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4 Steps to Building an Effective Transcript (and Other High School Recordkeeping Tricks)

April 3–7, 2017   |   Vol. 130, Programs 26–30

Is your homeschool student starting or approaching high school? Then you need a recordkeeping plan! Today on Homeschool Heartbeat, hear crucial tips for high school grading and recordkeeping from HSLDA high school consultant Diane Kummer.

In this week’s podcast, you’ll learn how to:

  • Keep accurate high school records
  • Build the foundation for a transcript
  • Put together a winning transcript
  • Grade your student effectively
  • Avoid common recordkeeping mistakes
“Homeschool parents need to document the exceptional opportunities their teens take part in and the wonderful education they’ve received.”—Diane Kummer

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Is your homeschool student starting or approaching high school? Then you need a recordkeeping plan! Today on Homeschool Heartbeat, HSLDA consultant Diane Kummer shares crucial tips on high school grading and recordkeeping.

Mike Smith: My guest today is Diane Kummer. She’s a former homeschooling mom and one of HSLDA’s high school consultants. Diane, welcome to the program!

Diane Kummer: Thanks, Mike, for having me.

Why keep good records? [0:25]

Mike: Diane, let’s talk about records. Why is it so crucial for high school students to keep detailed records, and how can that affect their post-graduation opportunities?

Diane: Well, records are important for many reasons, Mike. Good records prove the veracity of the education parents have provided their teens. Parents should check the HSLDA website to determine if their state homeschool law requires them to keep certain records, such as hours of instruction or days of attendance. However, in addition to what’s legally required, there are other records that colleges, employers, trade schools, military recruiters, apprenticeship programs, and scholarship committees may require. These entities will need to make an assessment of the teen’s academic abilities. They also want to know about the teen’s extracurricular activities, interests, and passions.

The records parents keep for their teens enable others to have a better understanding of the education that’s been provided. Homeschool parents need to document the exceptional opportunities their teens take part in and the wonderful education they’ve received. Good records showcase the teen’s accomplishments. Parents should begin a good recordkeeping system when teens reach the high school years, and then keep on top of those records throughout high school.

Building the foundation [1:39]

Mike: Diane, transcripts are the backbone of high school recordkeeping. But many parents don’t know where to start when it comes to making a high school transcript. What advice do you have for them today?

Diane: Mike, in order for parents to create a transcript for their teens, it’s important to develop a good recordkeeping system when teens start any high school level courses. The academic records that parents keep become the source of data that’s commonly found on a transcript.

I suggest that parents write brief course descriptions for each high school course at the beginning of the course. These course descriptions may not be seen by anyone but the parent. Nonetheless, they are important. Course descriptions serve as backup documentation for the summary information on the transcript.

A course description would include [the] title of the course and the materials used—such as textbooks, videos, reading lists, websites, or other curriculum resources. It also includes a brief explanation of the method of evaluation the parent used to determine a grade in the course. Last, the course description includes how much credit the parent assigned to the course.

From these course descriptions, a parent can then easily create a transcript that provides others with the information they need to assess the teen’s academic accomplishments.

4 steps to creating a successful transcript [2:53]

Mike: Diane, what information is essential to include in a high school transcript?

Diane: Mike, a transcript includes four main sections.

The first section provides personal student information, such as student name, address, phone number, email address, date of birth, and parents’ names. This section also includes the name of your homeschool, [its] address, phone number, and contact person—which is usually the parent, of course.

The second section includes course title, final grade, and credit earned for each high school course completed.

The third section includes a recap of credits earned and Grade Point Average (or GPA).

The fourth section is the signature and self-certification section.

Mike: Is there anything else that maybe isn’t vital to the document, but would still be good to include on the transcript?

Diane: Yes. The final transcript should include the month, day, and year of the student’s graduation date. If a teen needs a transcript at any time prior to transcript to graduation, the partial transcript can include the expected month and year of the teen’s graduation.

Some transcripts include the teen’s Social Security number. However, I suggest parents not include their teen’s Social Security number on the transcript. A college or job application usually requires a Social Security number, so it’s not necessary to duplicate this number on the high school transcript.

Don’t forget to grade! [4:11]

Mike: Diane, some parents are unsure about how to grade their high schoolers’ course for their transcript. What is the best way to approach the high school grading process?

Diane: I encourage parents to give thought to how they would like to evaluate their teen’s coursework prior to the beginning of the course. Parents have much flexibility to determine the evaluation tools they’ll use. They may decide to use any combination of tests, quizzes, papers, projects, oral discussions, or presentations.

It’s important for teens to develop good test-taking skills and good writing skills for post-high school employment or college. Parents should consider using a variety of these methods to evaluate their teens coursework.

Mike: Diane, let’s talk about extracurriculars? What’s the best way for parents to accurately document their students’ accomplishments in those areas?

Diane: Extracurricular means all of those activities teens may participate in, including part-time and summer jobs, sports, music, community service, clubs, hobbies, and much more.

I encourage parents to keep track of these activities throughout the year by logging hours of participation, noting the skills their teens are learning, and also including contact information of the coach, instructor, or employer. Simply jot down these details on a regular basis. The information will then be available whenever requested by an outside source.

The HSLDA website has a sample extracurricular sheet for parents to review.

3 common recordkeeping mistakes [5:40]

Mike: Diane, what are the biggest mistakes parents can make when it comes to transcripts and recordkeeping—and how can they avoid them?

Diane: Mike, one mistake I see parents make in relation to recordkeeping is not setting up a workable system to track the information. There are resources on HSLDA’s website that provide parents with an outline of the records that are important to keep. A file folder, a three-ring binder, or folders on the computer can be set up to keep records. Once the system is in place, then simply add new information.

Another mistake that parents may make is not understanding that college admissions officers, employers, and military recruiters will be interested in details pertaining to their teen’s education. It’s best to keep track of things as they happen, rather than try[ing] to recreate records many years later, when it may be difficult to remember what courses were taught to which child in what year.

A third mistake that parents make is not backing up important records. I’ve spoken with parents who have lost all of their school records—including the transcript—when their computers have crashed or their homes were destroyed by fires or natural disaster. I suggest that parents make copies of important records and safeguard them.

Mike: Diane, on behalf of all of the grateful homeschooling parents out there whose lives just got significantly easier because of your advice, I want to thank you for joining us this week. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Diane KummerPhoto of Diane Kummer

Diane and her husband Tom homeschooled their two children from kindergarten through 12th grade using a variety of teaching options. Both of their children went on to college, and are now well into their careers.

She joined the staff of Home School Legal Defense Association nine years ago to help develop HSLDA’s Homeschooling Thru High School program and website. As an HSLDA High School Consultant, Diane regularly speaks nationwide at homeschool conferences and presents high school symposiums where she shares from her experiences and her imperfect (but real) homeschooling days! Her practical and encouraging high school seminars provide information that inspires parents to continue teaching their teens at home with confidence.

Diane enjoys writing articles (such as regular columns for the Homeschool Enrichment and Court Report magazines as well as other publications), brochures on high school topics, and a monthly high school newsletter filled with helpful tips. She reviews new resources, provides personal consultation to HSLDA members, and has been a guest speaker on HSLDA’s Homeschool Heartbeat radio program. Her weekly entries to HSLDA’s Homeschooling Now Teaching Tips blog provide parents with timely high school information and advice.

Diane loves math and taught high school math classes for homeschooled students for many years. In her free time, she enjoys teaching ladies’ Bible studies and being involved in pro-life ministries. Graduating from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Business Management, she enjoyed a banking career prior to starting a family and beginning her homeschool adventure.

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