When children teach the end of their homeschool years, I often get messages from parents asking about transcripts. I tell them, “No, I am not the administrator of your homeschool. You are.” Other homeschool publishers like to pretend that they are the school administrators, and they need to provide the transcripts, but they do this for money– and it’s not good for your children. In this article I will explain how to prepare a homeschool transcript.
Give Your Child the Best Education Possible
As a home school parent you have the right to give your children an education that serves your beliefs that’s the whole point of home schooling. This is not merely a legal right, but a doctrine of the Catholic Church:
“As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions.” Catechism of the Catholic Church (2229)
Your goal day-by-day is to teach your children what you believe they need to know to live happily. You should never make decisions about your children’s curriculum or activities based on what you think colleges will be interested in seeing on a transcript. Rather, you should give your children the best education possible, and then seek a college that appreciates that education. Worrying about “what colleges want” will lead you, like modern schools, to do less and less–and your children will suffer for it. This is especially true for Catholic students.
Besides, many colleges take it for granted that students are in modern schools, where the standards are very low. They publish admission “requirements” to set the minimum required for admission. These requirements are not, however, what they desire to see from students. All colleges state plainly that students should seek the most rigorous course of studies available to them–not aim at the minimum admission requirements. If you give your children the best education possible–which, by the way, is a classical Catholic education–admission will never be a problem.
Draft Your Homeschool Transcript
When the time comes to prepare a transcript you’ll be making a document for the institution or program your child is applying to everything that goes into that transcript will be prepared to serve the interests of the institution the transcript is being prepared for. A modern school may create a single transcript for all students but that makes no sense in a home school. If your transcript is being prepared for a religious community the transcript should be prepared to serve the interests of that community, and should emphasize the child’s religious education. If your child is applying to an engineering program at a secular university, the goal of the transcript will be to serve the admissions board evaluating applicants for the engineering program, and should emphasize the studies relevant to that program. While you have worked to give your child the best education possible according to your own beliefs, the goal of a transcript is to serve the interests of the college or program being applied to. Before drafting your child’s transcript you should study the admission information published by the program you’ll be applying to and create a transcript that serves that admissions criteria. If you like some help with this see my article titled “Thinking Rightly about College Admission“.
The transcript should be arranged as the school would expect a modern education to be arranged. The transcript should be divided into 4 years of high school study freshman sophomore junior and senior. It doesn’t matter whether your actual home school activity was conducted in this way but the activity that has been completed in your home school will be presented in terms that the schoolIt doesn’t matter whether your actual home school activity was conducted in this way but the activity that has been completed in your home school should be presented in terms that the school can understand. Remember that the people serving in the admissions offices are not professors or philosophers. They are college employees that serve a simple role within the college admission process. You need to speak their language because they probably won’t understand what you’ve done in your home school if you’ve given your children an extraordinary Catholic education.
To draft your child’s home school transcript simply lay out 4 years of study and list the common subjects in each of those 4 years. These will include subjects like English, mathematics, science, history, foreign language and so on. If there are areas of study or subjects your child has studied in addition to the common modern subjects add those to the transcript.
Don’t Lie or Exaggerate
It’s important to understand that while you may not have followed a strict four year program in your home school your not lying when you present the work your child is done in this format. You are simply translating the work that your child has done into language that a modern college admissions board can understand and appreciate. As you’ll see, the college admissions board is not interested in the details of how you educated your child. They simply want to know what the child has studied in relation to their colleges admission policies.
It’s important however that you do not lie or exaggerate about your child’s studies. If there’s an area of study that your child has not given much attention to you, should not lie about it, but realise that there was likely a reason why your child neglected that area of study. For example your child may not have studied Trigonometry, like other students, but those other students did not study philosophy or theology as your child did. That is an advantage for your child in the admission process not a disadvantage. If it turns out that some study is needed for your child to be admitted to a program it can be taken care of later. Most importantly standardised tests like the SAT or ACT will show whether your child has promise for college success. There is no need to pretend to be something you’re not on the high school transcript. If your child’s standardised test scores are strong, no one will doubt the quality of his high school education. If your child’s standardised test scores are weak, no one will be impressed by what you write on the transcript. Therefore it will do you no good to lie or exaggerate on your child’s homeschool transcript.
Determine Grades and Credits
The greatest challenge for home school parents when preparing a transcript is determining grades and credits. Home school parents regularly penalise their children for being home-schooled. What must be remembered is that a transcript is used to compare one student to another by an admissions board. Therefore the definition of a credit must be considered in light of a modern high school credit, and the standards for high school grades must be the standards for modern high school grades.
Home school parents must also consider That their children learn and do many things outside of any formal school curriculum or activity that other school students do not do. For example in my family we watch history documentaries and classic films for family entertainment. Our family leisure time provides our children with more knowledge of history and literature then most high school students learn in all of their high school studies. This knowledge must be reflected in their high school grades and credits. Catholic home school parents often neglect these extra curricular activities and penalise their children when the time comes to prepare a home school transcript.
As the teacher and administrator of your home school you are free to assign whatever grade you believe your child deserves for any subject. Remember that your child’s standardised test scores and other qualifications will confirm or contradict your assessment of his knowledge and grades you assign on the transcript.
As regards high school credits, one high school credit signifies one year of modern high school instruction. A high school class meets for less than one hour for only 180 days of one year. This is what 1 credit signifies on a high school transcript. If students watch a video in class, that counts as an hour of instruction. If students go on a field trip, that counts for an hour or more of instruction. Modern students only have access to their course material when they are in school during the formal school year. Homeschool students, especially those in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, have access to their high school studies through all the years of their education, and 365 days of the year. When school children go home after school they have no access to their teacher and all instruction stops this is not true for home school students, which is an advantage for them.
Be sure you don’t overestime what schools do, or underestimate what your children have done. Estimate the number of credit hours your children deserve, based on the time they sirens learning, not on the time they spend in formal, school-like activity. You should also be careful to use this knowledge to guide your family leisure activity. When it’s time for a family movie, a family vacation, consider the curriculum and choose activities that are instructive–and give your children academic credit for them.
Finalize Your Homeschool Transcript
After use drafted your home school transcript and determined your child’s grades and credits to be included in that transcript it’s time to finalise your transcript and prepare it for printing. While there is no necessary format or style for your home school transcript, you should remember that the purpose of your transcript is to assist those considering your child for admission to the program being applied to. Therefore you should seek to produce a transcript that is similar to what is expected by the admissions personnel.
Make sure that all of the necessary information about your child is included on the transcript. This includes the child’s full legal name, home address, date of birth, social security number, and transcript date.
Here is a template I have used successfully for my own children:
Print, Sign and Seal the Transcript
When the transcript is finished, it needs to be printed and signed. You must remember at this point that you are the legal administrator of your child’s school. At the bottom of the transcript your name should be printed with your title as administrator and you should include your signature and the date the transcript is being signed.
Schools will ask for sealed transcripts. What this means is that you should print and sign your child’s official home school transcript and place it in a sealed envelope. You should not give your child a digital copy of his transcript to send to schools, nor should the transcript be included loosely with other application documents. It is best to seal the transcript in an envelope and sign your name across the seal of that envelope.
Different Transcripts for Different Purposes
Remember that modern schools prepare one transcript for each student but this is not desirable. If your child is applying to different schools or different programs with different requirements you should prepare transcripts that will best serve each application. As mentioned above, you should consult the published admission information made available by each school or program, and prepare the transcript to show that the student has satisfied or exceeded those admission requirements. One transcript may not serve all applications.
Updating the Homeschool Transcript
The publication of a home school transcript does not signify the end of a child’s education at home. It is merely a snapshot of the student’s present academic achievements, and can be updated any time.
It’s possible that the child will be denied admission to a school or program he desires because something is lacking in his high school transcript. If that’s the case, the option remains to simply addressed that issue adjust the transcript and reapply. Unlike a student in a modern school, a home school student does not need to live with his final transcript as a document that cannot be changed. Rather than settling for admission to an inferior school or program, I would recommend that a child continue his studies, update his transcript, and reapply to the school and program he desires.
As a home school parent, you must realise that you are a legal school administrator. The grades and transcript you provide for your children are as authoritative as any school transcripts produced anywhere. When preparing your child’s home school transcript you must not waver in this authority, but act confidently. As you work to translate the academic achievement of your child into a transcript document you should not be embarrassed that some work is needed to put your child’s home school experience on a single piece of paper. The benefits your child enjoys as a home school student make this work challenging, and reveals the disadvantages modern school students have. Many home school parents are embarrassed by this challenge and penalise their children for the advantages they have enjoyed.
If you need help thinking rightly about your home school transcript or would like help preparing your transcript please consider arranging a consultation with me. I am happy to work through all the details with you, to ensure that your children receive all of the benefits you have worked for through their home schooling years. If you have any questions about these things please contact me anytime.
God bless your homeschool,
William C. Michael
Ckassical Liberal Arts Academy
Mr. William C. Michael is the founding headmaster of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy. He graduated from Rutgers University with an honors degree in Classics & Ancient History and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Mr. Michael has worked in private education as a Classics teacher and administrator for over 20 years. He is a Roman Catholic homeschooling father of ten children, and keeper of a quiet family farm in North Carolina. Mr. Michael enjoys studying ancient natural philosophy, gardening, and running.