Friday, March 1, 2013

Homeschooling High School: Keeping Track

This month's Homeschooling High School Carnival will be hosted by Vicky at Creating with Wisdom and the suggested topic is:

Record Keeping..... What records do you keep?  How do you present them? What influences your method, your emphasis in certain areas?
To answer this question I went back and looked at some of my old posts and I will link to them in chronological order but you don't have to follow the links unless you want to.

Age Quod Agis -- Logistics in the Homeschool
from a long time ago,  when only my oldest was past high school age
Record-Keeping Resources
(a list of links from 2006)
Trying for Specifics
Thoughts on Less is More Homeschooling
Strategies for Less Paper 
(a list of ideas)

From just the titles of the posts you can see that I am interested in logistics and record-keeping, but always try to steer the balance between too much and too little.    Keeping too careful records can be as unproductive as keeping no records at all.   And I use different systems at different times.  I used to deplore this, but now I think it is part of the creative element of homeschooling.   I am not a teacher dealing with 30+ children, after all.

Record-keeping for 1-10 children, after all, is not like trying to itemize the national debt.  If you are a scrapbooker or love to journal in pretty notebooks or blog, there is no reason that can't become an effective component of your record keeping.  Or perhaps you want your kids to learn to compile their own records, instead of or alongside your own.   Or you love spreadsheets or elegant forms to fill out, or like paperless electronic programs.  Or you like to hand that element over to a charter or private school.  Why not?  I increasingly doubt there is one best way, and it seems to me it would be a burden to work in a format you deeply disliked,unless there was a strong reason for it.

I can think of 4 reasons to keep high school records:
  1. To preserve the memory of those fast-fleeting  years.
  2. To lay the groundwork so planning is easier for subsequent children.
  3. To meet the requirements for a charter or private school in which your children are enrolled.  
  4. To prepare for college applications.

My four oldest children graduated from our homeschool rather from private or charter programs, so #3 wasn't a factor for us.

#1 and #4 are the most important for me.    Laying the groundwork for future children didn't really work out for me since they were all so different.    I love reading what we were doing at a given time, and though I don't love college planning, I know it's important.      Family record-keeping and college readiness don't have the same type of format, but I've found they can be somewhat compatible. 

Usually if you just keep up a habit of weekly checklists or assignment sheets, even just lists on pieces of paper or brief journalistic logs, the records basically take care of themselves because at the end of the year, or four years, you already have all the checklists to refer back to, and if you keep a book log (for independent reading) and an activity log (to record various trips, vocational activities or outside classes or exams) in addition, you really have all you need for a paper trail. 

My most comprehensive effort to keep detailed plans and records were usually on blogs, which are easier for me to use, search through and keep track of than any other paper or paperless system I have found.  Here are links to a few of these efforts (which generally didn't carry through consistently, but give me time-lapse snapshots of what we were doing at given times)

Year 9 Index
Year 11
Schola et Studium

In a lot of ways, keeping records for high schoolers seems easier to me than keeping records  for younger children because high schoolers tend to use the same books/texts/resources for longer periods of time than younger kids do.     So for example, my high schooler at present is doing Theology, Physics, Geometry, Literature, English, Latin, and World History, plus various resources I call "Worldview" but which I will end up lumping in under more standard subject titles when I fill out his formal transcript.  I also have a category for life experience in which I would keep physical exercise, travel, work experience, skills developed, etc.

I keep loose running track but things like Physics and Geometry come down to "do the next lesson".    If in addition  I keep a log of books read, and life experiences, I am basically set as far as college prospects go. 

I usually don't make a formal transcript until late junior or early senior year.   For example, when my oldest w was getting ready to apply for college, we just sorted through his box of notebooks, papers and checklists.   I went through his math and science papers and developed course grades based on the scores of the individual papers.    Then I went through his checklists where he had logged books he read either for requirements or in his spare time.   The checklists plus the papers also gave me a good estimate of how much time he had spent on a course -- for example, in his freshman year he only did enough Latin to add up to about a semester credit but the following years he did close to a year's work in a year.

Once I had estimated the number of hours he had logged, I adjusted downwards, being very concerned about not puffing up his grades or credits just because I was his Mom : ).   So for example he generally did enough hours on Language and Literature to make 2 courses worth in English (since I am a literature type) but I would just fold the literature hours into either his Language Arts or History credit.   Since we did less "busywork" and more reading than the standard American high school course, I felt that the extra reading helped make up for slightly less time in the other components of a course.    A public high schooler, for example, will spend an hour per day in English class and come home with half an hour of homework;  my children did not spend that much time listening and writing out worksheets, but made up the lack in a greater quantity of reading.

Basically,  my experience with college applications was that they didn't want long booklists or detailed portfolios.  They wanted titled courses, grades, a list of extra-curricular pursuits (again, titled generally like "Violin Lessons" or "Computer Internship", and any independent verification of academic ability or experience (for example, references from adults the students had worked closely with, transcripts from outside classes, exam scores, etc).   So this made it simple to compose a transcript; though I would also have the lists, paperwork and etc ready at hand if someone DID ask for it). 

Here is a sample transcript from my three older high schoolers.   I generalized it to protect their privacy.

Here's a sample checklist of Sean's when he was in 8th grade (he was going to the Bryans' house for a visit, so it was a sort of streamlined version of his normal checklist, with things he could do on his own)

Here's another version of a middle school checklist/recordkeeping sheet.  This one was for a 6th grader. 

 The way our homeschooling works, we swing between more formal academics and more flexible, open-ended seasons.     When we are doing more formal stuff, I keep this kind of record; when we are being less formal, I just keep running lists or journal-type documents.  I don't have sheets for those, but if you are interested,the Learning Log on my old planning blog shows the flow of the days for two middle schoolers (Kieron and Sean)


  1. It's interesting to read about transcripts, Willa. One of my iPad apps has entries relating to credits and I had no idea what it meant but I had to enter something so I typed in 10 for everything. Looking at your example, it appears that I have genius children - they'll each be completing 140 units, this term!

    As an enthusiastic list maker, I so enjoyed reading this post:-)

    God bless, Willa:-)

  2. "To preserve the memory of those fast-fleeting years"
    I also love this part of record keeping, love looking back at what we've learnt, the paths we've taken. The American college entry system is rather different to Australia, rather daunting!


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