This Week’s Q&A for Homeschoolers

Question from a homeschooling mom:

Homeschooling a High School Student: I’m a bit confused with how to keep track of attendance and figure credits for a high school transcript?

I don’t see too many questions regarding homeschooling high schoolers. I’m a bit confused with how to keep track of attendance and figure credits. We do not do conventional school hours. Sometimes we put in weekends or longer days. If I feel my daughter has mastered a subject I may move on a bit early. Because of this her grade level this past year was 10/11 and we took two weeks off in the summer and picked right up again with 11/12. She will end up graduating early. I have all the mandatory courses that are required by the state. I live in a pretty lenient state. We really only have to report attendance but I’m concerned for college. Can I figure a “credit” to be when I feel she has mastered the subject or do I need to figure out the exact number of hours and make sure she puts them in? I don’t want it to seem like we are skimming through because we will be finishing up early; quite the contrary – she puts in long days and weekends to meet these goals.

Most colleges and universities understand that homeschoolers spend their months differently than those in a school. They will not be expecting exact hours spent in each subject area. If your teen spent about 18 hours a month for 10 months doing something, anything in a typical course, then that would be 1 unit for the year. Give them 1/2 unit for anything they did for about half that time. If something was just dabbled at, try to include it in a larger subject area’s time.

Shirley Minster wrote an excellent article for me called Course Numbers and Transcript Details. In it she explains what college admissions officers expect to read, and the vocabulary they understand. For example, if your teen was into reading Shakespeare, you would call the course “English,” not “Shakespeare” on the transcript. If the college wanted to see a portfolio, and your teen had done a whole lot more with Shakespeare, such as performing in plays, you would go into detail there.

If your daughter is working at the college level, you might call a course an “AP course”. Lab work, if done, should be listed along with the science class name, for example: Biology with Labs.

Colleges are greatly impressed if a teen shows focus on some subject, even if not traditional. I learned of a girl who studied everything Norwegian: the culture and the language. She even spent a year in Norway. While she was away her home burned to the ground, along with all her homeschool records. She applied to a University with a “Scandinavian Studies” department. She wrote her college essay in Norwegian, explaining her story. They were thrilled to admit her.

Think of a college like an orchestra. They only need so many violinists. They need to have a complete complement of instrumentalists to fill each chair. Each department in a college must also fill its seats with the best applicants they can manage to attract. Your daughter might be wise to take a year and focus on what may become her major field of interest, and eventually a career. Somewhere there is a college department that is desperately looking for a student just like her. She may find a job opportunity by beginning college right away, or she might be better off working with a mentor for a year.

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Ann Zeise

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