This informative guide to homeschool graduation requirements, recordkeeping, testing, and diplomas will help you navigate through the journey of homeschooling high school.
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Some of the most asked questions by homeschool parents and those considering homeschooling involve graduation requirements, recordkeeping, testing, and issuing homeschool diplomas. These are legitimate concerns because we all want to make sure our homeschool students are given the best possible foundation for their futures. This guide will navigate you through these topics and give you the confidence you need to move forward in homeschooling high school!
What are the requirements for a homeschooler to receive a high school diploma?
There is no definitive answer to this question…it varies by state. You can find a link to your state’s laws here.
Here in Oklahoma, we do not have any reporting or testing requirements. I have used a combination of resources to decide what courses my students should take before they graduate, including local high school course guidelines, local college entrance standards, and participant requirements for an income-based state scholarship program for which my family has qualified.
Within those parameters, I have tried to give my students as much leeway as possible to choose courses that are of interest to them. We’ve used a variety of learning methods to accomplish our goals, including homeschool co-ops, online courses, traditional textbooks, video-based learning, etc.
Ultimately, it is your responsibility as a homeschool parent to comply with your local laws and provide the educational foundation for your students that will allow them to accomplish their future goals.
As a personal side note…
Every student will not go on to college. There are many life paths that are essential to our society that do not require a college degree. However, it is very common in the 21st Century for people to change careers throughout their lifetime, and that sometimes means going to college later in life.
If we, as homeschooling parents, do not insist that our students take the high school credits necessary for basic college entrance (and keep accurate records), they may have a much more difficult time being accepted into programs should they decide to pursue higher education when they are older. If we give them this foundation, they will be prepared for whatever their future holds!
And what about recordkeeping?
Again, this depends on where you live. Some states demand very detailed curriculum and lesson plans before the school year begins, strict attendance records, and portfolios of each student’s work. Others, such as our home state of Oklahoma, have no such obligations. Check your state here.
Having no official requirements, it would be easy to adopt the attitude that recordkeeping is not necessary. I’m not condemning anyone for their choice one way or the other, but here are a few reasons why I endorse keeping records for your homeschool student, even if it’s not legally mandated.
Let me preface this by saying that I definitely think recordkeeping becomes more essential as students reach middle and high school. When my kids were in elementary school, we didn’t place much emphasis on grades at all. Content mastery is the most critical component at that age, so we focused on that. They received grades for their homeschool co-op classes and I kept portfolios of their work at home, but that was the extent of recordkeeping at that point.
When they reached middle and high school, however, we started doing regular report cards and transcripts. I keep up with grades through Homeschool Planet (which we also use for planning), and you can print both report cards and transcripts right from there. If you start using Homeschool Planet after your kids are already in high school, you can go back and add courses and grades to the transcript to fill in for the years you weren’t using it.
Why do we need report cards and transcripts?
I still place much more emphasis on content mastery than I do on grades, but it’s important for middle and high school students to know how to evaluate their own work and understand the concept of personal improvement. It builds self-confidence when a teen can see that progress in a tangible way. It gives them something to work towards.
Now, the psychologist in me has to stop right here for just a minute and address this on a bit of a deeper level. There can be a fine line between building self-concept and diminishing it. Please make sure that your homeschool students know that they are not defined by the number on any piece of paper. It’s okay for them to be challenged and even experience failure from time to time. That’s how they learn to deal with it. But it’s not healthy for them to constantly feel defeated.
When they are struggling, find ways to help them experience success. Get extra help, approach things from a different perspective, take a break and focus on their strengths. Don’t let them stay in a constant state of defeat.
Now…back to the reasons homeschool recordkeeping is helpful.
Beyond any legal requirements your state may enforce, your homeschool student will most likely need a transcript to get into college, vocational programs, or the military. Whether they want to take concurrent classes while still in high school or wait until they graduate, a high school transcript is usually necessary for any post-secondary education or training.
Although homeschooling is more common now than it has been at any time in the last century, and most colleges are becoming more and more accepting of it, many still have expanded requirements for homeschool graduates. Don’t let your lack of recordkeeping be the reason your child misses out on an opportunity.
Report cards or transcripts are sometimes requested for scholarship opportunities, internships, and even auto insurance discounts. Overall, it seems to me that there are a lot of advantages to keeping homeschool records.
What are homeschool testing requirements?
As with everything else, homeschool testing varies by state. Some states specify yearly standardized tests or other assessments. Others have no testing requirements at all. Follow your state’s protocol. If you do want to have your students take achievement tests, but don’t have a state-mandated procedure, you might check with Homeschool Testing Services or Seton Testing Services. I have not used either of these companies and I am not affiliated with them in any way, but they both appear to be good options.
As a former public school teacher and school counselor, I am really not a fan of standardized testing. I just don’t feel like a student’s success can be measured on a single test, and I think there is way too much pressure put on students and teachers to be successful on these tests. I feel blessed to be in a state that doesn’t mandate homechool testing. I know that everyone doesn’t have that choice, though.
What about college entrance exams?
Well, there’s really no getting around entrance exams if you want to get into college, vocational schools, or the military. The good news is that there are many programs that can help your homeschool students get prepared. PrepScholar has a great variety of test prep options that will help your students have great success.