Once your kids hit middle school or so, the age-old socialization question gives way to the “how are they going to graduate high school” question. The big difference is, most homeschooling families recognize the socialization question as a non-issue, but graduation is something to be seriously considered for those who intend to homeschool through high school.
I must point out that the information contained in this article should absolutely not be considered any sort of legal advice. It is based on my experience only and my experience is limited to my home state of Georgia and the fact that I have graduated one homeschooled student.
That being said, these tips should offer you the confidence to homeschool through high school and give you a starting point to know how to graduate a homeschooler.
Know the law
Most importantly, you need to make sure that you are familiar with the homeschool laws governing your state. My go-to site for understanding homeschool law is HSLDA. I also like to reference my statewide homeschool support website, GHEA. If you’re not sure where to find your state’s homeschool support group, HSLDA maintains a listing of homeschool support groups by state.
In speaking with homeschooling parents from other states and reading up on homeschooling laws on HSLDA, I feel confident in saying that, as of the time of this writing, most states do not maintain guidelines for graduating a homeschooled student. Some possible exceptions to that are Pennsylvania, New York, and North Dakota, so be sure that you are familiar with your state’s laws so that you and your student don’t have any unpleasant surprises.
Most states consider home schools independent entities which means that you, the homeschooling parent, determine the graduation requirements for your student and, upon completion of those requirements, you can issue your graduate a high school diploma.
Some states, such as Tennessee, offer the option to be a part of an umbrella school. Typically, a homeschool family will register with their umbrella school annually. The umbrella school maintains records and transcripts based on the information submitted by the teaching parent and, upon completion of the school’s graduation requirements, the umbrella school will issue a high school diploma.
In both the case of a parent-issued diploma and an umbrella school diploma (and most other homeschool options of which I’m aware), the resulting diploma is considered non-accredited. However, homeschooling is so wide-spread now that most colleges accept these diplomas as long as the other entrance requirements of the college have been met. You can typically find admissions policies related to homeschool graduates on most secondary school’s websites.
Consider your student’s plans after high school
My biggest piece of advice for parents planning to homeschool through high school is to consider your student’s plans after high school and plan accordingly. Some schools have very specific course requirements that differ from the general ones that most schools require. If your student has a specific school in mind, make sure you check the admissions requirements for that school prior to your student’s 9th grade year, and ensure that she is on track to meet them.
Most colleges and universities are going to require basics, such as four years each of English, science, and math; three years of social sciences; two years of foreign language, and so forth. Be sure to plan your student’s high school years accordingly.
If I could only recommend one resource for homeschooling high school, it would be The Homescholar Guide to College Admissions and Scholarships by Lee Binz. The best piece of advice that I took from Lee was this:
Even if your student doesn’t plan to attend college, give him a college prep high school education because teenagers change their minds, and if your student doesn’t change his mind, the high school education you provide will be the highest level of education he receives.
That is, of course, my paraphrased version, but that’s the gist of it and I think it’s an excellent point.
Even if your student’s plans include a college alternative, such as trade or vocational school, an apprenticeship, or going into the workforce, you want to provide him with a solid high school education. However, you may offer some alternatives to the traditional. For example, your student may complete science courses such as physical science and astronomy, rather than the traditional biology/chemistry/physics sciences courses. Although these courses aren’t the norm, they can still count toward four years of science (though it’s worth noting that many colleges will expect to see at least a couple of courses with labs).
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Keeping transcripts is a must if your teen will be attending college after high school, and you may be surprised to find that you’re asked for them for other post-secondary education options. My oldest is attending a private cosmetology school. All they teach is cosmetology, so it’s more a trade school than a college. Even so, because it’s in a neighboring state with homeschool laws that differ from our home state, we were asked to provide a copy of her transcripts.
Again, I refer to Lee Binz. Her online course, Total Transcript Solution is excellent and takes the fear and confusion out of keeping transcripts. Terri Johnson’s Upper Level Homeschool course also tops my list for must-have resources for planning the high school homeschool years.
I like to use the original grades and attendance forms from Donna Young’s site to keep track of my kids’ grades for each high school year. I transfer their grades to their high school transcripts at the end of each school year. Don’t forget to update the transcripts at the end of each school year. Trust me on this.
If your high school student plans on attending college after graduation, there is probably no question of a standardized test, such as the ACT or SAT, in his future. At the very least, he’ll most likely be required to take an entrance exam for the specific school he’ll be attending, but what about kids who will be going into the workforce, an apprenticeship, or a trade school?
I chose to have my oldest take the ACT and will, unless something changes, have my younger two take it, as well. The reason behind my decision was that people may question my “mommy grades,” but they can’t question a standardized test score. Even if they suspect that my kids spent their 4 years of high school playing video games and posting Facebook status updates (not the case), they can’t argue with their score on a test that most high school graduates take.
I have read (probably in Lee Binz’s book) that some students perform better on the SAT, while others perform better on the ACT. Depending on your student’s plans, it may be wise to have her take both tests and go with the one on which she scores better.
Also, it is my understanding that some schools accept the highest grade in each category of the ACT, not just the composite score. Don’t quote me on that because I can’t remember where I read it, but it may be worth checking out as it may be wise to have your student take the test more than once.
For many seasoned homeschool parents, the high school years bring back all the fear and trepidation of the first year of homeschooling. However, by educating yourself and developing a plan, you can successfully navigate the high school years with your homeschooled student.
If you have graduated a homeschooled student, what tips would you add?