FAQs about Homeschooling: How do you get a diploma?

Now that my son has finished 8th grade, many people assume he is going to go back to brick-and-mortar high school. When I tell them that he will continue to homeschool, their voice drops to a half whisper and they ask with a touch of horror, 

“How is he going to get a diploma?”

Answer: I’m going to make one.

Heck, I may even go super-fancy and order it from one of the oodles of websites that use pretty embossed script and heavy-duty cardstock. Seriously, I don’t think that a piece of paper is that important. I haven’t seen my high school diploma since roughly August 1997 and no one has ever asked me to show it.

Then the next question usually is, 

But doesn’t he need to Maryland diploma to go to college?”

Answer: Very few people have a diploma in hand when they apply to college.

A transcript listing the courses taken and the grade received is what is required to apply to post-secondary institutions. A homeschooling parent will have the responsibility of creating the transcript unless they use an online school or umbrella that takes care of that task. There are plenty of free resources and discussions on that subject easily available online. Just Google “homeschool transcript sample”.

Just as a point of reference, there are thousands of kids graduating from Maryland private schools who are not getting a Maryland State diploma either. Those diplomas are only available if you attend a Maryland public school or take the GED in Maryland. All those private school kids are getting diplomas issued by their schools and those are just as valid for post-secondary options as the state-issued ones are. The diplomas issued by homeschooling parents are also just as valid.

Many colleges are actively recruiting homeschool students because they are known to be self-motivated and capable of working independently. The admissions websites often give details specific to homeschool applicants. It is helpful to start compiling this information at the latest by junior year, so that you know what courses and tests need to be taken to meet admission requirements when your child starts applying in the fall of 12th grade. If your kid is not sure what they want to do after high school, my best suggestion is to aim for the average of the requirements you find, which I list toward the end of this article .

Another popular question that comes up from people familiar with private schools or the college application process is, 

“Don’t high school classes have to be accredited to count?”

Answer: Classes cannot be accredited.

Many people have heard that buzzword “accreditation” before, but have no idea what that actually means. Private schools often advertise with their accreditation credentials, while public schools rarely mention it. In fact, the public high school I graduated from lost its accreditation a few years ago, yet kids still graduated and went to college.

Any brick-and-mortar or online school can be accredited by an oversight organization. It is a very involved and expensive process requiring teachers and administrators to compile detailed report about all aspects of the school. Then, a team from the accrediting organization visits the school for several days and verifies that everything in the report is actually true.

Accreditation cannot be done for individual courses. If an online provider is promising an accredited diploma, it means that your child has to follow their entire set program. It is unreasonable for a homeschool to go through the accreditation process because the rules are designed to institutions that serve large amounts of students.

Usually, what the person asking me means by “accreditation” is that the course can be given a credit on the transcript. Some of the characteristics of a high school credit include:

  • high school level work or remedial work completed by a student of high-school age
  • 120-180 hours of work or working on the course almost every day for a school year
  • completing at least 75% of a high school level or above textbook

If the work a homeschooled student has completed fits those criteria, then the parent can award a credit on the transcript. If about half of that amount was completed, then the parent awards half of a credit. 

Before awarding your kid a high school diploma, she should have racked up at least 22 credits total, which averages out to 5-6 per year. You have to make sure you are meeting the requirements of your state, county, or umbrella when deciding on those courses. Also again, this is where you want to consult the admissions requirements of whatever path your child wants to take after high school. Colleges usually expect:

  • 4 credits of English
  • 3-4 credits of math
  • 2-4 credits of science
  • 2-4 credits of social studies
  • Electives, which may have to include a foreign language

Do you have any other questions about graduating a homeschooler? Comment below.

Check my other posts on FAQs about Homeschooling:

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