Monday, July 29, 2013

The Cumulative Folder: Organizing High School Records

Your high schooler has a unique story. 

No matter what home education philosophy you have chosen, the story of how your student turned the high school tassel will be unique. What he or she studied, courses completed, because of interests and gifting, will be different. The story will be told to employers and college admission counselors in applications, transcripts, and course descriptions. From where do we get this valuable content?

The cumulative folder. Records we keep.

Over the last several weeks as we have been walking with parents through home education annual evaluations, we have visited with many high school parents, or parents just about to embark on the high school journey. Each family choosing interesting teaching options, different curriculum. 

From our own experience of schooling a high schooler, almost 10 years and counting (2 graduated and one current high schooler) I learned I needed to keep important information handy, easy to access, before and after graduation. My experience leads me to encourage others so they may have the same success, with as little stress as possible.

I encourage parents gathering high school records to keep in mind that one day they may have to "write" the "stories" of their high school students. One mom might gather documents for employment, another called to prove her "good student" was eligible for reduced car insurance. Still another parent might be preparing a high school transcript and other necessary documents required for college admission. I encourage these moms to keep their high school records well-organized in a cumulative folder (hard copies and digital) making the high school story writing process less daunting as the last days of high school near, and potential new doors open. Accurate and organized record keeping is the key to being prepared to compile official paperwork any employer or a college admissions packet might require.

There are many ways to keep high school records. Research examples from parents who have journeyed high school successfully. Talk with them. Glean from their experience. Check important information from reputable sources, the primary source if possible. Keep up to date regarding current admission trends. Read when you can. Your high school "guidance counselor" hat, the one you earn while you have high schoolers, will serve you well!

We organize high school records as soon as our students begin taking (at home)  or enroll in high school level courses. For some that was eighth grade Algebra I and Drawing and Painting. We purchase a two-inch binder, fill it with notebook paper and plastic protector sleeves, and use dividers to create twelve sections, arranged alphabetically:

  • Activities (a listing of sports, scouts, band, choir, youth ministry, 4-H)
    • We keep a digital copy on the computer and print as needed or to "back up" records.
  • Awards (each award for Honors Student, Presidential Physical Fitness, Eagle Scout, Student Leader placed in a plastic protective sleeve)
  • Certificates (each certificate for Most Valuable Player, Band President, Varsity sports placed in a plastic sleeve)
  • College admission requirements (for the colleges we are considering)
    • More and more we don't need this section as requirements are all online. I do keep a document of current links for the colleges of interest to our students (especially if I have two high schoolers at the same time!)
  • College applications (the actual documents found online, printed out for easily reference)
    • Printing out the application makes for easy reference should the student want to work on essays- they make great English writing assignments.
  • Community service/volunteer hours (a log of hours and the supervisor's contact information from church, community, political, and service organizations where the student volunteered, as well as hours documented in letter format on the organization's letterhead with contact information, dates of service, and hours served)
  • Grades (for each subject completed or currently enrolled)
  • Letters of recommendation (letters, placed in plastic sleeves, from individuals/supervisors who know your student in an educational setting, church setting, work setting, or community setting who can speak to character, work ethic and academic ability)
  • Medical records (verification of shots and any important medical information, colleges will need this for admission)
  • Test scores (sent to your home from PSAT, SAT, ACT, CLEP and AP)
  • Transcripts (outside the home, perhaps online classes or correspondence programs)
  • Work experience (listing of employer's contact information, employment dates, advancements, job titles and description of responsibilities)
  • Writing samples (perfect references for college essays)

Important papers and information are filed in the appropriate section as soon as they enter our home (or shortly thereafter!). This system is easily expandable if we need it to be and there is no limit to what we can include. We consider all information necessary until we find out otherwise.

As our students journey through their high school years we file information into the notebook. Having the information in one place speeds the story writing process. To write a resume for a potential employer we reference the letters of recommendation for possible references and contacts. At the end of the student's junior year when he/she begins to write college essays, the writing sample section of the notebook is a valuable resource. To write a high school transcript, we format the document on the computer and fill in the needed information from the notebook. We also refer to the notebook as we complete community service and extracurricular sections on college applications. The notebook is a goldmine of nuggets!

Writing your high schooler's high school story is exciting! Whether you are creating a resume for a first job, calculating grades for reduced car insurance premiums, or compiling a college admission's package, your high schooler's notebook will lessen stress and frustration. All the information will be at your fingertips, in one place. The time spent with your high schooler writing his/her story will be a memorable one, one in which you can rejoice togehter. It is the culmination, the last chapter, of the student's homeschool journey. Enjoy writing it!

Please note: This blog article is not meant as legal advice or counsel, only a synopsis of what has worked for us. Every student's high school journey is unique, therefore their paper work will be unique as well. Colleges will ask for varied documents, some listed above, others perhaps not. Not all students will need every piece of paperwork above, however if you find you need the information you will be able to find it efficiently. 


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