How do I prepare a transcript for my rising high schooler? Is what is included on a transcript different than a syllabus or class description? Should I have all of these things to prepare for college or possible entry into traditional high school?
A high school transcript seems to be one of the biggest fears of many homeschoolers, even ones that started homeschooling from the beginning. It isn't, however, a terribly big deal.
You do NOT need a syllabus or class description. The schools are looking to see that the various areas required are covered. You are free to make up names for your "courses." For example, when my son developed an interest in WWII, we studied that, then followed our noses to continue with WWI and then the Cold War (not the traditional approach in schools, but it gave him a good understanding of cause/effect and what happened.) I labeled it "Modern World History" - and it happened to be pretty much the history I did NOT have when I was in school, due to moves, so I learned a lot, too. Another "course" we did was American History (some overlap, but from a different vantage point), and so forth. These labels were perfectly acceptable to the colleges that he applied to.
It helps, too, for your student to have some SAT-II or AP exams (the latter, only if they have properly prepared for them - a poor score isn't much help) to give the school some confidence in the level of knowledge in those subjects.
This all said - some schools will NOT accept any transcript from a homeschooler. In my state, homeschool students have to either have a GED, or, in addition to the SAT or ACT, take a COMPASS exam (covers reading, writing and math) to "verify" to the school that the student is capable of this level of work. I've written to the state Board of Education on this, as it is a very foolish rule - the COMPASS gives no new information over the SAT, and as neither covers social studies or science of any sort, it doesn't even verify that the student has the balance that most colleges are seeking. However, the COMPASS is a pretty easy exam, and not very expensive, and was no impediment.
But for transcripts, think of the information that schools are giving in one - not much, just a course name and a grade. That is similar to what a homeschooler can do.
I really like Linda's response, but I want to throw in one word of caution. Colleges vary wildly in what they want to see from homeschoolers. The wise applicant will check out expectations and requirements at each school they plan to apply to, and adhere as closely as possible to their guidelines. One school may want full course descriptions and lists of texts and other materials used, while another may be satisfied with a course title and parent awarded grade. Learn to write in "educationese" to communicate effectively on your transcript. Bloom's taxonomy is a great reference for writing this stuff.
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