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Transcripts for Unschooling Teens
Do unschoolers need transcripts?
The short answer is, yes and no.
YES if you want to continue your education at a college or university. There's pretty much no way to get around this at most colleges.
NO if you are entering the workforce or starting your business.However, if you think there might be a chance that you will want to pursue higher education, you should make out your transcripts while you still remember what you learned about!
Photo credit: Hannah Swithinbank
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Teenage Liberation Handbook
This book is, by far, the best resource for unschooling teens. It covers every school subject, as well as entrepreneurship, going to college, and more. I read it each summer and got pumped for the next year! I highly recommend it for all homeschooling and unschooling teens.
Unschoolers can't make transcripts... Can they?
The unschooling philosophy differs from family to family, but the main idea is that the world is a classroom, and passion is the greatest teacher. Parents who unschool hope that by giving their teen the reins to their own education, the teen will find their talents and passions. However, exploring passions hardly makes for a clean transcript! ...Does it?
The best way to craft a transcript is to start the summer before the teen is in 9th grade (age 14-15 or so). This way, your teen can be sure to incorporate each of the subjects into their self-led learning, and document each thing. Through unschooling, you may still need to do traditional math to get enough credits. Alternatives to textbooks including running a business (accounting), managing a budget (consumer math or personal finance), studying the stock market with real or fantasy stocks (investment math), or other real-life scenarios.
However, many families don't think about transcripts until the teen is ready to apply to college. I know I didn't think about it until then! Luckily, it's not too hard to remember what your teen learned about!
Guide to Transcripts
This book was very useful to me as I was creating my transcripts and portfolio for college admissions.
What goes on a transcript?
For a traditional student, a transcript is a listing of courses the student took in school. For an unschooler, it's a listing of topics that the student studied. Because unschoolers don't use textbooks, course titles are often very creative - instead of "Social Studies" you might have "Studies of Domestic Violence In Upper-Class Society". Instead of "Animal Biology" you might have "Equestrian Anatomy & Training".
The thing to remember is that the unschooler has the advantage over the traditional student. For one, the parent gets to determine the grades for courses - giving many unschoolers and automatic 4.0 GPA. Also, the creativity of unschooling allows students to list things they studied extensively as a hobby, as a course on the transcript. For example, I love knitting. I spent hours trying out new stitch patterns, designing pieces, and carefully studying knitting books. For many students, this might make it into the portfolio if they wanted to go into art. For me, it became Fiber Arts.
This stage of the transcript writing can be difficult if you have waited until your teen needs the transcript and hasn't been ambitious about learning over the past few years. In this case, you may need to enroll in basic-level courses at the community college before going to college to assure colleges that your teen is smart.
Look through the community college catalog or online for ideas for course titles!
What Colleges Don't Tell You
Though this book is not written specifically for homeschoolers, it definitely has a very positive outlook on them!
I think "Secret 20" says it all: Think like a homeschooler.
This book is like the parent's companion to The Teenage Liberation Handbook (spotlighted above). It's very valuable and practical - taking your real-life experiences and presenting them in a killer portfolio that will sway even the top Ivy League colleges.
Personally, I think teens should read this as well as parents!
Formatting the Transcript
Some colleges offer fill-in-the-blanks transcript forms for homeschoolers, but all you need is a word processor and a printer. Choose a simple font like Times New Roman, and just list your student's vital information (full name, contact info, birthday, social security number, GPA), the courses by year, including grade and credits. (Core classes usually get 1 credit, and elective classes get .5 credit)
Keep the transcripts to one sheet of paper.
A parent will need to sign the transcripts to make them "official". If the college needs a title for the signature, "educational counselor" is a common one for homeschool parents.