Homeschooled Through High School:
|When our kids were still young, someone gave us great advice. She told us to begin with the end in mind. Before starting high school with our older kids, we checked on admission requirements for some of the colleges they might attend. We carefully examined them and planned their four years of high school accordingly.|
We are so glad we did! As new homeschoolers who were many years beyond our own high school experiences, we didn’t remember what course of study we had in our own schooling. It was a good thing we checked!
Take foreign languages, for instance. Many selective colleges require at least two years of a foreign language. If we hadn’t discovered that early, we might have had to cram two years of study into a short span!
Or how about economics? In my high school years eons ago, we didn’t take economics. And we certainly didn’t experience the array of electives that are possible for our kids today.
Starting with the end in mind, plan out a four-year course of study. Plan with your child, not just for him. Many homeschoolers discover that the senior year is a great time to do internships or volunteer work. As well, be sure to allow plenty of time to prepare for college entrance exams. Some families get a preparation book and incorporate a little bit of study for the ACT/SAT early in high school. Careful pre-planning will make for a productive high school experience.
At some point, high school will be over and your child will graduate. Will he consider college, military service, or some other option? If you have planned your children’s studies carefully, they will be ready for whatever they choose.
Homeschoolers have good reason to approach life after high school with confidence. In case after case, homeschool students are admitted to private schools and public universities without a hitch. Indeed, they are often welcomed because of their study skills and work ethic.
Occasionally a student may encounter some resistance and be denied admission to some school or program. In some cases, post-secondary school authorities will be under the mistaken impression that applicants need to have a GED to be admitted. To be clear, colleges and universities and private institutions are free to set their own admission policies. Some require very specific high school credits, admission testing, a diploma or a GED.
The federal government does not directly regulate education, but if the school your student wishes to attend accepts federal funding of any sort (including student loans), the school has to comply with any requirements set by the government as a condition of that funding. It is through this federal regulation of funding that homeschooled students are treated as being on the same footing as public school graduates.
The Higher Education Act Amendments of 1998 (Pub. L. No. 105-244) places homeschool applicants for college admissions and financial aid on the same footing as traditionally schooled applicants. The law reads as follows: “In order for a student … to be eligible for any [federal financial] assistance … the student shall have completed a secondary school education in a home school setting that is treated as a home school or private school under State law.” (20 U.S.C. 1091(d), as amended by Public Law 112-74).
In general, this means that a homeschool high school graduate does not need to get a GED in order to be admitted to college. While a GED is a great accomplishment for some students, a homeschool diploma represents so much more work, sweat, and commitment—and a homeschool diploma is enough! Private schools and other factors may be a consideration but your student’s homeschool diploma should be generally accepted. Of course, College Board test scores will certainly be another factor. Keep your students studying!
Some parents feel the high school years may be the time to enroll their child in public school in order to eventually earn a public school diploma. Is this necessary? Can a public school issue a diploma to a homeschooled student?
To understand the answer to this question, first consider the meaning of a diploma. Although it’s only a piece of paper, it’s an acknowledgement that the student has met all of the requirements of the granting institution. A public school cannot attest to the work done by a homeschooler.
Public school laws and regulations are directed to the public schools. They mandate the number, type and hours that a student must take. Even if a homeschooled child completely followed those laws and regulations, the local public school would not be required to issue the child a public school diploma.
Some homeschoolers feel more comfortable dealing with an umbrella school offering accredited diplomas. While this may make some parents feel more comfortable having a greater degree of accountability, most homeschoolers issue their own diplomas after their child completes the courses they have deemed necessary for their student. Thus, the parent “accredits” that the child has done the work.
What about reentry to the public school after the student has already taken significant high school work? In a way, this is like changing the rules in the middle of the game. Public schools may decide on a method of grade placement, such a competency testing, and will follow these test results in terms of placement regardless of the homeschool courses taken. Even if a student seeks to reenter at the 12th grade level, it can, in some cases, be accomplished. Keep in mind that the public school will be the one to set the reentry guidelines and will have the ultimate decision as to what credits may be awarded. This is yet another reason why good record keeping, especially at the high school level, is critical.
In an ideal world, we would face each homeschool year in good health, financially stable, and with confidence that we could see the job through to completion – high school graduation. But sometimes life tosses us other plans and we need to adapt. It’s good to know that transitions can often be made gracefully and often with ease.
Proper planning during the high school years and a correct understanding of the law will help your students gain admission to their college of choice. Take the right steps now so they can take the right step when the time for college entrance comes!
The importance of records
High school is a time to document, document, document! You will want to write course descriptions and plan ahead to assemble a transcript. A little time and thought in setting up record-keeping systems will pay big dividends as your children get older. Before high school, it is a good idea to read a book on high school record keeping or attend a seminar to get ideas that others have used successfully.
A sad story a few years ago reminded me of the importance of this topic. A loving, wonderful mom had two sons who pursued their own interests in high school. They worked their way through math books and read voraciously but they didn’t keep any records. One of the boys decided he wanted to become a police officer—two years after “completing” high school—and the department insisted on seeing his high school transcript. He and his mom had a very challenging time trying to assemble a transcript of the work he had done.
In the area of record keeping, there are a few points to remember:
First, have you made certain you have met your state’s legal requirements? Some states (such as Illinois) require little; some states (such as New York and Pennsylvania) require a great deal. Carefully read through what is expected of you and comply. Note any specific dates, and gather the requisite forms you may need.
Decide how you will keep records. Some parents like formal grade books; some use a simple spiral notebook to track attendance and progress. Whatever you choose, set it up logically and in good order, and make it convenient for you to use.
Along with the above, a filing system is a necessity. Some parents have a file folder for each subject. Some have a file folder for each term. You don’t need a fancy file cabinet—plenty of mommy teachers use a plastic milk carton somewhere in the home as the official repository of their school records.
Does your state require yearly standardized testing or evaluation? While these resources are readily available, give some thought to what you will choose for the year. If you choose a portfolio evaluation, you will be mindful of the types of samples you should save during the year. If you choose a standardized test, you might include a test preparation book in your course of study, especially if your child is unaccustomed to test taking. Whatever teaching approach you use or learning philosophy you subscribe to, at some point your child may need to be tested. Don’t let your child go into it blind.
What if your child has finished high school and you haven’t kept good records? There is another path he might take. Taking and passing a few courses at a junior college will make his high school transcript mostly irrelevant. He would then have the makings of a junior college transcript and usually would not need to authenticate his high school work if he should apply for work or to another college.
In another area, does your child have a specific interest or a great talent? Be sure to plan activities or classes that will feed this special passion. Art or music lessons, sports or dance classes can be an important part of a child’s training.
What if your child has no special interests or passions? Make it your goal this year to expose him or her to different career or work possibilities. Ask your friends to allow your child to visit their workplaces for a few hours. Look for professional societies that are offering classes or open houses to give your child a peek at career possibilities. Always keep your eyes open for a special spark in your child’s eyes that will give you clues to a future life’s work.
Give some thought to your non-academic goals as well. What activities can you explore that will make your child a solid Christian and a contributing citizen? In addition to spiritual training, look for opportunities for your child to serve others. Not only will this make him a better person, but colleges are increasingly looking at the extracurricular service engaged in by potential students.
Spiritual training, scholarship, and service are all a part of a well-rounded young citizen. Don’t neglect any critical element. You may not be a record-keeper by nature, or you may not agree with your state’s requirements, but good record keeping is done for the sake of your child’s future opportunities. You are giving them an extraordinary opportunity by homeschooling. Know the law, follow it, keep good records, then walk confidently through high school the homeschool way!
Christine Field, is a lawyer, mom of four, and author of numerous books. She shares her life as a mom with deep personal warmth. In her books and as a conference speaker she brings down-to-earth help and come-alongside-you hope to hurting moms and harried parents. You are not alone.
Her books address topics of homeschooling, mothering, parenting, adoption, teaching special needs children, and life skills for kids. Her articles have appeared in Focus on the Family Magazine, many other magazines and websites, and she has served as a correspondent and Resource Room columnist for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Christine’s heart for parents serves many families from all walks of life.
Haven’t read other posts in the Homeschooled through High School Series? Catch some more below: