In August, I received this e-mail request: “Barb, how would you classify a Christian worldview class for a high school transcript? Our youth pastor teaches an hour long class once a week throughout the school year. The homework time probably takes the average child several hours a week. He uses the Summit Ministries textbooks, and the course covers most of the world’s religions. I thought you could even call it World Religions, but would it just be an elective or could it be used for something else? Thanks for your input!”
I frequently receive questions such as this. The heart of the question revolves around the struggle parents have with taking legitimate coursework accomplished by their sons and daughters in nontraditional settings and making it fit into traditional boxes that will be easy to understand on a transcript. I tackle these questions with excitement because of the flexibility Florida home educators have to follow a different path. I enjoy encouraging families to see education as learning all the time inside and outside the box, taking advantage of their freedom under our home education laws to translate any and every kind of learning experience into the box that the system is used to reviewing.
So how would I advise a family to establish a credit from the above “real” question? From this point on, act as if your child is in the above class and I’m talking directly to you.
First, you are absolutely correct in thinking that this learning experience can count for credit in various ways. To add confidence and assurance to those thoughts, let’s take a side trip to help you develop hooks for future application. Start by thinking of your graduate’s transcript as a photograph of the four to five years spent in high school. Then ask your son or daughter:
• How do you want that picture to look?
• Where do you need credits? Does this class or project fit into that category?
• Can you use this experience to shore up an academic gap?
• Can this self-designed class add more credibility to a core area of study in which you already have depth?
Remember, your goal is not to be absent of gaps — we all have them. However, you can strengthen areas where you have weaknesses, and showcase talents and passions where you shine.
In concert with asking the questions, add the following process to establishing a credit and title:
• Place the learning experience under a core credit category. The example in the e-mail fits naturally into social studies.
• Assign it to a closely related subject category. Use a history class for the example and satisfy one of the three social science credits the system requires.
• Create a title for that subject. Worldview studies, world religions or cultural studies works well for the original question presented.
• Tada — you’ve created a unit of study that walks, talks and sounds like the system’s duck!
Other categories, credits and titles can be constructed (more ducks).
Remember, if you’re homeschooling under the Florida statute, you have the liberty to disregard the system as far as verifying/proving the 24 credits required of the public and private systems. Florida home educators have the flexibility to tailor the education of their children to suit the child. Keep in mind that skills can be learned around any and every experience.
This takes a shift in thinking. As you plan and record the unique learning experiences of your child, switch out some of your vocabulary words. Use the word education, drop the word school, and begin to focus on skills learned and mastered, not subjects taken.
I don’t advise going too far out of the box with titles. You want college admissions counselors, grant and scholarship committees, and potential employers to understand what type of learning was accomplished when they read the transcript. In the example scenario, Summit Ministries has a rigorous curriculum, so much is being accomplished. You can even use their name as part of the class title: World Religion I (Summit Ministries).
If your child has been taking this class for several years, you can count it as one credit for each year the class is taken. In some years you could count it as an elective and not use it as a core subject at all.
Has your teen attended a Summit summer camp or seminar? It can be counted as part of the class objectives, or you could title it Summit Leadership Development, to be placed under the general category of Life Skills as an elective. If your child is headed toward ministry as a life calling/career, then you title it in a way that shows and highlights such. One more elective has been earned, and your photo looks more unique.
Don’t forget to use methods tailored around your family’s and child’s learning styles. Those activities can include serious family discussion around the dinner table, in the car, on vacation, after watching the news or a film, or while reading a book. That’s the application side of academics, putting into practice the accumulation of knowledge — two sides of the same coin.
Since there are no restrictions on how an experience, class, project or course can be used or titled, put on your thinking cap and be as brave and creative with establishing a credit as you were to jump into home education in the first place. Once you get used to it, you’ll end up celebrating life “like a champion rejoicing to run his course” (Psalm 19:5b).
If you need further assistance to think outside the box, you can contact me for a consultation (see below) or purchase my e-book How To Create a Home School Transcript Your Way, which thoroughly teases out the ideas presented here.
Though she no longer has children at home, Barb Mesh makes the most of her empty nest to serve homeschoolers as a consultant and workshop speaker. Her offerings include orientations to homeschooling and presentations on preparing for the high school years, including creating transcripts. For more information, visit www.learningathome.org.