Homeschooling Thru High School
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Frequently Asked Questions

YOU CAN DO IT!

One of the most common questions we are asked is, “Am I the only one who feels overwhelmed when thinking about teaching high school?”

No, you aren’t. That may or may not be reassuring! But try to take it one step at a time. Making the decision to homeschool through high school takes commitment, careful thought, and prayer! You will quickly find that you are not alone—others have successfully homeschooled through high school, and numerous avenues of support are available.

I’m not sure that I can teach at the high school level. Do I need to be an expert in every subject?

No one is an expert in everything! But don’t underestimate yourself. You are training your child to be an independent learner, so be a good example and learn right along with him! Teaching your child to tackle a subject and stick with it until the material is learned is a great experience for life. Well-respected publishers of high school-level curriculum do most of the work for you. Teacher guides, CDs, videos, lesson plans, tests, and quizzes are available from most publishers. As a starting point, check out these curriculum possibilities.

HSLDA has developed a number of high school brochures to support you during the high school years.

Will my teen be prepared for his post-high school goals?
Homeschooling high school is no longer uncharted territory, and obstacles that made it difficult in the past have been remedied. Homeschooling has matured in many ways, and there are a multitude of homeschooled graduates who are bearing fruit in the workplace, in the military, in their families, and in colleges across the country. If you are called to homeschool through high school, you can do it!
Where can I find help and support?

HSLDA’s Homeschooling Thru High School Program—We are here to help! Members may contact HSLDA’s high school consultants Becky Cooke and Diane Kummer for personal consultation. The free monthly high school email newsletter, covers topics of interest for those teaching high school at home. To subscribe or to view back issues of the newsletter go to the archives on our high school website homepage. In addition, HSLDA’s magazine, Court Report, includes a high school-related article in each issue.

Friends—Spend an afternoon with a friend who has homeschooled through high school. Ask her for advice. Experience makes the best teacher!

Support Groups—Get connected with a local support group-preferably one that includes families with high school students.

Local opportunities—Peruse your state organization’s website for extracurricular activities (sports, debate, choir, etc.) and group classes that may be available in your area.

Resources—Scan homeschool websites, read books, and become familiar with the curriculum choices.

State conventions/speakers—Attend high school workshops at your state homeschool convention, or invite a speaker to your support group who can talk about homeschooling at the high school level. You will glean ideas from these speakers who have already done the research for you.

Where do I begin when thinking about homeschooling my high schooler?
Sit down and talk with your child—what are his current interests? What vocation does she feel called to? What additional schooling or training will he need after high school to accomplish his goals? Is college a consideration? Vocational school? Family business or entrepreneurial endeavor? Becoming a wife and mother? Are there subject areas that your child has great aptitude in, or other subject areas in which he has a special interest?

Map out a general plan you will follow during the high school years that will move your child toward his future goals. This may require a rigorous academic course load in high school, or it may require specialized training in a vocational trade or an apprenticeship with a local businessman. The HSLDA brochure, Keeping on Track: A Timeline for High School, highlights the important items to keep in mind during each year of high school.

How can I find the time to teach and prepare for all those high school subjects?

Consider your family and your circumstances. If you are also teaching younger children, you may want to consider these options to ease your teaching load:

In addition, you may want to teach a couple of courses with another family or hire a tutor for a particular subject. One important item to remember is that flexibility is the key so each year determine the time or energy constraints you have. Take advantage of the summer months to plan and to investigate curriculum, as well as to read novels that you will be teaching during the school year. Taking time to plan in advance will produce benefits that you will appreciate throughout the school year.

What services does HSLDA offer to parents who are homeschooling high schoolers?
Why should I homeschool through high school?
Read this article by Elizabeth Smith, wife of HSLDA President J. Michael Smith and a mom who homeschooled three children through high school.
How do homeschool graduates fare as adults?
According to Dr. Brian Ray, in a summary of his research entitled Homeschooling Grows Up, homeschool graduates are just as or more likely to go on to college as the general population, more satisfied in their work, happier with their lives overall, and more involved in civic affairs.
Before High School

When should I start planning my child’s high school courses?
Usually junior high is the best time to begin working with your student to map out the next four to five years. That gives plenty of time to discern a child’s unique interests and talents and to obtain books and materials that will best suit his needs. See also “ACADEMICS” under “During High School.”
During High School
Academics
Can you give me an example of a typical high school program?
Generally speaking (and remember that customization is one of the advantages of homeschooling—so this is just an example!), a well-rounded high school program would include these core academic courses:
  • 4 years of English
  • 2–4 years of Math
  • 2–4 years of Science
  • 2–4 years of History
  • at least 2 years of a Foreign Language

Be sure to check your state homeschooling regulations for any applicable high school requirements. The HSLDA brochure, A Guide for Homeshcooling through High School, provides course suggestions for each subject area. Three back issues of the HSLDA high school email newsletters deal with the topic of high school graduation requirements: High School Graduation Requirements—Part I, High School Graduation Requirements—Part II, and Requirements for High School Graduation? Help!.

Besides the core academic courses, what else should a high school program include?

In addition to the core courses mentioned above, don’t forget about adding some electives each year. Think of electives as courses that supplement the core courses such as home economics, computer skills, SAT prep, keyboarding, or courses that are enjoyable and geared to your child’s interests such as phys ed, health, music, art, etc. There are instances when some of the afore-mentioned electives may be required homeschool law or colleges.

Elective choices should reflect to some degree your child’s future plans. For example, if your child is considering going directly into the workforce after high school, a personal financial management course may be a good idea (how to set up and reconcile a checking account, what to consider when purchasing a car, etc.). On the other hand, if your child is considering college, an SAT prep course would be a good choice for an elective.

Use the high school years to teach your teen life skills. Some resources and a checklist are listed on the high school website.

Besides the academic courses, should I consider any other options?

If your child already knows his intended vocation, consider an internship or apprenticeship. Does your child have an interest in veterinary science? Perhaps a local vet would consider having your child work in his office for several hours during the week. Does your child want to develop clerical skills? You may want to investigate the need for volunteer help in a local church or business. Don’t stress out about this possibility; many times these opportunities simply fall into place.

Extracurricular activities are an important part of the high school experience. The Beyond Academics section of the website offers a number of suggestions to enhance your teen's high school years.

How do I know which high school courses to teach my child?
As stated above, one of the advantages of homeschooling at the high school level is that you can customize your child’s courses to best suit his post-high school plans. Some examples of possible courses to consider in each subject area are:
  • Math
      (e.g. College bound—Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, Calculus / Non-college bound—consider Consumer Math and Accounting in lieu of upper level courses)
  • Science
      (e.g. Biology, Physical Science, Earth Science, Chemistry, Physics, etc.)
  • English
      (e.g. Composition, Grammar, Vocabulary, American Lit, British Lit, Speech, etc.)
  • History/Social Sciences
      (e.g. American History, Ancient History, World History, Civics, Government, Geography, Economics, etc.)
  • Foreign Language
If college is part of your child’s future plans, you can access a particular college’s catalog to check out its high school requirements for admission. If your child is considering another alternative to college, then choose high school courses that will be of benefit to him in his chosen vocational field.

If I stop homeschooling, will HSLDA help me persuade public school officials to accept my child’s homeschool credits?

It is common for public school districts to disqualify credits of homeschoolers transferring into public high school.

Consistent with our mission to conserve our resources for helping parents who continue to homeschool, we are not able to extend our advocacy to situations where parents are enrolling their students in public school. Please be aware that this limitation extends to public charter school programs.

HSLDA’s mission is to advance the cause of homeschooling. To this end, we advocate for homeschoolers when the legitimacy of their diploma is questioned, for instance, by colleges, employers or military recruiters.

Curriculum
How do I choose a curriculum?
Talk to friends and find out what has or has not worked for them. Consider your child’s learning style and your family’s lifestyle. Here’s a list of curriculum providers to get you started in your research.
Testing
What tests do I need to know about?
There are several main categories of tests:
Read more about testing here.
Record Keeping
What records do I need to keep for my high schooler?
Record keeping is important during the high school years. In 9th grade begin keeping accurate records of the courses your child takes, the textbook or other resources that were used, a brief description of the content of the course (sometimes called the scope and sequence—if a standard high school textbook is used, you might just want to copy the book’s Table of Contents), the method of evaluation, samples of papers written and tests taken, and the name of the instructor (this could be the parent, a tutor, an online instructor, etc.). It is also a good idea to keep separate reading lists of the various books your child reads for class work and for pleasure during the high school years. Keeping accurate records each year will save you much time and effort when creating a transcript for your child. High School Recordkeeping: Simplifying the Process provides a handy review of documenting high school course work.
Transcripts
What is a high school transcript and why do I need one?

Transcripts are records of the courses that your children completed in high school, the credit earned for each course, and each course’s final grade. Transcripts also include personal information used for identification purposes and usually a grade point average (GPA). Colleges and other post-high school institutions will likely request a transcript from your child in order to consider him for admission.

There are many good references that will direct you step by step in preparing a transcript for your child. In addition, some distance learning programs offer to provide transcripts for homeschooled students. For your convenience sample transcripts and an explanation of the GPA calculation are provided on our high school website. For more detailed transcript information, read the back issue of the high school email newsletter from November 2005.

High School Diploma
What does a diploma mean?
In general, a diploma is a certificate by which a person or organization certifies that the person named on the diploma has successfully completed a program of study. A high school diploma certifies that a student has successfully completed a program of secondary education.
Where do I get a diploma?
A blank diploma can be purchased from several organizations (including HSLDA) or possibly obtained via the internet (make sure copyright laws are not violated), but it is not valid until it is signed by the person who has verified that the student has finished the program that was set before him.
Can I make my own diploma?
Yes, but bear in mind a diploma that looks like it was prepared by an amateur may not make the desired impression. When creating a diploma, include at a minimum the following features: 1. State that it is a high school diploma. 2. State the name of the student. 3. Include wording that the student finished the program of secondary education that was required of him. 4. Enter the signature of the person who knows the student finished the program. 5. Add the date it was issued or signed.
Who must sign the diploma?
Because the diploma attests to the fact that the student finished his high school program, it should be signed by someone who exercised authority over the student’s high school program and who has verified that the student successfully completed the program. In the case of a homeschooled student, the parent is generally the appropriate person to sign. If a school is issuing the diploma, a school official will sign it.
Can a parent sign a diploma even if he did not personally teach all the classes?
Yes. For a homeschooled student, the parent signs the student’s high school program. Only the parent knows if the student truly accomplished what the parent required. Even if persons outside the family taught the student, the parent will still know if the student accomplished what was required in the class.
Can more than one person sign the diploma?
Yes. There may be several people equally qualified to sign the diploma—such as both parents, in the case of a homeschooler. Additionally, other persons can sign the diploma as witnesses to verify the fact that the diploma was issued, but this is not essential.
What should I write on the diploma?
Here is suggested wording for your consideration (including any diploma you purchase from HSLDA):

This certifies that John Smith has completed the course of study prescribed for graduation by his parents, Joseph and Mary Smith (or by Smith Home School)

In testimony whereof, this diploma is conferred, and we have subscribed our names on the third day of the month of June, in the year 2010.

The diploma can then be signed by the parents if desired or by one parent and perhaps the director of an oversight or umbrella group if the family was enrolled in one and if the group desires to sign.

What if I homeschooled in close association with a private school?
In some states, parents have the option of homeschooling in close association with a private school. Under some circumstances, the private school may issue the diploma upon the student’s satisfying all of its requirements.
Do I need an “accredited” diploma? If so, how do I get one? Some colleges and employers look down on a homeschool diploma (they want it to be state-certified).
The quick answer is, “No.” However, there are certain schools and organizations that have received accreditation from an accrediting body and their diplomas are generally considered to be accredited. In order to obtain an accredited diploma, a student must complete graduation requirements from a school—whether it be correspondence or on campus—that is accredited by a recognized accrediting organization. Public high schools are not necessarily accredited. Therefore, the diplomas they issue would not be accredited either. However, colleges and universities generally recognize these public high school diplomas as if they were issued by accredited organizations.
Even so, how do I get an “accredited” diploma?
There are organizations which, for a fee, offer to give homeschool students an “accredited” diploma upon completion of their program. In HSLDA’s experience, most homeschool parents do not seek such an accredited diploma.
Can I obtain a high school diploma without involving the local school district?
Yes. As indicated above, you can obtain a commercialized diploma and fill out the information regarding your school and student’s name.
Will the local public school issue a diploma for my student?
In all likelihood, no. Even if you homeschooled under the oversight of your local school district, you should not expect the public school to issue a diploma to your child.
Must the student comply with state or school district requirements in order to receive a diploma?

No.* It is up to each parent to decide what the student must do in order to receive a diploma. While each state has slightly different requirements for graduation for its public high schools, parents are not required to meet the same requirements that are imposed on public school students. For example, you may hear that 20 “credits” are required for graduation. While public schools may require students to complete 20 credits before being allowed to graduate, and may require that certain subjects be taken, homeschool parents are under no duty to imitate the public schools or adopt their standards.

*Note: The Pennsylvania homeschool law prescribes graduation requirements, but even though the student fulfills them, neither the school district nor the state will issue a diploma to the student. HSLDA encourages parents to issue the diploma and take the position that the state should recognize it, since the student has met the state-prescribed requirements.
Do I need to get the local public school’s approval before issuing a diploma?
No.* You, the parent, are the authority that issues the diploma.

Note: In North Dakota, the law says that the school district, an approved nonpublic school, or the North Dakota Division of Independent Study may issue a diploma to a student completing graduation requirements established by one of these entities or established by the state for all public and nonpublic schools, but these entities are not required to issue the diploma. Most homeschooling parents in North Dakota issue their own diplomas.
How do I get a diploma that is recognized by the armed forces?
The armed forces recognize a parent-issued diploma if the student received it for completing a program of education through high school at home. The military will require that the student provide a transcript demonstrating completion of high school to support the receipt of the high school diploma.
Should I skip the diploma and have my student take the GED test instead?
A GED is a substitute for a diploma; it is not a diploma. A person can obtain a GED without ever having spent a day of his life in school. Many colleges and employers will treat a GED about the same as they would a diploma. However, if a student has a GED, some colleges and employers may assume the student did not have what it takes to finish high school. If your student successfully completed a program of secondary education, he deserves a diploma to prove it.
What schools (i.e., correspondence and online) offer a diploma for homeschools.
A quick online search on Google.com asking for an “online high school diplomas for homeschoolers” produced many possibilities.
Diploma services/programs—can I homeschool without them? How effective are they?
You certainly can homeschool effectively without using a diploma service or a correspondence program. None of these programs existed when homeschooling began. Even though the pioneers of the homeschool movement didn’t have any of these services or programs available to them, it has been verified that their children have done very well, both academically and socially. Their children have been accepted into colleges and universities based on homeschooling without any outside services or programs. However, these diploma services and academic programs have made recordkeeping easier and have given those contemplating homeschooling through high school much more confidence.
Should I also prepare a transcript?
Yes. You should prepare a formal statement listing each course your child took in grades 9 through 12, the amount of credit earned (as decided by the parent), and the letter grade or other evaluation earned (as decided by the parent). If a student may be headed for college, the transcript should be in a format designed to be quickly and easily understood by busy college admissions officials. Colleges vary in how many credits they want entering students to have in various subject areas. (And in some states, such as Indiana, certain admissions requirements are set by state statute.) Some employers also require high school transcripts along with the high school diploma. Transcripts can be downloaded on HSLDA’s Homeschooling Thru High School website. For further information, see the transcript question and answer above.
After High School
College Admissions
How difficult is it for a homeschooler to gain admission to college?
It’s getting easier every day! Many colleges are now familiar with homeschooling in general, and most of them have already admitted homeschooled students. Some colleges even have admissions officers who specifically review homeschooled students’ applications. Record keeping is important during the high school years, so that you can provide admissions officers with an accurate account of the courses that your child has completed in high school. Most colleges require either SAT or ACT test scores for admission. Many helpful resources regarding college admission are available, as are college prep materials.
DISCLAIMER: The content of this website has been prepared for and is intended to provide information that may be useful to members of the Home School Legal Defense Association. The Association does not necessarily warrant this information. The reader must evaluate this information in light of the unique circumstances of any particular situation and must determine independently the applicability of this information thereto.

Policy regarding resources listed by our Homeschooling Thru High School program:

Being listed as a resource does not constitute an endorsement by HSLDA. Our list of resources is not intended to be an exhaustive inventory of all available materials, but rather a sample listing of resources commonly used by our members.

HSLDA retains the exclusive right to determine which resources we will list. We will periodically update our list based on member feedback.

In general, resources listed must be of value to a substantial number of homeschoolers and cannot be overtly anti-Christian or anti-HSLDA.