Archive for the ‘Record Keeping’ Category

Homeschool College Applications

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Tis the season for college applications – is anyone else overwhelmed with the number of documents and forms required? It’s especially tough for homeschooling families because we first have to write our own transcripts, with course descriptions, and figure out GPA, credit hours, etc.  It’s not too bad if you have been keeping good records all along, but even then it takes some time to assemble everything in a professional looking format.  I used the book Homeschooling High School: Planning Ahead for College Admission by Jeanne Gowen Dennis for help with these details.

Once your transcript is complete, you still need to be the Academic Advisor and help your student keep track of all the different requirements for each of the schools her or she is applying to. Having gone through this twice so far, here are a few organizational tips:

  1. Start a folder for each school you are applying to, and insert the application checklist along with hard copies of your essays and other materials specific to that school. There is no need to make copies of materials submitted online in the common application. This is where you store any correspondence and financial aid information for that school as well.
  2. Prepare another reference folder with a copy of your prepared transcript, course descriptions, and homeschool description (if necessary). Your student will probably need to enter this information in a variety of online forms so it helps to have everything in one place.
  3. Prepare a simple spreadsheet with a list of your colleges on top, and a list of requirements along the left side. See my example below:

Example of College Application Spreadsheet


Note that I didn’t fill in all the data for this spreadsheet yet – it’s just an example. But you can see how useful it would be to keep track of what has been submitted and what is still missing. Your student might have other requirements too like an audition or portfolio submission. You can customize this however you want. I did this in Microsoft Excel, but Google Documents has a spreadsheet feature that works very well, for free.

My kids filled out all of the necessary forms online, but I checked everything for accuracy and to fill out the information for household income and parents’ education/employment. They wrote drafts of their essays and personal statements on Google Documents so that my husband and I could read them and offer suggestions as needed. Once the drafts were as good as they could be, they just copy/pasted them into the online applications.

The nice thing about online applications is that you can work a little bit at a time, saving as you go, and then when everything is perfect, hit “submit” and hand over your credit card number.

This year, my son and I will be keeping track of scholarship applications the same way, but first things first. We gotta get these things done! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Use Google Docs to Make Homeschooling Cooler

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My son Aengus loves a lot of techie things, but Google probably tops his list. His dream is to work there someday, but until then, he likes to stay on top of all their latest developments and explain it all to me. So, I cannot take credit for learning to use Google Documents – it was all his idea. It didn’t matter to me whether my kids wrote with a keyboard or a quill pen, I was always just happy to see some writing. But then Aengus tricked me into seeing the wonders of Google.

Here’s how it started. For the last year, Aengus has been “turning in” all of his writing assignments on Google Docs (short for “Documents”), which was working fine. But I didn’t really get it. For me, the only difference between Google Docs and emailing a copy was that the document was stored somewhere else in case your hard drive crashed. Recently however, Aengus needed to write an essay for a scholarship application, so he wrote it up on his laptop and called downstairs to ask me to take a look at it on Google Docs. I was already signed in to my gmail account so I switched over to Documents view and saw his essay there at the top of my list, already enabled to share with me. I started reading it and noticed an insistent message on the top right side of my screen: “Hi Mom.” “Oh – how cute,” I thought as I searched for a way to reply: “Hi Aengus.”

Then he wrote back, “What do you think? I’m still working on the last paragraph.”

I wrote: “What was the essay supposed to be about?”

He promptly copied/pasted the requirements into the message sidebar.

And so it went. I made a suggestion or asked questions, and he responded immediately. I could even see his cursor and the words being typed as he fixed things. The essay was taking shape right before my eyes.

Aha . . . that’s how to use Google docs. It’s collaborative! I get it now. And it doesn’t matter that he uses Windows and I have a Mac. We don’t have to use the same software for me to make edits.

Later, he showed me how I could have left comments at specific areas in the text if we weren’t chatting live, and how Google keeps a history of changes made to any document, and how cool it is that any number of people could see or edit documents without emailing it back and forth.

Now we even share a spreadsheet to track changes to another project we are working on. I’m asking my older son Jesse to move the science fiction novel he’s writing to Google docs so that he doesn’t have to email me the whole document when I ask to read it. It’s so cool!

I may be late to the game, but at least I got this far, and I plan to learn more. If you want to learn more too, here’s some quick videos to get you started:

Capture Your Homeschooling in Photos

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We all tend to take photos of our kids at holidays or on vacation. Scrapbookers and social media devotees take many more. But how many of you are taking pictures of your homeschooling routine? It’s OK to take a few traditional shots of the kids sitting at the table with a textbook, but that gets boring fast. Homeschooling is not school-at-home; it’s a way of life. Taking pictures is s-o-o-o important. Even if you don’t use any curriculum per se, you are busy doing things all day. And you won’t remember what you did. Trust me on this.

YOU WON’T REMEMBER. But journaling and taking pictures will help bring it all back. Looking back at the end of the year, you will be amazed at what you did. Put it all together in a scrapbook and you will have a visual memory for a lifetime.

Here are ten photos you should take for each of your kids:

  • Favorite reading spots.  Do your kids like to read outside on a blanket? In a tree? In front of the woodstove? Catch them in their favorite spot (preferably when they are not looking).
  • Bedroom in all its messy glory. Children’s bedrooms change over time in very personal ways that reflect passing interests. What toys are scattered about? What posters are on the walls? Take new pictures every year.
  • Picture of bookshelf.  For the same reasons that bedrooms express personality, a child’s bookshelf or shelves will show what he or she is interested in. Plus, taking pictures of those books, knick-knacks, photos, and other treasures is a great way to hang on to those things without actually hanging on to them.
  • Child’s portrait next to a stack of curriculum or library books – not just any books of course, but books he or she is actually using. This can be very cute if you try different poses and angles. Get creative!
  • Something your child does NOT like. In this case, it would be math.
  • Let your child take some pictures of “homeschooling” to see what he or she comes up with.
  • Science experiments or projects – these can be difficult to explain in words, but pictures with captions look great in a learning log.
  • Art projects – take pictures of the process as well as the end product. Zoom in your child’s expression when they are in the “zone” and don’t know you are looking at them.
  • Other people – coaches, music teachers, homeschool group, friends, neighbors, church members. Our worlds are full of wonderful people that we don’t think to take pictures of.
  • Have someone take pictures of you reading to them, playing games, exploring, crafting, etc. Don’t be shy. Someday you will want to remember these times, and your kids will want to see you in the picture too (and laugh at your goofy clothes and hairstyle).