Homeschooling High School: Determining Credits

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Welcome back! Yesterday, I discussed how I came up with the framework of my daughter’s high school courses. Today, I want to share with you how I determined how many credits each class will earn.

There are several different methods of earning high school credit. I use three, based on information I learned in Home School for High School, Upper Level High School, and Total Transcript Solution.

The Carnegie Unit. It is generally understood to mean that to have earned “1 credit hour,” the student has completed 135-150 hours of coursework. So that would be a typical 45-50 minute class that meets every day of a 180-day  school year.

So, a student would earn 1 credit hour for, say, completion of Algebra I or biology. If they were doing an outside class that meets four days a week for an hour or one that meets two or three days a week for two to two-and-a-half hours, that would typically count for 1 credit hour.

When I looked up the requirements for high school graduation in Georgia, they were listed as: four credits in math, three credits in social studies, etc. So that would equal four years of math and three years of social studies using the Carnegie unit. Pretty simple, straightforward stuff.

Completion. In some cases, you might decide that completion (of the course, the book, the class, etc.) is worth so many credit hours.

For example, when Brianna finishes the Dave Ramsey Foundations in Personal Finance course, she will earn 1/2 credit in economics/consumer math. As I mentioned in my previous post, I had several books that I wanted her to read as part of her health class. I didn’t care if she read them all in one “semester” or over the course of the school year. Her credit was earned when they were completed.

You might have a list of 12 books that you want your child to complete as part of a literature course. He could read three books a year off that list and, by his senior year, earn one credit hour for the course.

Another example would be a textbook that would generally be considered to be a year’s worth of material. If your math-loving teen (I know they’re out there somewhere…just not at my house) finishes Algebra I and geometry in six months, she would still receive one credit hour for each. Even though it didn’t take her a full school year to complete the courses, she completed the books that would generally make up a full year’s worth of work.

The flip side of that is the kid who takes two years to complete Algebra I. He would still receive just one credit hour for Algebra I, despite taking two years to complete it, because it is considered to be a one-year course.

Mastery. You may choose to award credit for some courses once the concepts or skills are mastered, whether this takes place over the course of a semester or over the course of the four years of high school.

Let’s say that you want your child learn how to:

  • balance a checkbook
  • figure interest
  • budget money
  • save and invest
  • fill out tax forms

Once these and any other money management/consumer math skills that he needs to learn before moving out on his own have been acquired you could assign one credit for consumer math (or whatever you choose to title the course) on his transcript, though you may not have taught them as formal, sit-down lessons during a single school term.

This could also apply to an apprenticeship situation. For example, you might award your child credit hours in auto mechanics based on hours spent working with someone skilled in that area.

Thinking of high school credits for transcripts can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Using a variety of methods to figure credits can leave you a great deal of flexibility in your homeschool while still providing you and your teen a point of reference and the accountability you both need.


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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. My oldest starts high school next year. I'm sure I'll be checking in over the summer as I figure out how to pull together a high school curriculum!

  2. My oldest starts high school next year. I'm sure I'll be checking in frequently over the next year or so as I figure out how to handle the logistics.

  3. I am confused as what to do. Last year my son was considered 9th grade. We have been using Alpha Omega’s LifePacs for math which are difficult & time consuming, so he has only completed the 6th grade level with them. His CAT testing scores show that he is at a 9.5 grade level for Mathematics Computation & a 12.3 grade level for Mathematics Concepts & Problems. Since he tests well can I count their 6th grade level course as a high school general math credit? Thanks for any help!

    1. That’s a question that I don’t feel qualified to answer. I would suggest calling or emailing AOP and asking them. Personally, I would only count high school level math courses (Algebra I & II, geometry, trig, calculus, etc.) for high school credit. I might consider one general math credit as a 9th grade course for a struggling learner, with the remaining 3 credits coming from the courses I mentioned previously.

      You might also see what your local public high school graduations requirements are, along with admission requirements for colleges that your son might like to attend. That will give you a good idea of what to count for your son’s transcripts.

  4. I’ve got one for you. My son swims on a local swim team during the summers. The season is 7 weeks with 21 one- hour practices and 6 three – hour meets. That totals 39 very intensive hours but it’s a full swimming season. Would you give 1/2 or 1 credit for that? I’m trying to decide. (GREAT seeing you last weekend btw!)

    1. For one summer or several combined? If it were just one summer, I’d give 1/2 a credit. If he’s done it for several summers, over the course of his high school years, I’d do a full credit. That’s what I did with Brianna’s volleyball. She played for 3 years, but I counted it toward her one credit of PE because they practiced twice a week. Hope that helps!

  5. I need a creative title to define/describe community events. Example, we attend a lot of local fundraising walks, Relay for Life etc. There is definitely a PE component, but more of the learning about the specific topic (cancer, autisim, prolife, food pantry) speaking with family, friends and others about donating, collect funds and goods, etc.
    Any ideas on what to label?

    1. It really depends on your state’s homeschooling laws and your secondary education plans. In most places, it’s around 20-24. I’d check with potential colleges to see what their requirements are.

  6. How would you compute a speech credit from life experiences? Or is that even possible?
    For example, my daughter is a high school senior; she cantors and reads at church, she is also an early childhood instructor of dance for four classes a week. For a Writing/Comp class she takes in town, she is required to get up and read her work, but it is not considered a speech class.
    Thank you for your input!

    1. Maybe you could keep track of the hours she spends speaking in public. Usually, 150-180 is considered a credit. So, you could work toward a full credit or half. Hope that helps!

  7. The Alternative Pathway in Ohio includes 240+ hours of work (as a roofer, for instance). But what does that look like on a transcript? How do I put that into a subject format? Using a roofer as an example, there’s math, business, PE, construction, the list goes on. I can’t get a straight answer from anyone without paying a fee. Certainly, I am not the first homeschool mom to have a kid work a full time job and have to find a way to credit that work. Thanks!

    1. Have you checked with HSLDA.org (The Home School Legal Defense Organization)? They may be able to help you or direct you to someone who can help. You may need to ask to speak with the person who represents your state. Otherwise, I would suggest looking at the requirements for your state (which can be found online) and calculating how the various things he does each day for his job can be broken down into the required classes he needs. If he falls short in any area, he could supplement in just those areas. In other words, if he doesn’t earn enough English grammar or literature credits, you could have him take a class that fulfills those requirements, but if he gets enough math, he shouldn’t need to take an additional math class. Also, this article may help: https://www.7sistershomeschool.com/how-to-record-internships-for-credit-on-homeschool-transcripts/

  8. So for classes in high school where you listed requirements, such as read so many health books for a health credit, how do you calculate a grade since no actual written assignments or tests were required? Thanks so much!

    1. For my own graduates, I gave a credit (or half-credit depending on the length of the class, how much work was required, etc.) when everything I assigned was completed. My children didn’t have any classes with no written assignments or tests at all, but if yours did, you could still discuss what they learned (to check for understanding and retention of information), make up your own tests, or even ask them to write a short essay (or record one orally or make a live video) to help yourself feel confident that they learned what they needed to learn.

  9. My highschooler isnt going to college he already stated he has been held back 2x last year being most recent in 9th grade. We live in ky. I know your above blog state, that most states don’t have graduation requirments for homeschoolers. With that being said he struggles with algebra 1, IF we do algebra 1 this year can we also do algebra 1 next year too? Still give him that credit? Also like how your blog states that about you choosing what they do and give the credit and what-knot, are we suppose to go by the public school graduation requirments and have all of those extra curricular classes? I want my son to do great in life and school he is 16 now and he hates school that’s why I’m homeschooling him hoping he would like it and hope he would want to finish cause at 18 he can drop out he would now if he could.

    1. I’m not sure I completely understand your information. Is your son currently going to public school, or is he homeschooling? You stated that you’re homeschooling, but I’m not sure why you would need to repeat algebra 1 again next year if he’s doing it this year in your homeschool. To answer your other questions, you should probably contact HSLDA. They know the homeschool-related laws in each state (since each state’s laws are different).

      1. Sorry about the confusion. He is homeschooled now 🙂 The reason with doing algebra again next year is because he is struggling to get through it. I guess what I am trying to say is I don’t think we are gonna be finished with his book by the end if the year. Hope this makes sense to ya. Sorry I was in a hurry when I typed. I am currently a HSLDA member. Thank you for the reply….

        1. I would definitely check with HSLDA to see what answers they can offer you (specific to your state). Also, you might want to look into CTCMath for your son. They are an advertising client of ours, but we only accept advertising from companies we truly believe in and either have used with our own children or would use with them. Their program is online and works well for many students (even those that are struggling with math). https://www.ctcmath.com/how-it-works/home-school/?tr_id=HHMB

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