Crossing the Finish Line


I’m sure you can guess what the subject of this blog post is!

Yes. It’s our son Jackson’s graduation.

14 years ago, we started our family journey of home education. Early on, we did many of the activities that many of you probably did or do; nature center activities, library events, swim lessons, Kindermusik. Plus lots of art and reading at home. (And Veggie Tales.) While we hadn’t originally planned to homeschool, we sensed that that was God’s good plan for our kiddo. And, it was a good plan!

We began our journey in preschool with Five in a Row. When Jackson was in kindergarten, we used a variety of curricula and added piano lessons (in a wonderful group teaching program for young children).

And, we were off!

We used a lot of literature-based curricula, like Sonlight, which utilizes readers and historical fiction alongside history textbooks. We found that online or computer-based curricula was great for Jackson’s learning style, especially in math. We did a lot of experiments in science courses which ran from plants and photosynthesis, to electricity and magnetism, to weather, to chemistry.

We had amazing opportunities for group learning, in American art lessons, field trips, and a nature/hiking club. We joined a homeschool coop and support group, which (over the course of 8 years) gave Jackson tons of opportunities for great friendship, acting, fellowship, and service.

We also faced some speed bumps over the years. I had some serious surgeries in 2012, and again in 2017. Our family definitely went thru times of suffering and challenge. But during those difficult times, we also saw God’s provision and the support of our friends. I joined The Old Schoolhouse’s Review Crew, which allowed us to use and review curricula at no financial cost to ourselves. Jackson had some amazing educational activities because of the Crew, and both he and I made some lasting friendships.

And suddenly, it was 2019-2020, Jackson’s senior year. And it was a VERY full year, as I’m sure every student, teacher, parent, and homeschooler across the globe can say. COVID-19 of course changed much about our son’s senior year. His coop classes suddenly switched to online, in early March. Since we were already homeschooling, Jackson’s coursework wasn’t really affected; we simply continued what we were doing. Social activities dried up…yet Jackson was able to connect with friends via the internet. But graduation was up in the air. Because our state basically went on lockdown, our coop’s graduation ceremony was cancelled.

However, our coop’s graduation committee rallied and they planned and held an exceptional graduation ceremony in early summer. It was so meaningful. We’ll never forget it!


Crossing the Finish Line

And with graduation, the journey our family has been on together for 14 years has come to a close. And in what a crazy way, in the year of “the corona.”  If y’all are anything like me, your expectations of what the year would look like were blown out of the water. While we really never know what’s coming in a particular year, none of us could have predicted this one.

And yet, we persevere and press on. Jackson will be attending college as a freshman this month. My career as a homeschool mom and teacher has officially concluded. And in the blink of an eye, at that! For so many years we have been working toward the goals of finishing each year well and toward eventual high school graduation. Some of our homeschool years went so beautifully, and others just…did not. But I can tell you that I don’t regret one single one of those years. Homeschooling my son has been one of the great joys of my life. Humbling? Yes. Challenging? You bet. But rich in time, in love, and treasured memories? All of the above. God has been good and has sustained us through many a trial and many a happy moment.

And we and our son are off to walk out the next step in our journey!




Creating a Homeschool Transcript

Record-keeping might not be everybody’s thing. Yet, keeping a record of your child’s school years and the work they did in each one is so important. You might think you’ll remember everything your child did in his school years, but as time goes by you might be surprised at how blurred the years become!

As your child prepares for high school graduation and the path they’ll take beyond homeschool, you’ll want the records of their school years, especially the high school years. Especially if they plan to go to college after high school, when you’ll generally need a copy of their high school transcript. This is challenging…but doable! Here are some great tools that were amazing helps for me.




Lesson Planners

What has worked best for you via lesson planning? There are great online planners that many of my friends have used. However, I am (and always have been) a paper and ink (or pencil, in this case) planner lover. My two favorite planners have been The Old Schoolhouse’s Hey Mama Planner and the Well Planned Gal‘s Well Planned Day Planner.


These planners are just fantastic and must flow well with my thinking and planning styles. There’s room to record the courses, the days, semester grades, attendance, books read, and both contain extra places. The boxes include enough room for pages, time spent, even extra notes you might need to record. These were just, truly, invaluable when I prepared my son’s transcript.

You’ll need to be keeping records of all these things, and having them all in one place will make your life so much easier!



Homeschool High School Made Easy

Lea Ann Garfias‘ awesome Homeschool High School Made Easy was my first introduction to what the homeschool high school life would comprise. This lovely book, written in a conversational style that makes the reader seem immediately welcome and comfortable, covers tons of good info for the mom of homeschooled high school teens. Garfias, who was homeschooled herself in addition to homeschooling her own kiddos, covers teaching styles, testing, relationships, homeschooling styles, dating, driver training, and life preparation. The book sections that relate to transcript prep include credits, standardized testing, college essay writing, state requirements, college entrance.

Homeschool High School Made Easy was the most wonderful book to read. It made me feel so much  more comfortable about homeschooling high school and gave me a great overview of the things I needed to be conscious of and focusing on as we moved through the high school years. So helpful!

Lee Binz The HomeScholar Resources

Several years ago, I purchased Lee Binz’ “Total Transcript Solution”  from TheHomeScholar website. This was, hands down, the most helpful training and resource I utilized in creating Jackson’s transcript. This provided samples of excellent transcripts, instructions on what needs to be included in a transcript, and what colleges find impressive in a student’s records and applications. It was offered to me at a discounted price and I purchased the Silver membership level. I learned most of what I know about transcripts from Lee Binz!

The HomeScholar does have a ton of free resources that you can check out, if you’re not ready to purchase some products. Here are some examples of freebies you can find there:

  • Free seminars on: scholarships for homeschoolers; high school success; avoiding high school mistakes; grades/transcripts/credits
  • Free guides: high school Kindle e-books; 10 Essentials for Homeschooling High School; free record-keeping samples, and more
  • Free workshops

Just visit TheHomeScholar for all these and more. And just so you know, I’m not an affiliate for TheHomeScholar. They’re just an amazing help that I wanted to share with you!



My own tips for you

It is a HUGE task to create your student’s transcript. I learned so much about how to do it recently, and all that I learned (along with all the work my son put in during his high school career) made a huge difference! Here are the things I found most helpful, that I hope will assist you!

  • Keep good records of your student’s coursework, including:
    • Hours spent
    • Books read
    • What was learned in each course
    • Curricula used and completed
    • Field trips or activities which enhanced learning
  • And, update those records semester by semester. (Again, this way you won’t have to rely on your memory!)
  • Keep records of your child’s extracurricular activities, such as:
    • Piano (or any other instrument) lessons and performances
    • Drama activities, roles played in performances
    • Volunteer work (places and organizations served at, dates serves, and number of hours)
    • Leadership activities
    • Honors and awards
    • Sports activities
    • Jobs held
  • Learn what a Carnegie Unit is, to assist you in knowing what is required for your students’ transcript records
  • Visit the websites of each college or university your child is interested in, if he or she wants to attend college. Find out what they require (course-wise and ACT/SAT test scores) for admission or selection so you know what you’re needing to set as goals. You can also contact the universities’ admissions office to inquire what they require from homeschooled students for application.
  • Know your state’s laws for homeschool graduation and course completion. It’s definitely going to vary from state to state, but this will help you to plan your student’s high school course work requirements.



I hope this has been helpful for you! Most of all, enjoy the time with your high schooler. It really does fly by so quickly.

Enjoy! –Wren


Our Experiences with Bridgeway Academy’s Apologia Biology Course & Lab 2017-2018 (Plus a Coupon)

I can hardly believe it, but we are in the final few weeks of my son Jackson’s 10th grade homeschool year.  We were incredibly blessed to be able to partner with Bridgeway Academy this year, and Jackson took his high school biology course–Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Biology (FYC Biology Course w/Lab)–online with them.  I couldn’t be happier with Jackson’s experiences, and I’d love to share our final thoughts with you as the semester winds down!



Bridgeway Academy

Are you familiar with Bridgeway Academy?  The company provides accredited homeschool options that can fit any family’s lifestyle. From customized textbook and online options to live online and blended learning, Bridgeway helps families find exactly what they need for a successful homeschooling year.  Live courses, which are attended online by students in first grade all the way through 12th grade, provide fascinating academic experiences for families. In fact, thousands of students have participated in Bridgeway Academy Learning Lab classes from 1989 to the present day.  And parents will be interested to know that 92% of Bridgeway Academy enrolled students proceed to their first choice college!


High School Biology & Lab with Apologia

Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Biology is the course I had always hoped and intended to use with my son for his high school biology credits.  The textbook is both rigorous and intellectually challenging, and covers biology in an interesting way.  Chapters cover the following topics:

  • the definitions of life and biology plus classification, taxonomy, and biological keys
  • Kingdoms Monera, Protista, and Fungi
  • the chemistry of life
  • the cell, cellular reproduction, and DNA
  • Mendel and Genetics
  • Evolution
  • Ecology
  • Kingdom Animalia (invertebrates, arthropoda, chordata)
  • Kingdom Plantae
  • Reptiles, birds, and mammals

Each chapter also includes two challenging review sections (for test preparation), experiments, and question-and-answer portions in addition to text, vivid photos and diagrams.  This is the textbook that is utilized by Bridgeway Academy in the FYC Biology Course w/Lab, along with the company’s Biology Lab Kit.  The lab kit provides everything from a stainless steel dissection kit, lab supplies, and 7 lab specimens (earthworm, grasshopper, perch, crayfish, frog, cow eye, and fetal pig) for the dissections that are covered in the course.  When the student completes this course (with a D average or above) he’ll have accumulated 1.5 academic credits for both the biology course and lab.


High School Biology with Bridgeway Academy

So, what does Bridgeway Academy bring to the table when they’re offering an online course with the already-excellent Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology?  What would you think if I answered, “More than I could have imagined!”

First of all, they provide an exceptional online classroom experience.  Bridgeway Academy utilizes Moodle for its online classrooms.  Collaborate within Moodle allows students to attend classes alongside their peers who are taking the same class.  The teacher teaches the class via video and students can interact with him/her and with each other using their own computers’ cameras or text chat.  Moodle also provides a way for teachers to administer tests and daily or weekly assignments.  Students upload their assignments and projects to Moodle, where teachers grade them and a record of work is kept.  Technologically, Moodle made it very easy for Jackson to interact with his class, stay up-to-date on his assignments, and keep track of his work.  There were a few times where Moodle had glitches but they were few and far between.  And if you are taking an online class, that’s exactly what you need and want!

Secondly, Bridgeway Academy hires interesting instructors who bring years of education and training to the classroom.  Jackson’s biology teacher, Mrs. Carla Berg, is an experienced and accredited scientist and educator.  In every single class, Mrs. Berg brought impeccable scientific training to make her classes interesting and exciting to the students.  But just as important, she brought excellent classroom management abilities to bear as she guided students through their own interactions with the class.  I’m sure that she is also well-aware that students have different learning styles, because I saw her utilize classroom activities for visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners in every class.  She also varied classroom activities every week, which helped her students stay engaged and learning all semester long.



Third, Bridgeway Academy provided a learning experience with this high school biology class that truly exceeded the best that I could have done myself.  I am interested in science.  But I freely admit to you that I am not a trained scientist, nor is high school biology my forte.  And honestly, the very thought of dissections…well, those also are not my forte!  But with Bridgeway Academy, I didn’t have to excel at any of those things.  Instead, Jackson was able to take a top-notch, academically rigorous, well-done biology class taught by an experienced teacher whose love for science poured out in each class.



What I’d like for you to know about our experiences

There are so many positive outcomes that both Jackson and I have experienced during our high school biology year with Bridgeway Academy.  (More than I could actually fit into a blog post!)  But there are things I’d love to share about them here.  (And I’ll try my best to keep the list from becoming too lengthy!)

  • He has received an exceptional education in high school biology that has prepared him well for college science coursework
  • He was challenged to produce his best work continuously throughout the year, whether it was on tests and projects, in-class participation, or daily reading and Q&As
  • He had the benefit of a well-educated and interesting instructor who was committed to her students’ success
  • Bridgeway Academy’s Moodle provided excellent record-keeping for each student (including a portfolio download option)



Does that sound amazing to you as a homeschool mom or as a student?  I just cannot speak highly enough about Bridgeway Academy and their incredible classes.  If you’d like to discover more about Bridgeway Academy, visit Bridgeway Academy Learning Labs and check out their extensive list of awesome online courses.  Whether your student is in the elementary, middle school, or high school grades, you’ll find some incredible options.

And just so you know, Bridgeway Academy would like to provide a coupon for you to use when you sign your child up for a class!  Just use coupon code WREN18 when you visit the Bridgeway Academy site to receive  10% off any Learning Lab purchase.  (Coupon expires June 1, 2018.)

Enjoy–and think of Bridgeway Academy when you’re considering your child’s next homeschool courses!  –Wren

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DISCLAIMER:  From time to time, FINCHNWREN may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog. We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews. We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products. We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.