Documenting a Teen’s Non-standard Studies

by Teresa Ward, Barbour County 


West Virginia's public school children need certain courses in order to graduate. As home educators, we are not bound by those regulations, though you may want to know what they are for reference. It's pretty standard: 4 credits in English, 3 in Math, 3 History, 3 Science, 2 PE, 1 Art or Music,... that sort of thing; they pretty much reflect the typical official college recommendations.

Of course, since I'm not standard (I'm outside the box) and my children aren't standard (What box? I didn't see any box!), my children's transcripts aren't standard either.

Without boring you with too many details, let me share some of my eldest daughter’s transcript, which gained her admittance to Davis & Elkins.

On one page, I listed all her courses in a nice chart format.


Grammar...1/2 credit

Research & Composition...1 cr.

Editor of "The Turkey Quill"...1/2 cr.

Ancient Lit...1/4 cr.

Medieval Lit...1/4 cr.

American Lit ... 1 1/2 cr.

Lit of Appalachia...1/4 cr.

British Lit...1/2cr.

Lit of the Holocaust...1/4 cr.

The following two pages contained explanations, such as:

Language Arts: Debbi took a single official “Grammar” course, but most of what would be considered grammar was covered in the course of other written work done for other reasons (such as history, science, or "The Turkey Quill" newsletter). Literature was covered in conjunction with the history units she studied over her high school career.


As you might surmise, Debbi’s History course listings look an awful lot like the English courses:

Ancient History & Geography...1 cr.

Medieval History & Geography...1/2 cr.

American History & Geography...1 cr.

WV History & Geography...1 cr.

Appalachian Culture...1 cr.

Twentieth Century...1/2 cr.

American Government...1/4 cr.

Economics...1/4 cr.


History: For all courses, a variety of methods was employed, including literature, non-fiction books, and visits to historical sites. Debbi spent considerable time at Fort New Salem (600+ hours as a volunteer, plus 280+ hours as a paid summer Historical Agricultural Intern), where she took advantage of the many opportunities offered to learn a great deal about WV History and Geography and about Appalachian Culture. Much of Twentieth Century History was learned in discussions with her grandparents and others who lived through the events of the Great Depression, World War II, Korean & Vietnam Conflicts, and the youth subculture of the 50's, 60's, & 70's. She also learned of many other significant events of the century through contemporary writings, videos, and library programs/displays. The traveling actors with the WV Humanities Council provided additional insights into historical figures.


We documented Debbi’s work in Math, Science, Computer Applications, Homesteading, Home Ec, Occupational Education, Phys. Ed., Art, and so on, in a similar way.

Except for Homesteading, I did not label courses as I, II, III, or IV or as 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th. Instead, I used a more specific and descriptive title, as you can see with the English & History courses above.  (“Homesteading” is the title I gave to all the farm work she did...fences, animal husbandry, lawn care, welding, mechanics, etc.)

For Carnegie units -- what most of us know from our own school careers -- one credit equals 45-50 minutes daily in class for 180 days, plus homework. Factoring in the more efficient use of time in a homeschool situation (we didn’t have wasted class time, excused absences, snow days or school assemblies), the “expert” consensus seems to be to assign 135 hrs per Carnegie unit for a homeschool high school student, or completing 80% of a textbook.

As you can tell, I'm not afraid to grant 1/4 or 1/2 credits where warranted. I could not figure out any other way to count Debbi’s work in a meaningful way. We don't use textbooks, so I noted on her transcript that her work was “interdisciplinary.” (I love that word!) 

The record-keeping forms in Senior High: A Home-Designed Form+U+La can help you keep track of your young person's schoolwork whether you use textbooks, track time spent studying a particular subject, meet specific objectives, or some other method. And it's quite all right to choose a different record-keeping format for different courses.

I kept track of all work, not just what she did during school hours. We counted everything, all year long, especially since apprenticeships were a major part of Debbi’s high school years.



For our family, apprenticeships mean a specified time period spent in a real-life work situation to learn some of what happens in a workplace; we use them to help determine what career goals our young people might have.

Most of my daughter's apprenticeship experience was at Fort New Salem, which provided her with more experiences than I ever imagined. She not only learned some “old-timey” skills (History & Folk Art credits), but also learned waitressing at their Tavern during special events (several times a year for several years, counted in her Home Ec credits), and retailing as she helped with pricing & cashier work in the Gift Shop (counted in Occupational Education credits). Her participation in History Day at the Legislature gave her credit in American Government, and she garnered History credit through her involvement in reenactments at the fort and at the Vandalia Gathering. This was in addition to the self-esteem and confidence she gained as she was not only accepted in the adult world, but counted on! In fact, they hired her on several occasions for pay when regular staff were unavailable. 

Over the years Debbi’s apprenticeships and other activities cost a tidy sum of money. However, they would have been much more expensive in another venue, I believe. And the individual expenditures were mostly small amounts.

My daughter’s apprenticeships were volunteer positions, mostly one day a week for 8 to 12 weeks, except for her work at Fort New Salem, which amounted to one day a week for most weeks over several years. For other families, a couple of hours every day might work better. It depends upon the family, the student, and the workplace. There are many small businesses that could use help from an interested person in exchange for training. Usually those business people love their work and are happy to share their knowledge and expertise with young people.

For each apprenticeship, I requested an evaluation from the trainer (on a form from EdPLUS that I provided). If my daughter got along well, she would request a general recommendation letter for her files. No one ever refused. I liked her to keep a journal of her experiences, which we used later when I was compiling the transcript.

Our current high school student is obsessed with horses, and her apprenticeships actually began a few years ago when her trainer offered her a volunteer position helping on the horse farm in exchange for free lessons. Over the next few years, we plan for her to work for other horse stables/trainers, probably a vet or two, a farrier perhaps. Who knows where this might lead?  She already gives riding lessons to the daughter of a friend of mine. She participates in horse shows, perhaps the opportunity will come for her to assist behind the scenes or maybe learn to judge.

What interests your high school student? Whether it’s auto mechanics or hairstyling, police or hospital work, entomology or architecture, look for someone in your area who is involved in this work and ask about a short-term apprenticeship. That will likely open up more opportunities.

I worried about the high school years long before they arrived, but with the help of some good books (see Recommended Resources), we developed a system that worked for us and helped my daughter achieve her goals.


————— WVHEA ——–


A Word About Grades


Debbi received A’s in all her courses, and I listed her Quality Points (the Grade Point Average scale: A = 4.0, B = 3.0, C = 2.0, D = 1.0). I didn’t give weighted grades; all her courses were college/life prep, but none were taken at a college. (Weighted grades are often given now for college coursework completed in high school, so an A = 5.0, B = 4.0, C = 3.0, D = 2.0.)

Our policy has always been that we don't go on until the child masters the material, so if the subject is learned, then it's an "A" in my opinion. In many ways, I think grades are irrelevant, but colleges ask for them and depend on them for information that is difficult to determine any other way. Debbi’s SAT and ACT scores did support the good grades she received.


Recommended Resources


You don't have to rush out and buy these all at once (about $500 plus shipping), and in fact, I would recommend you borrow them first so you can decide what you need. I accumulated mine over the course of several years. I figure these resources saved me far more than $500 in unnecessary expenses for my daughter’s high school years, and there are three more children following her!


from Barb Shelton:

Senior High: A Home-Designed Form+U+La

Lab Science: The How, Why, What, Who, 'n' Where Book


from Inge Cannon:

Mentoring Your Teen (formerly Apprenticeship PLUS)


from Lynda Coats:

Far Above Rubies (for young women)

Blessed is the Man (for young men)


Also very helpful:

The Guidance Manual for the Christian Home School by David & Laurie Callihan (also useful for non-Christians)

From Homeschool to College and Work by Alison McKee

The High School Handbook by Mary Schofield

Homeschooling the High Schooler by Diana McAlister and Candice Oneschak


The high school handbook from your local public high school.


Of course, there are many other resources; these are just those that I've found most useful.


                            — Teresa Ward