How to Assign High School Credit to Life Learning Opportunities

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High school is such a wonderful time for homeschooling!

The early years of teaching “the basics” – reading, writing, primary math facts – are over. The seasons of seemingly endless repetition, review and drills have come to an end. The kids have most of their facts and phonics down and are usually smooth readers; independent learning is a concept that is at the very least understood, even if it’s not exactly embraced.

Your child’s learning style is well established by this time, and he may finally have found his stride in terms of future focus. Even if he doesn’t yet have a career choice, at least he does know where his interests lie!


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With a more specific range of skills, talents, and goals, this is the time you want to hone in on meeting them; and yet, far too often this is the time when parents are most worried about “accredited curricula.” This is the time when the fear of college readiness rears its ugly head, often resulting in a pulling-away from experiential learning and moving towards standardized studies.

So we as parents/teachers succumb to the familiar. After all, it’s easier to find pre-packaged curricula than find programs that can bridge academics with life learning; it’s easier to assign grades with a standard curriculum; it’s easier to “check off the boxes” in order to file an application to that perfect college, right?

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An alternate approach

But let’s look at it another way. Let’s consider high school as a preparation for life-in-action. Let’s consider high school as an on-ramp to two distinct highways: one being further academic studies, while the other being a hands-on career and/or entrepreneurship. And let’s look at how we can apply non-standard approaches to both highways.

Mentoring and/or apprenticeships are learning formats that can most directly lead straight to a business or career transition after high school. This method of learning is a practical approach in this season of your child’s life. For example, in the technology-driven society we live in, it’s easy for our kids to pick up a computer-related skill and run with it as a career. And, these days, it might be a genuine reason to put off or even avoid college-type studies until later.

Even so, you may want to ensure that your child is at least able to attend college after high school. We’d always told our two older children that college attendance was not an option, and they should plan for it! That was ten years ago. It’s a bit different, however, with our three younger ones. These days, it’s totally a possibility that one or more of them take a gap year, for example, or enrolls into a trade or tech school, or starts a job that might very well develop into a full-time career, sans college.

That being said, there is still value in creating a transcript that will pass muster as part of an exceptional college application!

How to summarize life learning into education-eze

Now that your teen is in high school, life learning experiences can provide just the ticket to round out his education, or get her on a solid path to a career. Here's how to incorporate them into a college-ready transcript format.Contrary to popular opinion, there is nothing magical or mysterious in putting together a high school transcript. You just have to translate learning into “education-eze.”  This is the language that teachers, principals, and administrators use to understand and process every student’s educational history. It’s a combination of grades, credit hours and averages that yield what is termed a GPA (grade point average). This is utilized, along with standardized test scores such as the SAT or ACT, to predict the success your child will have in college.

That’s it, pure and simple.

It’s easy enough to figure out how to assign credit to “regular” courses. Most of the time, when your student finishes a book or program of study, you give him a grade and a year’s worth of credit. When he finishes a life-learning event, however, things get a tad more complicated.

It’s for these cases that you need a bit more backup. Here’s what to do:

  • Definitely plan ahead. Have a game plan for the activity/opportunity. Is this potential career training? A life skill? Something that could be applied to a standard subject? For example, a “junior zookeeper” position that included animal studies could be applied to a biology/life sciences credit. Keep accurate records of activities, time spent and contact info of supervisors. Feel free to use our free record-keeping forms*.
  • Make sure the program is well rounded. Ensure they read relevant books (and keep track of them, of course), and complete at least a research paper or two. Writing is a skill that is uber-useful in both career and life. Definitely arrange some sort of final project where they can present a summary of their experiences and learning, as well.
  • Create a grading rubric and use it as a class “contract.” A rubric is a description of what standards need to be met to achieve each grade. You can use the rubric template here as a guide*. If you present it at the beginning of the experience, your child will know what your expectations are in terms of his/her effort and will be able to adjust accordingly.
  • Assign credit as follows. Generally speaking, award ½ credit for 75 hours of study, and a full credit with 150 hours of study. Determine the amount of time spent, the level of expectations met on the rubric, and voila! you have a grade and credit amount to add to your transcript and include in figuring a GPA.
  • If college is in any way a short-term possibility, consult with an admissions counselor at one or two colleges that your child might be considering to see what kind of admissions requirements they have. Don’t be afraid to call her: a discussion over the phone in no way commits you to anything!

See? That wasn’t so hard, was it? Here’s the best thing about it all: with these tools you can use a myriad of electives, jobs, and extra-curricular experiences to craft a robust and relevant high school program of study for your child. No longer will you hear your children pose the “Am I really gonna use this in life?” question!

And you’ll be able to include valuable and worthwhile non-traditional learning experiences into your child’s educational and academic history.

What kind of life experiences are you using in your homeschool that you'd like to include in your student's transcript? Let's start a conversation about it in the comments below!

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7 thoughts on “How to Assign High School Credit to Life Learning Opportunities”

  1. Definitely needed this! I work with a lot of homeschooling families who utilize our online academy for their educational needs and I’ve tried explaining how our life skills courses (even core subject courses) apply as credit hours…. but this makes it even more simple! Thanks for breaking it down!

    Reply

    1. I think once you’ve seen it “in action” it’s easier to understand how to apply it in other subjects/activities. Teaching high school can appear daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it…it really IS full of creative educational opportunities! 🙂

      Reply

  2. I love the idea of incorporating life experiences into formal high school credit. I mean, isn’t that what homeschooling (and life) is all about? Learning through experience! Thanks for breaking it down and making it feel so do-able!

    Reply

    1. Yes, Elizabeth, that’s what it’s all about: getting them to equate life with learning! It makes me sad when parents are making it hard on themselves. Trying to throw out an “easy” button on this one…

      Reply

  3. I have a question. My son is in the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps – a military youth program. Over the summer he attended advanced trainings. For 14 days he was at an Aviation Rescue Swimmer training and then for 7 days he went to a Fire Fighting Training. He was learning for well over 100+ hours. What could this “course title” look like to give him .5 a credit? He desires to be fire fighter, possibly a paramedic or rescue diver as well. Thanks.

    Reply

    1. Wow, Tracy, what a terrific opportunity for him! I’d look over the courses he’s already taken and see what he will need to get into the training programs for the career options you’ve mentioned. Will he need to have certain courses under his belt already, or is a general high school diploma enough? Then I’d start thinking…
      My guess is that this would be an elective, so you could call it something like Fire/Rescue Training, but make sure you are ready with a thorough course description, should they ask. You totally want to give those studies the “credit” they deserve (forgive the pun).
      Hope this helps you get started…and feel free to contact me if you want/need to discuss it further. Good luck!! <3

      Reply

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