college applications.

This season can also be a season of disappointment and frustration.

Seeing Facebook posts of acceptance letters and appointments, I can’t help but think of the high school young adults pondering a future which doesn’t include dorm room decorating and walk-on athletics. These young adults--though they may have worked very hard--may feel unsuccessful, even second-class due to the individuality of their next steps toward the future. Hence this season—a season most people associate with celebrations—can be time of awkwardness and discouragement.

But it doesn't have to be!

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When we open our eyes and hearts to other possibilities--alternative, but no less significantly successful high school journeys and culminating celebrations--young adults have innumerable opportunities which may be better suited to their strengths and giftings.

Acceptance letters are not the sole means of successful transition to a young adult's future. 

Just as there are many potential pathways to successfully completing high school--the end result of helping a young adult develop his or her divinely-created strengths and giftings--there are also many different avenues to the young adult's future; the years beyond the turning of the tassel.

The Scholar. Scholars are not just learners; they are specialists--continually seeking to dig deeper in a specific area of interest. There is an aptitude for learning and time is made for accelerated or advanced degrees. In addition to researching and fulfilling the college entrance requirements for the young adult's top university choices, honors courses, dual enrollment, CLEP/DANTE/AP testing, and discussions or networking with professionals in the field of interests may also be helpful. 

The Entrepreneur. Ideas. Strategy. Product analysis. These young adults grew up dreaming of starting a business and in fact may have started one or several during the middle or high school years. Young entrepreneurs may benefit from connecting with successful entrepreneurs as well as with other entrepreneurial-minded peers. In addition, these young adults may spend time at the library or online reading current issues of business magazines-- Inc., Entrepreneur, or Fast Company--or reading small business blogs. Consider looking for local opportunities where the entrepreneur might be able to attend small business seminars or entrepreneurial events.  Job shadowing a business owner or two might be another consideration as well as offering time in the day for the young adult to research successful business practices, managerial/leadership qualities, and marketing or growth strategies. Some high school learners find having a mentor helpful. Having had two entrepreneurial/business-minded young adults, these were helpful resources for our learners. Entrepreneurs may or may not decide to pursue post-secondary education. 

The Athlete. Most little leaguers dream of the big leagues--the pinnacle of achievement for athletes. In fact, we've known athletes who played through elementary and travel sports to high school athletics hoping to fulfill this dream. Some athletes indeed did move on to more competitive collegiate play. Others decided to hang up the cleats after their senior year. For young adults who desire to pursue sports after high school graduation, special attention to the new NCAA requirements is a must. Though an athlete may choose a college outside the NCAA, staying up-to-date is wise. Plans change, sometimes last minute and eligibility is dependent on completion of specific courses. Having had three athletes, we never wanted to short change a student-athlete. In fact, all three took different paths; none ended up playing collegiate sports.  In addition to action on the field, we have known learners who read autobiogrpaphies and biographies of athletes they admire for high school credit. Possibilities include A Life Well-Played (Arnold Palmer), Through My Eyes (Tim Tebow), Out of the Blue (Orel Hershiser). One of our athletes enjoyed Between the Lines: Nine Principles to Live By and The Mental Game of Baseball.

The Creative. Creatives see the world differently--in words, colors, graphics, texture, line, or shapes. These young adults think outside the box and craft from incredible minds. Hence, their paths through high school might include preparing a portfolio, building a client list, visiting studios and exhibitions, experimenting with media, shooting thirds for a photographer, writing copy for publication, working at a hobby shop, creating art for a gallery, volunteering time to create graphics for church media or publication, or selling stock photography. All of these experiences may become part of their high school course work, and the contacts them make along the journey may provide avenues for employment after graduation. The Creative may decide to attend an art or music school, open a studio, spend time with a master artisan, or start a business. Many of these experiences make great activities for elective credits. Post-secondary educational experience may or may not be part of the Creative's future. 

The Apprentice. Apprenticeships offer hands-on, experiential options to young adults who need to learn from masters or professionals in a field of interest. Though apprenticeships are not as popular as they were years ago, apprenticeships offer on-the-job training--and often some classroom instruction--for young adults interested in highly skilled work in healthcare professions, engineering, manufacturing, culinary arts, telecommunications, trades (welding, electrical, carpentry, plumbing), and service careers. The apprentice may train under a skilled craftsman, trained healthcare worker, or licensed professional to learn essential skills important to a particular job. Time devoted to apprenticing can vary to up to four years. Some apprenticeships may require certain math and science high school course work or required scores on HSPE (High School Proficiency Exams). 

The Intern. Internships are an excellent means by which young adults can investigate career fields of interest and learn new skills. Internships can be formal or informal, part-time or full time, paid or unpaid, but are generally offered by an employer or institution for a specific amount of time. Most are considered entry level. Although university internships were traditionally offered to undergrad or grad students, there are colleges who open internships to high school students. Research the availability at local universities, as this is a growing trend. For a hands-on, experiential learner, an internship might be an excellent next step. If interning seems like a good fit for your young adult, consider the points made in this US News and World Report article

There is great possibility several paths and means will overlap. For example, the Creative may also be the Intern, learning alongside or assisting a concert musician, graphic artist, or professional photographer. And, the Intern may also be the Scholar, gaining cutting-edge skill in a science or engineering field. 

Remember, these are not the only possibilities for today's young adults. Just as all young adults are unique, so will be their high school paths and future plans. Not every high schooler will follow the same learning route, nor will they have the same next right steps. With a changing economy, growing knowledge base, and evolving ability for satellite employment, there are ever-growing career opportunities. 

I wonder what those will be for our young adults?  

 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

The Possibilities of Elective Credits: Part III

How are elective credits documented?

The answer to this question depends on your state's home education law as well as what college or university choices find their way on your learner's "top ten" list. Your family's record keeping methods will also factor into answering this question. This was definitely the case for our family.

For our family, if a learner has a distinctive interest or an extraordinary gifting--something they naturally spend a good amount of time researching and learning (for us 75 hours for a half credit and 120+ hours for a full credit)--we count if for credit. I personally do not label or flag courses as core or elective on our transcripts (I do however flag dual enrollment, CLEP, or courses taken at other accredited entities). Too many colleges access transcripts differently to flag core and elective courses. What one considers a core course, an academic elective, or an elective another will classify differently. 

As a learner is actively involved in the the learning process, I keep a bullet point list of the concepts learned or experiences completed on a digital document. From that bullet list, I can write an accurate title and course description should we need it for university admission or scholarship applications. Once the course is complete, I add the title, grades, and credit to the transcript--a one-page snapshot of the young adults academic record.

Elective courses often set one young adult learner apart from another, especially if potential applicants have similar, cookie-cutter type elective credits. 

What strengths, interests, or giftings do your learners have which might equate to credit. Some of the courses our learners have completed include Care and Concerns of the Elderly; Drafting and Drawing; Competitive Gaming; Business and Entrepreneurial Principles; Introduction to Early Childhood Education; Nutrition and Health for Disease Prevention; and Interpersonal Relationships. These off-the-beaten-path have proven to give our now adult children life skills they may not have received otherwise. 


Life skills + high school electives = WIN! for preparation beyond the turning of the tassel


 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

The Possibilities of Elective Credits: Part II

In Part 1, I offered helpful tips about finding and recording elective credits. 

Perhaps that post prompted another question,

"What are some common titles for elective credit in high school?"

Before considering titling, one must understand the difference between core and elective courses. In addition, understand that these are terms used in the educational world. As home educators, it has helpful for us to understand "education-eze" as well as what is and isn't required by our state statutes. It has been equally helpful to know that colleges use "education-eze". Though some colleges and universities are hiring home education admission personnel, some admission advisers at other institutions are not always versed in the statute requirements.

Common terminology includes:

Core courses are courses which must be taken or are required for graduation. Typically, core courses are English, math, social science, and natural sciences. In addition, some schools will require additional credit--in addition to the core content areas--to be taken in world languages, the arts, computer science, and physical education. 

Electives are courses students chose to take. Electives allow a learner to customize his or her education, to build on a strength or interest, or to investigate content not yet studied in other courses. It is the elective courses which often strengthen the high school transcript and round out the student while also telling employers and admissions about the interests and strengths of the learners.

Some educational entities use the term academic electives for admissions. An academic elective is a core course taken above and beyond the required academic courses in that discipline. For example, if a leaner completes the three math courses required for graduation (or admission) in the mathematics core academic area--let's say Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II--but decides to take another academic math course from the core choices--Trigonometry--the fourth course could be considered an academic elective, if the educational venue recognizes academic electives. 

When I wrote the first edition (who remembers that first spiral-bound resource?) Celebrate High School I included a sample list of potential course titles--both core and elective. When I published my extensive revision in 2015, I expanded my list based on our experience and the experience of those with whom we work. For this post, I am pulling potential elective course titles from that 2015 revised list. I am NOT including courses most often considered core academics--for example, Calculus or British Literature--though those core courses could be used as electives--and often are by home educating families. 

English electives (when not considered part of the core content English I, English II, English III, and English IV)

  • Shakespearean Theater
  • Greco-Roman Theater
  • Short Stories
  • Poetry (perhaps of a specific historical era)
  • Writing for Print and Publication
  • Creative Writing
  • Yearbook
  • Digital Publishing
  • Ancient Languages
  • Biblical Studies: Old Testament
  • Biblical Studies: New Testament

Communication electives

  • Speech (this course is often considered a core course for some schools but an elective for others)
  • Competitive Speech
  • Impromptu Speech
  • Expository Speech
  • Policy Debate
  • Lincoln Douglas Debate
  • Media Productions

Mathematics electives

  • Personal Finance (this course is often considered a required course for some schools but an elective for others)

Social Science electives

  • Comparative Government
  • Introduction to Law
  • Mock Trial
  • Constitutional Law
  • Independent Study: Foreign Policy
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Psychology (this course is often considered a core course for some schools but an elective for others)
  • Sociology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Family and Consumer Science 
  • Contemporary World Issues
  • Ancient Civilizations
  • Independent Study: The Korean War
  • Medieval History
  • Introduction to Social Work
  • Child and Adolescent Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • World Religions
  • Theology
  • Church History
  • Internship: Youth Ministry

Natural Science electives

  • Environmental Science
  • Animal and Agricultural Sciences
  • Introduction to Agriscience
  • Equine Science
  • Equine Medicine
  • Introduction to Veterinary Science
  • Introduction to Forestry
  • Botany
  • Entomology
  • Zoology
  • Astronomy
  • Introduction Aerospace Science
  • Forensics
  • Introduction to Health Sciences

Performing/Fine Arts electives

  • Introduction to Drama
  • Musical Theater
  • Art History (perhaps add a historical era)
  • Art Appreciation
  • Choreography
  • Dance Technique (consecutive years: Intermediate and Advanced)
  • Competitive Dance
  • Introduction to Ball Room Dance
  • Stagecraft
  • Set Design
  • Theater Production
  • Two-Dimensional Art
  • Three-Dimensional Art
  • Sculpture
  • Ceramics
  • Drawing and Painting
  • Cartooning and Caricature
  • Printmaking
  • Pottery
  • Creative Photography
  • Digital Photography
  • Band
  • Orchestra
  • Symphonic Band
  •  Wind Ensemble
  • Jazz Ensemble
  • Keyboard
  • Piano
  • Music Theory (consecutive years: Intermediate and Advanced)
  • Music History (perhaps add a historical era)
  • Music Appreciation

Physical Education electives

  • Personal Fitness (this course is often considered a required course for some schools but an elective for others)
  • Nutrition and Wellness
  • Physical Education  (this course is often considered a required course for some schools but an elective for others)
  • Aerobics (consecutive years: Intermediate and Advanced)
  • Tennis
  • Golf
  • Volleyball
  • Competitive Swimming
  • Water Polo
  • Lifesaving
  • Advanced Lifesaving
  • Team Sports
  • Recreational Sports
  • Beginning Weights (consecutive years: Intermediate and Advanced)
  • Weight Training (often accompanies sports training) 
  • Sports Psychology
  • Introduction to Sports Medicine
  • Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries
  • Sports Rehabilitation

Business Education electives

  • Accounting
  • Marketing 
  • Advertising and Sales
  • Principles of Entrepreneurship
  • Banking and Finance
  • Business Principles
  • Foundational Principles of Small Business
  • Business Technology

Computer Science electives

  • Computer Fundamentals
  • Programming (consecutive courses: Programming I, Programming II)
  • Introduction to Computer Systems
  • Computer Construction and Repair
  • Keyboarding
  • Word Processing
  • Graphic Design
  • Digital Design
  • Web Design
  • Digital Arts
  • Computer Gaming 

Home Economics electives

  • Fashion Design
  • Textiles and Fabrics
  • Clothing Construction and Textiles
  • Machine Sewing
  • Quilting and Applique
  • Interior Design
  • Introduction to Early Childhood Education
  • Nutrition
  • Principles in Food Preparation
  • Principles in Food Preparation: Pastry
  • Principles in Food Preparation: Desserts
  • Principles in Food Preparation: Main Courses
  • Principles in Food Preparation: Appetizers
  • Introduction to Culinary Arts
  • Introduction to Pastry
  • Cake Decorating
  • Home and Automotive Repair
  • First Aid and CPR
  • Emergency Preparedness

Vocational electives

  • Cosmetology
  • Cabinet Making
  • Carpentry
  • Trim and Finish Carpentry
  • Masonry
  • Landscaping
  • Horticulture
  • Floral Design
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Building Design and Architecture
  • Drafting
  • Technical Drawing
  • Plumbing
  • Welding
  • Auto Mechanics
  • Diesel Mechanics
  • Small Engine Repair
  • Electronics and Circuitry 

When our young adults are reading, working on research, studying content, or participating in an experiential opportunity, I search for potential titles in the course codes for our state. If I can't find a title or course content in that resource which is close to what our learners are studying, I search for high school courses (or in some cases college courses) from across the nation. Those resources usually allow me to find a title--or at least give me a springboard--which accurately describes the content being learned. 

Needing to know more about documenting elective credit work for college admission paperwork? Check out part 3. 


 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

 

Course Descriptions- To Write or Not to Write

I have been following and actively researching homeschooling in the high school years for over 15 years. Some trends have remained the same. Others have changed. 

Course descriptions have definitely been one of those trends. 

When I came into the high school years, the majority of parents were writing course descriptions of some kind depending on the university to which a young adult was applying. 

There are several reasons why less parents are having to spent time documenting textbook titles, course content, evaluation methods, and the like. 

In our geographical area (some trends are geographical), more students are choosing to dual enroll and then continue at the community or state college until the AA is earned. In many cases, that AA offers students a direct connection to an in-state, four-year university. When the AA or AS is earned, usually the only documentation needed from high school is the final transcript, if anything. In some situations, AAs are even providing a direct connection to some out-of-state colleges.

In fact, students who chose to dual enroll and finish the AA or AS are likely not to need the course descriptions.

For example, my first grad went to a four-year college. Some of the colleges--especially highly selective universities--required course descriptions. Others did not. 

My second graduate dual enrolled while in high school and then applied to stay on and finish the AA. The application process was a piece of cake. Only a final high school transcript was required. No course descriptions. 

My two current high schoolers, one a senior, may need a combination based on the top colleges of their choice. In preparation, just in case, I am keeping bullet points of the highlights of the less traditional courses as well as titles, authors and publishers of textbooks and resources. If needed, my bullet points will become sentences to create the course descriptions. 


The current trend for course descriptions is college specific. 


Hence, some parents are choosing to take a "wait-and-see-approach and are not worried about pulling all nighters should their young adults need documentation.

Keep in mind, if the home-educated student is an athlete considering collegiate sports, there is some specific course documentation needed for the NCAA. You can find that information here

A sampling of colleges still requiring course description or some type of course documentation include:  

Amherst College, Amherst, MA

Emory, Atlanta, GA

Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

Oblerin College and Conservatory, Oblerin, OH

Olgethorpe University, Atlanta, GA

Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

Rice University, Houston, TX

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 

This is only a sampling! Parents and young adults must take the responsibility of researching the requirements of the colleges of interest. Check the admission requirements of the student's colleges of choice. If course descriptions or other documentation is required, plot your plan of action. If that plan includes writing course descriptions, check out this post. 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

 

Real-Life for High School Credit- Care and Concerns of the Elderly

Have you ever been through a tough season, a season when you wonder if anyone learned anything?

I have. More than once. 

About three years ago--from January to May--we helped care for and love my grandmother in the last months of her life. I don't regret one day, one minute of how we chose to spend our time. We made wonderful memories with Grams during that time, memories our family relives and smiles over--all of us. But, it wasn't an easy time.

The six months prior, found us spending many hours touring assisted living facilities and government-subsidized care units. There were meetings with social workers and property managers. My high school learner asked if she could be included in the tours and meetings. 

At first, I wondered how she could accompany me and complete her scheduled course work. 

After a few conversations, Mike and I decided there was great value in our high schooler participating in the meetings, discussions, and comparisons. After all, she may be able to add a perspective my mom and I--being very close to the circumstances--might not be able to see. In addition, she was a consumer and might one day be faced with similar decisions. 

I was worried our daughter wouldn't be able to make visits and meetings with us and get her planned work completed. I was fearful and tentative. However, Mike and I decided there was life value to this season. 

Our high schooler would accompany my mom and I. 

Fast forward to the end of May.

After some really difficult months, Grandma passed away. Being the end of May, I was compiling work samples for our year end evaluations and updating my high schooler's transcript. In the process, I asked our daughter to look over the transcript and her portfolio of work samples to determine if I had missed any significant work she had completed--especially independent studies--while my mind was preoccupied with Grandma. 

Her response surprised me. 

"Couldn't I get credit for all I learned while helping with Grammy?"

I answered with a question. 

"What do you think you learned?"

I was astounded by her answers. 

Here are the highlights:

  • Medical care terminology 
  • Implications of elderly care, physically as well as psychologically
  • Family care of the elderly
  • Levels of care matter and costs associated with that care
  • Comparing and contrasting residential services and their differences: nursing facility, assisted living, retirement community, memory care
  • Levels of home care and the services rendered
  • Meal preparation, offerings, presentation, individualization of services in different facilities
  • Physical, emotional and spiritual care concerns at facilities
  • Support care for family, if offered
  • Comparison and contrast of social and group activities in facilities
  • Nursing qualifications at each facility-  RN, LPN, CNA
  • Staff to patient ratios
  • Emergency response systems and their importance
  • Financial options and obligations
  • Hospice and end of life procedures, care, and considerations

We talked for thirty minutes (at least) about all she had learned and experienced, first-hand, experientially. Not only had our daughter interacted with--playing games, conversing, and caring for--Grammy and other residents several times a week for several months, but she had also made visits to seven facilities and compared the offerings, care, staff qualifications, and financial costs of each. She helped us research at home and we brainstormed questions we would ask at each meeting. 

When our daughter visited with us, she asked questions and held conversations with staff, helping us understand the pros and cons of each location. Near the end of Grammy's life our daughter visited three hospice care facilities and listened to three presentations regarding choices we would have to make as a family. In addition, she observed how people processed Grammy's declining health and eventually her passing--from my parents to her youngest siblings--as we visited, asked questions, processed grief together. 

I couldn't believe what our daughter had learned! None of it was planned. And, I almost missed an opportunity to use her interest--a real-life situation--as a catalyst for learning. 

My daughter wanted to be an active participant of this season in our lives, and it was some of the most valuable learning she could have done that year. 

Could she earn credit for all she had learned? 

In our state, that final answer rests with Mike and I. We confer the credit. we sign the transcript. This is not the case for all states, so research is essential in regards to state requirements.

I also had to determine in my mind--really Mike and I together--whether I could feel confident in the credit we were giving. Would I--or my daughter should she be asked to explain her course work in an essay or interview--be able to substantiate what our daughter had learned? Did I feel the content was high school level or higher?

After researching high school courses (there really weren't but one or two) and content of college credit offerings (this was more helpful) as well as asking questions of professionals in the field, we decided to give our daughter one-half credit for her learning and experience. 

For readers with young adults interested in this field, in my research I learned the Red Cross has a family care-giver course. 

To document the content covered, should our daughter need it for college admission, I wrote the following course description of what she learned


Cares and Concerns of the Elderly

This experiential study was initiated by the student as a result of the direct care and concern of her ninety-five year old great-grandmother and her health and care needs during the last nine months of her life. The student interacted with elderly patients at in-patient care centers several times a week. One visit included making and delivering Christmas cards. During the student's visits she served cake and punch at a birthday party, helped residents participate in an Easter egg hunt, escorted patients through a nature garden, played card and board games with patients, and sang Christmas carols with a group of parents and students. As the great-grandmother required complete care, the student researched, visited, and compared nursing care and living accommodations at three local assisted living facilities and three hospice care units, participating in discussions of how to match patient needs with patient care. The student also participated in discussions about blood transfusions, intravenous nutrition, end-of-life care, death, and the grieving process. 


What real-life circumstances is your young adult facing? Do these experiences include internships, community opportunities, or apprenticeships? Do these circumstances or experiences provide high school level (or higher) instruction or content? 

Perhaps your young adult is experiencing something extra-ordinary, something which will impact life--and other people--far beyond the high school years. There may be job shadowing, internships, community opportunities, or apprenticeships involved in the learning. Lives might be changing because of your young adult's learning experience.

Might you consider what those experiences are, how they are impacting lives, and how might they equate to credit? 

 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

Transcript Matters: More than One Transcript?

I field a good number of transcript questions each month. In this post, I will address another question I received several times in the past few weeks. 

"What if my high schooler received some credits at the local public school, some through an online venue, and still others through dual enrollment? Do I need to create more than one transcript?" 

Great question. Home educated students have a variety of different environments from which they could possibly learn. Some of these entities are transcript-producing entities, meaning the entity is accredited and provides educational oversight and responsibility for students who take classes through their venue. Others do not produce transcripts (some co-ops and support group opportunities, private instruction and tutoring, church courses and seminars). 

First, it may be helpful to understand what a transcript is. 

A transcript is a permanent academic record which includes all grades conferred to the named student. It represents the student's academic record; a visual summary of the student's high school years. 

As the homeschooling parent overseeing your young adult's learning, you know your learner's academic record in its entirety, both in the home and away from the home. You know when courses were taken as well as which entity provided oversight for each class, whether it was an accredited transcript producing entity or not. You know whether some credits were earned at the local public school, and whether the course included CLEP or AP content, if the corresponding tests were taken, as well as what scores the student achieved. 

Yes, other entities may have conferred grades and credits, but you alone know where and when those grades and credits were earned. The parent-generated transcript you provide not only validates the courses, grades, and credits received directly under your supervision, but also offers employers and universities an overview of course variety and environments from which the student benefited, in and out of the home. Therefore, every course, grade, and credit is documented in one place--on the parent-generated transcript. It will be the parent-generated transcript which alerts any employer or university that they will receive transcripts from other entities.


With four high schoolers, two grads who entered colleges and universities by differing methods and means, we have experienced this first hand. And, we have helped others walk through answering this question as well. In every case, having all courses--no matter where they were taken--documented on the parent-generated transcript was helpful in the admission process. 


How did we denote courses taken outside the home?

First, there must be distinction made. We asked ourselves,

"Was this course taken under the oversight of a legally recognized transcript-producing entity?" 

If the course was taken at such an entity, we flagged the course on the transcript, meaning we added some type of notation super-scripted above the grade. Then we added an explanations of the flags under the grading scale of our transcript. 

  Notation explanation as well as grading scale used for courses taken at home

Notation explanation as well as grading scale used for courses taken at home

For example, all of our high school learners completed foreign language online through an accredited source.  I didn't create the course, its content, or grade the work. This was all provided by the online instructor. As the parent overseeing the education of my student (outlined in our state statute), I knew the course was taken and that the source was accredited by the state, and is a transcript-producing entity. I added the course to my parent-generated transcript to provide colleges with the information that the foreign language requirement was met. However, my superscript alerted the colleges that they would be receiving an additional transcript for admission purposes. 

  Courses taken in the home as well as outside entities.

Courses taken in the home as well as outside entities.

For some students, there may be several superscripts. I worked on a transcript recently for a student who had taken courses at the local public high school, a private school, an online public school, and a state college. The superscript above the corresponding grades provided admission personnel with a quick, concise picture of where this student had received her high school requirements. 


The parent-generated transcript not only validates the courses, grades, and credits received directly under the parent's supervision, but also offers employers and universities an overview of course variety and environments from which the student benefited, in and out of the home.


If you have questions like the one presented in this post, connect with us. Mike and I would love to help you on your journey. We publish Celebrate High School newsletter for families considering or currently walking the high school journey. You can subscribe to that newsletter below. 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

 

Transcript Matters: Courses Taken in Eighth Grade

 

Time to answer another commonly asked question. 

"Can we count courses completed in 8th grade for high school credit? And, how do I document them on the transcript?"

If you are asking these questions, you are not alone! 

First, to answer the first question. 

Yes, by all means you can count eighth grade classes for high school credit as long as doing so remains in the bounds of your state's homeschooling statutes. On this homeschooling journey, parents are able to make these decisions (again, based on their state statutes). However, you should know the hows and whys of the decisions you are making. You may be asked to substantiate your rationale as I did for one of the colleges to which one of our graduates applied. 

As with many things, be ready with an answer. 

When we make the decision as to whether to count an eighth grade class for high school credit, I always ask myself, 

"Is the content of the class considered high school level or above?"

If so, I count the credit. 

Now, for the second question,

"How do we include eighth grade courses on the transcript?"

I include eighth grade, high school level courses, on our young adult's transcript. I note the academic year, course title, grade, and credit received. The format I use is highlighted in the box below. 

I include the specifics on a course description document. Click here if you need more information on course descriptions. 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

College Admission Requirements for Homeschoolers- Part III: Application Paperwork

Great to have you back for post #3 in this four-part series on college admissions.

In part one I talked about preparation. Part two offered insight on admission must haves. In this post, the third in the series, I will look at the details of some of the paperwork colleges may require.  

Admissions paperwork for homeschoolers may differ from public or private schooled applicants. It will definitely vary from university to university. Therefore, being knowledgeable about the potential paperwork which may be needed is helpful as the high school years approach and move forward.

I remember when--eight years ago--my first high schooler was in the midst of applying to his top colleges of choice.

It was August of his senior year. I had researched, been to workshops, talked with moms. Not all I had learned and heard was needed. Yet, as we sat at the computer working on forms and paperwork, I was thankful for pockets full of potential. I remember joking with my son about how I had no way of knowing what cards we would have to play but I was grateful we had a deck from which to choose!

Transcripts. A transcript is a summary--a visual representation--of a young adult's high school academic record. This paper will represent your student, the student's educational experience, and your homeschool. Universities appreciate transcripts which are concise, presented in a clear, easy-to-read format. A professional looking transcript allows universities to take your homeschool seriously, like, "This family knows what they are doing."  

Like mama used to say, "The first impressions matter."

Accurate record keeping provided the information I needed for the transcript, mainly grades, credits, course titles, and test scores. Having all this information in one place helped me pull this document together quickly when a new baby delayed my record keeping and I needed a transcript for a good student driver discount. 

What about format? This question is asked often. After researching (can you tell I like this stuff?) formats, I created a document I knew would meet our applicant's needs and look professional. I've used the same transcript format for all my young adults as well as the young adults for whom I have created transcripts via consultations and evaluations. The format works. "This is the best homeschool transcript we've seen," says one highly-selective university. 

With our transcript template finalized, I simply edit the pertinent biographical information, courses, credits, and grades. This is much easier than starting from scratch every time we add another high school student. Be aware, some universities don't care how the transcript is formatted, others do. Some offer transcript formats on their sites. Flagler College reminds home educated applicants to make sure the person who prepares the transcript to remember to sign the document. Though this sounds silly, I know parents who forgot to sign their transcripts. The document is considered invalid without a signature. 


Finally, the transcript must include the signature of the individual who prepared it.
— Flagler College website

Parents often ask me if I include course codes on my transcripts. I don't.

I offer a detailed reason why I don't on this blog post. 

Course Descriptions. States have standards. High schools offer courses based on those standards. A description of these courses is published on the high school's website. If the college personnel had questions, they could access course content and standards (at least in theory).

Courses taken at home vary from home to home in methodology, structure, and content giving college administrators no standard for evaluation or comparison. This is a good thing, say homeschoolers. I would agree. However, this is the reason college admission officers considering home educated applicants sometimes require course descriptions to accompany transcripts. These short, concise paragraphs allow college personnel to become familiar with the student as well as his or her academic achievements and interests. 

Course descriptions serve two purposes.

First, course descriptions clarify and validate course content. This is especially true when applying to universities which refuse to accept parent-generated honors courses (which happened to us). Once the admission personnel read a course description, determination may be made as to whether the content is equivalent to a traditional honors level course--in their eyes.

Course descriptions also validate a student's academic abilities and achievements. And in some cases (ours included) universities use these course descriptions to determine invitation to honors college or offering of potential scholarship. 

This blog post about course descriptions may be helpful as you research and discover the requirements of your student's top college choices. And, it will help you learn how to put in words the unique and extraordinary learning which is happening in your home.

Reading Lists.This is definitely one of those documents which is not widely requested yet good to be knowledgeable about in case it is needed. 

 Reading lists are not required by all colleges. 

Fifteen years ago a homeschooling mom, who had graduated two students, told me to keep a cumulative reading list for my then middle schooler. Actually, by our state statute, we are required to keep a resources list, so it really wasn't a stretch to continue in high school. However, I didn't really understand why she was so insistent and I questioned her. She told me a story of how one of her graduates was asked to submit a reading list. Not knowing which universities my son would apply to, I decided I would consider her experience and wisdom and keep the list.

Indeed, I needed the reading list. One of the universities to which my son applied required a reading list. WHEW! I was grateful for the wisdom that mom so bravely shared. Only one college required the list. However, I had the list compiled and decided to submit it with every application we sent (those were the "old" days when applications went by mail) because most of the schools he applied to were highly competitive. 

Do we keep reading lists, even though few colleges require them? Yes. Our students keep a cumulative reading list, recording title and author of every high school level (or higher) book read. Why? First, it is required by our state statute, and I don't want to scramble to reproduce what we can fairly painlessly record as my students finish their reading. In our family when our learners begin to read high school level or higher materials, the mantra is

"read the book, record the book, get the credit." 

This simple statement extends freedom for our students to select independent reading and earn credit. Keeping the list not only allows a cumulative reading list to be compiled--by academic year--but gives me a tool from which to cut and paste (integrate) student-selected reads into high school courses. 

Letters of Recommendation. Letters of recommendation are written and submitted by a third party who can attest to the academic accomplishments, work ethic, and personal character of a student. The majority of colleges will ask for letters of recommendation for admission. Each university is likely to request letter from different sources. Be prepared to ask instructors, teachers, band directors, employers, supervisors, pastors, or coaches if needed. Remember, I talked a bit about these letters in post #2 of this series. 

Essays or writing samples. Universities may require applicants to submit essays, writing samples, or personal statements with the admission packet. Essay topics can often be found on the college website or on the college application. Researching and practicing essay writing before actually submitting an application is helpful and recommended. This blog post offers some of the most common essay questions colleges ask. 

Bucknell University requires extra writing samples for home educated applicants. 


Home-schooled applicants submit the same application and testing as other students, but we require additional writing samples.
— Bucknell University website

Some colleges have a word count requirement for their essays. Therefore, high schoolers may benefit from practicing writing within a specific word count. For example, I asked one of our seniors to write a 500 word essay one afternoon during the first weeks of school. He wrote a first draft in the time and word count limit. A day later, we sat and worked through grammar and mechanics, organization and word choice. We followed up with a final draft. The student was motivated because the content mattered. He wanted to attend the college requiring the essay. Win for the application. Win for composition. We made a copy for his English work samples which were shown to our evaluator at the end of the year.

Some colleges ask writing samples from applicants. Amherst College suggests a short writing piece and a research paper. 

Additional paperwork may be needed. For example, Emory-Riddle Aeronautical Univeristy suggests a student resume, though it is not required. University of Pennsylvania requires additional information to be present in the paperwork provided. Their homeschool applicant page states


More information is better… In the Secondary School Report and elsewhere in your Penn application, please share your motivations for choosing a rigorous home school journey. Why did you or your family seek home schooling as an option for your education? Describe your curriculum in detail and tell us how you, your family or oversight group have organized your pursuit of knowledge across core academic disciplines including humanities, math, social and natural sciences, and foreign languages. How has being home schooled helped you grow intellectually and personally or enhanced your opportunities for learning? The aim is to help the admissions committee understand how you have worked to “demonstrate mastery” and “distinguish excellence” across the curriculum. Anything you or your academic supervisor can do to explain and contextualize your educational circumstances can only be helpful in the Penn admissions process.
— University of Pennsylvania website

Each piece of paperwork has its nuances and importance, just as every university has its requirements. This post is simply an introduction to each document a family might be asked to submit with a college application. Families can research their young adults top colleges of choice for specific requirements, especially if those choices include military academies.  I have written extensively about each of these documents--with examples--in my book Celebrate High School which is on sale until October 7.

I hope you will join us for the final post of this series, The Big Picture. 

Celebrate High School: Finish with Excellence
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This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

College Admissions for Homeschoolers Part II: Admission Must Haves

 

"Must haves." 

I know, sounds determinate, like "if you don't do this you won't get in." But stick with me. 

I'm not telling you what to do. That is not the point of this post.  

And, there's no way for me or anyone else to tell you exactly what to do for your high school learner. Only you know your student or his or her unique circumstances.

The purpose of this blog post is to share current information so you can be intentional; equipped to make informed decisions for your high schooler. As a mom who's walked the high school path with four very different young adults and an evaluator/consultant who has worked with many families, I understand what works for one student may not work for another.

However, like it or not

there are definite items colleges will request of all their applicants--public, private, and homeschooled.

Knowing what those items are offers applicants opportunity to prepare and to keep paperwork current as courses are completed, hours are served, and achievements are made. I have learned from experience that although we homeschoolers like to dig our heels in the sand and stand our ground (thinking we should or shouldn't have to deal with certain admission requirements), our dug in heals may leave us stuck with little or no options. 

Test Scores. Like it or not, most universities with a traditional mindset still believe testing helps validate grades on a transcript. Many colleges believe that test scores are especially important for home education graduates because their educational environment is potentially less standardized than traditional public or private schools. On the other hand, some universities are moving toward test optional scenarios (as stated in this Washington Post article)Stetson University is one of those schools.

Stetson University, a test-optional school states


Stetson University values academic achievement, commitment to personal values, leadership, talent, character and initiative above standardized testing. Therefore, submitting standardized test results for admission consideration is optional. Score-optional consideration is an alternative for applicants who feel that their test scores don’t adequately reflect their level of academic achievement and/or accurately predict their potential.
— Stetson University website

Though some schools are now test optional, others are not. Still others offer the applicant to make a choice based on his or her strengths. Homeschooling parents find It best to research and then prepare to meet the testing requirements for colleges of choice, if test scores are an admission must.

Knowing test score expectations allows a young adult to be prepared, to choose a specific test from the options, one which will best complement his or her strengths, and then to study for the special characteristics of that test. Some colleges have the same test score requirements for public, private, and homeschooled graduates. Other universities have stricter standards for homeschoolers and even require additional SAT Subject Test scores. 

Emory University has specific test score requirements for homeschoolers. According to their website


The Admission Committee is happy to receive applications from home-schooled students. In addition to meeting all admission requirements and submitting the required results from the SAT or ACT, we ask that a student who has been schooled at home submit results from three SAT II subject exams—one in mathematics and two of the student’s choosing. Additionally, we require at least one letter of recommendation from someone other than a family member. We also encourage home-schooled students to submit a comprehensive explanation of their curriculum.
— Emory University website

Grades. Universities like grades. Again, this is a traditional educational evaluation method used to place (at least in theory) public, private, and homeschooled graduates on the same plain (whether you agree or not). Knowing whether a college prefers unweighted or weighted GPAs is another aspect of grading with which parents should become familiar. 

Grading in high school doesn't have to be scary. Check out my detailed blog post Grades...in High School. I highlight how we graded some of the most traditional and the most unique courses of our high school journey.

Transcripts. This is another traditional requirement for the applicants and perhaps the most stressful for homeschooling parents. Hence, why some homeschoolers will argue this document is not necessary. However, a large percentage of colleges and universities will have this requirement. Some colleges including Wheaton College, are offering a transcript template on their homeschool admission page. Again, preparation can combat fear. As you build your understanding of transcripts, consider:

  • Most universities want this document on one page; neat, concise and eye-appealing, easy-to-read.
  • The majority of colleges are looking for variety--in content and format. In regards to content, many universities are eager to see depth and individual interests. An unique interest for a student applying as a veterinary medicine major might be Introduction to Veterinary Medicine. Schools will also be looking for the specific courses they require for admission, for example Biology. Class format is important, too. Universities want to know your student can learn and interact in traditional, online, seminar, and hybrid courses. This is why lab sciences and foreign languages are often required for applicants. Overall, they are looking for well-rounded students who will impact their campuses. 
  • Some universities require 16-20 core courses for admission and will offer suggestions on their homeschool admission pages as to what courses they are looking for. Wheaton College is one of those universities. 
  • Be sure the transcript you create contains the information requested by the colleges to which the student is applying. 

University of North Florida requests a transcript containing the standard information required of all applicants, including home educated graduates. 


Home school students must submit transcripts indicating course title, semester, grade, and awarded credit for all academic courses. Official SAT/ACT scores and official transcripts from accelerated mechanisms are also required.
— University of North Florida website

Letters of Recommendation. These documents are required of all applicants, public, private, and homeschooled. And, for some universities, this is the second most important documentation on behalf of the applicant. Letters of recommendation are especially important for the home educated applicant as they offer an unbiased perspective of the student. In other words, though the parent may act as the guidance counselor and write a letter from this position, the university will want a glimpse of the student from a source outside of family. Often a youth pastor or instructor from a traditional setting--online, co-op classroom--a coach, or an employer can offer the information a college is needing. In addition, some colleges will have specific guidelines about who they want to write a letter (clergy, employer, coach) as well as when the letter must be written (an instructor from the student's senior year). Not all colleges require specifics letters to be written, but when they do, be sure to follow their guidelines. 

For example, when our first son applied to highly-selective universities, one of the schools required a letter of recommendation from an instructor during the senior year. Though my son had had teachers in previous years through local co-op classes and individual instruction, his senior year courses were taken mostly through home study. However, he was finishing up a second year of Spanish online. I called the university and asked if a recommendation from his online teacher would be acceptable. They agreed, though I wondered how she could even write a recommendation having never met our son. Her letter focused mostly on his work ethic, academic ability and integrity, and timely assignment submission. All good points none of his other letters addressed. 

Princeton University explains what is important for applicants to consider when submitting recommendations. 


It’s most helpful if your teacher and counselor references come from three different adults who can comment on your intellectual curiosity, academic preparation and promise, and extracurricular involvement. Some home schooled applicants ask a parent to complete the School Report, and they ask others who have known them in an academic context to complete the teacher references. If you have taken any high school or college courses, or had a teacher other than a parent in a particular subject, we encourage you to ask those professors or teachers to write your teacher references.
— Princeton University website

When our high school students ask mentors, supervisors, or instructors for letters of recommendation we encourage them to follow up with a note of thanks and gratitude. I outlined that process in a blog post, The Thank You After the Letter. 

Interviews. Nine years ago when our son began to receive offers for admission and scholarship, interviews were essential if the student intended to accept a Presidential scholarship. Today however, interviews are becoming more popular for admission. Interviews provide a chance for the student to talk about his or her achievements and aspirations as well as offer an opportunity to exhibit proficient communication and interpersonal skills. College personnel want to know what value the student will bring to the campus.  Rice University is one university which recommends a personal interview.

Additional paperwork may be required. Research each college. Determine what types of documentation each university is requiring. For example, St. John's College asks applicants to write an essay for admission. And, Vanderbilt University suggests student submit an optional curriculum chart. Arizona State asks home educated students to submit a lab sciences evaluation. Though a first reaction may be frustration--as it was for me when I had to write essays about our educational methods and grading system--it is wise to step back, breathe, and take a few minutes to ponder the request. After a thirty second pause, the request may not be as bad as first perceived. 

In our situation, though I was initially discouraged that our son's top school required me to write essays, once I started the process, the pondering of our home education methods was beneficial and indeed helpful for us as a family. I was reaffirmed that indeed we had worked hard together and our son was extraordinarily prepared for his next steps. In the end, that school offered our son a Presidential scholarship, four full years paid tuition. 

Once we know what will be required for admission, we can get down to the business of creating the documents and records we need. We'll take a closer look at specific admissions paperwork in the next post. 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

Grades...In High School

How do I give grades in high school?

This is one of the most common high school questions I'm asked. 

Often the question is asked with a perplexed, overwhelmed facial expression and clinched teeth.

Rest easy! Grades don't need to cause stress.

The high school years can bring out fears we didn't know we had. Like grades. Parents versed in grade giving in the elementary and middle school years stop suddenly, wondering if there is something different they need to do. Others, parents who have never given grades, panic wondering if there is some secret to this "language". 

Grading traditional objective work. I term traditional objective work as math problems or a chapter review in history. It is an answer-the-question, get-the-answer right-or-wrong, type of assignment. These assignments are objective, either right or wrong. There is no room for opinion or comparison to a group.

Grading traditional subjective work. These are assignments like essays, where opinion may play a role in the grade given. These grades can be a bit more difficult to assign. For these types of assignments, I prefer to use a rubric--a chart which states specifically how the assignment will be graded, what will be expected, and what point value will be assigned to each part of the assignment. Rubrics have been valuable to our family for traditional subjective work. The one I used when teaching a high school English course is available here for free download. 

Grading non-traditional course work. There have been some courses along the journey with four high school learners for which there were no right or wrong answers, no percentages, and no rubrics. Some parents may call this a pass-fail course. Other parents call it a completion course. 


When our son built an 8 foot x 12 foot shed (insert miniature house with plans he drew and had certified by an architect) as part of his Eagle Scout project, the final grade was determined by whether or not he received a certificate of occupancy from the city. In addition, we considered his character and work ethic proven by his communication with sub-contractors, leadership of older scouts, and his ability to progress through the project, meeting permitting deadlines toward his grade. As the parents conferring the credit and grade for this course, we felt his work definitely warranted an A, which was reflected on his transcript for the course Introduction to Building Construction. 


We've had other courses which were completed and best described by an adjective. These courses were again subjective, based on conversation or other non-definitive evaluative methods. Our students knew the adjective grading scale, hence knew what was expecting in terms of work ethic, attitude, or performance. Having such an adjective scale also allowed me to not only have a measurement tool in my mind (and in my student's minds) but also to be able to explain the grading for such courses to college personnel or employers, should they inquire. Courses we've graded in this manner included Music Theory and Performance, Care and Concern for the Elderly, and Art Appreciation. There were no tests or objective grades in these courses, no written papers. There were however, performances and lessons, conversations with elderly residents and medical professionals, visits to unique art exhibits or museums, and attendance at music competitions and professional dress rehearsals. Conversations and dialogue followed, critiquing performances, comparing and contrasting venues as well as art pieces. In addition, video texts and tutorials were utilized. Our adjective scale, which is published in my book Celebrate High School is:

A - Exceptional, Excellent, Extraordinary, Superior

B- Commendable, Praiseworthy, Above Average, Credible

C- Adequate, Average, Usual, Ordinary

D- Minimal, Fair, Insufficient, Lacking

Grades in high school don't have to cause undo stress. 

Even after fifteen years of research and twelve years of actively educating high schoolers, I remind myself grades are what educators and professionals know. They are a necessity along the high school journey. What college administrators and employers don't know is the academic abilities of my student or the caliber of study he or she has completed. Grades are a standardized means by which to express our student's accomplishments, especially the non-traditional--and often most valuable--experiences our learners have had the opportunity in which to partake.

As parent educators, therefore high school guidance counselors, we must find and use the grading means by which the student and the accomplishments can be accurately represented. And in doing so, with the encouragement of one another, we can provide grades for our high school learners. 

WE can do this!

 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

 


 

 


 

 

College Admissions for Homeschoolers- Part I: Preparation

High school is an exciting life season. With life after high school on the horizon, students apply for jobs, serve volunteer hours, and practice essay writing, hoping to land their dream job or attend a first choice university.

Parents worry if they have done enough, kept the right paperwork, and poured everything they possibly could into their young adult's minds and hearts.

I have been there. Still am.

Truth be told, even with the experience of four high schoolers (two, soon-to-be three grads), I still have doubts.

For me, one of the best means of alleviating concern as been to  gather knowledge--to be prepared!

This blog series is meant to help you glean answers to common questions you are likely asking.

Will my homeschool grad be able to apply for admission at his or her schools of choice?

Over the past thirty years, homeschooling has grown from a pioneering movement to a popular, viable educational option. It's been proven that homeschooling through high school graduation often provides graduates with essential soft skills colleges and employers seek--problem solving, initiative, self-discipline, work ethic, and time management. Colleges, universities, and employers often find these qualities in homeschool graduates. 

Some colleges pursue home grads. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers an admissions page specifically for homeschoolers. This quote from that page is especially reassuring.


One quality that we look for in all of our applicants is evidence of having taken initiative, showing an entrepreneurial spirit, taking full advantage of opportunities. Many of our admitted homeschooled applicants really shine in this area. These students truly take advantage of their less constrained educational environment to take on exciting projects, go in depth in topics that excite them, create new opportunities for themselves and others, and more.
— MIT website

MIT is not the only university seeking the accomplishments of home-educated young adults.

Bellhaven University in Jackson, MS states on their website


Belhaven welcomes home educated students! Approximately 22% of our current freshmen class was home educated. We encourage home schooled students to consider Belhaven if they are looking for a Christian college that is committed to preparing them academically and spiritually.
— Bellhaven website

Covenant College also admits a significant number of homeschooled grads. In fact, Mike and I personally consulted and evaluated two students who have recently completed their first year at Covenant. 


Covenant College enjoys a large number of home-schooled students in our student body. In fact, our population of students who come to Covenant from a home-school background has risen from 4% in 1995 to 23% today!
— Covenant College website

Colleges are making efforts to become well-versed at evaluating the extraordinary achievements of home educated students working to understand and accommodate the methods home educators use. To that end, universities have begun to hire home education specialists in their admissions departments. Bryan College is one of those colleges

In addition, more and more universities are leveling the field, asking for the same admission and testing requirements from all applicants, public, private, and home graduates. University of South Florida is one of those schools. 


Many of USF’s best students have completed home education programs. As a home schooled student, you must meet the same admission criteria as your peers graduating from traditional high schools, including:
—A comprehensive transcript for the equivalent of grades 9 through 12, including work completed through home school, Florida Virtual School or dual enrollment. You may use our Home School Transcript template to generate an acceptable transcript.
—An official SAT or ACT score with the writing component included
—A portfolio or additional documentation may be requested if deemed necessary to complete an appropriate evaluation for admission
—Additional factors are also considered for home schooled students.
— University of South Florida website

Colleges are also offering practical helps and tips for homeschool graduates on their websites, all in an effort to insure homeschooled applicants indeed feel welcomed. Parents are encouraged to do their research, communicate with admissions departments, and become familiar with requirements. 

College admissions for homeschoolers doesn't have to be scary!

Be Prepared

Many years ago when my first learner was mid-middle school, I began to realize I was--in the not so distance future--going to be wearing another hat--guidance counselor. YIKES! Knowing I wasn't alone on my journey was refreshing, helpful, encouraging. Like many homeschooling parents who had become their high schooler's guidance counselor, I was stepping into the ranks, into good company. 

I was relieved to know what I was embarking on was possible. 

In between diaper changes (I still had littles!) and essay edits, I attended workshops and seminars, talked with admissions counselors and advisers. And, I took time to breathe! Eventually, the high school lingo--credits, transcripts, academic electives, and GPA--became familiar, and I began to feel more comfortable in my budding new role as admission's advocate for my son. That was fifteen years ago! 

I must admit, I felt overwhelmed at times. Being a guidance counselor was a lot of work! And, somehow, like many other moms, I carried the weight of admissions on my shoulders, even when I tried not to and in spite of the moms who told me it wasn't my job to do so.

Toward the later years of his high school journey, I realized being familiar with admission requirements and deadlines for his top five or ten colleges would be just as important as preparing him for standardized tests, accumulating community service hours, and practicing essay writing. Doing a little bit each day, eventually, preparation in these areas--admissions included--helped us create a strong student profile. He applied to five or six universities, several highly selective, and was accepted to all.  

It was all coming together. Good thing! I had another high schooler right one behind.

As I mentioned, one of the most helpful things for us (he and I) to do was to find out what the admissions requirements were for his top college choices. In those days--before bookmarks and Pinterest--we wrote notes and printed pages. Today, I keep a running log of college and university homeschool admission requirements on my blog. It has been a huge help to me and to others Mike and I work with. In fact, it is one of my most popular blog posts--College Admission Requirements for Home-Educated Students. This post may be one of your first stops on the research journey. I hope you find it helpful! 

As read through the webpages, you will begin to find commonalities in admission requirements. I will discuss some of those requirements in my next post, College Admissions for Homeschoolers- Part II: Admission Must Haves.

 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

 

Using 4-H for High School Course Content

"Our high school learner is very active in 4-H. Can we use any of what the student is doing toward high school credit?" 

I love out-of-the-box thinkers! 

When I started homeschooling twenty-three years ago, 4-H was a well-known, popular option for home educators. Homeschooling families gathered at the extension office to glean curriculum for nutrition, citizenship, animal sciences, aviation, and more. Families loved the 4-H intentionality toward hands-on, experiential learning. 

Today, Mike and I walk with families--Kindergarten through high school--on the home education journey. Several use 4-H materials. 

This question was very appropriate as this particular family purposed to work with the interest of the learner. 

How does this family consider awarding credit?

  • Consider state statutes in regards to high school. States vary in regards to graduation and credit hour requirements for home educated students. Parents are responsible to determine what is required per their state statute.
  • Consider activities. Some families prefer to keep digital documentation, perhaps a bullet point list of experiences, projects, presentations, awards and the like or a spreadsheet log. Alongside each experience, the parent (or student) can record study, learning, or preparation hours for that activity. See the sample spreadsheet below for a student's work toward Filmmaking.
  • Consider documentation. One of the advantages of completing 4-H work is the paperwork and documentation required. This paper trail can be saved right along with the work samples in the student's portfolio, should this be required by state statute. If the young adult chooses to apply to a university which requires course descriptions, the completed work samples will be extremely valuable. 
  • Consider credit. Each family determines how many hours will constitute a credit hour of work (unless otherwise determined by the home education statute in your state).  There really isn't an established right answer for this determination. We know families where 120 hours is required for one credit, others where as many as 200 hours are required per credit. Generally, each half credit would require half the number of hours. Once the hour requirement has been determined, parents and students can tally up total hours spent on the each discipline or course. If the student is short on learning hours, other activities or assignments can be added.
 SAMPLE LOG with hours. NOT required, but helpful for some families. 

SAMPLE LOG with hours. NOT required, but helpful for some families. 

  • Consider intern or volunteer hours.  A great way to add learning hours is to gain personal experience through internship, apprenticeship, or volunteer hours. These hours can be logged on the spreadsheet of activities. For example, in the case of filmmaking, perhaps the young adult might spend a weekend filming content for a church video presentation. These hours could be added to the spreadsheet log. Universities and potential employers appreciate practical, hands-on learning in a field of interest. These hours are valuable.

Let's assume the learner has achieved the determined hours to earn credit, either a full one credit or a half credit. 

What's the next step?

Course titling. 

Titling a course is very important, essential, in fact. It is, in many cases, the first impression of content as well as student.

The title should be an accurate, concise representation of what was covered in the course. For example, Film Production is assumed to be different than Television Broadcasting or Film Techniques. Each will encompass different processes, media, and likely marketing and audience considerations.

Often parents ask, "Do I have to use the title given by the company or curriculum?"

The answer to that question depends on a variety of factors. 

In light of this post's focus, 4-H is not a credit conferring entity. As such, a parent could use the title of the curriculum or the parent could--especially if significant content is added to the 4-H curriculum--choose a title which would more accurately define the course. For example, if 4-H  Filmmaking is used but the young adult also studies the history of filmmaking and changes in production technology, perhaps a better title would be History of Filmmaking or Historical Survey of Filmmaking. If the student completes Filmmaking and then completes an internship with the video production team at his or her church, perhaps Video and Film Production would be a better title. 

Need help with titling?

I have researched course titles online as well as read through local high school curriculum guides. Doing so has helped me understand the importance of accurate titling and has offered me guidelines. You could do the same by searching for course titles in an area of interest. In this case searching "high school film courses" or "high school film production courses" may render some title options. 

Back to the original question, 

"Can we use what a student is doing in 4-H toward high school credit?" 

YES! Indeed, 4-H can be a very beneficial learning tool and a young adult could potentially use completed content toward high school credit. 

Have you conferred high school credit to a learner using 4-H? Tell us what you did in the comments. 

If you need more detailed information about any of the topics--credit, course content, and titling--my book Celebrate High School has full sections dedicated to each. 

 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

 

Cumulative Folders, Home Education Style!

I realized early in my son's eighth grade year that I would, one day, play the role of guidance counselor for my homeschooled high schooler.

Meaning?

I would be the liaison between school (us!) and college.

I was the keeper of all things official.

Yep, me, until the student was 18 (that is the topic of another intentional high school blog). No qualifications or degrees, "just" the mom who was overseeing the learning taking place in our home. If I didn't keep the records, no one would. The records I kept would influence my student's post secondary career (no pressure, right?)

From that day on I kept anything potentially important in what I called the cumulative folder. Little did I know how valuable this folder would be. In our son's senior year, when we were in the middle of applying to six colleges--some highly selective--the folder became a gold mine, one of those things you tell people you would grab if the house were aflame.

Having all the information we needed in one place saved me time. I am also pretty sure it saved my senior-year mom sanity!

No one I knew had kept a cumulative folder of high school records so this was new territory for me.

And, I was not a naturally-organized person.

To keep our student's cumulative documents (not the work associated with each school year- I kept those work samples in another binder) safe in one place, I purchased a 3 1/2 inch binder and some colored-tab separators to help keep paperwork organized. Armed with plastic protector sheets and a hole-punch, I sat down to begin compilation of the cumulative folder. I started by labeling tabs we needed and then added tabs along our journey. During the junior and senior year as we began contacting colleges, I added tabs for copies of completed applications (print the online application submitted, if possible, for future reference when submitting other applications), scholarship applications (again print a completed application or submitted essays for subsequent applications), acceptance letters, and financial aid notifications. Once our grads entered college, I continued to add tabs for medical records, grades and award notification,  and FAFSA and financial aid applications (past applications were helpful throughout the college years).

What tabs did we find helpful?

  • Activities
  • Awards
  • Certificates and Certifications
  • College Admissions Requirements
  • College Applications
  • College Major Requirements
  • Community Service/Volunteer Hours
  • Dual Enrollment Documents
  • Financial Aid Applications (printed summary pages, too)
  • Financial Aid Offers
  • Grades
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Medical Records
  • NCAA Eligibility
  • NCAA Home School Core Course Worksheets
  • Scholarship Applications
  • Scholarships Awarded
  • Test Scores
  • Transcripts
  • Work Experience
  • Writing Samples

These are tabs include all the tab titles we have used for four unique high schoolers (two grads who then completed Bachelor degrees, and two current high school young adults). Not all tabs were needed for each young adult. In fact, some of my high schoolers have little to no cumulative paperwork. 

Consider your young adult and his or her unique circumstances. Choose a method which complements both the learning, the accomplishments and the college and career goals. If you decide a cumulative folder would be helpful--aside from other paperwork required by your home education laws--these tab titles may be helpful. 

YOU can celebrate high school!

 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

Course Descriptions Made Easy

I am a mama with full days, like many of you. I look for simple and manageable. 

Though I am about excellence, I also am about simplifying and streamlining. 

But let's face it, sometimes we have to tackle tough. Course descriptions (CDs), often intimidating, are not always necessary. So, breathe easy. On the other hand, when they are needed, they are usually essential to the admission process. In addition, of all the families I work with, the large majority who were required to submit CDs also received substantial scholarship monies.

That is good news, really! 

So, what if CDs are essential to your student's college admission packet?

Don't panic!

Parents often confuse transcripts with course descriptions. The transcript provides a one-page snapshot of a young adult's high school course, grade, and credit summary. Course descriptions, however, offer short synopses of the learning chapters in your student's story. Ideally, those course descriptions should complement--add value and give clarity--to the transcript document.

Why course descriptions? For students graduating from a public entity, course catalogs (also called course guides or curriculum guides) are available online (used to be paper and had to be requested from the guidance department) and follow the requirements (standards) of that state (or now in many cases, Common Core). Colleges know the set criteria and standards met in the classroom are standard for each course at every school in that state. So, there is no need for each high school to write individual course descriptions for every class for every student. They write one course description--usually posted on their website--for all students, as long as they offer the course.

Home education is different. A sculpture class in one home is likely to look entirely different than a sculpture class in another home. One student may enroll in a sculpture class at a local art studio. Another may have been invited to join an artist for weekly mentoring in a private studio. Yet another student may dual enroll a sculpture class at the local college. The same distinctiveness can be applied to a literature course--each home can choose their own literature selections--or a science course--where the student might be invited to take part in a research project at a local university. There is no standard way to meet course requirements (unless your state dictates differently--this post assumes parents have researched and know the home education statute for their state). Hence, some colleges use course descriptions to assess the depth and rigor of a home education course because they know courses vary for each home school.

Some colleges ask home education parents to write course descriptions.

It is part of their verification process. With the eclectic mix of methods and means home educators utilize, the CDs do bring out the extraordinary opportunities homeschoolers have experienced and embraced. 

I remember the day a college requested I write CDs.

I panicked! 

After a deep breath...

Thankfully, we were early in our high school journey! I could easily remember the exceptional experiences our young adult had benefited from in his courses, variations from more traditionally-taught classes: 10 dissections he completed in Honors Biology at a local co-op. We had also designed courses around independent study, research, and personal reading. 

Additionally, I had been keeping a reading list on the computer. I could cut and paste those titles into course descriptions as needed. 

I was relieved. Since that first request and a total of four high schoolers later, 

I have learned to:

  • Write course descriptions when the young adult begins the course (even if just the bare minimum is known: textbook, reading materials, anticipated experiential opportunities) and add significant educational highlights throughout the year. When I waited until the end of the year to write the whole description, I forgot some of the most beneficial learning blessings he experienced, no to mention getting my head above the project was monumental, or at least it seemed so when I felt I was drowning.
  • Remind myself course descriptions tell the stories of the courses detailed on the transcript. It is the document college admissions personnel will reference as they consider offering admission, need more information to differentiate one student from another and offer scholarship. A course description is not an outline of the course and will be less likely to read if lengthy. Course descriptions are chapter summaries, hitting the highlights, offering the concepts learned, the teaching methods and resources used, and exceptional experiences in which the student participated.

  • Take note of the unusual and unique. Course descriptions are especially important if the parent and young adult are designing unique courses, courses not typically offered on local school campuses or courses not generally taught in high schools, for example Introduction to Equine Science, Survey of the Building Construction Industry, or Care and Concerns of the Elderly.

  • Record regularly. When I don't,  I forget valuable additions. In our busy, full years of adding a Bastian or spending evenings at the ball field, I found it helpful to start a student's course description document and add bullet points to the course titles. Later, when I have time,  I can revisit later and edit into cohesive sentences. Tackling course descriptions in this manner helps me remember important details and keeps me excited about what my young adult is accomplishing. When it is not in front of me, I tend to forget.

Keeping records current saved me time and headache later.

  • Remind myself there are many ways to accomplish learning (this is true even of the state standards- the standard can be met with very different and unique methods). For example, American History. If two of the many learning goals for a high school level American History class are to understand the causes and consequences of the Civil War and the effects on the American people, and to understand the causes and consequences of World War II in the United States and abroad, the learning possibilities of how a student will understand those concepts are vast and plenty. Chapters in a text could be read and summary questions answered. On a family vacation up the East Coast of the United States, the family could visit and tour eight Civil War battlefields and National Parks and compare what actions were taken and who was involved at each location. The student could attend a local WWII veteran's meeting and listen to the stories shared by the members. Perhaps the local library hosts a presentation by surviving Tuskegee Airmen who share their wartime experiences from the perspective of African Americans serving during WWII (actual event we attended and it was AMAZING!). And then there are the plethora of primary source documents and biographical materials which could be read. Not only can the same learning goals be accomplished, but learning with this type of diversity allows young adults of different learning styles to retain information they might not otherwise remember. It is these exceptional and unique opportunities which can be highlighted in course descriptions, should a high schooling family choose to prepare this document or a college require it for admission.

Being intentional about writing course descriptions proved most valuable for courses we designed or courses developed from internships and shadowing experiences. When designing a course, I felt it was important to keep a running log of educational experiences, online resources, and learning resources, just as I would if I were compiling a course as a traditional classroom teacher.

There are blessings to writing course descriptions.

For us, the original course descriptions from my first high schooler could easily be cut, pasted, and edited to the unique experiences and opportunities of the high schoolers who followed. Second, though not all colleges asked for the description document, I sent them anyway. It was done and I wanted officials to have the document should they have questions. I know some parents feel this is a controversial and dangerous precedence for future home educated applicants, but in at least one situation those descriptions placed our young adult in a better position of acceptance in an honors college (because we couldn't document any of his courses as Honors or IB, which most of the applicants had earned). When the descriptions (which included reading materials) were read, the depth and expanse at which our young adult studied most of his courses could be realized. Our homeschool high school experience was just as rigorous as those students who had completed accredited IB programs. Note: Realizing that our student had the ability and desire to qualify for an IB or similar program, I researched the contents and reading materials utilized by these programs and then wove them into our studies. Again, this is our experience, not something I am advocating for every home schooled high schooler.

As we progressed through high school and began researching college admission requirements, I was thankful I had records of courses my student had completed.

Being intentional with writing course descriptions has served us well, in many cases. The work was done as we studied, and saved on the computer, should we need it. We did need it for our first applicant. With our second, because of dual enrollment and then an easy transition to the state college (and eventually a four-year university), the course descriptions were not necessary. On a side note, had our first and second grads followed their aspirations to play competitive collegiate sports (hence registering with the NCAA) having the course descriptions complete would have saved me a huge amount of time filling out their Core-Course Worksheets. Keep in mind as you consider NCAA and course titles, they prefer specific titles. Be aware.

This information (and more) is included in my book, Celebrate High School. which was heavily revised and updated summer 2015.  The revised edition contains every thing in the original publication as well as some new features including middle school sections.  

Join me at FPEA for my workshop, Happy (High School) Paper Trails to YOU!

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

Celebrate High School- What Matters?

"As you walk through the last years of your student's high school journey, remember the final celebration is less about the knowledge stored up in the student's mind (though that is important) and more about whether the young adult understands his or her strengths and how those strengths will bring value to whatever he or she endeavors." 
Celebrate High School, 2015 revised edition
Celebrate High school is available here!