As a parent homeschooling a high schooler, you’re more than just their teacher—you’re also the cafeteria lady, school nurse, guidance counselor, and school administrator!
That means you are responsible to plan the course your student will take, grade those courses, determine how much credit the courses are worth, and then document all this information on their high school transcript.
But don’t worry! We’ve got you covered with how-to, tips, and tools for each step of the way.
In this post, you’ll discover that determining high school credit doesn’t have to be daunting or confusing. (And then in the linked posts below you can get equipped for planning, grading, and recording your teen’s high school course on a transcript.)
All set? Let’s dive into credits!
First, the Big Picture: What You Should Know About High School Credits
Credits are a way of measuring a student’s fulfillment of educational requirements. Most high school courses are worth either 1.0 credit (for a one-year course) or 0.5 credit (for a semester course). The credit assigned to a course generally takes into account course content, instruction time, and the time the student spends completing course work.
When you’re creating your teen’s high school plan, you’ll want to determine the total credits your student should earn in 9th–12th grade, as well as the credit totals in each subject area. This will equip you to plan coursework that meets these totals, and it will help you and your student stay on track through all four years of high school.
Later, you’ll record on your teen’s transcript the credits for each completed course—allowing colleges, universities, trade schools, military recruiters, and employers to see at a glance what subjects your student has taken and how deeply they studied each subject.
By the way, in five states, the public schools use unusual credit values:
- In California and Nebraska, a one-year course receives 10.0 credits and a semester course 5.0 credits.
- In New Jersey, a one-year course receives 5.0 credits and a semester course 2.5 credits.
- In Idaho and Indiana, a one-year course receives 2.0 credits and a semester course 1.0 credit.
Are you homeschooling in any one of those five states? If so, you can either follow the public schools’ lead to determine credits or use the 1.0 and 0.5 system employed in most states. Once you choose a credit system, however, you’ll need to consistently use the same system through all four years of high school.
With a parent-taught course, you determine the credit. If your teen takes a course from an outside instructor, typically the instructor assigns credit. However, for co-op courses, the person who determines credit is not as clear-cut. Some co-op teachers assign credit, assess students’ work, and determine final grades. Other co-op teachers leave some or all of these responsibilities to you as the parent.
3 Great Methods for Determining Specific Course Credits
Here are three terrific options for assigning credit for your teen’s high school courses. You’ll have those credits corralled in no time!
1. Evaluating Credits with the Textbook Approach
Are you using a high school textbook written by a reputable publisher as the basis for your teen’s course? If so, then the publisher has already decided how much credit the course is worth.
For example, you might be using an algebra or biology book from a textbook publisher as the main resource for a science course. As part of the publication process, the publisher assesses the content of the course (or scope and sequence) and the amount of time necessary (on average) to complete the assignments.
A textbook designed to be completed in one school year is given 1.0 credit, while a textbook meant to be completed in one semester is given 0.5 credit. Many publishers and curriculum sellers will provide this information online.
Students do not need to complete every question, problem, or assignment in a textbook to earn the course credit—but please do not shortchange your teen. Using good judgment to prevent wasted effort, you’ll want to make sure your student diligently covers all the content of the textbook.
Many textbooks include extra problems, questions, or assignments to help students who are struggling with various concepts. Like any good expedition guide, you can lead your teen over easy territory quickly and help them face more challenging territory with deliberation. (This is especially relevant for courses that are the building blocks of follow-on courses, such as Algebra I or Spanish I.)
We recommend that your student completes at least 75–80% of the assignments in a textbook to earn the credit.
2. Evaluating Credits by Logging Hours
Not using a standard textbook as a course’s main resource? Maybe you are creating your own course materials or pulling together materials from a variety of sources? Lots of parents do this, especially for electives!
Or perhaps you are using an integrated curriculum that pulls from many different resources—such as real books, websites, articles, and primary source documents—to cover several subject areas at once?
Logging hours is a good method to determine the actual high school credit earned in each subject area.
For such courses, you can determine credit by keeping track of the reasonable time your student spends on the course work. For a core course (English, science, history, math, or foreign language), you will want your teen to log at least 150 hours for 1.0 credit (roughly five hours a week for 30 weeks). Logging more than 150 hours does not earn a student more credit; it simply indicates that the threshold of 150 hours has been passed.
For honors courses and Advanced Placement (AP) courses, students will log far more than the 150 hours. Generally, honors courses require 8–10 hours per week for 30+ weeks, and AP courses require 10–15 hours per week for 30+ weeks. Even though honors and AP courses demand more hours than a standard high school course, they do not earn more credit when students spend more than 150 hours completing them. Instead, there are GPA rewards to taking these more challenging courses.
For a lab science course, log a minimum of 180 hours; the additional 30+ hours are for required lab work.
For an elective course (such as physical education, art, music, or another course that that is not a core academic course), log 120+ hours for 1.0 credit and 60+ hours for 0.5 credit.
3. Converting College Credit to High School Credit
Students who take college-level courses while still in high school can simultaneously earn both college and high school credit. Most states call this dual enrollment (also referred to as concurrent enrollment or PSEO—post-secondary enrollment options).
If your teen completes a 3- to 5-credit college course in one college session (either an eight-week term, 11-week quarter, or 15-week semester), we recommend converting this course to a 1.0 credit high school course on your teen’s high school transcript.
There are a few exceptions to this college-to-high-school credit conversion factor. And of course as the administrator of your homeschool, you are free to determine how you wish to convert college course credit into high school credit!
However, most high schools around the country use the conversion outlined above, and we recommend it.
Now that you know how to determine high school course credit, you can go deeper on four-year planning, choosing curriculum, grading, recordkeeping, or transcripts—just check out the posts below!