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!

Studying for CLEP Exams

You don't have to spend a lot of money on test preparation for the CLEP exams. Any edition of the CLEP Official Study Guide will work well for test preparation, even if the version is not current. These tests rarely change ("rarely" measured in years) so unless it's a brand new subject, or something that changes a lot over time (like computer science) then you can use the older version of the test prep guides. When we studied for it, we used editions that we QUITE old, and it worked out just fine. You can save money WHILE saving money on the CLEP.

You can purchase some CLEP study resources, as well as some other great resources here on my website.

Blessings,

Lee
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Driver's Ed - To Grade or Not To Grade

I sometimes get questions on how to grade a student's drivers education. With my boys I simply put "pass" because I had read a book that suggested it. Since that time, I've read other books that suggest to grade it, and other books that suggest you leave it off the transcript all together. Based on all of that information, I'd say that it's completely and totally 100% your preference about driver's ed. Keep in mind that if a college doesn't want to use that grade, they will just drop it. Colleges often take the classes they LIKE and figure the gpa of those grades only. With that in mind, anything you do for driver's ed class will be fine. So really, it's your call and what YOU want to do.

Blessings,
Lee
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Courting the Colleges

When planning college applications with your student, you will often have specific questions that you would like to get answered. Sometimes there are easy "yes/no" type questions that will be consistent from college to college. More often than not, however, the answer may vary depending on the college. Take for example the question on whether a college will still consider your student a freshman if they have an AA degree and more than 90 credits. Some colleges take a hard line at the 90 credits. Others will show some flexibility. The best approach to these types of questions is to call the admissions office directly and ask. This approach does a number of things, all of which are good. Most apparent, it will get you the answers you need to tailor your plans for the specific colleges you are interested in. What is less apparent, however, is that by asking the question, you are showing the college that you are seriously interested in them.

I have have often said, the college application process is like a courting dance. In order to get them interested in you, you sometimes have to show you are interested in them! Asking clarifying questions is a great way to demonstrate your interest. Believe me, colleges pay attention to the families that are asking application and admissions questions!

So go ahead and call. Better yet, get your student to call. Later, they might just recognize your name when they see your application!

Blessings,
Lee
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Letter of Recommendation Tips

Some people who write letters of recommendation for our children may not be aware of the standard format of a recommendation. The college will want to know about the person giving the recommendation - their name, title, contact information, etc. Here are some links that may help you to see some samples:
http://www.boxfreeconcepts.com/reco/
http://www.mcps.k12.mt.us/hellgate/senior_projects/senior_proj_forms/letter_rec.rtf

In general you're looking at something liked this:

Recommender's name
Recommender's address
Today's date

Dear College Name (OR To Whom it May Concern)

Paragraph One is identifying the student, and how the recommender has come to know the student.

Paragraph two is specific evidence of character traits that the recommender knew from contact with the student. Include knowledge, maturity, or any project or job completed.

Paragraph three is about work skills in general that the student has displayed.

Paragraph four is where it actually states "I highly recommend....."

Sincerely,
Recommender's Signature
Recommender's Typed full name
Recommender's Title or position

If possible, it would be optimal to get the letter into that format. Look on each college website, because sometimes they have specific requirements for recommendations, like "in a sealed signed envelope" or "mail separately" or something. The recommender will have to physically sign the letter.

I hope that helps!
Blessings,
Lee

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Misty, water-colored memorization...

...of the way we were....

Did you ever have to memorize anything in high school? Don't remember? I did, and to this day I can still annoy my family with "No Man is an Island"! Memorization isn't a the most critical skill, but it can be fun. Choose a poem or a scripture, and try it for yourself.

When we began, I didn't actual think that memorization was that important, so I set my sights pretty low. I began with deciding that my kids would merely read the same passage each day of the week for three weeks. I wasn't trying for the goal of memorization at all, I was just trying to give them an "ear" for good literature. What I found out really surprised me! About two weeks into this process, I found that the boys had memorized much of the passage. By three weeks they could say it completely by heart! Later in our homeschool career, they were able to memorize large portions of scripture just by reading it aloud daily to me. I was amazed - I didn't know the human brain worked like that!

Try it, and see if it's fun for your own homeschool!

Blessings,
Lee
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Family Math Fun

When my children were younger, I tried to find ways to make learning fun. One of the things we did through elementary school was to play a math game a few times a week. We found great math games in Family Math. It is a $20 book that is appropriate for multiple children, kindergarten to 8th grade. You can find it at curriculum fairs, but also at regular bookstores and the library. It is a book of games and activities for teaching and improving math skills for K-8th grade. All of the activities are low-cost or no-cost. It has reproducible games to copy. Having dice is helpful. We used dry beans or macaroni for our game markers. Each game indicates whether it is for primary, intermediate, or middle school kids. My kids played the same games together. You can play it with your child, or have them play together after you show them how. Some of the activites are "games" with a winner, but other things are just learning activities (like determining surface area and volume using sugar cubes.)

Each week when I made their math assignment, I figure out what topic was being taught. I looked up the key words (one week I looked up pi, circumference, and geometry) in the index of the Family Math book. There is usually a selection of games and activities to choose from. This way they are doing math manipulatives that are about the lesson they are learning. One of my frustrations with geoboards or cuisinaire rods was that they are not applicable to most of the lessons they are learning. One week my older son began proportions, and I found a game called "Gorp", where you roll a dice to determine different proportions for the gorp ingredients. For younger kids, there are lots of fun games for learning place value, and using basic math facts. It also has activities for money, time, calendar and measuring. One word of warning - the games look a little intimidating in the book sometimes. I took a class on Family Math when I first began homeschooling. The teacher recommended that when you begin a game that you are not familiar with, force yourself to follow the directions just as they are written, and by the time you are near the end of the directions, the game WILL make sense. I did not have the "Gorp" game demonstrated to me, but I followed the directions like she said, and it worked. It became their favorite game!

Blessings,
Lee
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The HomeScholar
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Reading Comprehension (or...Read this Post Twice)

Reading comprehension was a huge concern when my sons were in 9th grade. I thought - and worried - about it a lot. The thing that frustrated me was that my kids would interact with the books they read (laughing at the funny parts, for example) but when it came time for "reading comprehension questions" they didn't seem to do very well. I ultimately decided that for us, having my child understand the book meant interacting with the book. I decided that reading comprehension questions weren't the best gauge of real understanding. To learn more about this idea, you might want to read Ruth Beechick's book, "You CAN Teach Your Child Successfully."

It is most important that your student is encouraged to read and write at their own level. Whether they are above or below their grade level is not nearly as significant. Once your child knows the mechanics it probably just boils down to practice. Encourage your child to write every day.

Blessings,

Lee
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Girding Your Loins for High School!

Use 7th and 8th grade as your "high school training time." Not so your kids can working at high school, it so you can work on how you THINK about high school. When my kids were that age, I would think about how many hours we spent on activities, I would think about the different class titles that I could use for different experiences. 7th and 8th grade is also a perfect time to be planning ahead for the job in front of you. Buy a book about homeschooling high school, take classes at the convention, and get my video if it would be helpful. That way when you get to high school you won't be afraid. It's all about avoiding fear, and planning ahead is the best way to do that. Don't wait to become fearful and THEN plan or seek help, because that's where the tears start!

My favorite book for this age range is:
Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook: Preparing Your 12- to 18-Year-Old for a Smooth Transition It was broad enough, and not too deep, so that it was a good introduction. Some of the other books out there are so in-depth and intense that it can be very overwhelming.

So there you go, that's about 5 minutes of my first video right there, for free! LOL! Take care, and give me a call or an email if you need help.

Blessings,
Lee
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The HomeScholar
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On-line High School?

If you are considering online programs for high school, ask yourself a question: Is this how my child learns best? The success your student with online courses is largely dependent on their learning style.

You shouldn't feel like you MUST do online schools for high school, however. Colleges, in general, understand homeschooling and they understand homeschool transcripts and grades. There is no reason to feel like you have to do an online school just so they will be somehow "official." I really suggest that parents retain their independence, so that they can choose materials that best fit their child.

Parents always know what is best for their children. Trust your instincts and move forward.

Blessings,

Lee
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Homeschooling While Building a House

I've had friends who homeschooled while building a house. If you find yourself in that situation, remember that any construction experiences your high schoolers have can count as high school credit. Woodworking, carpentry, occupational credit, etc., might be good course titles to consider. Your kids are learning while you do these things, right? Let them live and learn.

Have you read Barb Shelton's Homeschool Form + U + La? That was what her life was like. She talks about how she incorporated home construction into her transcript. Here is her website:
http://www.homeschooloasis.com/

Also, the book Homeschooling For Excellence by the Colfax's might encourage you. Their family was also building a home all through high school, and both kids went on to Ivy League schools.
http://www.amazon.com/Homeschooling-Excellence-David-Colfax/dp/0446389862

Blessings,
Lee
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Are You Qualified to Teach High School English?

You are totally, completely, and 100% qualified! Not because you know English perfectly, or even because you know how to grade perfectly, but because you are their parent. The one who knows them and loves them best.

Teaching English in high school is not about grading criteria or percentages. It's about getting lots of writing practice - and having your students write a lot. It's also about editing their papers. Just read them, circle things that are obvious spelling or grammar errors (OBVIOUS errors, that's all.) It is also about discussing their ideas: "What did you mean when you said....." Or "please rewrite this it doesn't make sense." But you're not doing anything magical, you're just reading it over. It's just like if a friend said "would you please read this?" That's all!

Remember that some public school English teachers don't have an English degree. They may not even have the English background that you do! The only reason they use rubrics and other grading criteria is because they have to grade so MANY students, and be consistent between them. Not us! We want to encourage each student to do THEIR best, and that means we don't really want to treat all our students the same. We want each to excel in their own way.

Another advantage that homeschoolers have is the student-teacher ratio with English. In public school, kids are lucky if they get one paper a semester to be assigned and carefully edited. With 20-30 kids in the class, teachers aren't necessarily expected to read everything. I bet you'll read and give more feedback on your kids papers than they would ever get in public school! We can read their history or science papers for quality writing as well, because we evaluate them in all their subjects.

Husbands and wives can often share the burden of grading English papers. That happened to be a HUGE chunk of homeschooling where my husband helped.

I want you to know that even though I didn't "Grade English Papers" - my boys still got full tuition scholarships to college. They both still got into the Honors program. And they still get As and Bs on their college papers.

Blessings,

Lee
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Keeping Grades in Large Families

How do you keep up with grading when you have four, five or more kids? When my kids were younger, I never really graded at all. Our state (WA) does not require parents to grade, so I didn't. I would grade math tests, just to make sure they knew the stuff, but I didn't KEEP those grades anywhere. Once they started high school, I didn't change my way of doing things with homeschool. I just started keeping track of how I evaluated them, without changing what I actually did with them day to day. Here is an article that I wrote about grading:
http://www.squidoo.com/homeschool_grading

You can see on my Sample Comprehensive Record that I only used tests to grade for some classes, but not others. Here is an example of a class I did NOT use a test to grade - it was History, but my English classes looked very similar:
http://www.thehomescholar.com/pdfs/Sample_Course_Description.pdf

Blessings,
Lee
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The Teaching Company on a Budget!

We never paid full price for a Teaching Company course, they were just MUCH too expensive for our budget. We used audio tapes primarily, and on sale they were $15-$35. You can also also find them at the library, though, so look their first. Some libraries don't list them under "teaching company" or "great courses" but instead list them under the course name "calculus made clear." It makes it harder to find that way. You can also find Teaching Company courses at used book sales and on Ebay.

One year I planned to supplement a textbook with a Teaching Company course, but I didn't buy the course in time for it to be one sale. I was able to find a similar history course that WAS on sale, though, and I thought it was wonderful.

My favorite course is "how to listen to and understand great music." The teacher has such a wonderful vocabulary, it was just great for the kids to hear their vocabulary words in context. We had the boys take notes from the lecture, so they would become accustomed to note-taking in college lectures.

Blessings,
Lee
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How do Homeschoolers take the SAT?

Sign up online for the SAT at www.collegeboard.com. Here is the exact address:
http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/sat/reg.html
They take the test at their local high school. They can choose any school on the list - some prefer to take the test at a private school. I don't know if it's possible to refuse a homeschooler, but I've never heard of it.

Here is their page called "Homeschooled students and the SAT." The parent can read more about the test and how it is administered.
http://www.collegeboard.com/parents/tests/meet-tests/21302.html
This page proves how homeschool friendly the test is - they are VERY used to seeing us, it's not unusual to them at all.

The college board also has a page called "Homeschooled students and college admission" that is very helpful.
http://www.collegeboard.com/parents/csearch/know-the-options/21358.html
When you read that page, though, remember that the college board website "sells" testing - that is their product. In a way, when you read that page, you have to filter through the advertisements for the other tests (AP, SAT 2, etc.)

The SAT test is a standardized test that meets the annual assessment requirements for Washington State. It's also cheaper than going the usual testing route. The PSAT is much cheaper still - it's only $15 or so.

Blessings,
Lee
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"Calculus Made Clear"

Another strategy we used for high school math was "Calculus Made Clear" from The Teaching Company. The course wouldn't be enough for a stand-alone Calculus course, but it's a wonderful, wonderful supplement. It is light on numbers but very clear in their explanations. The first time we saw it, my younger son was doing pre-Calculus and my older son was in Calculus. I told them to watch one lesson a day, but the boys loved it. They actually watched the whole thing through twice, and watched some lectures three times. They ended up getting a 4.0 when they moved on to college Calculus and Differential Equations. They even told me that I should never sell it! It really, really helped my sons have a thorough understanding of Calculus. Here is the link:

http://www.teach12.com/ttcx/coursedesclong2.aspx?cid=177&pc=Science%20and%20Mathematics

I hope that helps,
Blessings,
Lee
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Help for Saxon Math

If you are considering Saxon math for high school, I strongly encourage you to consider using DIVE CDs. It's a great combination that worked for us, and it's more reasonably priced than other video tutorials. Here is the link:
http://www.diveintomath.com/dive_math.aspx

They have a sample lecture online, so you can see if it will work for your child.

Blessings,
Lee
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The Teaching Company for Younger Students?

I have been asked whether The Teaching Company tapes could be used for younger students. In a nutshell, if a student is INTERESTED, then they may not be too young. The Teaching Company does have some high school level courses, but I never tried them. I'm sure those would be appropriate for many younger people (junior high level). In general, if a student is interested, I recommend feeding their interests.

I don't recommend The Teaching Company religion courses. The CS Lewis is a wonderful series, however. Some of the arts classes do have nudes. I'm sure the Psych class does Freud, which would probably be too much for younger students. The way that we chose was to buy it for ourselves, and then listen to it first. For the first course you do, I always recommend "How to Listen to and Understand Music" because it's fascinating and very non-threatening.

The courses are not a full curriculum, so you can't say that one of them is one credit, or whatever. You can count the hours you spend, and add up the hours until you have enough for a full credit. We used them as a supplement that way.

Blessings,
Lee
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What About Military Academies?

>>>>Can homeschoolers make it into military academies?<<<<

At the last college fair, I spent a long time talking to military academies, especially Annapolis. All of the military academies accept homeschoolers, even when Mom makes the transcript. The big-time military academies want leadership and physical fitness to be as important as grades. They even have a "homeschool admission" page, which is always very helpful. Boy scouting is a huge plus - is your son a boy scout, by chance? Anyway, they are welcoming to homeschoolers, and they value a homeschool transcript. That said, they are pretty competitive, but ROTC through other colleges is also available as a back up plan.

Blessings,
Lee
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Withdrawing from Public High School

Sometime a student will request to be withdrawn from public high school and begin homeschooling. If that is the case for you and you can support them, I would encourage you to do it and not look back. You CAN pull your students out anytime you want to. If you want to get their high school grades first you could wait until the grades are released and then pull them. If they aren't getting good grades, then you can pull them out BEFORE they get their grades, and then they won't ever be on their transcript. Just a little high school tip :-)

In Washington State, all you have to do is formally withdraw your student from school, and then get your declaration of intent into the school district. Use the declaration of intent on the Washington Homeschool Organization (WHO) website, so you don't give the district information that will have a negative impact on your student.

If you are in this situation, I would love to speak with you. Call or e-mail and we can set up an appointment (Lee@HomeScholar.com). If possible, I really recommend my beginning "Preparing to Homeschool High School" crash course.

If you can't do that, then we can just talk on the phone, or take it one hour at a time. I just find that doing the whole thing all at once is easier, to get you quickly up to speed. If finances are a issue, then you may want to get my Preparing to Homeschool High School DVD. It's not as personalized as a one-on-one consultation, but it will still really help. Some people watch the video, and then call me for a one-hour appointment afterwards, and that works out very well.

Blessings,
Lee
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The HomeScholar
www.TheHomeScholar.com
www.thehomescholar.blogspot.com
"Helping parents homeschool through high school"

When to Start Record Keeping - Part 2

>>>>More record keeping basics<<<<

Another thing that you can do is have a place where you keep all your records. That might include all their work, anything they have written, math tests, any workbooks, etc. Again, you really don't NEED to keep that stuff for 6th and 8th grades, but it will train you to keep those records when it DOES matter for next year. I kept a 3-ring binder, with dividers for each subject: math, science, writing, etc. Every time they produced a piece of paper, I punched holes in it, and put it into the notebook. I was very glad I started early, in Junior High, because it ended up that my youngest son graduated 2 years early. When we started, I had NO idea he would do that. I was glad I'd kept the records once I realized how much I needed them at the end of high school. All this to say, simply, keep stuff.

A final thing that you can do is to educate yourself while you are educating your children. Buy yourself some books on "how to homeschool high school" so that you will feel confident. My favorite book is Homeschoolers' College Admission Handbook by Cafi Cohen. Here is the link: http://www.rainbowresource.com/proddtl.php?sid=1167759372-678323&id=029937
I've read a LOT of homeschooling high school books, and I thought this book really summarized all of them really well. It's a great overview, and a great way to start. When I was homeschooling, my goal was that every time I bought curriculum for the boys, I also bought a book for ME, about how to homeschool.

As far as contacting me for record keeping, you can do it whenever you would like. I have clients that call me in a panic and need a transcript within day because they are applying for college. I also have clients that want me to make a schedule for them, to keep their high schooler on task. I can consult with you about how to study for the SAT as well. Some people like to have a cumulative record with course descriptions and everything, and some people don't want or need that much. I have some clients that want course descriptions and records done BEFORE every year of school. I also have some clients that want it all done after they have finished their Junior year, when they start applying to colleges. It's whatever is easiest for you. My clients who want a cumulative record tend to like to do it every year, to spread the cost out over years, instead of paying for it all at once.

Blessings,
Lee
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The HomeScholar
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When to Start Record Keeping - Part 1

>>>>When is the best time to start keeping homeschool records?<<<<

When I was homeschooling 6th and 8th grades (my two boys are two years apart) I began by keeping a daily schedule of their lesson plans. You can see more about what I did here. You can open the sample schedule to see what I did. Anyway, having this check list for their lesson plans gave me a record of everything they did. I figured I was training myself for the next year - when it really mattered. So one thing that you can do now is keep some sort of records, and using a schedule can provide those records for you.

Another thing that you can do is have a place where you keep all your records. That might include all their work, anything they have written, math tests, any workbooks, etc. Again, you really don't NEED to keep that stuff for 6th and 8th grades, but it will train you to keep those records when it DOES matter for next year. Make sense? I kept a 3-ring binder, with dividers for each subject: math, science, writing, etc. Every time they produced a piece of paper, I punched holes in it, and put it into the notebook. I was very glad I started early, in Junior High, because it ended up that my youngest son graduated 2 years early. When we started, I had NO idea he would do that. I was glad I'd kept the records once I realized how much I needed them at the end of high school. All this to say, simply, keep stuff.

To be continued...

Blessings,
Lee
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The HomeScholar
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Homeschooling High School Math Isn't Working

>>>>This is the second part of my answer to a desperate mom who lamented: "I don't think homeschooling high school is working!"<<<<

Now I'll talk about math :-)

Teaching Textbooks may not be working for your student. You might want to consider adding a tutor. It doesn't have to be a math professor or anything. Sometimes just another high school student who is farther along in math will do the trick. They will talk the same language that way.

I did give my students the answer key to their math books. I only took it away on test day. Alex rarely used it, but Kevin would use the answer key for almost every problem, sometimes almost copying it one number at a time. But you know, it ended up being like copywork when they were younger and would copy sentences. Eventually he "got it."

For extra problems, there are workbooks available for Algebra 1. They aren't expensive - maybe $10? You may even find them at the library.

Kevin "failed" algebra 1, because he was using a book that didn't work for him. We switched to Jacobs Algebra and he repeated algebra 1. He did MUCH better. Jacobs has wonderfully written explanations. Perhaps your daughter would learn better with WRITTEN instruction,
rather than visual instruction. Remember that Kevin is now studying electrical engineering - and he failed algebra 1!

For extra video help, you might want to look at The Teaching Company high school algebra (www.teach12.com) You can also consider using a different curriculum altogether - maybe teaching textbooks just doesn't match your daughters learning style.

It's possible to "pass" the SAT and ACT tests even if you aren't far along in math. Some colleges don't have a math requirement for entrance, so you can find those colleges if you need to. The most important thing is that you teach math at their level, and get some success before moving on.

I hope that helps! I feel for you, Marcia. I remember how scared and frustrated I was. And yet now Kevin is doing well in engineering school, and takes college math classes for fun! But I didn't "teach" him high school math. Don't try to "teach" Just try to get her to learn.

Blessings,
Lee
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The HomeScholar
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Ninth Grade Language Arts?

>>>>What should I use for 9th grade Language Arts?<<<<

Focus on reading and writing at your student's level, and you can't go wrong. We used Sonlight for their writing prompts. It included workbooks for vocabulary. For young high schoolers who need extra help, Winston Grammar is a great way to get a good understanding of parts of speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc.) in a way that's very hands-on. If your student is a hands-on learner, then I really recommend Winston Grammar. But really, in high school it's often just about practice, practice, practice.

Blessings,
Lee
www.TheHomeScholar.com
www.thehomescholar.blogspot.com
"Helping parents homeschool through high school"

Early High School Credits on a Transcript

>>>>How do you do transcripts to reflect early high school credits?<<<<

Here is what I did:

http://www.thehomescholar.com/pdfs/Sample_Transcript_by_Year.pdf

If it was a high school course, and it was on my transcript, and my transcript was by year rather than by subject, then I called those classes "Early high school credits." I felt that gave colleges the option of using those classes or not using those classes, because I've heard that some do and some don't.

We did have some 8th grade classes on our transcript; Latin, French, Algebra, and Geometry.

Transcripts are very much an art rather than a science. With few hard and fast "rules" you just have to do your best.

I hope that helps,

Blessings,
Lee
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