Monday, April 6, 2015

Intentional High School Years- Part I- Transcripts

Intentionality has paid off in the high school years. 

Before I began the high school journey with my oldest, I was determined to start it off "right". I attended everything from panel discussions with home school grads and moms to transcript seminars with guidance and educational professionals...before my first son ever started checking off credits. I know, perhaps a bit intense.

There were many reasons for my jump start before the high school years

Perhaps the first reason was my interest and passion for all things education. Even with my confidence in what I knew about education there was, down inside my mind, a nagging voice: "you will mess up your first-born, home-educated guinea pig". Regardless the main reason for my jump start, the varied motivations (right or wrong) along the journey made me seek answers.

Empowerment: one of the greatest gifts I have given myself as a mama of high schoolers

This remains true today as I journey with my third high school young adult. Yes, some information remains relevant, however, legislation, college admission trends, unique interests of each student, change. So, even after two home graduates, I still seek answers.

Most of what I learned in 2003 when I began the high school journey (wow, has it really been 12 years on the high school journey?) about the layout and contents of transcripts has remained constant. I haven't had to adjust my approach to transcript design and development, thankfully. (Though I will admit, I changed layout a bit for the current student to highlight specific strengths.)

The challenge today, however, is not a lack of information or empowerment. 

Instead, I now fight full days and the looming end of a semester...and it's time to update my current high schooler's transcript! WHEW!

This week, I need to pull up my boot straps and make room in my schedule for what I have learned-- and now advise others to do when I teach workshops or do individual consults. Sometimes it is hard to follow our own advice...ugh!

What have  I learned (and still intentionally apply) regarding keeping transcripts up-to-date? 

After my high schooler and I map out a four-year plan in pencil, I create a template for that young adult's transcript (a snapshot of the high school years) as soon as my student begins high school level classes, if possible. I add courses as they are started and fill in credits and grades as they are earned (or at least try to keep up as best I can- you never know who will ask for this important document)

With one of my high schoolers, due to the birth of a new baby, I got behind on recording, and oh my, it was hard to catch up. Catching up, however, is still easier than starting from square one when the local sports team or auto insurance company request a copy. YIKES! Been there, too!

As our first eighth grader enrolled in high school level courses, I began the process of researching transcript formats and contents. Once I had compiled a list of "transcript essentials" colleges were requiring, I typed anticipated courses into the document in progress. This intentional preparation was a great help as the semester and the year ticked on. I was tired and spring baseball season was in full force. The last thing I had time and energy to do was to sit, research, and create with a clear mind. After all, in the spring of that year I was already planning for the next school year.

When summer break arrived, I finished adding grades and credits to the document. As we discussed courses for the upcoming year, I added those anticipated courses to the document, later deleting and reformatting as the semester progressed. This was a valuable lesson for me to learn, especially when I had littles learning to read or middle schoolers who needed a paragraph edited. The little work up front paid dividends in the end. 

I have learned the transcript is gold when applying to colleges. It is typically the first document in the college application pile and sets the tone for the entire stack of paperwork. If admission officials like what they see, or are curious about those out-of-the box courses no other applying student has completed, the college application stands a better chance at a second read. With that weight of importance, my intentional efforts are worth the early start and purposeful additions each semester. 

Creating a professional, concise, clear snapshot of your young adult's high school years is worth the time and energy of research and document design. When I speak to parents about transcript creation, some of the least common questions relate to the intentional steps of keeping the document current. Most parents want to know the nuts and bolts of the "must haves" which we cover in my workshops. However, when time comes to sit in front of the computer and get it on paper, fear resurfaces and often causes procrastination. 

Empower yourself! Go to workshops. Search online for example templates. However, also be intentional to take time to add, delete, and making necessary, timely changes. This document deserves your attention, and you will be thankful for your intentional steps forward. You can develop a transcript of home learning that catches the attention of future college officials and employers. It is possible and you are able!

*The information in this blog post is not intended as legal or educational advice. It is simply a journal of what worked for us. Parents are responsible to oversee their child's home education. 

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