Homeschooling the high school student can be both challenging and rewarding. As students prepare to enter high school, parents often face the same insecurities they had when they began to homeschool. Many of the same reasons you began homeschooling when your children were younger still apply as they reach high school age: you can tailor their education to their needs; high school students are especially prone to peer pressure; homeschooling strengthens family relationships; you have more flexibility for family and enrichment during and after school; you can focus on godly character; you can present material from a Christian worldview. In addition to the normal insecurities, parents wonder how their children will receive homeschool diplomas. Homeschool diplomas are accepted in most colleges and many workplaces. Parents determine the course of study and issue the homeschool diploma.
Where are you going?
When your student begins high school (usually considered the ninth grade), you need to have a general idea of where he or she wants to be when they are done. It’s not a bad idea to strive for a college-prep course of study for all students. The knowledge they obtain and the skills they learn will help them throughout life, whether or not they attend college.
As you plan the high school years, involve your students. Help them understand the general requirements for the high school years and the purpose of various classes. Even within the recommended courses, homeschooled high school families have a great deal of flexibility to determine how the requirements will be met. Electives allow students to explore interests and hone talents. In addition to career driven goals, home educators have the flexibility to teach life and family-living skills, and godly character to their teens.
The goals you and your child set determine the kinds of courses taught in high school. Feel free, however, to make course corrections as needed. Sometimes interest change. Sometimes unexpected opportunities arise. Plan, but hold your plans with an open hand. God may have something even better in store for your child.
No matter which goals you pursue for high school, you will want to keep records of material covered so that you can know when you have met your goals. High school work is often evaluated by how many hours a student spends in a classroom. Oregon defines a unit of credit as 130 hours. You may consider completing 80-90% of a high school level textbook as equivalent to a credit. Or you may define a course of study by writing a contract with your student for certain work to be accomplished for the credit to be earned. You may use a combination of these methods during course of high school.
A transcript is a record of courses taken in high school and grades received. There are many transcript tools for helping homeschoolers keep records for high school and prepare a formal-looking transcript. You enter the information about the course and the grade, and the program formats the transcript and calculated the GPA, etc. Homeschooltranscripts.com by Inge Cannon and HSLDA are two excellent sources for transcript help for the homeschoolers.
For the transcript to accurately reflect coursework undertaken, you need to keep adequate records. Senior High: Home-Designed Form-U-La by Barbara Edtl Shelton or The High School Handbook: Junior and Senior High at Home by Mary Schofield (see Additional Resources below) provides in depth information about keeping records using all three options for granting credits mentioned above. You, as the administrator of your homeschool, can determine the best method for record keeping.
Graduation requirements vary depending on your goals. When you issue your child’s homeschool diploma, you determine what the graduation requirements are. You are not required to follow anyone else’s graduation requirements in order to issue your own homeschool diploma. You need to prayerfully consider what you will require in order to equip your child for what God has for him or her.
The state of Oregon has certain minimum graduation requirements. (You are not required to follow these requirements, but they are listed to give you an idea of what it takes to get a high school diploma from Oregon public schools.) A minimum of 24 credits is required. (One credit is 130 hours of classroom time.) They include:
- Language Arts 4 credits
- Mathematics 3 credits at Algebra 1 and above
- Science 3 credits—scientific inquiry (2 with lab experiences)
- Social Sciences 3 credits
- Health 1 credit
- Physical Education 1credit
- Second language / The Arts / Career & Technical Ed 3 credits (any one area or in combination)
- Electives 6
Oregon has also started requiring certain Essential Skills
- Read and comprehend a variety of text
- Write clearly and accurately
- Apply mathematics in a variety of settings
- Listen actively and speak clearly and coherently
- Think critically and analytically
- Use technology to learn, live, and work
- Demonstrate civic and community engagement
College bound students will want to follow a more rigorous course of study. The following courses are recommended for a college preparatory program
- Language Arts 4 credits
- Mathematics 4
- Social Science 3 credits (including ½ U.S. Government)
- Lab Sciences 2-3 credits
- Foreign Language 2 credits
- Arts 2 credits
- Electives 7 credits (Electives should include Oregon requirements and additional credits in math, science, foreign languages, and performing arts.)
Families are free to develop their own graduation standards and can include many more life skill and character building courses than classroom schools can. You might consider courses in Christian family living, Bible/theology, biblical world view, meal preparation, consumer math/budgeting, political action, or home repairs. Homeschool teens also have great opportunities to do volunteer work or short term missions. Remember you have the privilege and responsibility to equip your child for his or her future.
Transferring Back to Public School
In general, when you begin home educating your high school student, you should plan on completing the four years at home. Currently, public or private schools are not required to recognize work done at home toward their diplomas. Still, there are times that a family may feel it is necessary to put their child into a high school. Some parents have had success transferring back to public school when their homeschool has been supervised by a private school. Others have been able to document their student’s work in a transcript to the school’s satisfaction. Still other students have been able to receive credit for courses by examination. If necessary, your child may be able to take courses at the local high school without receiving a diploma there. You would issue your own diploma just as you would have if your child had stayed home for all four years.
Taking the GED
Homeschool students may take the GED to validate the completion of their high school experience. According to the official GED web site, “More than 95 percent of employers in the U.S. consider GED graduates the same as traditional high school graduates in regard to hiring, salary, and opportunity for advancement.” In order to take the GED your child must be at least 18 years old. If your student is 16 or 17 years of age and wants to take the GED Test, you must provide a letter from the Educational Service District stating that your child is exempt from compulsory school attendance because he or she is homeschooled, a letter saying you support the decision of your child to take the GED, and a statement from the student. You can find more information on times and dates, preparatory classes, and forms you will need at the GED Testing Service.
If your child desires to enlist in the military, Home School Legal Defense Association cautions against having him or her take the GED. According to HSLDA, “the military has almost completely eliminated GED holders from enlisting in the Armed Forces.” Homeschool graduates will need to present a transcript issued by their parents for admission into the military. HSLDA worked many years to make a path into the military available to homeschoolers. We are thankful for their efforts.
The high school years can be some of the most rewarding for homeschool parents and their children. With more time spent together, family relationships can be strengthened. Discussions about what your student is learning are deeper and more interesting—and, most importantly, you can apply God’s word to what is being learned. High school is a great time for young people to explore their unique interests and talents—especially within the context of the freedom homeschool high school provides. Though homeschool high school may seem daunting, by God’s grace and with His strength, working with your student to set goals (albeit, flexible goals) at the beginning of high school and keeping the end in mind will help you as you and your student work toward completing the high school years.
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Christian Home Educators’ Curriculum Manual: Junior/Senior High by Cathy Duffy is an invaluable resource for every homeschool family with older children.
Homeschool, High School & Beyond by Beverly L. Adams-Gordon is a time management, organization and career exploration course for Christian homeschooled teens. This is an actual course that your student can complete near the beginning of their high school years in order to plan their high school course of study.
Homeschooling the High School, Volume I and II by Diana McAlister and Candice Oneschak. Volume I overviews planning the high school homeschool experience. Volume II lays out courses of study for high school for those that wish to complete high school without using traditional textbooks.
Homeschooltranscripts.com has a free Transcript Forecast tool [http://homeschooltranscripts.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Transcript+Forecast.pdf]that helps you outline a high school course of study using the various methods of granting credit.
Senior High: Home-Designed Form-U-La by Barbara Edtl Shelton gives step by step instructions for planning your own tailor made program of study for high school.
The High School Handbook by Mary Schofield also gives step by step instructions for planning your own tailor made program of study for high school. Available through CHEA of California, (562) 864-2432, cheaofca.org.