What About Homeschooling High School?
A Help Article from the CHOC Board
What about homeschooling high school? Can the homeschool adequately prepare a student for college or career? These are frequent questions asked us here at CHOC Board. The following is an overview of our family's experience and research and why we believe homeschooling high school is such a great choice.
Scroll to read the whole article, or click on a subject heading to take you to a specific section.
For a more detailed discussion on how to prepare your homeschooled high school student for the college/career path, please see our page at "Planning for College or Career."
Why Homeschool Highschool?
The Many Blessings it Produces
Things to Consider for Homeschool High School
Avoid Changing Tracks Midstream (Homeschool to Public or Private)
Scope with All Four Years in Mind (Scope and Credits)
Setting Up Records for Homeschool High School (Records, Transcripts and Portfolios, Diplomas)
What About the Validity of the Home Transcript and Diploma?
Validity of the Home Diploma and Home Transcript
Some Problems that Might Arise with the Home Diploma-Transcript
Homeschoolers and the FAFSA
Local College Acceptance Trend
Work Arounds to Any Problems
Home Diploma vs. Transcript Service?
Each have their merits
Community College Enrollment Instead of the Home Diploma
Open or Dual Enrollment vs Home High
Online Courses at Home for Home High
The Good vs Bad of Early, Open or Dual Enrollment
Where to Gather More Information on Home High School
More help on our Home High to College Page
Some outside resources
A good list of reasons to homeschool the high school years can be found in an article by Cafi Cohen entitled "
Ten Reasons to Homeschool High School." HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) also has excellent encouragements for those considering homeschool high school on its "You Can Do It" page.
For research findings that support the success of homeschooling, including those who were homeschooled and now are adults, go to National Home Education Research Institute which has numerous facts sheets for free download and a number of books which show that the statistics overwhelmingly support the benefits of homeschooling (i.e. homeschoolers have higher SAT/ACT scores and are more active in college than non-homeschooled children).
The Many Blessings It Produces
Our family can personally attest to the great blessing homeschooling high school has been for both us parents and our children.
There is a continued ability to closely disciple and educate their whole person from a godly perspective during their special maturing years, especially regarding the "bigger" and often difficult issues.
The homeschool schedule provides freedom and time for our children to pursue special interests and talents (that also look especially appealing on the college resume).
The continued use of efficient homeschooling techniques makes the most of our children's precious school time. We also get to experience the thrill of tackling the "tough" subjects together and conquering them, building a special bond.
The emphasis on self-directed learning taught our children how to achieve an education rather than sit back and receive it(parceled out to them in bite sizes as so often happens in public institutions. This translated very well to college style learning.
The only two things our oldest daughter found she was not "prepared" for in college were--how to open her combination lock on her book locker (hee, hee, we forgot to put one of those in her bedroom), and the fact that she expected to do the science labs through her own efforts (others struggled to figure out what to do and just copied off of her while watching in amazement).
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Avoid Changing Tracks Midstream (Homeschool to Public or Private)
An important thing to remember when considering homeschooling high school is that public, and private, high schools are not required to accept anything you've done as a homeschooler if you decide to change tracks mid-stream and put your child into a public or private high school.
Homeschooled high schoolers usually lose credits and academic time as some but most often all of their homeschool work is not acknowledged by the public or private high school.
Admittance policies vary greatly from district to district and even school to school within districts. Some schools are more lenient than others in accepting homeschooled credits or in being flexible with make up credits to allow a student to graduate at the original age level.
Scope with all the High School Years in Mind
For high school, it is important to scope and plan courses in a progressive and supportive way that will develop your child's whole person as well as the specific skills, interests, and abilities for his or her future--whether that includes college, career, vocation, or ministry. Therefore, it is helpful to scope and plan high school with the whole high school block in mind to optimize your child's experiences.
And you can think outside of the 4-year box. Stretching high school over 5 years (from 8th through 12th) offers more time for in depth study, community service, and building skills in a child's talent areas and needs. Generally, high school course work can be done in the 8th and sometimes even 6th or 7th grade years. (But Note: Not all high schoolers appreciate 6th or 7th grade level work presented in their high school portfolio to college administrators since there can be a big difference in the appearance of quality due to the maturation between those grades. Also, if pursuing higher education, not all receiving colleges and institutions will recognize work done below 8th grade.)
But what should your high school cover? For the homeschooler, that stems mostly from your family's schooling philosophy and prayerful decision with your child more than anything else. To see a fuller discussion on that, please go to our article on our Homeschool 101 page: "Deciding What to Teach." We are blessed that currently in Oregon, homeschoolers are not held to any required scope, curriculum or credit load as our students graduate under the Oregon Home School Laws as an alternative method of education -- although the State does assume a general education will be given. So the parent can have considerable freedom in what they desire to cover in high school for their student.
It is important to remember that although colleges, and society as a whole, are becoming more and more creative and accepting of students from non-traditional education, traditional expectations can play an important part on your student's opportunities in many fields -- that can translate into the inclusion of certain traditional courses as computed by a credit system and reflected on the high school transcript.
As a general comparison of "traditional" high school expectations, currently the Oregon Department of Education, requires 24 credits as a minimum for graduation for a public school student to be alloted as follows:
Counting Traditional Credits
This will look confusing if you compare various schools or states. What constitutes a credit varies from state to state and institution to institution because of the different ways that the credits can be figured--whether the credit time is based upon a 45 minute, 50 minute or 60 minute class period and whether or not alternative assessment methods are allowed.
Traditionally, and currently, the Oregon Department of Education considers 130 fifty-minute class hours 1 credit
(OAR 581-022-0102.). That works out to be 108 sixty minute clock hours for 1 credit and 54 sixty minute clock hours for 1/2 credit.
Further, the Oregon Department of Education has broadened the method of awarding credits to allow "credits by proficiency" wherein credits can be awarded through a demonstration of performance to a certain proficiency level without the need for logging in a specified credit time in class. Demonstration is usually done through passing a course exam, portfolio assessment, or skill level demonstration.
So you wouldn't have to keep time for everything, even if you were attempting to follow a more traditional scope and assessment method for transcript purposes. You only would need to award credit by minutes for courses that are based upon activity participation (like music, community service, PE) but could also award credits by a system of completion or proficiency for subjects that can be assessed in that manner.
Credit completion is easy to assess for subjects that use a typical textbook or standardized set of skills to complete. For example, a standard high school Algebra textbook is usually considered completed in one year. If your student completes that book in 6 months demonstrating satisfactory mastery (usually assessed through tests), he or she would be awarded 1 full credit for completion. This can also work if your student took 2 years to complete that Algebra book, if no further topics were added in supplement, the student would be awarded 1 credit for completion. An example for proficiency might be passing a driver's education course, achieving a certain syllabus level on an instrument, or obtaining a Red Cross First-Aid/CPR certificate.
Track Volunteer Time
Don't forget to track the time your child spends in ministry and community service volunteer work. Most colleges want to see a listing of volunteer work on the application resume as do many apprenticeships for certain fields. Volunteering can turn into vocation. (For a directory of locally available community volunteer outlets, please go to our Community Volunteer Work page.)
Often, volunteer time can count double for community service and for an elective, ie Lifeguarding preparation courses can count for community service preparation as well as health studies.
For more information about scoping for the homeschool high school with college and career in mind, please go to our page about Scoping Your Child's High School Academics.
Setting Up Records for Homeschool High School
It is very, very important that you keep some sort of organized record of your child's courses and grades during the high school years especially if your child plans on higher education. Even if he doesn't plan on college, it would still be helpful for later job applications, apprencticeships, vocational work etc.
Often at this point many choose to use a portfolio system--a file box with folders which hold the work for each subject done during each year of high school. Include samples of projects--ie artwork, woodworking, photo record of a project, journals, etc.
A Record of Grades and Courses
You should also keep track of grades and courses, especially if your student will go on to college. Sometimes this is done in a parent letter, or a notebook, but usually this is reflected in the one or two sheet transcript.
Types of Home Transcripts
Usually colleges and vocational schools are most concerned about the transcript rather than the diploma because the transcript gives them a list of what the student has taken, the credit units earned, and how well he/she did.
This transcript needs to be well-organized with courses computed to show the number of carnegie unit credits or class hours completed for each course, how many carnegie units/class hours completed collectively, and of course the grades for each course with the overall grade point average shown as well.
Some colleges further require all students submit a course description for each course taken, especially for the medical field applicants. If that is the case, preparing a notebook with an opening transcript page and then pages of course titles with course descriptions has proven very effective.
If a parent cannot produce a reasonably organized and complete transcript, even homeschool friendly colleges and apprenticeships may balk and require some further validation.
There are several software programs that provide good record keeping and transcripts such as Edu-Track, Homeschool Tracker, (If you are wondering, Homeschool Easy Records has discontinued sales indefinitely).
Exodus Books sells a number of the manual lesson planning systems and home schooling high school books.
To get an idea of what a transcript should look like, google "high school transcript" or "high school transcript template." Numerous examples should come up that will help give you an idea of the kind of transcript you'd like to develope. Covenant College in Georgia offers homeschool applicants an editable and printable transcript template together with a GPA calculator.
For those who prefer not to hassle with a transcript themselves, computing credits, etc., there are a number of diploma/transcript services such as our local Basic Skills or a national service like NARHS (North Atlantic Regional High School).
Types of Home Diplomas
To fulfill the requirement for an actual physical diploma, local homeschoolers have reported that a notarized statement declaring the student has completed a secondary school course of study in compliance with Oregon homeschooling laws has been effective as the "official" diploma for college entrance and financial aid. (Most Postal Annexes and UPS Stores have a notary public who will notarize documents for a small fee.)
This statement was signed by the student self-certifying he had completed this "legal" course of study; although I should think it could also be done by the parents declaring their child has done so (just as the high school principal does so for graduating public school students).
A few homeschool families simply did a letter without notarization.
A number have signed a decorative diploma without notarization indicating their child has completed the secondary course of study in compliance with Oregon homeschool law.
One family showed the admitting college the printed event program of their support group's graduation night as further "proof" of their child's completion of high school.
Obviously ask the college how formalized the diploma must be to prove your child has completed high school and is eligible for financial aid. (Likely, the college may only care about the transcript.)
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Before reading this section, and potentially becoming fearful, let me stress that any difficulties which might arise over the home diploma or transcript should not discourage any parent who desires the many benefits of homeschooling their high schooler because most problems that could arise are easily resolved, and all can be resolved in one manner or another with a little additional effort.
Many Oregon homeschoolers have awarded their child a home diploma and prepared a home transcript and merrily sent them on their way to college admissions or career schools without any problems arising.
However, some have had to battle with reluctant college administrators who did not view the home diploma and transcript as valid or complete. Note: Four-year colleges are the most likely culprit if there is a reluctance for homeschool admission. Rarely do community colleges balk at admitting homeschooled students--which is an obvious work around for the homeschooled student who wants to attend a reluctant four-year college--go to the community college first, and then transfer to the four-year institution.
If an institution questions the homeschool diploma/transcript, usually they then attempt to require a GED or a number of SAT Subject Tests.
In those cases when the institution would not budge from requiring additional tests, the homeschoolers in question had their child take the GED or SAT Subject Tests and their child passed and went on to successful courses of study at that college.
Why Problems Might Arise over the Home Diploma-Transcript
So why do problems sometimes occur?
Lack of Documentation
Often it is the lack of documentation by the parent. Most colleges would like to have an indication of what your child has done during his high school years, even if the child got a stunning SAT or ACT score. This is usually done through a single page (sometimes two-page) formal transcript. Some colleges are very flexible and allow for portfolios of work or an informal parent letter simply listing the courses taken, but most will balk if you can offer little information about what your child did during high school.
Confusion About Federal Aid and the FAFSA for Homeschoolers
Sometimes the reluctance to admit a homeschooler stems from the college's misunderstanding of a student's eligibility for Federal financial aid or a confusing FAFSA form response (a form required to be completed by all students applying for federal aid, and often for any aid, even private aid).
The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has written an article regarding this confusion over homeschooled student's federal aid eligibility in "".
Federal Requirements for Homeschoolers Seeking College Admittance and Federal Aid
In its article, HSLDA concludes:
Congress has revised and clarified federal law affecting homeschoolers. The U.S. Department of Education has changed its policy as well. Both point to a common principle: homeschoolers should be admitted to colleges and granted financial aid without having to take additional tests beyond what is required of traditionally schooled students. Ignoring a homeschool graduate’s diploma and requiring him to take a GED, SAT II, or ability-to-benefit test, while graduates from traditional high schools are not required to do so, is seen as discriminatory by Congress.
The law appears to be on the homeschooler's side.
Homeschoolers and the FAFSA (Updated Nov. 2010)
Formerly, it was important for Homeschoolers to check "diploma" on the FAFSA form to indicate your child indeed has completed the legal requirements of secondary schooling under Oregon Homeschool Laws, even though you may not have gone through the formality of actually typing up a diploma, to prevent the FAFSA from looking at your student as a "drop out" with resulting delays and additional requirements for your application.
However, beginning with 2011 new rules will require FAFSA to "validate" the school that gave the diploma for public and private students. Homeschoolers are exempted from that rule, but only if they check "homeschool" on the FAFSA application. If you now check diploma, and your school, or umbrella service, is not on the "approved" list of "valid" schools, your FAFSA application may be denied for further processing and your student may be required to take additional testing.
For more details on the FAFSA application, please go to our Gather and Prepare Financial Aid section.
Local Acceptance Trend of the Home Diploma-Transcript
The good news is that many Oregon colleges now have a homeschool/non-standard admission process listed right on their website. Homeschoolers no longer have to advocate just to get into the admissions door to be considered for application.
Also good news is many colleges now have flexible entrance procedures that allow for various homeschool transcripts and portfolios. And most, if not all, local community colleges accept homeschoolers without official diplomas or transcripts as long as they are at least 16 years of age (earlier with petition) and take the community college placement test which all applicants must take.
On the negative, there seems to be some continued discrimmination towards homeschoolers as a number of Oregon four-year colleges are requesting that a homeschooled student pass two SAT Subject tests as well as the basic SAT or ACT test. These colleges also strongly recommend that one of those SAT Subject tests be a foreign language test to meet the 2 year foreign language requirement that is required of all their applicants. However public school students can simply show on their transcript that a foreign language high school course was taken.
Interestingly, most of these same colleges express newly relaxed college board exam requirements for public school students who receive a GPA of 3.0 or better, ie if a public school student has a GPA of 3.0 or better, the student is not required meet their minimum SAT or ACT scores and would not even have to submit scores.
Obviously the education of some college admissions departments is still ongoing on behalf of homeschoolers, but continued patience and persistence will win the day. Homeschoolers have proven collectively over the years to be better students and leaders on campus, and more and more colleges are actively recruiting homeschooled students.
Work Arounds to Any Home Diploma or Transcript Problems
1. Have an organized and complete transcript with carnegie units, and separate course descriptions readied if necessary, and politely remind the college or apprenticeship of the law regarding federal aid eligiblity of homeschooled students and the validity of the homeschool diploma.
2. Use an extenstion school, umbrella, or transcript service which is recognized by your state or college of choice. Most colleges will then perceive a homeschooler as a private school student and the officialness of the home diploma/transcript question fades away. (See Home Diploma v. Transcript Service section below for discussion on this.)
3. Comply with the reluctant four-year college's requirement for a GED or additional SAT Subject Tests. (Most homeschoolers pass them easily).
4. Send your graduated homeschool highschooler to a community college before applying to a four-year college. Once significant community college credits are received, four year institutions no longer look at the home diploma.
5. Find a homeschool friendly college! Many colleges are now actively recruiting homeschoolers as they have experienced that homeschoolers are excellent students and campus leaders. A small list of colleges known to be especially homeschool friendly can be found at Homeschool Friendly Colleges and Learn in Freedom has a great article about colleges that admit homeschoolers together with lots of links for information on the homeschool to college process.
6. Gracious persistence. Don't be afraid to take a stand for your schooling method and course choices, and go prepared to show the excellence of your homeschool should you encounter resistance. (Prepare your child to do so as well.) Now is not the time to deprecate the public school system, complain about institutional dogma, or respond in indignant anger. We as homeschoolers, whether we wish to or not, act as ambassadors for homeschooling to businesses, apprenticeships, institutions, and colleges. Remember you are dealing with a person who probably has a lot of paperwork sitting on their desk, not enough time to deal with it, and the parent before you may have been truly unreasonable, even nasty. Take a breath, take your time, and firmly but gently as a team with your child persist in showing the administrator what a great education your child has received. Politely ask to talk to upper management if necessary. Homeschooled kids are the best marketing campaign for homeschooling.
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Some homeschoolers choose to use an educational diploma/transcript service such as the local Basic Skills or a national service like NARHS rather than awarding a home diploma and transcript.
The pros and cons on both sides should be weighed carefully against the student's and family's needs and desires.
The home diploma/transcript path allows complete parental control in course choices, timing, and substance but requires the parent's willingness and ability to present and validate the home transcript/diploma's worth to a college administrator under sometimes strict and less than friendly scrutiny.
An extension diploma/transcript service does require its credits and course areas be met, but it can offer comforting guidance, official oversight, valuable experience in preparing the transcript, and outside accountability for both you and your child while yet allowing much of your homeschooling to proceed as before.
A recognized diploma/transcript service can also have the added benefit that your child is viewed as a private schooler with an institutionally-recognized transcript and diploma, which can ease the college admittance process or provide comforting "officialness" if your student will not go on to higher education after homeschooling.
CAVEAT: If an extension/diploma service is to be used for its diploma/transcript value, be sure it has a proven track record with your state or college of choice and allows your student to be treated as a private school student rather than a homeschool applicant if your purpose is to avoid potential college admission hurdles.
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As stated earlier, many homeschool parents circumvent the question of the "official" home diploma by having their child go to the community college system and pick up a few credits, or an associates degree, before applying to a four-year institution.
Usually once community college credits begin to rack up, other colleges look no further than those credits as the student has proven their ability to do college level work especially if there are significant credits earned, commonly 30 or more.
However, you need to be aware that some colleges will not award freshman status scholarships (often the most lucrative) once a student has completed over a certain number of college credits either by college coursework or by CLEP/AP Tests.
Always check with the colleges of choice to see what their standards are. The admissions department or the financial aid department will have this information.
Open or Dual Enrollment Instead of Home High
Also, a number of parents choose to have their child skip the last two years of high school altogether and go straight into the community college after the home high sophmore year.
Portland Community College's Open Homeschool Enrollment allows homeschooled students to enter into the community college system without having a high school diploma if they are 16 years of age (otherwise special petition must be made by the parent).
These students plan to never receive a high school diploma but rather focus on obtaining an associates diploma in its place.
Some homeschoolers use Portland Community College's Adult High School Diploma Program to take adult high school level courses at the community college to receive a high school diploma. Some college credit can be earned as well for those courses taken which are at college level.
Some local public high schools even allow for a dual enrollment for high school completion wherein the last two years of public high school can be taken through the Portland Community College system and the student can receive both a public high school diploma and an associates degree of general studies if college level courses are taken.
A few districts will even pay for the dual enrollment classes as long as your student is enrolled as a public high school student in their district. But note, your student is now a public school student and not a homeschooled student.
The availability and terms of dual enrollment differ from district to district and from year to year, so you will have to contact your district high school directly.
The Good vs. the Bad of Early, Open or Dual Enrollment
Whether or not to use community college classes during the homeschool high school years is an area that should be weighed prayerfully by each family for each child.
While it can be a good method to start chipping away at college while also knocking off high school subjects (if college level courses are taken), it is not for every child or family, and we at the CHOC Board remain wary for a number of reasons.
Be aware that community college courses are geared to the adult learner in a "mature" atmosphere. Courses will be secular in viewpoint. We've found that the liberal arts/humanities courses can especially border on vulgar "edginess" or liberal "political correctness." A few were downright immorally awful!
Also, college courses take significant amount of time both in class and out of class shortening or eliminating altogether at-home time for the homeschooled subjects and parent discipleship.
Taking college courses could potentially truncate your child's growing years by putting him into adult college at too young an age before he has matured enough to handle the adult pressures. And be aware that the college will not be eager for you to advocate for your child as they will expect your child to interact as an adult.
If you do decide to enroll your child in a community college class (or other institutional class), we recommend researching teachers at the website RateMyTeachers.com.
This website is an amazon-style user feedback system for teachers at institutional schools ranging from elementary through college, public and private. Many public institutions and colleges are listed. If your school of chioce isn't, you can add it (unfortunately that doesn't help you if you wanted to read reviews).
Of course always take any review "with a grain of salt." However, we have found that when a number of students, over a time span, keep indicating the same things about a particular teacher, there generally is merit. Portland Community College is listed and there are numerous reviews on numerous teachers.
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Online Community College Courses at Home for Home High
Online community college courses could offer a viable alternative for those who desire their child to start college credit in high school but whose child is not ready for the adult-student campus atmosphere or the time/travel constraints of the on-campus course.
Online courses still present the material from an adult/secular viewpoint, however if they are done at the home, the parent can be there to oversee the material and any bulletin board or online class discussions allowing a more active role and input by the parent in the more sensitive subjects.
You may have to advocate for your child to be able to take online courses if they have not done any college level work before.
Other Early College Admission Programs
A number of colleges offer an "early admission" program for high school juniors and seniors. These early admission students can take college courses at greatly reduced rates.
There are some "fine print" catches though. Generally only a limited number of class hours are allowed for selected courses, and often the college only awards college credit if the student continues at that institution for the college years. If the credits are transferrable to other institutions, the college will likely charge the full tuition price for those transferred credits.
You will generally have to call the admissions office for information about any early admission programs offered to high school students as colleges tend to bury that information in their websites.
George Fox University in Newberg provides an Early Admission of High School Students program at $50 a credit, with no additional price charged if the student goes on to George Fox for college. See their website for the details of their Early Admission program.
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To learn more about how to set up the home high school for the college or vocational training path, please see our page at
Planning for College or Career
Good books to read to prepare for the homeschool high school years are:
"Homeschooling High School" by Jeanne Gowen Dennis;
"Homeschool, High School and Beyond" by Beverly Gordon-Adams;
"Senior High Form-u-la" by Barbara Shelton.
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