Thursday, April 11, 2019

Transcripts Made Easy - A Practical Guide for Homeschoolers (A Homeschool Coffee Break Review)

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It's hard for me to believe, but my youngest child is putting final touches on her senior year of high school, and that means her transcript will soon be finalized. So it's quite timely that I'm able to review Transcripts Made Easy: The Homeschooler's Guide to High School Paperwork by Janice Campbell. I received the digital version (as a pdf download) of the book from Everyday Education, and have been double checking to make sure our transcript has everything it needs.

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Janice Campbell's Everyday Education website offers high quality resources for teaching and studying literature and homeschooling through high school. The website was started after Campbell wrote the first edition of Transcripts Made Easy and she challenged one of her sons to build a site to start selling her books. She is also the author of the Excellence in Literature programs, and has planning resources, Charlotte Mason resources, and McGuffey Readers available on the website as well.

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Transcripts Made Easy is now in its fourth edition, updated and expanded with current information. You'll find all you need to know about record-keeping, transcripts, and diplomas; and the updates include information about college alternatives, suggestions for records and transcripts for special needs students, and tips for college freshmen. There are also reproducible pages to help you with record-keeping.

Part 1 - Meet the Transcript explains the different parts of the transcript and the information it should include. Part 2 - Plan with the End in Mind is all about strategy and planning for your high school student's courses in order to meet the requirements for graduation. In Part 3 - Keep Simple Records, you'll get some helpful tips for keeping records that make sense and aren't cumbersome or too detailed. Part 4 - Grades, Credit, and the GPA explains those aspects of record-keeping, and discusses grading philosophy and how to grade ethically and credibly. With all your records in place and GPA calculated, you're ready for Part 5 - Create the Transcript. That's where you'll find the how-to instructions, formats, and samples. Part 6 - References, Resources, and Reproducibles wraps it all up with those reproducible forms and a glossary. There is a lot packed into about 130 pages overall!

How did we use it?   I'm one of those lucky homeschoolers that belongs to an oversight group that will produce and send a high school transcript for my student, so in a sense I don't need to make my own. But I am responsible for everything that is on my student's transcript - the course titles, the grades, the credits awarded, and all the information. In other words, this book is still a very important read for me! Since I'm about a month away from graduating my youngest, the sections addressing course titles, credible grading, and back-up records were the most relevant to me. And I admit that I read the rest thinking about what I might have wished I'd known during the high school years of my older kids.

I printed out the chapter contributed by Professor Carol Reynolds for my college-bound senior to read. This eight page section, Seven Strategies for a Successful First Year at College, lays out some very important advice to prepare parents and students for the realities of college, especially compared to what homeschooling may have been like. She points out that some of the things that seem super obvious to parents may be in a teenager's blind spot, which is often true! This section - like the rest of the book - is written primarily to the parent, but I think this one can and should be read by the student. She addresses topics like schedules, deadlines, "fairness", and how to interact with professors.

When we think about the transcript, we naturally think about college entrance. So I found it refreshing and reassuring that Campbell highlights the value and importance of skilled trades, apprenticeships, and entrepreneurship as alternatives to a traditional college education.

Among the ideas and samples for record-keeping, I especially liked the suggestion for a Class Profile Sheet. This is a one-page record of what was studied in a particular course, and would be useful if an admissions counselor wanted to know some specifics about what a student did as coursework.  The sample shows how one would keep a brief list of readings and assignments for one semester of a high school literature class. I actually wish now that I'd kept records like this for some of the courses my students completed during high school. A blank version of this form is included in the reproducibles, by the way.

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Another very useful suggestion that I wish I'd done better with in the past is in the Naming Classes section. She discusses keeping Subject Worksheets for short courses and activities that, on their own, would not constitute a credit unit. However, when those related activities can be summarized together, using a quality Class name, they may be combined for a credit. I've done this sort of thing with some of my students' courses, but I certainly didn't have a tidy summary of the different activities that were included in the credit I awarded!

I was surprised - pleasantly! - to find a couple of pages of excellent advice for evaluating a student's writing, followed by an Evaluation Rubric. I have been teaching high school writing classes in our co-op, and definitely appreciated the guidance on how to asses the content and style of student writing.

Unschoolers and the "chronically relaxed" (I finally know what to call myself, just as we're about to finish homeschooling!) will appreciate the pages with information about non-traditional grading.

What we liked best:
  • the "Where to Start in This Book" section found near the beginning - whether you're homeschooling an eighth grader and thinking ahead, or a senior and you're worried that you've left it too late; you will find help and reassurance in this book.
  • explanation of the various standardized tests for high schoolers, which summarizes the different tests and the strengths of each.
  • If you are creating your own transcript "from scratch", it's wonderful that the instructions are not just for what to put on the transcript, but also the detailed how-to for creating that transcript in a word processing program. These instructions are given for each of four transcript styles. 
    Our bottom line: With the homeschooling questions it answers, the practical advice it offers, and the clear explanations about high school record-keeping and awarding credits, I think this book is an extremely valuable resource that every homeschool parent should consider. I certainly wish I'd read it earlier.

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    Would you like to make this aspect of homeschooling high school a bit easier? Here's what you need to know:

    Visit the website:

    Pricing: Transcripts Made Easy: The Homeschooler's Guide to High School Paperwork is available as a paperback for $24.95; as an eBook for $19.95; or in a paperback and eBook bundle for $34.95.

    Age recommendations: The book is written to the homeschooling parent, but would also be suitable and valuable for high school students to read.

    You can follow Everyday Education on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

    Visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog for more information and to read other reviews.

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    Annette said...

    i like the class profile sheet as well. :)

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