Building a Portfolio (Part IV) – Course Descriptions

I’ve noticed through my research that many colleges are requesting full descriptions of high school courses completed. I imagine it is to ensure that specific concepts are covered in each course that meets requirements or standards. I’ve also figured out that writing the course descriptions is my least favorite part of the portfolio and probably one of the biggest tasks. However, I would prefer to be prepared should the need arise for course descriptions to be included in a college admissions packet.

The boys and I are apart of a homeschool cooperative, or co-op, that routinely includes course descriptions for each class the co-op is offering for the following year. It allows parents and students to see what the course will entail throughout the year. For instance, this coming year, their 10th grade year, John and Jarrod will take Biology. The following is the course description our co-op used in their *Course Descriptions* document:

*This course is a college-prep biology course that provides a detailed introduction to the methods and concepts of general biology. Heavily emphasizing the vocabulary of biology, it provides the student with a strong background in the scientific method, the five-kingdom classification scheme, microscopy, biochemistry, cellular biology, molecular and Mendelian genetics, evolution, dissection, and ecosystems. It also provides a complete survey of the five kingdoms in Creation. (Apologia: Creation in Science, Biology); 1 Credit.*

And their Algebra I course that they just completed this past year looks like this (which I created, erring on the side of caution, and including all the concepts learned):

*Algebra 1: Made up of five instructional components: Introduction of the New Increment, Examples with Complete Solutions, Practice of the Increment, Daily Problem Sets, and Cumulative Tests. Algebra 1 covers topics typically treated in a first-year algebra course and includes • arithmetic and evaluation of expressions involving signed numbers, exponents, and roots • properties of real numbers • absolute value • equations and inequalities involving absolute value • scientific notation, unit conversions • solution of equations in one unknown • solution of simultaneous equations • the algebra of polynomials and rational expressions • word problems requiring algebra for the solution (such as uniform motion and coin problems) • graphical solution of simultaneous equations • graphs of a variety of functions: linear, quadratic, cubic, square root, absolute value, etc. • translations and reflections of graphs • factoring • Pythagorean theorem • algebraic proofs • functional notation and functions • solution of quadratic equations by factoring, completing the square, and quadratic formula • direct and inverse variation • exponential growth • computation of the perimeter and area of two-dimensional regions • computation of the surface area and volume of a wide variety of geometric solids • statistics • probability (Saxon Math Algebra 1): 1 credit.*

I realize some descriptions will be harder to put together, especially if it isn’t a ‘defined’ curriculum that might include a textbook, but something one has put together. For instance, this past year John and Jarrod completed for their English/Literature credit using a ‘put together’ curriculum: Easy Grammar 9 (a defined workbook), Wordly Wise Vocabulary 9 (a defined workbook), a multitude of historical fiction and fiction novels with literary study guides, or literary analysis. I’ve kept all of their literary assignments in one binder and assessed each for a grade. This course description will be harder to define as I’ll need to include the descriptions for the grammar, the vocabulary, and the literary portion.

I am encouraged by having already a good beginning on their portfolio. I do however need to create a specific binder for their portfolio to store the hard copies in. Right now I only have the documents on my computers. Not that that isn’t an ok spot but I like to see the final product too.