UBC Wants Montana!

A 17-year-old homeschooler, Montana, was accepted into UBC and also received a Presidents Entrance Scholarship. Its not large – $500 – but still nice to get. He applied to UBC as a homeschooler.

Montana had also been attending Templeton High School part time and received the Top Student Award for the English Department (English and Literature).

His mom sent this detailed email about the what and how of it all, so we thought as inspiration to all of you whose kids are still “school” age, and with her permission, we’d post the whole thing.

We went with Montana to UBC to talk to the admissions people about how a homeschooler should apply. At first we were told that homeschoolers did not go to UBC and there wasn’t any way for them to apply. After we insisted we knew of a homeschooler who had attended UBC, there was more discussion. Then we were told Montana could apply to UBC under a special category of “broad-based admissions”, the same category that houses foreign students and other applicants who don’t “fit the box”.

His application was reviewed on an individual basis by the Associate Dean of Arts. It may have been presented to the Senate committee.

Montana’s experience includes the following:

  1. homeschooled between grades 1-11 (lots of performing arts and history and literature)
  2. audited a 4th year history course at UBC when he was 16 (he did all the written work, participated in discussions and took the test)
  3. attended grade 12 at Templeton Secondary School – mainly to work on his writing skills and participate in after school film and theatre programs

Although he attended grade 12, he didn’t get a high school diploma. Nor did he take a full course load – just 5 classes he was interested in. He went through the year with a homeschooler’s attitude, starting off by changing classes till he got matched with teachers who
interested him and would provide a challenge. He found a history teacher who’s passionate about her subject. Templeton has great after school programs in theatre (they put on a musical version of Orwell’s Animal Farm directed by Mike Stack); film, salsa dancing and other subjects. Somehow – even with less than perfect spelling – he managed to gain an award as top student in the grade 12 English Department.

Over the years, I’ve kept a journal (a chart I filled out) that identified what Montana did each day, books he read (or was read to), projects, etc. I’ve also kept programs for shows he was in, letters of verification from his private teachers (e.g. piano, fencing), certificates, etc. I wasn’t always diligent. I wish I’d done a summary at the end of each year. I wish I’d kept better records than I did. But it all was a fabulous aid for writing up supporting material for him and creating homebrew documentation. We told the truth by what we showed or didn’t show. You could see at a glance he didn’t have a lot of math, science and foreign languages, and that he had a ton of history, literature and performing arts and volunteer and employment opportunities (which you have time for when you’re homeschooling). My goal: to be honest about what he’d done – and not pretend he’d done what he hadn’t – and highlight the accomplishments.

When I created “home brew” documentation to support Montana ‘s application to college, I

  1. organized everything he’d done into “categories”
  2. translated his theme-related interests into “courses”
  3. translated what he’d done into “educanese” as best as I could (getting a lot of ideas from the Templeton High School and UBC course descriptions)

We provided the following material for Montana ‘s application to UBC:

  1. Montana wrote a one-page letter of academic intent (talked about his interests in learning, why he homeschooled and what his homeschooling was like; his experience auditing the UBC history course and other academic interests; why he was interested in UBC)
  2. We got a letter of recommendation from the UBC professor of the course he audited
  3. We included a copy of his Templeton sec. school grade 12 mid-term report card (if his grades had been bad, we wouldn’t have included the report card)
  4. We included letters of recommendation from his two significant teachers (in this case Mike Stack, with whom he’d taken Shakespeare workshops for years, and the grade 12 history teacher)

I also created and added home-brew documentation:

  1. A High school resume transcript (grades 7-12) – dates; where (if outside the home); what; how long (# of hours).

    I provided the kind of student and school information that high schools present, then organized material by categories (English,sciences, mathematics and computers, social studies, language, career preparation and employment, home economics, physical education, fine arts by disciplines, apprenticeships and employment, travel, community service.

  2. Parent-educators letter describing home-school program and evaluations methods.

    This was a narrative that included a description of a typical home school day; Montana’s homeschool progression; comment on curriculum and “courses”; travel, volunteer and work experience; benchmarks. I said we pursued an “interest-driven” approach in our home, and we took a qualitative approach rather than basing evaluation on numerical grades or time spent learning a subject.

  3. Course Descriptions (Grades 7-12) – what, who, when, how many hours, resources….

    Course categories included: personal development and career preparation; English; Social Studies; Modern Languages, Computer Technology, Mathematics; Science; Physical Education; Home Economics – Culinary Arts and Nutrition; Fine Arts (Dance, Music, Theatre, Film); Employment Experiences. This was in great detail – included discussion topics; texts (any important resource books), computer programs, films, field trips, etc. Each category outlined courses (most created “after the fact”) and ranged from “Comprehensive English and World Literature”, “Expository Writing” to “History of Canada” and “20th and 21st Century Events in the Middle East and North America ” and “Introduction to Economics and Law” to “Introduction to Atmospheric Science” and “Science and Technology” and “History and Ideas of Mathematics” and “Music Appreciation”.

    I listed topics covered in each course; whether it was a survey course; text books and resources (this was any kind of book we thought was important); work books; lectures or films or shows attended; topics of discussion; field trips; projects; private instructors or tutors; courses outside the home; computer programs he has learned;

    Physical Education included swimming, martial arts, dancing – listed name of teacher or institute and dates attended as well as leisure activities. Each fine arts discipline identified his formal training (school name; teacher; dates) and what they studied, piano textbooks, etc., and any performance opportunities. Detailed his employment experience (what, who, when, number of hours, skills involved.

  4. Portfolio including:
    • letters of verification (employment, internships, instruction, volunteering)
    • external documentation of artistic activities (programs, media reviews, brochures)
    • certificates and diplomas (eg karate, Young Shakespeareans, etc.)
    • selections of work samples (eg published opinion pieces; samples of original poems (ages 7 and 17); piano score; reading list; play script; research paper, journalism)
    • resumes (employment and film/theatre resume)
    • photographs showing Montana “at work” on different projects

Somehow the combination of all these elements succeeded. I’m sure the letter of reference from the UBC history teacher with whom he audited a course was really, really important.  But I’ve no idea which of these other materials we submitted was REALLY important.

It was overkill. But I did it for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to make it hard to refuse him. Secondly, I wanted to give my son – as a homeschool graduating present – an overview picture of his education with documentation he could use for all kinds of purposes down the road.

I didn’t know – when we began this process – that it would cover so much territory. None of us knew how much he’d done until we laid it out and summarized all the documentation. We had no idea!! You don’t know when you’re just living day by day.

I wrote up the material, consulting and double-checking with Montana as I worked on it. He wrote the letter of intent.

PS anybody can audit – unofficially – any course at UBC as long as you have the permission of the professor or instructor. You can do it for free if it’s unofficial. Montana wrote to the professor requesting to audit the course and told him what books he’d been reading that were
relevant to the course. You can also go down and “sit in” at any class for free – as long as you have teacher’s permission. This is a great way to sample courses in which you might – but aren’t sure – be interested in – or ready – to take.