Homeschooling High School? Start Here!

Hi, I'm Lee Binz, The HomeScholar. This blog answers commonly asked questions about homeschooling high school.

Search a topic. Browse the Quick Links and Archives. Add a comment. Visit my website to learn about my Products and Services. Dig Deeper into some tough high school issues. Finally, shoot me an e-mail if there is a specific topic you would like to learn more about. Make sure you bookmark or subscribe to this blog because I update the content (almost) daily. Enjoy your visit!

What about "narrative" transcripts?

>>>>Catherine asks: How important is it to have a typical looking transcript with grades and a GPA vs a more narrative type of transcript or even one with courses listed but no grades, since our goal is mastery and so they'd all just be A's anyway?<<<<

Hi Catherine,
Maybe you could try to think about it a little differently. Think of yourself as a foreign language translator. Your job is to translate what you have done in your homeschool, into words and numbers that colleges understand. Your job isn't to change your homeschool - just do what works for you. You job is only to translate your experiences (whatever they are) into the "love language" of colleges.

I know that some colleges don't mind a narrative explanation of a homeschool. I went to a Christian college fair last Monday, and there were a handful of colleges where 15-20% of their student body had been homeschooled. Those admissions people talked about narrative records in a very warm and open way. This weekend I'm going to a Homeschool College Fair, and I'm sure it will be equally welcoming to all sorts of homeschool records (otherwise they probably wouldn't be at a fair just for homeschoolers, right?) But I think the majority of colleges may not understand anything other than a transcript because it will seem like a foreign language to them.

You might want to just group your student's learning experiences together into groups that are approximately 1 credit worth. Label it something that sounds like a class title. Once he has put in a year's worth of math work, for example, you could call it "discrete math" or "concepts in math" or something. You could look at CLEP exams, and see which ones look like academic content that your student has learned, and then list those subject names on your transcript. Have you looked at Barb Shelton's Homeschool Form-U-La book? Her book is not for everyone, but she does have a good explanation of how to take what you have done and explaining it in college-friendly language.

I hope that helps.

Pre-Calculus Question Part 1

A friend of mine was having a problem with her daughter taking pre-calculus. After doing well on the first test, she had failed the second. She thought it might be the curriculum and was looking for advice on what to do.

I responded:

A wise woman once said: "When it doesn't work, stop using it." Time to switch, if you ask me. First thing I suggest is going online to The Teaching Company, and getting a video of either Algebra 2 here:

Or calculus here:

The next thing that I would do is purchase Teaching Textbooks, because it provides another way of explaining things. That same wise woman once said "Invest in your weaknesses" which right now is pre-calculus. The final thing I would do is ask your English speaking friends who are engineers if they can help. Please, tell me you have some friends that are engineers, right?? Ask them to spend a few moments just on this chapter, while you are waiting for the remaining curriculum to arrive. If that doesn't work, you can try googling "Math Tutor" and see if you can make a phone call over the internet to an english speaking tutor. Try, or "High School Hub" or even Teaching Textbooks (once you order from them.)

No matter what, do NOT panic. Pre-calculus IS hard, and it's worth the struggle. Once you have done this, you can do anything! This struggle will one day make a marvelous college application essay. And you know, Pre-calculus is already a VERY impressive accomplishment, so pursuing more will be "gravy"!! Keep at it, don't panic. You can do it! Go team Go!
The HomeScholar
"Helping parents homeschool through high school"
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Pre-Calculus Question Part 2

My friend developed a plan and I wanted to encourage her to implement it.

I wrote:

Do you remember when the kids were babies, and things would get really hard and miserable? One thing that helped me at THAT stage of life, was realizing that those things only tend to last for a week or two. I was never sure whether it was me adapting to them, or them adapting to me, but after two weeks the thing that freaked me out wasn't freaking me anymore.

It's like that will high school, too. In two weeks, this crisis will be over. Somehow, someway, it will have gotten better (not perfect perhaps, but no longer a crisis.) So hang in there! Maybe in two weeks, you will have moved to the next crisis, LOL!

You have some great, concrete, specific steps that you are working on. You have as many resources as anyone here in the states (SOME math help, not perfect math help, is really the norm.) You have a great, step-by-step plan. This is going to be OK. You are doing a great job!

I hear Bill Cosby on Oprah the other day, and he said something I loved. He said that parents are "love-givers" not "care-givers" and that it's the LOVE that makes a difference. Here your daughter is at home, learning pre-calculus, and you really are invested in whether or not she knows the material because you LOVE her. She isn't just forced to move on to the next topic, but you're finding resources to help her understand. That, my friend, is why I never hesitate to give a 4.0 in a homeschool high school class. But really, if she were in ANY other learning environment, she would be moved forward in math whether she understood it or not. YOU are doing a GREAT job, because you love your daughter.

I wish I could help, but I personally don't know pre-calculus :-)

The HomeScholar
"Helping parents homeschool through high school"
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The best record keeping ever!

My client this week uses the best record keeping I've ever seen! She had her daughter keep a computer log of every moment she spent in every class. The excel spreadsheet for English has a line that says: 11/3/06 read "The Giver" 75 minutes, for example. Her "Voice" spreadsheet says how many minutes she spent each day practicing vocal techniques and taking lessons. She has spreadsheets for ever single course, and has the minutes spent on each one per day. This is incredible! Pages and pages of documentation! I've never seen anything so wonderful, and it was SO easy for me to write her Comprehensive Record using the 50 or more pages of data that she gave me. Oh my goodness!

I have to confess, though, that I could have NEVER talked my boys into doing that. I remember trying, but they would do it once and then "forget" from then on. Maybe this is just a strategy that works for just this client, but I have to say she wins the prize for the best kept records!

Whatever strategy WORKS for you, is the one that's best for you to use. Whatever works, do it! Just make sure to keep records SOMEHOW, so that you can create the documents you need when you are applying to colleges. Keep it all!


Homeschooling Grandmothers Unite!

Joyce in Maine wrote to me today:

"Thank you!! we are late to homeschooling. I am a grandparent of an 11th grader who is now raising her. Our decision to home was just made this week and we are doing ok, but floundering around at times. My daughter (her aunt) homeschools her kids and has been an enormous help. I have found your letter to have some really great stuff in it. We want her to go to college but she is so much happier doing this at home and I can use all the help I can get. great newsletter, thanks so much"

It reminded me of how many homeschooling grandmothers I met at the last homeschool convention. Here is my response to her:

"Dear Joyce,
You are so welcome! Boy, I'm seeing more and more grandparents homeschooling these days. Schools are just SO different than they used to be! I'm really proud of you for taking on such a big job. I must say, I've seen grandparents be EXTREMELY successful when the teen is willing and eager to stay home. If you ever feel like you are in over your head, my DVD is a nice overview. It's intended for homeschoolers with 9th and 10th graders, but since you are just starting, it would be perfect.
Have a great day!

Need Help Finding a College?

It's hard to have a high school Junior! Even when they want to go to college, they sometimes lack motivation to research the possibilities. There is a new website designed to help. Seattle PI reporter Amy Rolph writes "A new Web site was introduced with the intended purpose of making it easier for the next class of freshmen to pick the right college." Read her article here, or go directly to the U-CAN website and see if it can help you find a college. Hopefully your high school student will enjoy using the computer to search for colleges. Remember that there are also college fairs to help you choose - and many of them are this month!
Pacific Northwest Homeschool College Fair
National College Fair
Christian College Fair

Calendar Reminders

Freshmen - 9th Grade:
Plan a rigorous curriculum, and don't skimp on math. Here is an example of a typical course of study. Adjust it to meet your needs.

Sophomores - 10th Grade:
Take the PSAT "for fun" in October. Take a sample SAT and ACT test, and see which one you prefer. Learn how to write a 25-minute essay.

Juniors - 11th Grade:
Take the PSAT "for real" in October. You will be asked to list your favorite college. Go to college fairs, and decide on a long list of colleges you want to visit.

Seniors - 12th Grade:
Start college applications! They take a LONG time and a lot of effort, and sometimes scholarship money is "first come, first served." Take the ACT or SAT if you haven't yet, or if you can significantly raise your score by taking it again.

Homeschool Parents:
During the PSAT, students will be asked about their classes and grades, so you may want to explain that to them. It also asks about college majors and career interests. Colleges use that to contact students they want to attract.

Homeschool Grading in the News!

College Student

The Harvard Crimson

In a Class of Their Own

How did this homeschooler get into Harvard? He explains in this article. "My mom wrote out exhaustive transcripts for us. Every class we took and what the class consisted of. It wouldn't just say 'English.' It was what texts we used and how the grade was determined."

The Washington Post

"Home-school networks also have proliferated, offering group classes, organized sports, debate clubs and social activities. All of that is helpful to college recruiters, who want to see extracurricular activities and high marks from online courses or community colleges to validate parent-designated 4.0 GPAs."

US News and World Report
A+ Options for B Students

"Don't despair if your grades aren't the best. There's a great college for you, too. How to get in? The key is determining the unique characteristics you have to offer and then finding a college that's looking for someone just like you." This article offers suggestions to help you get into college when you don't have perfect grades.

University of Washington
Homeschooled Applicants Requirements

The UW is sometimes considered to be a "Public Ivy" because of it's strict application requirements. Their applications states: "Homeschooled applicants to the University of Washington must present a homeschool transcript that includes course titles of each subject studied, duration of study, a short description of content, and grade or assessment of performance."

What does this kind of record keeping look like? If you want to see a sample of this kind of high school record, you can go to my website. If you want a larger sample, I also offer a complete "Sample Comprehensive Record" for purchase, so you can see every bit of information I gave colleges. You can see for yourself what successful college records look like! If you want more help, call me! I would be glad to help you! Call The HomeScholar at 206-409-3767.

How to Determine Homeschool Credits

This question comes from Jurene in Spokane, who purchased a transcript last year, and now is planning to create a music appreciation course with the Symphony:

"Dear Lee,
This is where I need your insight. I know we talked much about how much time Ellen spent on different subjects to justify awarding a credit. If you could simply give me a yardstick of sorts. How much time would warrant a credit or a partial credit."

Dear Jurene,

To determine a high school credit by counting hours, most books recommend:

75-90 hours is 1/2 credit

120-180 hours is 1 credit

The hours are how many hours the student spends in total, including time spent reading and doing assignments. When I estimate high school credits, I usually just guess and estimate how much time the student spends. Add up all the experiences you are planning, and see if you have 75 hours or more. If you do, then call it 1/2 credit. If you don't, then say it's a supplement - they can add it to other music and art experiences to make up their own credit. If it is 120 hours or more, then you can call it a full credit. By the way, we LOVED the "How to Listen to and Understand Great Music" course, by the Teaching Company, I know they have one on the Symphony as well, by the same teacher.

I hope that helps!