A former homeschooler, Kierstin is now homeschooling her own daughters.
Let's cut to it - you're freaking out about how exactly you prep your homeschooler (or yourself, if you're the homeschooler!) for graduation. As in, how do you legally graduate this person? Listen, homeschool laws vary from state to state. For reference, I graduated from homeschooling in the state of Michigan in 2007 but homeschool laws here haven't changed since then and on a national level, graduating as a homeschooler is still pretty simple. Whether or not your student needs to take state-mandated tests depends more on the college they plan to attend (if any) but no matter where their path leads you'll want an official high school transcript just in case!
You'd normally get this from their school.
But you're their school.
So here's how to do it!
The entire concept of a transcript is basically just to ensure that the student has all of the info a college would want in a neat and tidy package.
Here's the info and materials you'll need to dig up before you can create the transcript:
Getting Organized: What You Need to Create Your Transcript
|What||How to Get It|
The student's social security number
Off their social security card. Don't have one (everyone loses it at least once)? Call your local social security administration office and ask what forms of identity to bring to get a replacement social security card. It's a pretty quick visit and they'll mail you a new card within a week or so.
A transcript template
Just Google "homeschool high school transcript template" and you'll find tons of free ones you can download and then fill in yourself.
The current credit/class requirements for high school graduates in the state your student will be graduating from (or has already graduated from)
Google "High school graduation requirement in [your graduating state]. This will pull up your state's current curriculum. For example, if I do this for Michigan I pull up the Michigan.gov page titled "Michigan Merit Curriculum: High School Graduation Requirements" BINGO. Click your version of that. It will tell you specifically what subjects are require for graduation and how many credits of each are necessary (more on what constitutes a credit/course later on).
If you don't have one you can just head on down to your local library.
The student's high school academic record
Don't panic if you didn't keep one, we'll go over this next.
Literally just Google "docs"
Gather Your Student's Academic Record
Maybe you're a very organized homeschooler or homeschool parent and you have a complete and total record of the past decade of academia. Awesome, this will make things much easier for you. Buttttttttt maybe you're not that person. Maybe you're the I-burned-breakfast-let's-drive-through-McDonalds-and-eat-it-on-a-nature-walk-and-then-watch-National-Geographic-Channel-in-bed-while-we-knit kind of person. FANTASTIC! There's all kinds of different students, families and homeschoolers and that, my friends, is why we homeschool.
No matter your organization and learning style you're going to need to take every educational experience your student has and condense it into a transcript.
In my own transcript (pictured below) you'll notice a variety of subjects completed during my four year high school career. Does that mean I was actually sitting down in work books for each of these "classes." Heck no.
Here's some of the classes you'll see on my transcript and how I executed these subjects in real life:
- Band I was literally in a band. But we never left my basement. Whatever.
- World History & Geography I was supremely obsessed with Kenneth C. Davis' "Don't Know Much About..." series and carried the history and geography installments around with me (if that isn't a classic homeschooler move then I don't know what is).
- Physical Education & Health Never one to enjoy having balls thrown at my face, I trekked the two track behind my house, explored my neighborhood on my brother's long board and walked the family dog. So much physical education.
- Film Making A surprising amount of high school transcripts are dedicated to extra-curriculars and as my friends and I were coming of age during the YouTube era some of these extras came in the form of creating and posting stupid videos on the platform.
This is just to show that yes, some of my schoolwork was accomplished in text books or in a more traditional sense, but some of it was learning through experience. Don't get stuck on technicalities when creating your transcript.
What a High School Transcript Looks Like
This is a farrr away view of what my official transcript looks like (with my personal info redacted and replaced with red you-fill-in text). Seeing the details right now isn't important, what's important is that you see how the formatting works to organize the information. When printed, my transcript is a total of three pages (they're side by side here).
Now, click through the thumbnails below to see each section of the transcript.
Put It All Together Now
Once you have your:
- Personal info
- Academic records
You can now put all of the information into your transcript. To do this you really just need to fill in the blanks on the template you chose. You'll also find that your template has a space for GPA and Cumulative GPA. But what are those things and how do you decide them when you're a homeschooler?
What is GPA on a Transcript?
Your GPA (grade point average) is just the numbered version of a letter grade. For example, if you aced all of your classes or subjects with an "A" your GPA for that semester or grade year is 4.0. Look at my 9th grade academic record and you'll see that I have a variety of grades. When you total them all up they come out to a total grade point average of 3.5. That means my GPA for that grade year was 3.5.
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Then What is Cumulative GPA?
So, your cumulative GPA is just the total of all of your GPAs combined (so far).
Take a look back at my 10th grade academic record.
You'll see that my GPA for that year went down to 3.25.
Combine that GPA with my 9th grade GPA of 3.5 and you get my cumulative GPA of 3.3 for 10th grade. For 11th grade we then combine the cumulative GPA from 10th grade to the GPA for 11th grade for my cumulative GPA for that year and so on.
Ta-da! You have a transcript!
Once your transcript is put together you'll want to save it as a PDF so you can email or print it easily. Here's a fantastic step-by-step on how to do that.
Okay, wait a minute, how do you calculate your GPA and Cumulative GPA?
Honest to goodness, most homeschoolers don't have a rubric for each subject to define their grades. If you do, awesome, don't come for me, but most of us didn't/don't.
If you don't normally assign grades you'll want to take a look at how the student did or is doing on a particular subject and assign it a letter grade. You'll see I got an A in language arts across the board. I rocked that stuff. An "A" translates to a 4.0. But I definitely didn't ace every subject and my grades reflect that. Be realistic and reasonable with your student's grades. No one is ever going to see this transcript outside of the college application process so don't think that each subject warrants a 4.0. You want to be honest and realistic with the student's strengths and weaknesses an assign accordingly.
Use this free GPA calculator to figure out what number each letter grade transfers to along with your cumulative GPA (the culmination of each year's GPA).
How do you know how many credits to assign to each class?
You'll know how many credits to assign to the classes by how many credits for each subjects are required in your state for graduation.
For example, if your state requires four math credits for high school graduation, your student isn't getting all four credits from one single class, they're getting maybe one from their geometry course, one from their algebra II course, etc. until they've come up with four credits.
Do All States Require You to Follow Their High School Graduation Standards?
No! In fact, in my own home state of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Education states that:
"Except for the one semester credit requirement in Civics/Government, non-public and home schools can set their own graduation criteria and are not required to ensure that students have met the requirements of the MMC [Michigan Merit Curriculum]."
For me, that's just a reminder that homeschooling laws are very lenient in my state. As a homeschool mom, I'll still be using the Michigan Merit Curriculum as a resource to guide me as I homeschool my (future) high schoolers. I won't be picking a one-size-fits-all curriculum but I will be able to use the state's standards to keep track of what topics my kids need to have an awareness of as they continue their home education. That way, if my kids choose to pursue college they won't be at a loss.
So, what counts as a class?
So much. Don't write off things your kids do just because they're having fun doing it! If your teenager is bingeing on Crash Course, holy cow, that's tons of subjects covered! When I was 15 I started writing for an online music publication and continued to until I graduated high school. I conducted interviews online, wrote and published articles and worked with editors online. That was my "online learning experience".
Your children's instinct is to learn, though it may not always look like a public school standard of learning.
Questions About Homeschool Transcripts
Do colleges accept homeschool transcripts?
Yes. In addition, you may need state test scores (like SATs) to apply to some colleges. I attended community college so a simple transcript was all I needed.
Should my homeschool transcript be notarized?
That's something to check with the college you're applying to. Again, for my community college I didn't need that but it wouldn't hurt to have it done either.
Do homeschoolers need a diploma or a GED?
No, you just need a high school transcript to prove that you've completed the requirements of a high school education. A diploma is really just a piece of paper to frame and a GED is the equivalent of a transcript when it's all said and done.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2019 Kierstin Gunsberg