Last Updated on March 12, 2023 by Sarah McCubbin
If you have a high school homeschooled student going to public or private school, you may wondering how to write a transcript that the school will accept. I am not an expert, but I am a mom who has navigated this process and helped many others do the same. Here is what I learned.
After being homeschooled from grades K-10, our 15 year old son, Flynn, decided he wanted to go to school for his junior and senior year. He had taken a very full course load as a homeschooler, so going to school wasn’t really about the school work but for him it was more about the social opportunities and the chance to learn from teachers who loved science as much as he did.
Prior to his enrollment, I had already written transcripts for several of my kids who were taking college classes, so it seemed like writing a transcript for school would be the same.
I was wrong!
Because of my mistakes and not asking good questions ahead of time, several of his high school classes did not count for his school transcript. Please learn from my mistakes.
Table of Contents
8 Steps to Writing a Transcript for a Homeschooled Student Going to Public or Private School
I have written a post on writing up a homeschool transcript where you can see step by step how to write a traditional homeschool transcript. Definitely read that one too. However, the steps below are slightly different because there are other factors to consider when you are sending your homeschooled child to a public or private high school.
The school has NO OBLIGATION to accept all of the classes on your transcript. The steps below are designed to improve communication and reduce frustration in the whole process.
1. Start with a list of classes your child has taken.
These can be completed classes….or ones that are in progress. On this list, write down EVERY kind of class…even if you aren’t sure you will give credit for it yet.
2. Get a copy of your school’s Class Offerings.
Go through their class offerings and highlight the ones that most closely line up to the work your child has done. Write down those class names next to the ones on your original list of classes your child has taken.
3. Now go through the “Class Offerings” and look at the classes your child would like to take the first year they are in school.
Do any of those classes have prerequisites? At my son’s school, they required “Honors” Chemistry be taken before AP Chemistry. In the homeschool world, most of us aren’t tacking “honors” onto our kids regular transcripts….at least I never did for my graduating kids. However, in the school world, labeling your child’s work “Honors” may determine whether they can take the classses they want.
We have friends that enrolled their very bright children in the same school as my son but didn’t label any of their work as honors. When this mom realized her mistake, the school would not let her change the transcripta leaving her daughter to take classes that did not challenge her academically.
So go down your class list and label any class they have taken as “Honors” that fits. In my case, I labeled all my son’s Science and Math as Honors because it was an honest assessment of his ability. However, I did not label his Language Arts as honors because he had demonstrated good work in that area but not high level work. That was a judgement call on my part. I didn’t want him to go to school and be buried by the amount of work in a subject that was not quite as strong for him.
4. Now, go through your classlist and rename them to closely match courses the school already has.
This just makes it easier for them to know how to match up your child’s work to their required courses.
5. Write up course descriptions for your classes.
Keep it simple. What books and experiences did you use.
I was overly wordy in some of my descriptions. My son had taken some of his science classes at a drop off program at a local science center. It was not through a university…nor was it a co-op. When I turned in his course descriptions, they told me they would not accept those 3 courses because they were not taught at a co-op, by me or through a university. They said that they could only take classes if the person who taught was degreed in the subject they were teaching. It honestly caught me off guard.
I had prepared this transcript carefully because of talking to others about the problems they encountered.
6. Ask the school if there are any kinds of classes they do not accept
I did not do this and it was a mistake. My son had 7 high school science credits by the time he was in 10th grade. He started in middle school and usually took 2 science classes a year…and 3 in one year. All of these were actual classes in a co-op or private classes. However, on our course descriptions, I explained where he had taken each class.
Some of his classes has been taken at a local science center. They had creative names relating to agriculture, botany and astronomy.They were 3 hours once a week…with a full homework load. However, the school saw “science center” on the course descriptions and said,, “Are the teachers there licensed? Do they have degrees in the field that they were teaching? Did they have advanced degrees?”
To this day, it still boggles my mind. If I had it to do over again, I would write simple course names and include just the names of the books and the types of coursework. I would not mention on any class where they took it…or who taught it.
7. Ask the school what kind of documentation of coursework they would like to see
Some schools may not ask to see anything. Others may want to see test scores or samples of their work.
Tip: One friend enrolling in public school had to bring in all her textbooks. They wanted to look at the table of contents. So she recommended always taking a picture of the cover and of the table of contents to keep with a student’s portfolio if there was a chance they would go to school.
Another friend was enrolling her daughter in the local public school. She had taken years of dance classes, so the mom expected that she would be able to add that to her transcript. The school did not agree.
In cases like this, you may want to ask the school what kind of documentation they would accept to allow your child’s learning to be accepted on the transcript. Plan to be persistent.
8. Take a Standardized Test
Because each of us homeschool in our own unique way, taking a standardized test can really help the schools have a framework for your student’s academics in a form that makes sense. We all know that standardized tests are only one measure of understanding and some kids do not perform well on these tests. However, it is yet another piece of information that is familiar for schools.
What If I’m Not Sure If My Teen Is the Right Grade Level for School?
Because each of us as homeschoolers does things a different way, it is very common for parents to wonder if their child will be able to learn in the school environment. We wonder if it will be too fast paced or if they will be able to figure out how to learn from so many teachers. When your homeschooled child is going to public or private school, you don’t need to worry…the schools will help place your child in the spot.
Homeschool to Public School Placement Test
As it turns out, schools “usually” want your child to thrive. They know that not every 14 year old coming into Freshman year has had the same education. So they will give homeschooled students a placement test when they enroll in public school. If your child does not score well, it does not mean they can’t go to school. There are often remedial options to get your child the help they need if necessary.
It is not necessary to study for your public school placement test.
Homeschool to Private School Entrance Exam
If your homeschooled child is going to a private school, I would HIGHLY encourage you to find out which placement exam they use for the school. In some cases, your child’s acceptance is determined by the score they receive. Other times, scholarship dollars are available for a high score.
When my kids took the entrance exam, they didn’t study. We really knew nothing about the whole “Entrance Exam” process. My first son did ok…well enough to get in…as did my second son but my daughter really struggled. It was at that time that we learned you could actually practice for the entrance exam. I know…seems silly, but it just wasn’t on my radar.
We ended up using TestPrep-Online.com for our entrance exam prep and it was a great experience. Your child can take many sample tests. My kids were taking the OLSAT8 and were able to take the tests for the level above and below them as well to get a better feel for the test.
I highly recommend doing test prep if your child is taking an entrance exam!
What If My Child Fails the Private School Entrance Exam?
Occasionally, a homeschooled student may be a bit behind their peers per the private school standards. It may feel insurmountable…like you failed and that your child is now down an option. If your child does poorly, you may have a couple of options:
- Do Test Prep and Retake the Exam
- Ask the school if your child may enroll one grade behind
- Ask the school if they have options for families in your situation. My daughters scores were below average for math. They agreed to let her come with the understanding that we knew she would likely need extra help. My daughter understood this as well. And has chosen to go to math tutoring in her study hall every day so she can get the help she needs.
Speak The School’s Language When Presenting Formal Documentation
In a nut shell, when sending a homeschooled student to public or private school, it is important to give the school the documentation they need in a format that they understand and with language as similar to theirs as possible.
Now is not the time for a creative transcript. That will likely lead to confusion and delays.
As homeschoolers, we often like to define education our own way…which is fine…but when we send our kids to school, it is much easier if you try to speak the same language as the school. It is very unlkely that your student’s guidance counselor will have studied the nuances of homeschooling and understand your unique style!