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As your teen nears high school age, many homeschooling parents start worrying about how to graduate a homeschooler. Great news! It doesn’t have to be difficult or intimidating.
Once your kids hit middle school or so, the Homeschool Inquisition usually shifts from the age-old socialization question to inquiries such as “How are your homeschoolers going to graduate high school?” Or, “What about college?”
The big difference between those is that the socialization question is usually a non-issue, but graduation and secondary education are vital considerations for families homeschooling high school.
So, what do you need to know about how to graduate a homeschooler? Following are some essentials based on my experience.
Most important in figuring out how to graduate a homeschooler is this: make sure you understand the homeschool laws governing your state. My go-to sites for a breakdown of homeschool laws are HSLDA and the statewide homeschool support website, GHEA, for where I live. If you’re not sure where to find your state’s homeschool support group, HSLDA maintains a listing of homeschool support groups by state.
The majority of states don’t maintain specific guidelines for how to graduate a homeschooler. In most cases, you, the homeschooling parent, determine the graduation requirements for your student. Upon completion of those requirements, you issue your graduate a high school diploma. Some notable exceptions are Pennsylvania, New York, and North Dakota. These states do have specific course requirements. Be sure that you understand your state’s laws so that you and your student don’t encounter any unpleasant surprises.
Other states, such as Tennessee, offer the option to be a part of an umbrella school. The umbrella school operates as a private school and has its own graduation requirements. They maintain records and transcripts based on the information submitted by the teaching parent. When the student satisfies the graduation requirements, the umbrella school issues a high school diploma.
Both parent-issued and umbrella school diplomas are usually non-accredited. However, most colleges accept them if homeschooled students meet the school’s entrance requirements. Check your student’s top choice schools’ homeschool admissions policies on their websites.
One smart piece of advice for parents planning to homeschool through high school is this: consider your student’s post-graduate plans and choose courses accordingly. If your student has a specific school in mind, check the school’s admissions requirements before your student’s 9th-grade year, and ensure that she is on track to meet them. You don’t want your student to be halfway through 12th grade and realize it’s a little too late to figure out how to graduate a homeschooler. Thankfully, you do have graduation options for a homeschooler.
Most colleges and universities require high school course basics, such as four years each of English and math; three to four years of science; three years of social studies/history; and two years of foreign language, along with several elective credits.
One helpful resource for homeschooling through high school and determining how to graduate a homeschooler was The Homescholar Guide to College Admissions and Scholarships by Lee Binz. I know many homeschooling parents find this book too intense, but I think it’s worth reading and gleaning the tidbits that work for your family.
The best piece of advice that I took from Lee was this: Even if your student doesn’t plan to attend college, give him a college prep high school education. Teenagers change their minds. And, if your student doesn’t change his mind, the high school education you provide will be the highest level of education he receives.
Even if your student’s plans include a college alternative, such as trade or vocational school, an apprenticeship, or going into the workforce, you want to provide him with a solid high school education. Also, keep in mind these four skills every homeschool graduate needs.
However, it is essential to realize that you should still tailor a college prep education to your student. Your student’s transcript does not need to look just like a public school student’s for him to get into college or qualify for scholarships. You’re free to offer alternatives to traditional high school courses.
In working on how to graduate a homeschooler, remember thatkeeping transcripts is a must for college-bound teens. And, you may be surprised to find that other post-secondary education options may ask for transcripts.
My oldest attended a private cosmetology school. They only teach cosmetology, so it’s a trade school. We still had to provide a copy of her transcript because the school is in a neighboring state. Their homeschool laws are different from those in Georgia, so they wanted to see what courses she’d taken.
If you’re not part of an umbrella school or other organization that supplies one, there are several options for creating a high school transcript.
In the past, I used the original grades and attendance forms from Donna Young’s site to keep track of my kids’ grades for each high school year. Then, I’d transfer their grades to their high school transcripts at the end of each school year. You really don’t want to forget to update the transcripts at the end of each school year. Trust me on this.
If your high school student plans to attend college after graduation, he’ll most likely need to complete the ACT or SAT. If nothing else, he’ll have to take an entrance exam for the specific school he’ll be attending.
But what about kids who will be going into the workforce, an apprenticeship, or a trade school? I chose to have my oldest take the ACT even though she didn’t plan to go to college.
People may question my “mommy grades,” but they can’t challenge a standardized test score. Even if they suspect that my kids spent their four years of high school playing video games and posting Facebook status updates (not the case), they can’t argue with their score on a test that most high school graduates take.
Some students perform better on the SAT, while others perform better on the ACT. Depending on your student’s plans, it may be wise to have them take both tests and go with the one on which they score better.
Also, some schools accept the highest grade in each category of the ACT, not just the composite score. Check with the schools your student is considering to decide if it would be worthwhile for them to take the test more than once.
Guess what. Homeschooled students can get college scholarships just like public and private school students.
For example, homeschoolers are eligible for the National Merit Scholarship, based on PSAT and NMSQT scores, as long as they take the qualifying test at an approved testing location.
Homeschooled athletes should check out scholarships offered by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NCIA). Other scholarships for which homeschoolers are eligible include:
Graduating a homeschooled teen really is as simple as keeping records of their coursework, creating a transcript, and issuing a diploma. You decide when they’ve completed the requirements for graduation (with the exception of states listed above) and you issue them a diploma.
I ordered each of my kids a diploma from HomeschoolDiploma.com. We also ordered their caps, gowns, and tassels. Each of them had a different type of graduation. We chose not to participate in the area homeschooling group’s large ceremony, but that might be something that interests your family so check with your local group.
My oldest joined with a few other teens from our small local homeschooling group for an intimate ceremony for family and friends at a local church. We had a World War II veteran give the graduation address and each family presented their student with their diplomas.
My son had a small ceremony for just family and friends. I played the graduation commencement song on my phone, said a few words, and presented his diploma. And, there was a pool party!
My youngest graduated during COVID-19. We discussed doing a ceremony of some sort, but she really just wanted to quietly receive her diploma and go on her way. I did make her take cap and gown pictures, though. For her mama.
Even though each had a difficult graduation experience, they all graduated with a mom-signed high school diploma that I issued when I was satisfied that they had met their high school graduation requirements as determined by me.
All three of them are gainfully employed. None have ever had any issues with employers over their homeschool diplomas. Although my kids chose not to attend college, many of my friends’ kids have done so with no issues, using their own mom-issued diplomas and transcripts.
For many seasoned homeschool parents, the high school years bring back all the fear and trepidation of the first year of homeschooling. However, by educating yourself and developing a plan, you can successfully navigate the high school years and graduate your homeschooled student.
If you have learned by experience how to graduate a homeschooler, what tips would you add?
The Best Homeschool Curriculum for High School
Save Time and Money with CLEP and DSST Exams
How to Help Homeschooled Teens Land Their First Job
Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.
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