Everything You Should Know About Homeschool Record Keeping
Are you looking for ways to simplify your homeschool record keeping?
I used to be so organized and great at keeping track of things.
And then I had kids.
And no matter how hard I worked to keep things organized, nothing helped.
I think it’s a combination of my body (and brain) being worn out by bearing eight children, and the fact that busy, energetic toddlers roam my house, constantly looking for anything and everything on which to wreak havoc. The fact that I am a compulsive dejunker doesn’t help, either.
But somehow, paperwork just seems to disappear into thin air around my house.
That’s why, when my oldest was about to enter high school, my biggest worry about homeschooling high school was the record keeping. Calculus and Latin — not a problem. Keeping track of them — shiver me timbers.
I take my vitamins religiously, and I exercise and try to get plenty of sleep. I read intelligent books, and I learn new things often to keep my neural pathways strong and growing. I have faith that those things will help!
In the meantime, though, Google Drive has saved my bacon. It’s my secret to success.
Hooray that someone else will keep track of my documents for me!
Welcome to your new job — record keeper!
You are already your child’s guidance counselor, nurse, financier, chauffeur, maid and chef. And now you’re his record keeper, too! Lucky you! Fortunately, if you use Google Sheets, it will hardly take you any time at all.
Your first two tasks as record keeper for your homeschool:
- Check your state code to see what your state requires by way of record keeping. I can relate my experiences to you, but my state, Utah, is one of the most lenient, and might require less homeschool record keeping than your state.
- If your child has any universities in mind, check their admission requirements. If your child hasn’t thought that far ahead, check the admission requirements of any universities you feel might be possibilities. Be sure to check an ivy, or a stretch school, a state school and a local community college, just in case they end up possibilities. You’ll notice pretty significant differences in their admission requirements.
You can google both of those for quick, easy answers.
Why keep homeschool records?
Record keeping is important in your homeschool (high school) for the following reasons:
- To ensure compliance with your states homeschool laws
- So you can easily remember what to include on transcripts
- To document academic achievements for University applications
- To document talent and academic achievements for scholarships
- To provide information to military recruitment offices
- To outline educational background for potential employers
Now, I’m pretty much the opposite of a hoarder. I lived by the motto, “If it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it.” before Marie Kondo was a thing. So I’m not talking about saving programs from orchestra recitals or kindergarten art projects here. If you like saving all of those things, great. But the records I’m talking about are the ones your child will probably need for future college or careers.
What records do I need to keep?
State codes vary, so I hope you’ve checked yours for it’s exact requirements.
More rigorous states require you to keep:
- attendance records
- samples of schoolwork
- correspondence with school officials
- scores from any required tests (standardized tests, not your weekly spelling tests)
My state (Utah) requires nothing except an affidavit, obtained by filing an intent to homeschool with your district.
It’s just a good idea to be able to document that your child is receiving an appropriate education, in case there’s ever a question. Truth be told, though, because my state is so lenient, I don’t keep records for my younger kiddos, other than documenting projects here on my blog and on Instagram. I’d rather spend my time actually educating my children than documenting how I’m educating them.
I do keep records for my high schoolers, even though they aren’t required, because they ultimately help me create a high school transcript upon graduation. Your student will need a high school transcript if he plans to attend college or a vocational school, or the military once he graduates your homeschool.
The only records I keep for my high schoolers are their yearly schedules, complete with a brief course description, and their test results. We aren’t required to take standardized tests, so I just keep AP, CLEP and college entrance test results. I scan them into a folder I keep for each of my children on my Google Drive.
The reason I create schedules with course descriptions and hyperlinks is that I know chances are slim I’ll ever remember what the course covered three years down the road. So I try to make the job easy on myself.
Remember to include your children’s extracurricular activities on their schedules, because you can award credit for them if it’s needed. Things like coding camps, orchestra camps, private music lessons and community sports can all fill requirements.
My oldest daughter was an exception to my minimalist record keeping efforts. She wanted to be a film score composer and she looked into universities with the best commercial music programs before ever starting high school. So she knew upfront that she would need to submit a portfolio of her musical accomplishments along with an audition as part of her admission process.
So we bought her a small, plastic file box in which she could keep things she wanted to add to her portfolio. She also worked extra hard during high school to create things specifically for her portfolio. For example, she took some composition lessons and composed a film-score-type piece that her world-renowned youth symphony played for events.
That’s why I say it’s always good to begin with the end in mind. If the university your child wants to attend doesn’t require a portfolio, why go to the extra trouble of creating one?
I spend about an hour in July/August creating schedules for the year and entering them in spreadsheets. And then I only look at it probably twice more during the year, when I need to record grades or input new classes or test scores.
They look like this:
You would not believe the time it will save you when you go to create a transcript for your student, so those extra couple of hours you spend on homeschool (high school) record keeping each year are totally worth it!
You can also enroll in one of many different homeschooling oversight programs that will provide record keeping services for you. My neighbor uses an accredited program (which requires her to submit portfolios) that also provides a transcript for her kids. But I think it’s actually easier (and cheaper!) to create my own transcripts.
What are course descriptions?
A course description should explain the academic purpose of a course, its educational content, the focus of skills taught, and the curriculum used to teach it, including any textbooks, literature, movies or labs that you might want to remember.
When writing a course description for an honors class, I typically notate that. If you want to designate courses AP, you’ll have to create an account on the AP Course Audit homepage and submit your Course Audit materials.
My three oldest (thus far) have earned AP credit by taking AP tests at our local, public high school, without my designating any classes on our transcript AP. They just self-studied, we called the high school and registered for tests in about February/March, and then taken the tests, administered and proctored by the high school, at the local high school.
I keep my course descriptions to 3 or fewer brief sentences. They don’t need to be long or complicated — they are mainly for your benefit.
What about grades and credit?
For each course, you’ll evaluate the amount of high school credit the course deserves.
As for grades, it’s up to you. I don’t feel bad about giving my kiddos 100% for their math scores, because I make them correct all the problems they miss until they achieve a perfect score. But then I notate my method on the transcript so universities won’t wonder at 4 successive years of 100% math scores.
What about test scores?
A few states require that students take yearly standardized testing. I’m not talking about college entrance tests, but rather the tests that public-schooled students take during the last few weeks of school each year. Check your states requirements.
If you are required to take the tests by your state, it’s a good idea to keep the scores. For ease, you could scan them and add them to your record keeping folder.
College-bound students will also need to take whichever college entrance tests are required by the universities to which he plans to apply. Both SAT and ACT will send official test scores directly to the universities your child indicated on the test forms, but you should also keep records of exam scores.
It’s also a good idea to keep records of any AP tests, CLEP tests, and any other tests that will have bearing on your child’s admission to college as well as college credit earned. They are also sent directly to the universities chosen on the test form, but mistakes happen.
Do you have any brilliant homeschool record keeping tips to share? I’d love to hear about them in the comments! If you have questions about homeschool record keeping, please feel free to ask in the comments below.
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