Sample Transcript & Diploma

For all of the readers who have requested it, a sample homeschool high school transcript is now available. This one is modeled after the examples in the book And What About College? by Cafi Cohen. We listed anything that received significant time and attention during the high school years as a class and referred to a course catalog from our local community college for help in writing our own course descriptions. The Carnegie credit standard refers to 120 or more contact hours, but the focused attention of homeschooling can condense that time into a shorter period. Essentially, if my student devoted considerable time and attention to a subject, I gave credit for that subject. A more complete description can be found in the article, Transcript Writing.

This six-page document is reduced in size on this website, so if you prefer to enlarge it, you will need to hold your mouse over each page/photo and use the third-mouse-button “Save Picture as…” command. Then you can open your saved photo and zoom in or print the photo to read it more clearly.

A sample homeschool high school diploma is also available, as is my son’s tongue-in-cheek graduation announcement. (Wording on a diploma you design should reflect your own state’s laws governing homeschooling.)

Click to view the desired document:
Graduation Announcement

Homeschooling High School

The prospect of Homeschool High leaves many parents trembling in fear. A cold sweat breaks out on the forehead of the new homeschooling mom who dares to envision life a few too many years down the road. Moms have little real difficulty teaching a child how to tie his shoes, but those same moms will often cringe at the very thought of teaching high school.

A good high-school-at-home plan can be easily set up by using the basic entrance requirements for college, whether your student wants to attend or not. The student’s personal interests can be accommodated with some creative class development, and college-level classes can be utilized for high school and college credit at the same time through community colleges or distance learning programs.

If you have not been homeschooling previously, you will need to check your state’s laws regarding legal homeschooling accountability. It is best to check with a reliable source such as — Home School Legal Defense Association — for the actual laws in each state, since local school districts are often ignorant of their state’s laws and can unintentionally mislead potential homeschoolers. Some states require you to file an “Intent to Homeschool” form with your school district; other states have no withdrawal procedure. Some states list which subjects must be taught in their homeschooling laws; others do not, meaning that there are no state-mandated requirements (i.e., Iowa lists no required subjects, but Pennsylvania has a detailed list).

You and your student need to decide if he is college-bound and what colleges are likely candidates. Check with those colleges and your state universities for a comparison of the basic admission requirements. Knowing how many years of math, science, English, and other classes are required for college admission will give you a basic plan for high school. Then, even if your student does not opt for college immediately after high school, you can still know that you have given him an excellent foundation for any future educational endeavors. I drew up a simple block chart with spaces for each grade (9th-12th) across the top and each subject area (math, English, science, social studies, and electives) down the sides. Then I penciled in our plan for what courses would be covered in which years. As I settled on specific books to use, those were also added to the spaces. It was a very basic guideline that changed several times over the years, but it gave us a place to start.

For a very rough outline of high school, begin with the basics of physical science (9th) and life science/biology (10th), a good foundational program for advanced grammar (9th and 10th) and the styles of composition writing (11th), algebra (9th), geometry (10th; Saxon Algebra 1 & 2 texts conveniently combine geometry with algebra in a clear and logical manner), world geography (9th), world history (10th), and American history (11th). Add in extra math and science courses when needed (11th and 12th), depending on your student’s career goals and interests. Literature (12th) can be split into one semester of American authors and one semester of foreign authors. Half-year or semester classes in American government (12th) and economics (12th) help to prepare your student for life in an adult world, as will courses in personal finances, independent living skills, auto mechanics, or home economics. Music lessons do not need to be formal classes: regular participation in congregational singing at church meets my personal requirement for a vocal music class. Most homeschooled children are naturally active outdoors, so be sure to count their regular outdoor chores or recreational bicycling, roller-blading, or swimming as physical education.

Once you have a basic plan of the required classes for high school, you can tailor those requirements to your student’s interests. My daughter became an ardent admirer of Abraham Lincoln as she focused her American history course around reading Presidential biographies. My son’s personal interests exhibited themselves as he taught himself to play guitar with little or no involvement from others; I counted this as a legitimate “course,” even though it did not have a textbook, a teacher, or an enrollment fee. The same principle applied to his learning percussion and earning a spot on the church worship team.

My daughter began working with tiny glass beads, threading them together into amazing patterns. A little internet research led her to animal designs, which she then strung together to form bracelets. She was making them for herself and as gifts for her friends, using the time as a relaxing diversion from her normal lessons. By the end of that year, she had designed so many intricate patterns herself that I gave her transcript-credit for “art projects.” She also spent a great deal of “free” time researching the collection of antique clothing buttons she had inherited from her great-grandmother. As her knowledge of button history increased, so did her list of credits — “Art History through Clothing Buttons.” One of her goals in life is to be a judge for state and national competitions among button collectors, so this course was tailored specifically to her interest.

We had a hearing-impaired friend who usually “listened” by lip-reading, since few people sign. My son wanted to learn sign language as a favor to her, and when a local church offered a free night class, he enrolled. He later went on two mission trips to a boarding school for deaf children, vastly increasing his knowledge through immersion in the language. Two years of experience with American Sign Language has now been accepted by his college as his high school foreign language requirement.

Other homeschooled friends of ours have pursued their interests during high school as preparation for their chosen career fields: veterinary medicine, aviation, real estate, computer science, agriculture/farming, etc. Exposure to a variety of career options can be gained through field trips or informal interviews with acquaintances for the student who has not yet decided on a lifetime goal.

Certain shortcuts can be implemented to make progress possible in the high school subjects where a student has difficulty. Textbooks may seem boring or tedious to certain learners, so consider the possibility of letting them read biographies related to the subject or read through a text very quickly, perhaps in only a few weeks, and then moving on to the next subject. Many students would rather push through a boring subject quickly and get it over with than drag it out for an entire year. We used videos as an aid to reading high school literature, so that a story line could be absorbed without losing precious hours getting bogged down in a not-so-interesting book. My student was then required to read a portion of the book to get a feel for the author’s writing style. The portion could be a page, a chapter, or even the entire book, based on the student’s interest. (A supplemental discussion topic from this approach was “the variations from book to movie” and how or why those variations took place.) Our public library had videos for many literary “classics” that the local video rental store did not have. Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jane Eyre, and Oliver Twist were easy to follow on-screen, giving us the context of the story, which was then followed by reading a portion from the book to see how the author had put those scenes on paper. Reluctant readers will usually watch a movie, and even picky movie watchers will endure a change from their favorite genre for the class credit. My daughter was eager to read the equivalents of chick-flicks such as Sense and Sensibility. My son, however, was allowed the more action-packed selections of The Man in the Iron Mask and The Hunt for Red October. Ironically, a mix-up at the video store left my son watching Jane Eyre one day when he found it accidentally slipped into the case of his chosen rental and he did not want to give up his planned afternoon of movie-watching.

Lab work is required in some science classes, but lab work simply means hands-on learning and experimentation. Biology lab work can be accomplished by studying plants and animals through gardening and pet-care, or collecting wildflowers, tree leaves, or insects and identifying them through reference books obtained at the public library. Labs do not need expensive or complicated equipment in order to impart knowledge. I have heard of homeschoolers who scooped up fresh “road kill” to use for dissection (although I must admit my reaction is EW!). Even flowers and seeds can be dissected and examined to learn how their basic parts differ among species. Do not assume that learning at home means a second-rate education: the vast resources available on the internet put incredible amounts of knowledge right at our fingertips.

Before you protest that you did not do well yourself in high school, let me say that you now have a second chance. I know a Mom who wanted to read and discuss literature with her son, so she went to the public library and checked out two copies of a book at the same time: his and hers. I tackled the higher math lessons right along with my son, reasoning that if he became confused on a concept halfway through the book, I did not want him to have to wait around while I studied the last 30 lessons to be able to help him with the one that stumped him. Yes, these methods do mean more work for Mom, but they are excellent ways for your students to see education as a lifelong endeavor, and they provide common ground, a unique bond between you and your student — goals I consider well worth the effort.

I have often advocated taking advantage of community college classes to complete the high school courses that may be more difficult to do at home: chemistry, physics, calculus, etc. My children were able to accumulate multiple college credits in this way while still in high school. One college counselor instructed me to specify the college classes on the students’ high school transcripts as “a college class, taken on a college campus, from a college instructor, with other college students.” College-level classes are often available at public high schools, but college administrators do not view them as identical to the classes taken in the actual college atmosphere.

However, there are a few things to be aware of before dropping your impressionable high school-aged students off at the college doorstep. The assignment expectations are often much greater than students usually handle in high school. The college “atmosphere” includes a vocabulary that is R-rated, not PG-13, and classmates with questionable reputations and worse recreational pursuits. I cannot recommend involvement in college theatrical departments for conservative Christian students: the subject matter chosen is usually extremely liberal. Speech class topics, literature excerpts, and English compositions will also likely include “mature subject matter.” Art appreciation and drawing/painting/sculpture classes will include exposure to human figures lacking apparel. If your student is mature enough to handle these situations gracefully, he or she will probably do well in the college setting. I do recommend taking classes on a part-time basis (1 or 2 classes at a time) to start and attending full-time only after the student is 18 years old (the age of most college freshmen).

To successfully homeschool high school, start with a solid foundation of college entrance requirements. Fulfill those requirements to the best of your ability and with a bias toward the student’s interests and consider using college classes to complete any classes that you find too difficult to accomplish at home. I personally enjoyed my students’ high school years of homeschooling more than the elementary grades because of the wonderful one-on-one discussions my students and I had about their studies and life in general. High school at home is not a fearsome thing to be dreaded; it is an exciting adventure to be anticipated.

Transcript Writing

A transcript is basically a class-by-class listing of a student’s high school career, the grades received, and the time period involved. A transcript is requested by college admission personnel to evaluate what college classes your student will be able to handle, whether your student is eligible for any academic scholarships, and generally what type of person they can expect your student to be. When a student has been homeschooled through high school, their classes have often been personally tailored to their own interests and may, therefore, lie outside traditional expectations.

First, let me say that no one’s transcript comes down from Mount Sinai. Every transcript is produced by some human being on a computer or typewriter somewhere, so let that eliminate your first fear right here, right now. The same goes for homeschool diplomas: design your own or use a prepared template without guilt, because that is how all diplomas originate. College or job applications frequently ask if you have a high school diploma, and printing your own for a completed homeschool education will fulfill that requirement.

Writing a high school transcript is not a complicated exercise, but it does require a little preparation. If you have a homeschool student already in high school or one who will soon be in high school, begin writing their transcript now. At this point, you only need to keep a rough record of what subjects they are doing, the texts used, and any extra-curricular activities. Polishing this list into a finely-honed transcript will come later when they are preparing to apply to colleges or will need the transcript for job applications. A motivated student is capable of maintaining these records himself, but the point is to keep the records. Voice of Experience: One person’s memory is a remarkably inefficient source when you suddenly find yourself typing up four years’ worth of educational activities in one evening.

My children’s high school classes did not follow a strict semester schedule or fall neatly into four 9-month blocks. I would suspect that many of you have students on the same, typical homeschool, non-scheduled “schedule.” For that reason, we formatted our transcripts by listing the “Date Completed” for each class (month/year), instead of trying to establish artificial grade levels of 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th. The course titles were then grouped together by subject (earliest first) and listed in an order that put recognizable subjects at the top of the list and digressed to the less-important, non-academic courses. Your students’ transcripts should be individually tailored for their specific goals: a student planning to major in music at college should have a transcript which gives preference to musical training and performance; a student desiring a career in engineering should have a transcript which gives preference to math and science courses.

Because of the personal nature of home education, we did not send a simple one-page transcript to colleges. Think transcript “packet” here, because I am usually referring collectively to the entire packet, consisting of three documents: the Transcript itself (list of courses taken and grades received), Course Descriptions (brief explanations of the unusual courses and what texts were used), and Extra-Curricular Activities (covering group activities such as team sports or church youth group, and work experience — both paid and voluntary).

Right now, while your student is still in high school, it is a valuable effort to keep track of every book read — both factual and fiction, both for schoolwork and for pleasure reading. We included a “Literature Reading List” at the end of the Course Descriptions document, separated into American authors and foreign authors. This list was primarily works read during the last two years of high school, since that is primarily when public schools offer literature classes. Various forms of prose and poetry were covered, often referred to as “assorted works” by certain authors.

The many other books read during high school were grouped together and given course descriptions. My daughter read most of the “Uncle Eric” books by Richard Maybury, then grouped them to make courses called “Economics” (Whatever Happened to Penny Candy and The Clipper Ship Strategy) and “Introduction to Law” (The Thousand Year War in the Mideast, Ancient Rome–How It Affects You Today, and Whatever Happened to Justice?). Her dedication to a hobby of collecting antique clothing buttons became a course in art history, citing a reference book on buttons in art periods for the text. An assortment of Presidential biographies was awarded the course title “Introduction to Politics.” My son’s piano lessons counted for high school credit, as well as the time he spent teaching himself guitar and percussion.

When my daughter made the decision to take chemistry at our local community college (earning high school credit from me, plus the college credit), she quickly sped up the pace of her senior year of high school. Completing most of her homeschool work over the summer left her fall semester free for concentrating on the college class. When the spring semester rolled around, my daughter enrolled in English Composition I — which was listed on her high school transcript as “English 5.” Listing the “date completed” for high school courses de-emphasized the speed with which some courses were finished, since no starting date was included. Courses which may have required extra time were also hard to spot, since completion dates occurred in nearly every month.

Special notes on the transcript indicated that our credits were assigned on the same Carnegie standard used by most public schools and colleges. Asterisks denoted any course taken from the local college, and a note further explained that these courses were taken at the college, from college professors, with other college students. An advisor at the college encouraged me to make that notation on the transcripts I made up for my students, saying, “That is more impressive to us than a student who takes a college class at the high school, from a high school teacher, with other high school students. The classes may look identical, but the only thing they have in common is the textbook.”

Some of you are very anxious about assigning grades on a high school transcript. I gave A’s all the way down the line, and I did not feel guilty about it. Several years ago, I listened in as a dear friend was advising a fellow homeschool mom about preparing her daughter’s transcript. The advisor was currently a teacher at the public middle school and acting as the family’s supervising teacher for their homeschool. Her advice was to give nothing less than an A, because the work done by the homeschooled students was far superior to anything being required at the public school! Since that time, whenever I questioned my children’s homeschool productivity, I looked for evidence of what was being accepted at the public institution, and I dismissed the guilt immediately.

Other goodies to include on the transcript are a graduation date, ACT or SAT score, social security number, address and phone number. The graduation date is an affirmation to the college admissions department that your child actually has completed high school. (We used the phrase “anticipated graduation date” when submitting the document for a scholarship application during my son’s senior year.) College application forms usually ask for your graduation date, so pick one and print it on the diploma; ceremonies and celebrations are optional. Midwestern colleges prefer ACT test scores, while coastal schools seem to desire the SAT. Some colleges will accept the score on your say-so; others will only accept an official document sent to them directly from the testing organization. The student’s name, address, telephone number, birthdate, and Social Security number need to be printed at the top of the first page for easy reference. Any subsequent pages should have the student’s name and SSN reprinted at the top. A photograph of the student is also a good thing to include, although it is not always required. Include a line at the bottom of the transcript for your signature as the principal instructor for your homeschool and date the signature for authenticity.

The one thing about homeschooling through high school that tends to scare off most families is the thought of being accepted into college. Now you have the basic skill for conquering the transcript. A little creative thinking can turn even a seemingly mundane homeschool experience into a list of unique, custom-fit courses.

For further reference, see the book “And What About College?” by Cafi Cohen.

UPDATE: Home School Legal Defense Association is now offering record keeping services, including Transcripts, GPA calculation, report cards, etc — suitable for state records or college applications. Go to the HSLDA website and look for PerX.

See Sample Transcript & Diploma for examples.

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

List credit on your student’s high school transcript for non-traditional classes. It may not be a “recognized” curriculum title, but if it is a learned skill that they have developed, it proves they have the ability to teach themselves.

For example, if the student has devoted considerable time to an independent project (stamp-collecting, designing/making beaded bracelets, training horses, digital photo-editing, etc), think up a course title and write an appropriate description for it, listing any reference books as “texts used.” Include out-of-classroom work as well, such as seminars attended, etc. The “course descriptions” page of their transcript will provide the complete explanation. (If you are interested in how to write a transcript, see Transcript Writing.)

Listening to CSN radio (or to your pastor’s Sunday teaching) counts as Bible class; just because you have always listened to it, and would listen to it anyway, does not mean it should be overlooked as a “credit” course. The same applies to AWANAs, Sunday School, Royal Rangers, or similar structured classes your students attend.

I Give One Grade: 100% — But You Get to Keep Trying Until You Get It

A lesson learned is a lesson learned. We will not move on until you know it, but also we will move on as soon as you have learned it. If you know to start a sentence with a capital letter and put a period at the end, you probably do not need to do that for all 6 pages in the workbook!

If the child has learned the lesson, does it really matter how he/she learned it? It is the final results we are after: learning is learning no matter how long it takes. Did you read The Chronicles of Narnia or C.S. Lewis’ rough drafts of them? Did you wear the dress with the collar put on backwards, or did you fix it first? Did you give away batches of burned cookies for Christmas gifts or bake new ones? I give only one “grade” in our homeschool: it’s 100%, and you get to keep trying until you have made it. That does not always mean re-writing the math problems until they are perfect; it means we go over the concept until you have understanding. (Some kids need to write it, others just need to understand it.)

A public middle-school teacher (acting as the supervising teacher) recommended that a homeschool family not list any grade lower than an “A” on their transcripts or other official records. Her reasons: “The work your children are doing is far above the level of what their counterparts are doing in public school. Also, you are finishing every book — we never finish a book. Therefore, your children would be considered ‘A’ students in public school.”

In Mary Pride’s book Schoolproof, she relates a story of how her father (who taught philosophy) asked her what grade she would give to a student who had earned an “F” on his first test, a “D” on the second, a “C” on the next, then a “B”, and an “A” on the final exam. Young Mary thought carefully, and then replied that she would average a “C” for the course. She tells that her father shook his head and told her that she was wrong. The student had earned an “A” for the course, because he finally had mastered the material.