It’s that time of year when students are finding out which colleges have found them acceptable. Or for younger children submitting transcripts or interviewing to start at a new school, how they will be seen compared to others. For adults changing jobs or moms rejoining the workforce, resumes attempt to describe what we’ve accomplished and who we’ve become. In all these situations, the typical categories are limited. It takes creativity and clear-sightedness to describe ourselves accurately. People can’t really be described completely with just a few measures. I’ve learned as a homeschool teacher, as a mom of college students and as a woman returning to work at 50, that there are many ways to put words to our life experiences.
One of the aspects of homeschooling that stresses parents out is record-keeping and worry over whether enough is being done in each subject area to fulfill grade level requirements - whether someone is holding us accountable to that or not. In my experience, most homeschooling families are accomplishing much more than they think they are, and if they could translate into words all they are actually doing, worry over their performance would be quieted. Here are a few ways to do it, whether its for a charter school teacher, to please your relatives or even to create a transcript for college admissions.
“Document your homeschool ‘as-is’. Remember that a transcript is your homeschool experience translated into words and numbers that colleges understand.”
This quote by Lee Binz in her book, “Setting the Record Straight” was so helpful to me both when my boys were in middle school and I had to create transcripts so they could attend public and private high schools and also when my daughter homeschooled through high school and applied to colleges. I created transcripts that spoke “the love language” of the schools who were asking what my kids had learned. You can do this too!
There are several applications for this technique:
1) When you are in a difficult season and aren’t sure if you’re doing enough.
Maybe your children are all young, or you have a new baby. It’s easy to feel like the many interruptions in your homeschool day are sabotaging your school-aged children’s education. Perhaps your child is going through a difficult transition or is having health issues. Your gut says to ease off the school requirements but you’re worried that you’ll be in trouble if you don't accomplish enough tangible work. My best advice for this situation is to keep an old-fashioned record book from a school supply store like Lakeshore and write down everything you do each day.
Did you read aloud to your children? Write “English literature - name the book/author”
Did you practice math facts in the car on the way to baseball? Write “Math - addition facts practice”
Did your children watch birds building a nest in the yard this morning? Talk about it. Have them draw a picture of what they saw and write 1-5 sentences about it depending on their ages. Then write “Science - birds”
Piano lessons and practice? Write “Music - piano 2 hours” for that week
Baseball practice and 2 games? Write “PE - baseball - 5 hours” for that week
Did you go on a field trip? Write “History: Field trip to Natural History Museum to see Egypt exhibit”
In her inspiring book, The Brave Learner, Julie Bogart says, “Everything can be taught through anything.” and “A robust education is the ability to make meaningful use of any and all information.”
We discount so much that we are doing that is educational. Now, I’m completely in favor of diligence and consistency. Keeping up with Math or Grammar lessons is important. And I’m not saying that you should make up school work that is not real. But when life circumstances complicate our best laid plans, and lessons don’t look like school, there is no need to despair. A homeschooling lifestyle makes education part of our home life - we naturally bring a spirit of curiosity and learning to so many common parts of daily life. As parents who also teach our children, we tend to bring that learning mindset into all of life. If we watch a movie, we can’t help but ask about the time period it was set in.. We choose to watch documentaries and other educational media because we are lifelong learners. You can count much of what you are doing with your children as real learning if you write down what you did in words that sound like a lesson plan.
It’s kind of like what we do when we have been out of the work force for years and need to update a resume. We take the school fundraiser we ran for the past 3 years and describe it as:
“Event planner: Successfully planned and executed annual fundraiser that grossed over $35k per year, overseeing all aspects including venue selection, catering, recruiting volunteers and building strong relationships with community leaders. Increased income 80% year over year.”
Right?? Just as parents who are not working at a paying job are still accomplishing and growing in their life, our children are growing and learning even if they are not finishing the math book as planned.
2) When you need to create a transcript for your children.
One of the beautiful advantages of homeschooling is that your children have time to find out who they are and pursue their interests. When we keep records of their work, we need to include more than just the Math curriculum they completed or the History book they read. A complete picture of the whole child has to include things like “Advanced Ballet, 8 hours/ week with final performance 2 times per year.” which could be listed as Physical Education - 10 units. It can include “Wood Shop/ Carpentry - 5 units” because they build a chicken coop, a bench and two raised garden beds.
Lee Binz is the expert on this and she provides examples of how to take what your child is doing and who they are as a person and put it into the love language of colleges or other schools.
So I hope this encourages you. As the school year wraps up for many of us, take a look at what you did with fresh eyes. The number of math lesson completed is important but, if it’s few, that doesn't mean that other learning did not happen. In what other ways did your child grow this year? Even if you can’t submit “Grew in character and leadership as an older brother, teaching younger children how to play baseball and build forts.” to your Charter Teacher, YOU can acknowledge it and write it down! Real life and growth is not linear and perfectly measurable, and if we wanted to only see our children that way, we wouldn't be homeschooling. Don’t let measurement steal your joy, my friend. You have done much more than you know. So give your kids the gift of acknowledging who they are outside of the normal school subjects. And, while you’re at it, write down what YOU’VE accomplished this year - or in the past 10.
“CEO - Smith Family: Successfully kept 3 children safe and healthy, providing meals and personalized accommodations along with enriching and memorable family outings and vacations. Administered a school and taught History, Math, Science, Language Arts, Nature Study and life skills. etc……”
When you put it in words, it’s pretty impressive, mama! Maybe the best gift you can give yourself this Mother’s Day is to acknowledge how you’ve grown and what you’ve been through this past year. Write it down - even just as a quick list. And smile. The obligatory cards and flowers will be given this weekend, but your own quiet “I’ve done well” might mean even more.
I’m cheering you on!
p.s. Speaking of the important work you are doing, for more support around parenting, education, and creating a home you love, check out my free resources HERE.