How can we do outside the box classes and not mess up their transcript?
**Updated to add an example of a transcript and course description.**
My 9th grader wants to do some really outside the box classes and unit studies to meet their grad requirements. I’m totally onboard with that. But, I have heard their transcript should look like any regular public school transcript. Is that true?
Doesn’t that wipe away what makes them standout as a homeschool applicant when applying to colleges? My kiddo really wants to get into a good college to study journalism and will be the first person in my family to ever go to college. I don’t want to mess this up for them.
From Marie C.
Homeschooling 7 years
14yo 9th grader (and 2 in elementary)
This question, “How can we do outside the box classes and not mess up their transcript?” gets to the heart of the scariest part of being innovative with academics for high school students, the high school transcript. It is great that you are thinking about this now!
I have heard their transcript should look like any regular public-school transcript. Is that true?
In some ways, yes. But not necessarily.
You do need to cover the basic course requirements colleges expect to see on a transcript. Take the time now to research and find out what required courses your student needs to take for the colleges they want to apply to. Transcripts are a snapshot. At a glance, they should indicate if an applicant took all classes required by the college.
If you are not sure what colleges your student wants to apply to, here is the University of California a to g requirements. Even if you do not live in California, these are a good guide for the basics of what should be on a transcript.
Doesn’t that wipe away what makes them standout as a homeschool applicant when applying to colleges?
Yes, it does. When a homeschooled student applies to college, the college understands the student has received an alternative education. As long as you keep it academic, you can safely embrace being alternative.
This is where documentation is key. For every class that is “outside the box,” take the time to save a work sample, syllabus, and a course description, just in case you are asked for it. If an alternative class falls into certain categories, science for example, document how it meets the requirements and scope of what a traditional school covers. Take the time to research the specific academic knowledge and skills that are wrapped into a “standard” class of that scope. Here is a description of what constitutes an acceptable science class that meets the a to g requirements, for example. You will probably never be asked for this, but if you are, you will be glad you have it.
There is nothing that says your child’s transcript cannot include more than the basic requirements. Many homeschooled students have more credits on their transcripts than students from regular schools.
Good Luck! Blair
Added to “How can we do outside the box classes and not mess up their transcript?” 6/19/2023
This comes up so often, I grabbed an excerpt from a book I co-authored Project-Based Learning: Creating and Education of Curiosity, Innovation, and Impact. It shows what my son’s transcript looked like for an out of the box project he worked on. The project focused on U.S. politics. It was a big year-long project, although some portions of it did not span the entire year. More details about the project can be found in the book.
This is just the project portion of his official high school transcript. Math, additional Science, and Physical Education were added to make this a complete year of study. A course description and syllabus were created for each course and for the project as a whole.
10th Grade Transcript for the Project Our Year Studying Politics
|AP U.S. Government
|Politics in the U.S.
|Teen Producers Project
|Ethics and Evidence
When doing outside the box coursework, it is important to craft a new course and syllabus for every line item on the transcript with a course description, as a part of the documentation for the project. Do some homework to determine the “official” category for each course. Make sure the course description uses language you would expect to see for a class in that category. For example, both AP U.S. Government and Politics in the U.S. are categorized as social studies. My son received 1 and 1/2 years worth of credit for social studies on his transcript and colleges accepted it.
This course description is from the Project Our Year Studying Politics found in Project-Based Learning: Creating and Education of Curiosity, Innovation, and Impact.
This year-long project-based course examines politics and voting in the U.S. in a way that is hands-on, pertinent, and meaningful. Students will learn about American Government, and then they will apply what they have learned as they focus on politics, voting, and volunteering. Students will choose an issue they care about, and then volunteer for a candidate who best represents that issue. In addition to other work, each month students will look at a specific issue or set of related issues. For example, the different parties’ platforms on scientific issues, like stem cell research and climate literacy. Each student will create a photo journal for the final month leading up to both the primary and the general elections.
The coursework for a typical month will be as follows: On week one of the month, students will look at the facts, without the politics, of a platform issue. On weeks two and three, students will investigate the stance of the major parties and candidates, including the one the student is working for, regarding this issue. There will be an ongoing discussion about this issue. On week four, students write or film about the issue. The piece can be a persuasive essay, a research paper, or a short documentary film. Issues that will be investigated include unions, lobbying, healthcare, the financial system, the ongoing wars, money in politics, foreign policy, and any other issues important to the electorate. The goal is to have students understand these issues by the end of this process. We will watch and disseminate the debates, using what was learned in Thank You for Arguing. There will also be a focus on students’ ability to adequately support their opinions about the debate and the candidates’ positions. Students will use social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to comment on the debates. They will read factcheck.org after the debates to see who was the most honest about their positions and their opponents’ positions on issues, and re-watch some of the soundbites from the debate after looking at factcheck.org to investigate specific techniques used to garner support and applause.
Politics today has a large social media component. Students will be required to start Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts dedicated to the candidate they support. They will be required to post regularly. YouTube or Vimeo is optional for those students who choose to include filmmaking in the project.
The academic tasks will change regularly as student participation increases and the election cycle advances. In addition to the overall evaluation, there will be a monthly assessment.
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