Homeschooling High School: GPAs and Transcripts

My daughter is a junior in high school this year and has begun to apply for scholarships and is considering early admission to the university. As the year begins to wind down, we are giving more thought to her high transcript.

Teen girl holding hands in shape of peace symbol with text overlay "GPAs and Transcripts", magnolia tree in bloom in background

Many homeschool families get stressed by this aspect of homeschooling and fear the university will not accept a “homemade” transcript. The process of calculating your child’s GPA and creating a transcript is not difficult. There are many tutorials online to help guide you through this process.

Through our research – talking to local high school teachers and admissions counselors at our state universities – we have found it is best for high schoolers to use an unweighted GPA. In other words:

  • A’s receive a 4.0
  • B’s receive a 3.0
  • C’s receive a 2.0

I strongly suggest that the course be taken over again if the student earns anything lower than a C. Though our preference is to keep it simple, you can use half-points or quarter-points if you want to use a plus/minus grade system.

However, as many of the courses my daughter has taken are dual-enrollment course at the local community college, I opted to not use letter grades on her high school transcript. Instead, we will use a mastery approach. We do not consider a course complete until the material is mastered at the appropriate level.

The Core Courses

To apply for admission to a university in Oregon, the courses that students must have completed are outlined as:

  • Language Arts – 4 years (12 trimester credits)
  • Math – 3 years (9 trimester credits)
  • Science – 3 years (9 trimester credits)
  • Social Studies – 3 years (9 trimester credits)
  • World Languages – 2 years (6 trimester credits)

In a future post, I will share more details about the language requirement and different avenues by which to fulfill it as homeschoolers.

What About those Electives?

In addition to the student’s GPA, admission requirements also assess student preparedness and academic potential by looking at the unique context of each student’s personal experience.  Academic performance is not the sole criterion and successful applicants demonstrate a wide range of passions and life experiences.

Teens have many different interests and as they pursue their passions, homeschool parents often wonder how they might translate these hours onto a transcript. I previously wrote a post detailing the ABCs of High School Electives and provide a peak into how this can be done easily.

Academic Rigor

Often homeschool families and/or high schools will weight the GPA because they want to show that students with a weighted grade have completed an academically rigorous course (as in 5.0 for a rigorous course instead of 4.0).

However, it is much easier and more effective to show academic rigor by simply including the level of rigor in the title of the course on the transcript. For example, if your homeschool high schooler completed an honors level language arts course their senior year, the transcript might say: English Language Arts IV (Honors).

Please note that the College Board owns the term AP, so all courses that call themselves such must have approval. However, students may prepare for and take AP exams without having completed an approved AP course. It is important to confer with the university of choice whether they will accept AP exams for university credit.

For more information on homeschooling high school transcripts, two of my favorite resources by fellow homeschoolers are:

The Ultimate Guide to Creating an Unschooling High School Transcript from Joan Concilo at Unschool Rules

Do You Make This Big Homeschooling High School Transcript Mistake? from Heather at Blog, She Wrote

The ABCs of High School Electives: Translating Passions on Transcripts

As the academic year comes to a close, you may be thinking of nothing more than your summer bucket list. Many students however, like my daughter, have their eyes set on pursuing opportunities that can better prepare them for their career choice or expand their extracurricular experiences.

image of teen girl giving an oral presentation or speech

This past summer my daughter attended a week-long engineering camp at the university. This opportunity not only provided her with insight into her field of interest but also connected her to key personnel in the department. She emerged with a greater understanding of the skills she will need to succeed in her field. She also collaborated with another teen on an engineering project and gave a presentation at the conclusion of the course.

Summer camps like the one I described and short courses in art or sailing provide youth with hours that can be used for elective credits. Unlike required courses, electives are classes the student chooses based on her interests. It is the perfect way to customize a child’s education.

ABCs of High School Electives

While most high schools offer electives that cover a wide variety of topics, homeschoolers have the opportunity to craft a transcript that is unique and the most reflective of a student’s interests and future career goals.

This past year for example, my daughter has been actively involved in the Debate Club at the local community college. While it is an informal group (they haven’t competed against other schools), they are engaged in forensic experiences. The hours she attends and the research she invests in preparing her speeches can be applied to her transcript.

The possibilities are endless. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

A – Art & Graphic Design, Aeronautics, or Architecture

B – Birding (Ornithology) 

C – Culinary Arts

D – Drama, Drones (Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems)

E – Electronics 

F – Forensic Science

G – Game Design (Coding)

H – Homemaking

I – Interior Design

J – Journalism

K – Kinesiology (Sports Science)

L – Languages

M – Music (Performance & Theory)

N – Naturopathy, Nursing, or Nature Studies

O – Oceanography (Marine Science)

P – Psychology

Q – Quilting (Fiber Arts)

R – Robotics

S – Sociology

T – Toastmasters (Public Speaking and/or Debate)

U – Urban Studies

V – Venturing (Scouting)

W – Web Design 

X – Xeriscaping 

Y – Yearbook 

Z – Zoology

It would be impossible for any single school – public or private – to offer every elective on this list; there are simply too many. Schools are forced to choose which electives to offer based on a number of factors including location, student population, resources available, teacher expertise, and student interest. Homeschools, on the other hand, are not restricted by these factors.

Translating Elective Hours on the Transcript

Translating the hours a child has invested in a particular area can be done with ease. Simply keep an activity log as documentation of the hours invested. Click on the image below to download a FREE copy for yourself.image of an activity log used to track hours of instruction

In Oregon, 1 high school trimester is equal to 1 high school credit hour. This translates to approximately 55 hours of seat time/instruction. Thus, the 61 hours my daughter volunteered at the art museum last summer earned her 1 trimester credit.

These hours can be accumulated by watching instructional videos, TED talks, attending local seminars, reading informative texts, taking a specialized course (either in person or online), or any myriad of things related to the field of interest.

Use the course descriptions provided by local schools as a guide as you write your own. Keep in mind that electives can have different names depending on the school offering them, even if they cover essentially the same topic (for example, a culinary arts class could also be called cooking, foods, or something similar).

On a related note, forensics has long meant the art of speechmaking and oral presentation. Debate clubs, on the other hand, involve students in researching a pre-selected topic and then trying to convince people of their position. It’s a cousin of forensics but not the same thing.

To add to the confusion, Forensics Clubs and courses in Forensic Science are popping up in many modern schools, inspired by popular television shows. Using an optional course description can help to alleviate any confusion.

Finishing Strong #105: High School Electives and Extracurricular Activities

My daughter has started high school this year and with it comes numerous challenges – both expected and unexpected. In Oregon homeschool students have the option of participating on the local high school sports team, joining extracurricular clubs, and even taking classes (both core courses and electives).

With the encouragement of her swim coach, Geneva has decided to take on the challenge of swimming for the high school swim team. As a club swimmer, we have always aimed to swim 3-4 days a week, but have not felt pressure to compete or practice more often.

notsoccermom2As a high school swimmer, she is required to attend practices at least 5 times each week in order to swim competitively. There are many more meets and active participation is expected. This not only adds a challenge to our schedule but also increases the expectations upon her to maintain her grades and manage her time well.

You might be interested in a post I wrote previously, I Am NOT a Soccer Mom (or How to Avoid Child Burnout).

Jeffrey has also taken on an additional extracurricular activity through one of our local middle schools – FIRST Lego League. With a competition coming up on December 3rd and holiday breaks, in the month of November the team has been meeting two-three times each week.

As a result of their activities, I have less time to volunteer or substitute teach as I am required to chauffeur them from one activity to the next – sometimes criss-crossing town to get them to conflicting lessons. Yikes! I don’t know how families with more than two children do it!


finishing-strong-electivesWelcome to Finishing Strong ~ a weekly link-up dedicated to families homeschooling middle & high school kids. Each Wednesday, moms just like you share their best tips, encouragement, advice, and more for teaching older kids at home.

Finishing Strong is hosted by me here at EvaVarga along with my friends – Heather from Blog She Wrote, Megan and Susan from Education Possible, and Heidi from Starts at Eight.

I know you will find the posts that have been shared with us inspiring! Grab a cup of tea, kick back, and take some time to check out the wonderful posts shared below. What are your favorites?

Teens Volunteer HoursThe most clicked upon post last week was from Tara at Embark on the Journey, 7 Ways Homeschool Teens Can Get Volunteer Hours. I love her suggestions particularly, “let them start making phone calls. Let them be in charge of their volunteer work.”

High School ElectivesMy favorite post this last week was High School Electives – A More In-depth Look at Our Choices by Heidi at Starts at Eight. I love the 4 year plan she shares (a free printable!) and her statement,

High school electives go beyond the core classes of English, math, science, and history. Electives supplement the educational years with classes that interest your child and prepare them for adult life”

Creative High School CreditThe next post I would like to highlight is 4 Creative Ways to Earn High School Credit in Early Childhood Education by Vicki who blogs at 7 Sisters Homeschool. While not all high school students will pursue credit in early childhood education, I highlight this post because it is a great example of how we can be innovative and creative in our approach to high school credit.


As always, thank you for helping us to make Finishing Strong a key resource for families who are homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

What are you going to share with us this week?

Guidelines:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  2. Please no advertising, individual Pinterest pins, Facebook, Twitter, or other link-up links!
  3. Grab our button to add to your post after you link it up. Each week we will be choosing our favorite posts to highlight on all 4 sites. If you were featured, we would love for you to use the “I was featured” button.
  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

Please Share!

Add our button to your post.

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

Were You Featured?

Grab an “I was featured” button!

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years