How to Homeschool High School: How to Level Up a Course Meaningfully
If you have a college-bound homeschool high schoolers and are concerned about creating a college-attractive transcript, we are here to help. Before we start a discussion of leveling-up courses, let’s review the basics of the homeschool transcript and what colleges are looking for. It is worth a few minutes of research.
Here are some blogposts to read and Homeschool Highschool Podcast episodes to get you started:
- Homeschool High School Transcripts: The 26 Basic Credits You Need
- College-Attractive Transcripts: What to Include
- Authoritative Guide to Homeschool Transcripts (Check out the entire Authoritative Guide suite of posts, links in the right sidebar)
- Homeschool High School Transcript Levels: Do’s and Don’ts
- Editable High School Transcript and How-tos
- Homeschool Highschool Podcast: What Colleges are Looking For (Interview with a university associate provost)
- Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Choosing College Degrees (Another interview with Dr. Duncan)
- Homeschool Highschool Podcast: What are Levels on the Homeschool Transcript?
- Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Create a Great Transcript Using Levels with 7Sisters Curriculum
- BJ’s Homeschool Guide
One of the most important things your college-bound homeschool high schooler needs to do is to build an accurate and powerful transcript by creating rigorous courses (and to be clear on the transcript about the level of rigor a course is being studied.) For non-college-bound teens this is not much of an issue, for college-bound teens it can be.
There is not a standardized way to earn and record the level of rigor on the homeschool transcript. Many traditional schools will record courses on the transcript showing different “levels” or “phases”. Here is an example of a section of one homeschool graduate’s transcript showing his course levels.
Note that core courses are shown with their levels. Non-core courses do not:
English/Language Arts (in this case British Literature) was studied at Level 5 Honors (L5). In our legend, we explain that Level 5 is our top level of rigor.
Algebra 1 was studied at Level 2 (L2). This is average high school student level. Level 2 is fine for courses that are not in a student’s chosen major and that student is not aiming for highly competitive colleges. Courses in at student’s major should at least be Level 3 College Prep. If a student is aiming for a competitive college most core courses should be Level 4 Advanced and Level 5 Honors. Level 5 includes AP courses and dual-enrollment college courses.)
- US History was studied at Level 5. As you can guess, this student is aiming for a Humanities, English, History, or Arts Major at a less competitive college.
- Human Development was studied at Level 3. This is a Social Science course (many college these days are looking for a Social Science course, at least .5 credit, on the transcript).
- Spanish I and Spanish II did not need to record levels. (If he had chosen Spanish as a college major, he would have recorded levels.) In this case, the student simply liked Spanish and studied it a lot.
- Phys Ed was recorded without levels. It is a non-core course and not in his chosen major.
- Fine Arts: Chorale & Madrigals, Praise Band, Art Fundamentals, Art Basics, Drama Production are recorded without levels but listed in detail because this student was exploring a Humanities or Fine Arts major.
How does a student level up a course meaningfully?
Let’s first look at the various levels:
Level 1- Remedial Courses
This level is for students who struggle in a subject. While it is acceptable for high school graduation, Remedial Courses are not acceptable for college applicants.
Level 2- Average High School Courses
This level is for average high school students. These texts have shorter chapters, simpler vocabulary and shorter assignments. While Level 2 courses are not as rigorous as Level 3- College Prep courses, taking a Level 2 course does not prevent a student from going to a non-competitive college or a community college. However, it is wise to check a number of possible-interest college’s websites to check their requirements for incoming freshmen.
7Sisters’ Introduction to Psychology, Human Development, Early Childhood Education texts are written at Level 2 with the goal that almost all high schoolers should be able to do the work and enjoy it. There are instructions for meaningful activities and readings to do in order for college-bound students to “level-up” the course credit.
Students over the years have told us that these activities and readings were the things that were most memorable for them. They were some of the portions of the course that actually helped prepare them for college assignments. (Contrast our 7Sisters philosophy: no-busywork, levelable texts that teens actually like with some dry-as-a-bone AP texts.)
Level 3- College Preparatory Courses
This level is for students who are are planning on college. There is sufficient rigor to help prepare students for the college setting. Many textbooks are written at college-prep level, including 7Sisters: Health, History and Philosophy, Philosophy in Four Questions and many of our Literature Study Guides are presented at Level 3 with activities add for leveling up to Levels 4 and 5.
Level 4- Advanced Courses
This level is for students in College Prep courses who are able to do more rigorous work. These courses add power to the transcript and are attractive to colleges. Level 4 we require the work of Level 3 plus .5 more credit. This equals 1 Advanced credit. As you can see the student is doing more work for just 1 credit. However, their transcript records a credit with more power or weight. (See this post for a discussion on weighting credits on the homeschool transcript.)
Level 5- Honors Courses
This level is for highly competitive students who want the most powerful transcripts. These courses look very attractive to colleges because they are highly rigorous. Level 5 requires fully double the work of a Level 3 course or an AP course. (Remember, you cannot call a course AP on your homeschool high schooler’s transcript unless it was approved by the College Board. However, when you include a key/legend on the transcript that shows how your student earned the Level 5, most colleges are sufficiently impressed.)
There are a number of ways to level-up to Advanced or Honors using a Level 3 textbook:
Keep log sheets of additional activities, field trips, research, interviews and observations, papers written. Add 30-45 hours to the textbook requirements for Advanced (the number of hours varies state to state, check your state homeschool graduation requirements. Add 60-90 hours to the textbook requirements for Honors).
In addition to textbook, read real books with a 1 or 2 page summary, essay or reflection paper for each. Usually 8 books for Advanced, 16 books for Honors.
For more detail on leveling up to Level 5 Honors on specific courses, check out these posts:
- How to Create Honors Credit for Great Christian Writers
- How to Create Honors Credit for Creative Writing
- How to Create Honors Credit for Literature
- How to Create Honors Credit for British Literature
- How to Create Honors Credit for Psychology
- How to Level-up Civics with an Elections Unit
- How to Create Honors Credit for World History
- Rubrics for Honors Level History and Philosophy of the Western World