What are course descriptions? Why keep them?
Schools publish course descriptions for the courses they offer to help students decide whether to sign up for a class, as well as to help anyone (including college admissions officials and potential employers) who wants more information about their courses.
The quality of high school courses given can vary a lot even within a single school. Most textbooks include much more information than can possibly be covered in a single year and high school teachers often have freedom to pick and choose which parts they will use with their students. Several years ago, I was tutoring a public school student in English. Her literature textbook included classics by Shakespeare, Mark Twain, O. Henry, Dickens, and more. It included a variety of modern pieces from various parts of the world. It also included pieces by Dr. Seuss: The same Dr. Seuss that many children read in kindergarten or first grade. Her public school English teacher had assigned reading material by Dr. Seuss.
While college admissions officers, employers, and others may assume that a public school is providing a decent education, some will have more questions about a homeschool education. Part of the purpose of the course description is to help outsiders get a tiny glimpse of the type of courses your child has taken as a homeschooled student. Is your child getting a top-quality education? A general hands-on education? A modern education covering the world? A classic education? Or a barely literate, reading-Dr.-Seuss-in-high-school kind of education?
Course descriptions are NOT required by Florida law for home education students, but smart homeschool parents will keep them for their high school students (as well as middle school students who are doing high school work).
Course descriptions may never be needed for your high school student, but then again they might. In my experience, when needed, they are needed NOW. It's a good idea to keep them as you go along even if you might not ever need them. They are certainly much easier to keep as you go along rather than trying to back track and figure out what your kids learned a few years ago.
One caveat: Do not send course descriptions to college officials unless they ask to see them. When I volunteered for a college admissions committee, the Dean of Admissions told parents that extra paperwork could be all it took to get a tired committee member to put a file on the reject pile.
Creating Course Descriptions
1. Courses from other sources
If your child takes courses from another source (a public school, FLVS, another online program, a co-op class, etc.), that source may have a course description, perhaps in a syllabus, that you can copy and paste. Don't feel the need to re-do all of their work.
On the other hand, published course descriptions don't always match what is actually covered in a particular class; feel free to edit it if needed.
2. Your courses
Plan. Review. Confirm.
I recommend beginning the course descriptions, if possible, before your student actually begins a course of study. Record the plan of study. Consider reviewing the description midyear to see if the plan needs to be edited to better reflect what is actually being studied or to redirect the course of study to better fit the plan. Then at the end of the course, review the description again and do a final edit to make sure the description is accurate.
The final document will likely be several pages long with at least a paragraph for each course taken throughout all of high school. It's okay if the courses listed do not resemble typical public school classes. I know from years of volunteering with a college admissions committee that courses that aren't typical can stand out in a very good way. Don't feel compelled to copy schools even at the high school level. Do be sure to edit and spell check and make the course descriptions look well done before sending them to anyone official--poorly edited documents will raise questions that well written ones won't.
How to Compose Course Descriptions
This is not a legally-required document. There's no standard format that must be used. But the following shows information that is commonly included in the description of each class taken.