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Course description template? Plus questions...

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I am specifically wondering about how the document should *look* (letterhead?formatting?) and be organized (by grade? by year? by subject?). From what I've gathered, the course descriptions are a separate document from the transcripts and many (most?) colleges won't even ask to see them, so I am hoping to keep it simple.


Keep in mind that I've sent only one student to college so far, and that her path was not typical. So, I am most definitely not the voice of expertise, here.


But here's what I did for my daughter and what I intend to do for my son.


For course descriptions, I headed a page with the title of the course and the amount of credit:



History and Literature of the Ancient World

(One English Credit, One History Credit)



Then I wrote a paragraph briefly describing the focus of the course, the kinds of work done and how the student was evaluated:


This interdisciplinary course allows the student to explore the history and cultures of the ancient world by reading its literature and doing independent research to place each work in its historical context. The reading list is supplemented with modern historical works and fiction to more fully illuminate the people and places. Field trips and hands-on projects are also required. Written work includes brief reports on the background and significance of major works read and several lengthier essays addressing the works, themselves.



Then I included the course outline, listing books read, field trips and major projects required, etc.


Her full porfolio (which we did have to submit, but again, her path was not typical) included a section at the front with just the course titles and the one-paragraph descriptions and then the full descriptions later.


A couple of specific question: do you add an alphanumeric code to the Mommy Courses (ENG 009) or just say what it is (English 9) ?


I didn't and haven't planned on assigning any kind of code. I just have course titles.


I should maybe mention that, in the case of the example I gave above, where the actual course was interdisciplinary, I listed the two credits separately on the transcript. So, the one history and literature course was listed on the transcript as "History of the Ancient World" for one credit and "English II: Literature of the Ancient World" for one credit.


For P.E., would you include number of hours earned in the course description or just keep a log at home (would a college want this??) or both?


Neither of mine will have have a P.E. credit, but I'd probably mention the number of hours required or earned in the course description.


And just to make sure I've got this right: a full credit is 170-80 hours of in-class work and a half credit is 80-90 hours, yes? However, you can count a class completed in less than that time if the student has done all the required work (ex. student completed Abeka Health - a one semester class - in 10 weeks rather than 18; that still counts as a full half-credit even if it didn't take 80 hours)? A high school lab science only earns one credit, not one-and-a-half like in college?


I believe the traditional Carnegie unit says 120 hours of in-class time is equivalent to a credit. That's about 50 minutes per day, five days per week for 30 weeks. So, a half credit would be 60 hours of contact of instructor time.


But there's a lot of debate (both here and in the world) about the usefulness of counting hours for credits. Personally, I do it for some subjects in which there isn't an obvious, clear body of knowledge or set of skils to master. But it's only one way to think about credits.


(I require 140 hours per credit, and I note that on the transcript.)


Another is what you mentioned, that the student completes a defined set of requirements: finishes the textbook or online course, reads all of the books assigned on a syllabus and does the required assignments, etc.


As for science, yes, I think the most common thing to do is to assign just one credit. In college, the lab portion of a science course usually happens in addition to regular lecture time. (At least that was true for me 100 years ago and for my daughter just recently.) It requires more hours per week than regular lecture course and, therefore, earns more credit.


In high school, however, labs usually happen during regular class time, taking the place of lecture rather than being in addition to it. (At least that's the way it makes sense in my head.)


Before anyone says this, I'll admit right up front that I know perfectly well there are folks on these boards who are doing much more lab work for science than would get done in a traditional high school class. I know there are students here doing the equivalent of a full lecture course AND a rigorous lab component. And I know they are spending more time on this than they do on other one-credit courses. But I'm sure it won't come as a surprise to anyone that I wouldn't give my kid additional credit on the transcript even so. I do my very best to design transcripts that will never make any college admissions officer raise eyebrows or wonder if we're padding because there are more credits than a traditional high schooler would have for the same subjects. I consider lab work just another one of the requirements for high school science, and it doesn't get any additional credit here.


I hope others chime in here, too. As I said, I've gone through this process only once, and with a non-traditional student. So, I'd love to hear about other experiences and ideas.

Edited by Jenny in Florida
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I'm using the detailed ones found in the files section of this group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hs2coll/


They include the following areas: Course Description, Method of Evaluation, and Materials Used. I provide a database that lists the books used in more detail (publisher, etc)


There will probably an overall transcript that lists just title, grade, weight, etc.

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And just to make sure I've got this right: a full credit is 170-80 hours of in-class work and a half credit is 80-90 hours, yes? However, you can count a class completed in less than that time if the student has done all the required work (ex. student completed Abeka Health - a one semester class - in 10 weeks rather than 18; that still counts as a full half-credit even if it didn't take 80 hours)? A high school lab science only earns one credit, not one-and-a-half like in college?




I think using carnegie units as a way to determine a class in a home school is a mistake. If I did so, I doubt even using the half the time instructor face to face time as suggested, I could not count Tapestry of Grace as a full class for history. Why? Because it involves reading, research, writing and then a Socratic discussion once a week. I doubt that the once a week of face to face time would come to 85 - 90 hours in a year. BUT the truth is my son is doing far more work and getting far more knowledge and processing far more than most brick and mortar classrooms. Home schooling is extremely efficient and trying to use hours to judge it is not wise.


In math or science I can see even greater efficiency for some students who fly through material. On the other hand other students may take much longer to go through Algebra I, do they get extra credits because they took longer if they only covered the standard course of study?


I've posted on this before: http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/showpost.php?p=3946276&postcount=25


You would be much wiser to make sure that your student covers enough material to cover a full course and not worry about hours it takes to do that.

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I don't have a "template" per se, but I'm using the same format suggested in Lee Binz's book Setting the Records Straight. Basically, one course for each page, set up like this:


Course Description

SCIENCE: Chemistry



(typed description)



Primary Text:



Required Reading:


At the bottom of each page is a table showing grading method, for example, Homework 20%, Lab and Lab Reports 20%, Tests 60%, and then the final grade and credit given.



I am not sure how I will end up sorting the pages, probably in the same order as the transcript, but possibly by subject. While most schools will not require descriptions, I was told by an admissions office (of a well-regarded state school) that the school encourages anything that will make my student more appealing to them. Therefore, I'm planning to send unless instructed otherwise.


You're going to find a wide range of what constitutes a credit hour for homeschoolers; it can be a very touchy subject, even here. For my family's homeschool, it can vary. It's easy when completing a curriculum; the work is done, the credit is counted. If my child has done a year of work but not necessarily completed the book, the credit is counted.


Here's what I wrote for PE:


Course Description

Physical Education 2



Soccer: (name of league), fall 2010, spring 2011



The student will participate in weekly workout with the team, and student will participate in soccer competition each week. Emphasis will be on skill development and technique, self-responsibility, teamwork, rules, game procedures, and Christlike sportsmanship. Additionally, student will participate in a two month pre-practice soccer training session with (insert name of different league). Student will also follow a strength training and conditioning regiment at home, and will walk for fitness. Credit will be given when 150 hours of physical activity is achieved.




I'm still working through my descriptions; it was my project a few weeks ago. No wonder why I'm going crazy.

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I realized last week that I probably needed some kind of course descriptions now that we're in high school. Mine were created in Word but all are similiarly formatted with grading requirements and expections customized to each course. I have them as page 1 of a syllubus, with the remaining pages listing out the different chapters, lessons, reading assignments, etc.


Course Text: Higher Altitudes of World History and Geography, online text by www.completecurriculum.com

Course Description: This course is a study of modern world history, including the foundation of world religions and beliefs, exploration, intellectual revolutions, violent revolutions, industrial revolution, nationalism/imperialism through the world wars, cold war, the quest of countries seeking independence and changes in current global patterns. World History and Geography takes a global approach in studying the world and its past, worldwide events, processes, and interactions, among the world’s people, cultures, societies, and environment.

Course Structure: Each chapter includes 3-5 daily lessons, vocabulary words, and a “concept check†to cover those lessons. Vocabulary words should be completed using the Cornell note method and reviewed during the lessons or as homework. A separate lesson will not be used to review vocabulary terms prior to the vocabulary quiz. Concept checks will be counted as quiz grades.

Grading Categories and Weights:

70% Concept Checks 20% Vocabulary Quizzes 10% Notebooks

Concept Checks/Quizzes: Dates for all chapter quizzes and concept checks are marked on the weekly lesson plans. Hard copies are provided in your History binder. Handwritten notes may be used for concept checks only. It is your responsibility to review!

Classwork/Homework: Daily work will be done online in the PDF textbook. The Cornell note system should be used to take notes of daily assignments for future use in concept checks and for vocabulary words. Daily work will be checked for completion.

Notebooks: All vocabulary quizzes and chapter concept checks will be done on paper, using the worksheets provided. Cornell notes should be written on notebook paper or a spiral binder and kept in your notebook. Notes will be counted as a grade so keep it organized!

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For DS15, I created a detailed one-page course description, partly for my own benefit. I imagine colleges will probably only want to read the brief course description that is part of this document. However, I wanted to make sure I have all the info in case I need it for anything during the application process. Here is the text version of a sample document:



Course Description


Course Title English I Honors

Course Credits 1.0 credit

Course Curriculum Texts:

· Analytical Grammar: A Systematic Approach to Language Mastery, R. Robin Finley, Analytical Grammar, 1996.

· The Elegant Essay, Lesha Myers, The Center for Literary Education, 2009.

· The Elements of Style, 4th Ed., Willliam Strunk, Jr., & E.B. White, Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.,1979.

· Figuratively Speaking, Using Classic Literature to Teach 40 Literary Terms, Delana Heidrich, The Learning Works, Inc., 2004.

· The Lively Art of Writing, Lucille Vaughan Payne, Mentor, 1969.

· Vocabulary From Classical Roots (Level C), Norma Fifer, Educators Publishing Service, 2005.

· Windows to the World: Introduction to Literary Analysis, Lesha Myers, The Center for Literary Education, 2009.

· Writing Strands (Levels 5), Dave Marks, National Writing Institute, 1998.


College-Level Lectures:

· The Iliad of Homer by professor Elizabeth Vandiver (a “Great Courses†12-lecture DVD series from The Teaching Company, 1999)

· The Odyssey of Homer by professor Elizabeth Vandiver (a “Great Courses†12-lecture series from The Teaching Company, 1999)

· The Aeneid of Virgil by professor Elizabeth Vandiver (a “Great Courses†12-lecture series from The Teaching Company, 1999)



Epic of Gilgamesh, Tales of Ancient Egypt, The Iliad, Mythology, The Odyssey, Dialogues of Plato, The Bible (excerpts), The Republic (excerpts), The Arabian Nights, Clouds, Indian Tales and Legends, Aesop’s Fables, Plutarch’s Roman Lives (excerpts), Oxford Tales From China, Oxford Tales From Africa, The Aeneid


Course Description

This course incorporated literature, grammar, vocabulary, composition and public speaking. It was a companion to World History I Honors (Ancient-Medieval History), as it introduced the student to some of the Great Books of Ancient-Medieval literature and Western culture, as well as to the study of genres and literary forms, while placing the literature in historical context. From learning to annotate literature to writing essays, the student explored literary analysis techniques to better understand literature and authors’ intentions. Topics such as theme, irony, allusions, characterization, plot, conflict, point of view, imagery, tone, and more were discussed. The student also explored the essay model and practiced writing descriptive and persuasive essays. He learned to write strong thesis statements, develop various paragraph styles, and create diverse types of introductions and conclusions. Additional writing assignments included expository writing, a research paper, personal narratives and creative writing. The student also participated in a 12-week homeschool co-op class called “Public Speaking,†which included researching speech & debate topics, writing and delivering informative and persuasive speeches, debating classmates, and observing and critiquing the speeches of others (co-op classmates and TED.com speakers).


Course Standards

Student was evaluated through writing assignments, literature projects, vocabulary quizzes, grammar tests and literary analysis activities. Student spent an average of 6-8 hours per week completing this honors course.


Grading Scale:

A = 90-100%, B = 80-89%, C = 70-79%, D = 60-69%, F = below 60%

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