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How to Write Course Descriptions

Are you wondering how to write course descriptions for your homeschool high school student? Creating course descriptions can be fairly straight forward when you are using a standard curriculum or textbook. It's a little more challenging when you are flying free. In this post, you'll learn the basics of how to write descriptions for curriculum-based courses as well as the custom courses you design for your student!

Curriculum-Based Descriptions 

There are three "ingredients" of a great course description: a paragraph about what you did, a list of what you used, and a description of how you graded. Within those suggestions, you have a LOT of latitude!

You can have a very SHORT description about your grades, and say only "1/3 tests, 1/3 lab, 1/3 daily work." Or you can be very detailed in your grading description and provide a chart with the scores on all 23 chapter tests and all 48 biology labs. That part is up to you.

I suggest this brief little format, just to help you keep things in order:

Course Description
Subject Area (Math): Class Title (Algebra)

(Descriptive paragraph)
In this class the student will....

Primary Text Used
Textbook, author, publisher, year, etc.

Supplemental Texts and Resources
(Include field trips, supplements, any tutors or classroom information as well, if you prefer.)

Course Grade Description
(Short) Grading criteria: 1/3 tests, 1/3 lab, 1/3 daily work
(Long) Insert a chart with all the details and test scores

Final grade = 97%, 4.0

Custom Course Descriptions 

It might seem intimidating to write a description for a course that doesn't have a formal curriculum, but remember: course descriptions simply communicate the content of each class. When looking for inspiration for course descriptions, remember that there are MANY classes in public and private schools that don't have textbooks at all. Consider a public school class in auto shop, wood shop, choir, art, and PE. Even courses such as Computer Technology or Nutrition may not use a formal curriculum in ANY school.

One way to create a course description is to find another school's description of a similar class. You can often find course descriptions online at community college and university websites.

Here are some examples from a community college website. Use examples like these as inspiration to craft your own descriptions:

HMPB 233: Patisserie
This course will provide hands-on instruction of techniques to make finished pastry items such as tortes, tarts, pastries, cookies, candies, and breads, as well as how to present items in a professional manner.

GAME 105: Beginning Game Creation
This course is designed to present the skills and to provide the hands-on experience required to create computer games utilizing game development tools that require no programming. Topics will include learning how to build games with a game development environment, the basic ideas of game design, and an introduction to building 3D levels. Students should learn how to build a variety of games, include sound effects and simple animation effects in games, use simple analysis tools to evaluate games, build a 3D level, and create an original game as a term project.

MUS 125: Introduction to Jazz Listening
This is an entry-level course for the student with little or no prior knowledge of the American art form of jazz music. Through reading and listening, the student will learn the basic structure of the elements of music and how these are organized to create jazz. Topics to be covered will include rhythm, harmony, and form; Dixieland style; swing style; bop; and contemporary jazz.

Good news! You don't need to list a curriculum in each course description. Simply write "Resources Used" and describe them: Microsoft Tutorials, Khan Academy Videos, etc. List what you DO have and don't worry if it's a formal curriculum or not.

I got stuck on a music course description when I was writing up my son's. He loves playing classical piano music, but there aren't any textbooks for piano. I ultimately chose to list all his performance-ready pieces and the repertoire books he used.

Read over the examples above, think about what you DID do and use, and list it. You'll be well on your way to creating course descriptions. No curriculum necessary.

How Do You Learn Best? 

I would love to help you create your course descriptions, and I've got something for everyone! How do you learn best?

Book lovers: Setting the Records Straight: How to Craft Homeschool Transcripts and Course Descriptions for College Admission and Scholarships is available on Amazon, and you can circle, underline, and highlight whatever you want. 
Overwhelmed beginners: Homeschool Records That Open Doors is a FREE, relaxed, recorded online class, as easy as watching a YouTube video.

Brief overview: Comprehensive Homeschool Records: Put Your Best Foot Forward to Win College Admission and Scholarships is available on Kindle or paperback, and you can read it in an hour, during your lunch break.

Relational learners: The Gold Care Club provides personal consultations, so you and I can discuss it together on the phone. I still suggest the book Setting the Records Straight or Comprehensive Record Solution, but relational learners may need a little more encouragement in person.

Detail-oriented parents: The Comprehensive Record Solution provides technical help, templates, ebooks of instruction, and cut & paste course descriptions.

Comprehensive Record Solution Helped Molly! 

Initially I was overwhelmed when I thought of documenting my son's high school records. Lee's encouragement helped me to overcome my fears and to tackle the process in bite sized chunks. In the end, it didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would, even though I wasn't as organized as I should have been. It will be even easier next year, now that I have the framework completed and know what I should be doing along the way to streamline the process.

The Comprehensive Record Solution was convenient to use since much of the information is presented in three formats: audio, video, and print format. The features I liked best about the CRS were the samples and templates included in the course.

I initially thought the price of this course was steep, but I changed my mind after using it. I truly believe my son will receive many more scholarship offers because of his excellent records than he would have if I had not prepared a comprehensive record. I feel confident that his comprehensive record highlights his unique strengths and effectively demonstrates the rigor of his course of study. Lee relieved this busy homeschool mom's stress by giving me the tools and the know-how to prepare excellent and thorough records.

~Molly Evert, My Audio School To read her full review, click HERE!

Disclaimer: I received a free three month trial of Comprehensive Record Solution in exchange for my honest review, and was not compensated in any other way.

Check out my video book review for Setting the Records Straight here!

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