Planning 9th Grade with YOUR Freshman in Mind

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Four home graduates. One current high schooler.

Five unique ninth grade years.

As I finished adding the grades for the ninth-grade year of the transcript for our fifth high schooler, the proverbial light bulb illuminated my thinking.

I double-checked, looked over each transcript of our five learners.

Indeed, EACH of our high schoolers had a unique and individualized ninth grade year—distinctive of their gifts and strengths. I knew each of our children were different, yet I hadn’t set out their transcripts side-by-side to compare the courses they had completed in the freshman year. Yes, some had earned credit in the same course, but even the content of those courses varied according to the bents and interests of the learner. Same title, different content. Each learner had individualized educational paths, courses tweaked by interests and strengths, goals and aspirations.

As it should be with homeschooling.

Every learner—gifted—different.

None better than the other.

What were the ninth grade courses on our five high schooler’s transcripts?

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One of our learners dug into a variety of interests, from academics to sports to music. This learner also extroverted high schooler wanted to take Spanish earlier in the high school plan so that it could be completed with an older sibling. Further observation lead me to realize this learner was the only one who completed two years of foreign language by the end of ninth grade—making time for other studies; a big WIN as far as she was concerned. These ninth grade course choices were right for this learner and provided distinctive advantages in regards to having time for opportunities which were still to come in the later high school years.

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One of our other learners enrolled in high school level courses prior to ninth grade, hence completing Algebra 1 and moving to Algebra 2 in ninth. The same was true for science which paved the way for chemistry to be the logical next step for the freshman year. No other learner took Algebra 2 or chemistry in the freshman year.

This learner was also the only one who completed world history in ninth grade due in most part from having studied history independently—and passionately with much depth—in previous years. We didn’t want freshman year to be a repeat of past content so we allowed this student to continue to study history through travel, historical documents, biographies and other non-fiction resources. This high schooler was also the only sibling who completed economics in the freshman year—again due to personal interest and independent study. This course provided additional fuel business-minded young adult.

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This learner was a mover, a kinesthetic.Learning was experiential and hands-on, even through high school. Athletics played a major role in this learner’s life, hence all the PE credits in the freshman year (as well as years to follow). For this learner we chose to split American history into two years—Early American (up to the Civil War) and Modern American (after Civil War) allowing time to add experiential learning to a text and provide extended time to other subjects of interest.

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This introverted learner loved people—understanding how they thought and were motivated—and was eager to have people live their best lives—hence the bent toward sign language. Interestingly, this young adult’s ninth grade year was also the year our sweet great-grandmother was very ill and in and out of facilities (which the learner requested to tour and research because of the love for Grammy). This learner asked to be a part of the process and dialogued (summarization, recall, and interpersonal communication) with me (and her grandmother) about what was being learned through this heartbreaking journey. This high schooler was also an entrepreneur and a creative—owned a small business—hence the business and creative arts electives. Different learner. Different interests. Different courses.

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Another introverted creative, this learner set up a work studio where endless handmade cards were made with numerous types of media and by various techniques. Hours were spent learning technique, researching skills, and experimenting creatively. Hence, this high schooler earned credit in courses not considered by our others—Foundations in Interior Design, Stamp and Stationary Art Design, and Survey of American Musicals. This learner, like several siblings, earned credit for personal fitness, yet her content was very different from the content of athletes who spent hours on the field or in the weight room. This high schooler chose her own relaxing, peaceful blend of aerobics, stretching, and strengthening—using personally-selected workout videos.

Five freshman years each with unique content and character—personalized to the interests of the learner earning the credit.

Personalization doesn’t have to end in ninth grade! In fact, it can continue throughout the high school years in order to help our young adults learn who they are, what they were created for, and how they can bring value to the community in their spheres of influence—at home, across the nation, and throughout the world.

Need guidance in the journey to make high school matter beyond the turning of the tassel?

My NEW BOOK, More than Credits: Life Skills High Schoolers Need for Life, offers frameworks (think practical skill acquisition from real-life, project-based learning, experiential opportunities, related literature and writing assignments, and meaningful decision topics and questions) for FIVE elective courses:

  • Nutrition and Wellness

  • Personal Fitness

  • Personal Awareness and Career Exploration

  • Philosophy, and

  • Personal Finance

The contents of each class are not just boxes to check, but ideas meant to be tweaked and adjusted for each learner based on what they may already be doing.

Earn credit for what matters…not just today, but beyond.







More than Credits: High School Philosophy, Morals, and Ethics

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The high school years offer a season to celebrate the people our young adults are becoming. Part of that transformation is coming to understand how thoughts influence words and behavior as well as how to productively evaluate thoughts and the thought process.

Along that journey, there will be moments of confidence, clarity, and productivity, but there will also be times of disagreement,miscommunication, and debate. Our high schoolers are learning how to think and then communicate those thoughts while expanding their problem solving abilities and processing their mistakes, all in the light of what they believe to be true.


In this season, young people continue to learn details about who they are and what value they bring to their spheres of influence.


It’s philosophy; discovering a clearer picture of what one believes when compared to other’s thoughts and how those beliefs affect actions and words. It’s the wrestling with and expressing of morals, values, and ethics. It matters, and it can count for high school credit.

As you embark on the adventure, one of the first questions you may encounter is what content to include in a philosophy-type course. You aren’t the only one asking this question. In fact, many parents face this question, and usually haven’t had any idea where to start.

I’ve been in that place, too.

In fact, it’s why I decided to offer suggestions and a framework for a philosophy-based course in More than Credits! The content will empower and encourage you, offering selections for

  • high-interest reading materials,

  • suggestions for writing assignments, and

  • practical hands-on experiences which will impact the young adult as well as the lives of others.

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Intentional.Real. Relational.

More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life

Ethics, the moral principles which undergird the standards by which individuals respond to important life questions, develop as we face life circumstances and choices. In those moments, we decide what we believe, why it matters, and where we will place our time and attention. Our high schoolers are no different. They face daily decisions amid a myriad of worldviews and philosophies.


What they believe about God, themselves, and the situations in the world, matters. Home can provide a safe place to investigate truths, dialogue thoughts, and ponder choices.


A course which involves the development of philosophy, morals, and ethics gives high school learners opportunities to earn credit for wrestling with their thoughts, discovering what their faith means to them, and applying those thoughts to their life choices and their relationship with God.
— Cheryl Bastian, More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life

Most importantly, a young adult’s moral and ethical thoughts influence the decisions they make. Essentially, the content cultivates the “why” behind what an individual believes as well as why certain things are valued over certain other things. All of this encompasses an individual’s belief system and influences his or her spiritual growth and personal development beyond simply mimicking, borrowing, or living out the faith of his or her parents.

One of our learners grew to love C. S. Lewis. He had read the Narnia series earlier in his homeschooling years, but as a high schooler selected A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works (HarperCollins Publishers, 2003) from our home library shelves. I had no idea he had such an appreciation for the author. I marveled how the devotional motivated him to read a handful of other classic Lewis writings. Amazingly, content developed because of his newly discovered curiosity for C. S. Lewis’s thoughts and the course began to take form without any planning on my part. I simply (albeit battling fear he would learn enough!) fostered his vested interest. Realizing the impact of self-selected reading, not just philosophical material but other resources as well, we adopted a motto in our home:

“Read the book and I will award credit for your accomplishment.”

Ultimately, one book led to an independent study, which we combined with other activities and great conversations! Seeing our son’s continued interest Lewis and then other great thinkers, Mike and I decided to read the books he was reading. Mike asked if he wanted to spend time each week talking about what we were learning, all of us. Without much direction about where our discussions might lead, we began to meet, ponder, and converse. Hearing each person express his or her opinions or interpretations about what was read and how those thoughts could be applied to current circumstances provided a venue to process viewpoints—the Socratic method, family-style.

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We couldn’t possibly comprehend the fullness or richness of our first steps. Our dialogue through one book fueled more reading and before we knew it a weekly forum took shape. Best of all, something greater resulted: our relationships with one another deepened. We gained respect for one another and realized we could learn together. We weren’t just teaching our son. He taught us!

A few years into meeting consistently, our son commented, “I wish everyone had the opportunity to be in a community like this.” Years later, when we talked about the depth of our conversations, he commented, “Those years are the main reasons why I lead a small group at church today, so others can have the same opportunity I did!”

Wow! That’s philosophy credit with future implications.

Philosophy courses continue to fade from high school curriculum guides. Thankfully, our homeschooling freedoms allow for this essential course to remain a feasible choice for young adults. In fact, conversational group setting provides one of the most beneficial venues to process and ponder the philosophical thought which undergird and permeate life. Consider gathering your family or your young adult and his or her friends to ponder life together.

Conversations, heart connections with our young adults, provided some of the most meaningful experiences of our family’s high school years. Some of the most treasured, thought-provoking discussions happened over half-price milkshakes pondering a life-truth or a plate of nachos after losing a baseball game.

When we paused our days, looked one another in the eyes, and listened, family members knew their ideas and thoughts mattered.

And, philosophical, moral, and ethical thoughts and beliefs formed all the while.

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The Possibilities of Elective Credits: Part I

What about elective credits?

Mike and I field this question often. 

The short response?  

There are endless possibilities to potential elective credits. 

If your high school student is enrolled in a public or private school, be sure to check the school's offerings. Choices vary for each school. 

If you are home educating the high school journey, know your state statute and graduation requirements as well as how they apply to home educated students. Find out if your state allows parents the freedom and responsibility to create core or elective courses. This is important because some states require home educated students to take only courses offered in the state. Other states give parents the ability to oversee the child's education, hence the creation and oversight of classes, should the family choose that path. Your state statute requirements will provide what is required of the parent and student and therefore shed light upon the possibilities available to the family.

For those who are home educating and have the ability to choose elective credits, consider:

The life-goals (if known) of your learner. For some high schoolers, they will have a clear understanding and direction for what they will pursue after high school graduation. Other young adults will be exploring their interests and therefore, getting a better idea of what they might do after they turn the tassel. The good news is there is no right time for a learner to decide next steps after graduation.

If there isn't a clear path, prepare for the broadest possibilities.  Be careful not to short change the young adult. 

For learners who have an inkling of what they want to do post high school, they will move forward in that direction. As you help process their ideas, keep an open perspective. Be ready for change. An interest one semester may transform into a niche the following semester.  

One of our high school learners became interested in veterinarian medicine. She even considered this as a possible career path for a few months. We felt our next right step was talking with professionals in the field and preparing for a job shadowing experience or volunteer opportunity should either become available to her. In our brainstorming process, we considered several venues: a vet's office, a local clinic, and the county animal shelter. As part of our conversations, we came up with what questions which would be helpful should an opportunity to talk with a veterinarian present itself. Our questions included:

  • What universities are considered optimal for this profession?
  • What are the potential degree and career paths for this profession?
  • What classes or experiences were most helpful in the education process? 
  • What are the specialty ares of this field of study?
  • What would you, as a professional, recommend for a young adult pursuing this career?

While present at on-site opportunities—job shadowing, volunteering, or internships—our high schoolers are encouraged to be mindful and open to how they can bring value to the host while present. This might include offering to fold clean towels or empty trash cans. We also encourage our young adults to observe office etiquette and practices (real-life learning at its best). Along these lines, we suggest visiting several venues within the same niche as well as any which are closely related or dependent upon the specialty. In the case of veterinary medicine, specialties may include veterinary oncology or ophthalmology. From the varied experiences, the learner is able to compare office practices and evaluate care from a broader perspective. Ultimately, these experiences may allow the learner to narrow his or her potential field of study while earning high school electives.

Experiential learning in high school is as valuable as in the elementary and middle school years. 

When thinking about elective credits, parents and learners can take into account the acquisition of life skills while also considering the academic admission requirements of the learner’s top choice universities. This consideration is—from our experience—extremely important and often overlooked. Colleges of interest frequently get deleted from the list of potentials for many reasons. Sometimes it’s the test scores which make the choice seem out of reach. Other times it’s the foreign language requirement. There are a plethora of other reasons, too. However, perhaps the most common reason parents tell us they eliminated a university from the list of possibilities is the belief that the cost of the education is beyond the financial reach of the family. Mike and I encourage parents and young adults to keep every potential school on the list of consideration, even if attendance seems out of reach for some reason. In doing so, students will be prepared academically for admission to all their choice colleges come application season. We know learners who desired to attend private, out-of-state schools who eventually were awarded full room and board for four years based on academic merit, community service, or in one situation, a drawing at a college fair! 

The interests of your learner. I find it ironic that elementary-aged children are often encouraged to explore their interests, yet as the middle and high school years loom on the horizon, the tune changes. When it does, students, parents, and educators tend to concentrate on core courses (with good reason) while pushing strengths and giftings to the side. Yet, often those strengths and giftings are the very elements which learners need to be successful adults--not to mention reduce the stress of some tougher core courses. Wouldn't it be wonderful if--during the middle and high school years--students, parents, and teachers could find ways for learners to complete required courses while also engaging in and exploring interests and strengths? 

As home education evaluators and consultants, Mike and I have seen AMAZING outcomes for young adults who have had opportunities to complete required core courses (and therefore be eligible for college admission at schools of their choice) while also delving into areas of interest.

While studying algebra, history, and biology, our third high schooler continued to build the business she started in middle school. In doing so, she was able to complete core courses while also learning important small business skills: purchasing and crafting inventory, budgeting and filing taxes, investigating advertising, setting up a website, and showcasing inventory at craft shows and expos. Her income allowed her to purchase her own clothing, save money, and tithe to church. To manage her income and expenses, she created a spreadsheet where she recorded her finances. Personal Finance found its way on the transcript that year, right under the algebra, American history, and biology.

The current life season of your family. When my grandmother was terminally ill, we spent four months visiting and researching facilities--navigating pros and cons of each--as Gram's needs changed. In addition, we visited Grammy three times a week, caring for her and connecting with her "friends" in each facility. We talked with care workers about what they did and how they obtained their education and professional licensing. As evaluation time rolled around, I couldn't even begin to remember all we did. But, my high schooler did! In fact, she asked whether all she had taken part in and learned could be used for credit. GREAT question! And after discussing all she learned and researching high school and college course equivalent to what she completed, I titled the course Cares and Concerns of the Elderly. Definitely an eye-catcher on her transcript. You can read more about how this course came about in this blog post. 

What situations are upon your family? How can those normal, every day opportunities become credit? For example, if you're painting your house, your learners are learning how to calculate the amount of paint needed, research paint types, buy good tools (good quality tools make the job go well), use and care for tools properly, run a pressure washer, trim paint small areas, roll on paint, clean rollers and brushes, and store tools so they can be in good condition for the next project. The list is endless. As we tackle painting the outside of our home this week, I stepped up our ladder thinking, this is real-life home economics (though in the past I titled the course home maintenance and repair). If you need to tackle a home project and don't know where to begin, model for your children how to find an expert in the field (read more about this here) or search for an online tutorial. These are important research skills your learners will need in life. 

What are the elective possibilities for your young adult? Begin observing what the learner is already doing? Where are the areas to which he or she gravitates? Are there real-life activities and opportunities in which he or she is participating? Considering interests, strengths, and aspirations as well as the admission requirements of the high schooler’s top college choices will return great rewards as the high school years come to a close.

A last note for consideration...

What about excessive credits? 

As Mike and I have worked with families over the past twenty-three years, there have been a few cases in which a student has earned excessive credits--more than 35 credits! In other words, the reader of the transcript would wonder if the learner ever slept. However, this has been only a few scenarios. In those situations, parents were able to include content from one course into another already existing course without being accused of credit inflation. It is possible for homeschooled students to earn more credits than the average student. This is acceptable if indeed the credit is not inflated. 

For more information on documenting elective course work, check out part 3.

Needing ideas for elective course titles? Click on over to Part 2. 

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. 

This refreshed post was originally published December 2016.

High School Credit for Work Experience

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“Can I count my high schooler’s work experience for credit?”

In the course of a week, three parents asked me this question. One in particular came through the Celebrate High School Facebook community.

The answer is multi-faceted, unique to state requirements and learner’s educational and career path.

First, parents must know and understand their responsibilities and freedoms under their state home education statute.

Find out

  • Are home educated students in your state required to meet state graduation requirements?
  • Does your state statute allow parents to oversee coursework and determine course credit?
  • Are parents given the freedom to create titles for courses or must the state DOE titles be used (as is the case with some private schools)?

The answers to those questions will contribute to your decision making process.


The second step in the process of deciding whether or not to award credit for work experience is to determine what the high schooler gained from his or her employment. Life skills? Knowledge? Personal development? The gains vary greatly dependent upon the high schooler's motivation, work ethic, job title, and employment requirements. Again, this is highly individual. 

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Determine Gains

Conversation with your high schooler is essential in the process of determining the gains. Why? Likely, as with most parents, you are not on the job with your learner to see and hear what he or she encounters or discovers. Engage in discussion. Ask questions. Listen for the young adult's passions, likes, and dislikes without condemnation. Often as young adults process, they need someone to mirror back or clarify what they expressed. I find it helpful to remind myself that when my middle and high schoolers share feelings, they are processing, perhaps sharing thoughts for the first time. The thoughts and feelings shared matter to them and when I ask clarifying questions, they often come to a better understanding of the situation. As you walk the journey with your middle or high schooler, not only will the gains of the current job become known, but the relationship between you and your teen will have great potential for growth as well. 

To help determine what skills and knowledge were acquired by the employment--the experiential learning opportunity--consider asking your high schooler:

What skills he or she feels were learned as a result of the work experience?

This is one of those occasions when I encourage parents to make a bullet-point list of skills and content the high schooler learned. Seeing the visual list often clarifies gains and aids in determining a course title which is specific and accurate to the experience. Examples may include Equine Science (barn assistant who interacts with equine professionals, observes or oversees equine care and nutrition), Nutrition and Wellness (assistant to a personal trainer), or String Ensemble (member of string quartet playing for weddings and special events).

Are the skills focused on a specific content area or are the skills broad, focused toward soft skill and personal growth development?

Looking over the content acquired, determine whether the skills were specific to an area of study (paid position at a zoological park) or broad, general and related to successful movement to adulthood (time management, personal growth, and communication skills). The difference may be titling the course Zoological Studies or Personal and Career Development.

Did the high schooler earn accolades, awards, or hold specific leadership roles (positional or managerial titles) associated with the experience? 

For example, if your young adult is a shift manager there are likely managerial and leadership skills involved in what he or she does while on site. Perhaps a course title like Managerial Leadership, Leadership Strategies and Techniques, or Exploration in Culinary Management might be suitable. 

Our daughter became a self-employed, small business owner in middle school. She continued to build her business through the high school years. Not only did she create and keep track of inventory, she registered her business with the state, filed quarterly sales tax, figured profit and loss statements, kept a running log of sales and inventory, opened a checking account, built a website, handled emails, filled orders, and participated in craft venues. She earned money, but she also gained knowledge and work experience. With integrity, I awarded her one credit in Business and Entrepreneurial Principles.

Our journey of awarding credit for paid work experience hasn’t come without criticism. Yours won’t either. In fact, you may have been told you can’t double dip —count paid work experience as high school credit. 

"You can't double dip!"

This happened to me. A well-meaning veteran homeschool mom informed me I couldn’t use work experience for credit. I listened. Yet, as a Mom who has the freedom to oversee our children’s education, knowing the life lessons and knowledge my young adults were gaining in their paid employment opportunities, I set out to research. It just didn't seem right not to be able to obtain credit from such rich, valuable life experience. 

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Credit Worthy

I discovered my state provides the right for me--as a registered home educator--to oversee the education of my children. In that freedom, I am able to decide what can be deemed credit worthy and I can title mastered content accordingly. I could not ignore the fact that my high schoolers were engaged in learning while on the job. And, with the valuable conversations Mike and I were having with our high schoolers, we knew they were learning content not taught in a traditional textbooks or acquired through lecture. The skills and content they were learning required experience--opportunity to do, decide, make mistakes, and to try again--often under the guidance of a mentor or the supervision of a professional in a career area. In addition, I observed our high schoolers applying what they learned in the work setting to other areas of their lives. They would summarize what they learned on any given day, share their thoughts about what they experienced, and ask questions about things that intrigued them. Our discussions led to discovering deeper life truths as well the building of grit, growth mindset, and personal emotional intelligence—some of the most valuable assets to adulthood and future employment.


What our learners were gaining on the job was credit worthy. 


In my mind, the experiences—the content learned while on the job interfacing with professionals—was credit worthy, regardless of whether or not the high schooler was paid. Essentially, the learner was paid to learn!

If life is learning and learning is life-long, it made sense to me that I could confer credit.

Our second son was invited to apply for a summer job as a teacher’s assistant at a preschool. I knew the Director and many of the teachers who worked at the school. In fact, I had worked there as a high schooler and my experience became a catalyst for my choice to pursue early childhood education. Knowing the value of my personal experience, I encouraged our son to apply for the position. Yes, he would earn a paycheck, but he would be mentored by knowledgeable staff who knew the developmental needs of young children.

Art camp began and indeed our son came home each day recounting his experiences. He commented on the conversations teachers had with students, how they listened and responded with open ended questions. He observed as teachers fostered curiosity and intentionally planned activities to promote wonder. His understandings of the developmental stages of art came from comparing preschooler's line drawings and seeing beaming smiles of accomplishment. Learning was experiences, not just memorized facts. In addition, he was learned about classroom management, developmentally appropriate art experiences, and the profession of early childhood education.

The summer came to a close and he was invited to remain on staff for the next school year. He would be the outside assistant--the preschool physical education overseer. He accepted. This change in position brought opportunities to observe the stages of motor development in real life. He watched children progress from running to galloping, from climbing stairs one foot at a time to alternating feet. He knelt down beside children who poured sand in funnels and floated boats in water tables. We talked about discoveries he watched children make and asked me about my experiences with children on the spectrum. The knowledge he gained through his experiences at the preschool were some of the very same things I studied in my college early childhood college courses.

At that moment, I realized the fifteen hours a week he was working at the preschool was preparing him with life skills of time management, communication skills, and workplace etiquette, but it was also equipping him with a foundation of knowledge in the area of early childhood development. In his junior year, I awarded him one credit in Introduction to Early Childhood Education.

Where is your learner employed? Maybe it is the local hardware store where knowledge of tools and home repair are prerequisite for employment. Maybe your high schooler was hired as a shift manager at a local eatery, managing and overseeing a team of co-workers. No matter where your young adult is employed, consider the skills being acquired, the career-related vocabulary being obtained, the decision making involved as part of the job, the conversations being had between coworkers and employers, and subject content being mastered through the opportunity. No doubt much more is being learned than you or your student imagined! 

Titles Speak Volumes

Generally high schools title work experience Executive Internship or Work Study. These are broad brush titles which say nothing about the student or content. However, if the home educating parent has the freedom to title courses, course titling can be strategic, mirroring the student’s interest and the content knowledge gained. Here is a small sampling of title examples. 

Arts

Creative Photography

Studio Arts

Printmaking

Dance Technique

Dance Performance

Dance Kinesiology

Choreography

Eurhythmics

Music Performance (use specific instrument in titles if appropriate)

Music Ensemble 

Jazz Ensemble

Chamber Orchestra

Music Internship

Music Composition and Arrangement

Musical Theater and Production

Music Technology and Sound Engineering

Theater Production

Cinematography

Technical Theater

Set Production

Acting

Theater Management

Print and Broadcast Media

Library Media Services

Journalism

Digital Art Imaging

Digital Media Design

Video Production

Visual Technology

Computer Sciences

Applied Computer and Information Technology

Information Technology

Business and Entrepreneurial

Business Principles

Marketing Strategies

Marketing Principles

Managerial Principles

Health Sciences

Nutrition and Wellness

Food Service

Human Growth and Development

Introduction to Early Childhood Education

Personal and Career Development

Capstone or Cornerstone Projects

Capstone Seminar

Capstone Research

Consider the course titles provided in this blog post about electives. 

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. 

 

High School Photography Elective

Several years ago, our daughter became interested in photography.

A real interest, one she thought about every day and one that did not go away!

She spent time researching and talking through her ideas about what she wanted to learn. Home educating, I knew she had the freedom to explore her interest as part of her day—every day—if she desired to do so.

Though I enjoy photography and have a "creative" bent, I had no idea what concepts and skills would be included in a high school level photography course. Therefore, when she asked me what areas I thought would be included in a photography course, I knew I would have to join in the learning. 

First, I searched the Internet for syllabi of high school level photography courses. Reading, I discovered common threads. This was a starting point.

Second, my daughter and I brainstormed additional content she wanted to learn. For example, she wanted to upgrade her camera. Researching the pros and cons of brands and features was definitely something she could include in her course.

Third, we talked about what real-life experiences could be added: job shadowing, taking pictures of family members, learning and using editing programs, and shooting seconds for a professional photographer.

Clearly, my daughter’s interest drove the learning. I simply had to be open to the ideas and be ready to encourage her progress.

Before we knew it we had accumulated not only content but resources.

Here is a snapshot of the content we developed. 

Course Content

I. History of photography

  • the pinhole camera, daguerreotype, Kodak Brownie camera, film development, darkrooms, Polaroid cameras, flash cubes, and flash bars

II. People of Influence

  • Joseph Nicephore Niepce, Loius Daguerre, R.L. Maddox, George Eastman

III. Types of Photography

  • portrait, children, pets, landscapes, macro, food, nature, architectural, forensic, sport, science, 

IV. Parts of a Camera

V. How Cameras Work

VI. Lighting, Shutter Speed, Aperture, Depth of field

VII. Composition, Color, Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, and Special Techniques

VIII. Photo Editing

IX. Analyzing and Critiquing Photography

X. Documentary and Photojournalism 

XI. Famous Photographers and Photojournalists 

XII. Mounting and Displaying Photography 

  • enter photography in contests or county fairs

XIII. Digital Photography

XIV. Photography Careers

  • portrait photography, commercial photography, fine art photography, wedding photography, scientific photography, sports photography, medical photography, forensic photography, nature photography, aerial photography, photojournalism

XV. Photography Licenses

  • royalty free, rights managed, stock photography

XVI. Legal, Ethical and Copyright

  • fair use, buildings protected by copyright, difference between photography for personal use or commercial use, model/copyright releases, editorial photography as a profession in regards to rights and fair use

The outline above was the jumping off point. Once we had the major areas of study--at least a plan--we could adjust as we went along. 


We added experiential learning. Our list of considerations were

  • Job shadowing a photographer or interning as a photographer's assistant

  • Working in a camera store

  • Setting up a darkroom

  • Creating a yearbook for a school or co-op

  • Working with a blogger to communicate content visually

  • Learning mounting techniques.

For learners who appreciate the power of a story, these Living Books may be just the ingredient to bring additional life to the course. 

  • Cameras and Courage, Margaret Bourke-White by Iris Noble, Julian Messner biography

  • Joseph Pulitzer, Front Page Pioneer by Iris Noble, Julian Messner biography

My daughter's interest led to elective credits, not one but TWO! When she finished these studies, she decided to take an online course. 

Once the interest is sparked, there is no limit to where the learning path may lead. Sometimes it is an elective. Other times the study leads to employment. The possibilities of high school electives is endless! 

If you will be attending Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA) conference May 25-27, you may be interested in the two high school workshops I have been invited to share: Keeping High School ALIVE with Living Books and High School: Mission Possible. In addition, my husband Mike will join me at the podium to share The Real-Life Influence of Family Conversation and my oldest son and I will present an encouraging session, Thank You, Mom!

FPEA is always a highlight of our speaking calendar. Can't wait to see you there! 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

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. 

 

 

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. 

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.