Written by Kara Anderson
A few years ago, I had a panic going on.
My son was starting middle school, and I felt like we had to get serious. After years of interest-led learning, and the gentleness of Waldorf, I convinced myself that we needed to switch gears and be able to clearly. quantify. all. learning.
In two years, he would be in high school, I reasoned. We needed to start thinking about The Transcript.
The Transcript haunted me.
I was really worried about how we were going to be able to show what he had learned when his learning felt a little “all over the place.” And I had nightmares of him not being able to get into college because of my failure to properly record the two weeks we spent watching the Ken Burns Vietnam documentary series.
Then one day I ran into my friend at Target. We caught up and I learned that her daughter had just started middle school! The only thing was … her daughter was in 6th grade.
And that’s how I learned that in our district, middle school starts in 6th grade. Not 7th grade like I had been thinking.
So the truth was, I was already a year behind in building The Transcript.
But honestly, running into the friend provided a wonderful wake-up call for me – it was a reminder that different school districts do things different ways, and that there really wasn’t any kind of rush.
We could certainly wait to start The Transcript until at least 9th grade, and it didn’t have to be this big overwhelming thing.
We didn’t have to change everything – we just had to find a way to document what we were already doing.
Deep breaths. So this year, we started The Transcript.
As unschooly types, I don’t plan out much in advance. We like to follow the kids’ interests here, which means that long-term planning is sort of a fool’s errand.
I would rather spend my time finding resources for them in the midst of their own explorations, and occasionally setting up learning invitations.
So I plan backwards. That means that I write down what we do after we do it.
The benefit of this with transcript-building is that whatever I write down is already done, so it’s easy to document it without trying to remember if we actually did the thing I was hoping to do.
Refresh yourself on credits and units and all that jazz
This summer, I reached out to my pal Melissa, whose oldest daughter recently started college.
Here is what she told me:
“A year-long class is one ‘unit,’ a semester-long class is ½ unit.
A unit = between 120-180 ‘Carnegie units’
A Carnegie unit = 1 hour of instruction or 2 of practice
We counted reading, YouTube videos, curriculum, any kind of lessons, and discussion as ‘instruction.’ We counted hands-on stuff that didn’t involve new learning or processing as ‘practice.'”
After reading this, I felt my shoulders lift. This was so do-able!
(P.S. She also said Khan Academy SAT Prep is amazing.)
I started a simple Google Sheet where I track everything. I add things by general subject, and just for fun, I color-code according to subject. That just helps me to see, OK, we’ve been doing a lot of history lately, but maybe not so much writing…
Then I can chat with my teen about that. Because guess what – a teen who really wants to go to college is invested in this process. Crazy, right?
I also set an alarm in my calendar, and once a month, I make sure I update The Transcript. That means I comb his room for library books that need to be returned anyway, projects that he’s completed, and look back at my bullet journal for what we’ve done that month.
It’s time to step up, kiddo
The great thing about teaching a high school kid is that they are usually 13- or 14-years-old, so it’s naturally time for them to take a little more personal responsibility.
Therefore, if you have a kid committed to going to college, you can get them to help keep their own transcript. Share that Google Sheet! Have them set an alarm in their phone.
If, on the other hand, your kid is a little “meh” on their future, don’t freak out. Which brings me to…
What about kids who might not want to go to college?
If your child is not planning on going to college, or isn’t sure what she or he wants to do after graduation, it’s smart to start a transcript anyway.
They don’t HAVE to use it. It isn’t going to hurt anything if they decide to go another route after high school.
BUT, if they do decide to pursue college, you’re not trying to invent a transcript last-minute.
And if they decide at 40 to go back to school, they don’t have to try to remember what they did for science 24 years ago.
So take heart, fellow relaxed homeschoolers – we can do this.
We can figure it out.
We’ve figured out everything else so far with parenting and homeschooling, right?
This is just another step we’re taking together.
Have you built a transcript with your child, or are you building one now? What tips would you share?