Heart-to-Heart with Diane

Hello and Welcome! Isn't raising a family the greatest!? I know I've got the best job in the world, just being Mom! I love sharing things I've discovered that make being "Mom" better, easier or more fulfilling, and that is what this blog is all about. Welcome!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Homeschool + High School Credit

My son Ammon on graduation day!

I got so many requests for "how-to" on high school homeschool, that here I am again, with details this time. I'm sure there are as many variations on homeschool high school as there are homeschoolers, but this is what has worked for our family.

#1 Find a Good High School
This can be a charter school, private school, or public school, but it most colleges will want the high school to be accredited.

#2 Enroll as a Part-Time Student
Enrolling as a freshman is preferred, as it gives you time to build high school credit, and establish yourself. Even one class is a good start. Not every homeschooler is eager to go to high school (mine weren't), but one class is usually doable. Orchestra is a good choice, as you get more sober-minded students, it seems. High school orchestra, choir, Honors or AP (Advanced Placement classes) seem to draw wholesome students, and many are homeschoolers.

What to avoid? Woodworking, Auto Shop, Welding, and often Cooking and Drama (depending on the teacher). Unfortunately, hands-on project classes that seem easy or non-academic often attract kids that don't want to be in school, have truancy issues, even have substance abuse issues. I think that is such a shame, because they would be ideal classes for homeschoolers! (I learned this by encouraging my sons to take Woodworking and Welding and having them experience some pretty vile topics of conversation and rough behavior amongst the students.)

Your best best when a class is in question is to ask people you trust who their favorite teachers were (and why), and if possible, go sit in the class as an observing parent to get a feel for it.

#3 Get "A's", Be Dependable, Volunteer, Behave
This is very important, as it establishes your credibility and proves you are a serious student and a good person.

#4 Get Someone to Work with You
Sometimes counselors are assigned, but if you have a choice, choose a counselor that you can work with, who can get to know you and your intentions, and who you can stick with through all your high school years. If you have other siblings before you and have worked with the same counselor, school credit can get easier as your family establishes a reputation for academic excellence.

#5 Plan to Go Above and Beyond
In order to build your credibility as a serious student, it helps to do "over-kill" on the subject. For example, if you are trying to get 10th grade credit for a homeschool English class, carefully look at the school's course syllabus. If they are planning to read 3 classic books during the school year, you read 6. If they are writing 2 major papers, and a research report, you write 4 major papers and a couple of research reports. If they require grammar review, get a good grammar program and master it.

It was exciting to watch the "wow" on the teacher's face who looked through our first "credit for homeschool" notebook. He was visibly impressed with all that we had done. It made it an easy decision for him to grant credit. And really, we didn't do anything unusual or over-the-top—just regular homeschool! His comment was that if his students did a fraction of what we had, he would feel he had done a good job teaching them and preparing them for college.

Often a teacher who is the department head will determine if you receive credit. You need to show second-mile effort if you are asking for an "A". And why not ask for an "A"? In my homeschool, I don't use grades. I want all of us to learn for the love of learning, and the whole concept of grades rubs me wrong. If my kids ever ask for grades, though, they get either an "A" or "Do Over". If you don't understand a math concept, I am not giving you a "B" or "C" and moving on. You need to learn the concept until it is mastered, and when you've mastered it, you deserve an "A". When asking for credit, we ask a teacher or counselor to evaluate the completed work with the same standard we use in our homeschool: "A" or "Do Over".

#6 Keep Detailed Records
And I mean, very detailed! Every book, movie, field trip, concert, audio-book, ethic restaurant meal, visit from someone in which you learn something, or personally mentoring session needs to be accounted for. We create a notebook for each course—one of those inexpensive report covers —with a page listing the books read, complete with a few sentence synopsis, author, number of pages, publisher, etc. Another page names movies and documentaries that have been viewed that have educational value and relate to the subject being studied. Another page details extra activities such as field trips, speakers, seminars, museum trips, educational travel, ethnic food eaten (that relate to our studies), and more.

So, for example, when studying World Geography, we ate at several ethnic restaurants in conjunction with studying different countries. We also went to a People and Places Museum, and took a trip to Mexico. A friend taught us how to make some authentic dishes from her country, and told us about her life growing up. All these educational experiences were noted (with a one line entry) in our notebook, as they are at least as valuable as what you may study about in a book.

I also choose a textbook or a reference book that covers the same topics as the book being used in the high school. (You are entitled to borrow the books from the school—you pay taxes for this purpose. But I rarely want to. I prefer homeschooling books which generally are Christian in perspective, and more kid-interesting). I photocopy the cover of the book and the table of contents. These go into our notebook as the first pages. As the semester moves along, and the reading is done in our chosen textbook, a checkmark is placed next to each chapter on the table of contents copy until the book has been completed. Samples of work, best papers written, maps drawn, photos from field trips and more are added to the notebook until a good "portfolio" of completed work is ready. This is a representation of the work you did—showing your best effort.

Don't make your notebook too big and overwhelming. No counselor has the time to wade through the entire semester's work. If they want to see more, you have it at home, ready to bring. What I have found is that a nice, approximately 8-10 page notebook per class is just right. Or if it is a sewing class you are trying to get credit for, bring 3 samples of your best work, not a whole closet full!

Some high schools have already created a "home study" version of the class, or an on-line version, and in that case, you must complete that course to get credit. What if there is no "home study version" of the course available at the school? All the better! This allows you to teach your own homeschool course, and then the school can evaluate your work and make sure it meets or exceeded their expectations. You may feel more confident if you take them your course outline before you begin, but I have found that it is easier to get credit afterwards when showing off your marvelous and impressive completed work, than to get approval or an agreement of what would qualify, beforehand.

So. . . why not just go to high school classes and get the credit?
Here's my short list (leaving out all my political, religious, and moral reasons!)

* Papers can be written on topics of true interest
* Class time can be spent with siblings or other good wholesome friends
* Subjects can be coordinated. History studies can be combined with literature reading of source documents from the time period, and papers can be written on themes from our history studies.
* Movies can be viewed that are uplifting and bring life to the time period studied
* The whole family can study the same topic
* Family field trips and travel can be coordinated to enrich the subjects studied
* Less time is wasted
* Less desirable teachers (and textbooks) can be avoided
* The environment at home is more conducive to study and learning
* Teenagers have more freedom and time to pursue their own educational interests
* Excellent literature can be selected to replace the often questionable reading assigned in high school
* It's fun to be with your kids learning together!

Frequently Asked Questions:
Q- You mention selecting a good textbook for the course outline—how?
A- I have selected textbooks that I have used in my homeschool successfully. You'll find the details in my book, Love to Learn! Homeschool Handbook, and on my website under the product descriptions.

Q-What if the counselor doesn't want to work with me?
A- School has changed so drastically over the past decade. There are many avenues to learning a subject including on-line courses, distance learning programs, college credit for courses taken at the high school, video courses, and more. Most counselors understand that sitting in a brick- and-mortar school building is not the only way to learn in our modern age, and as long as you can show that you have completed the course and learned the information, they will help you get the credit.

In general, our experience has been wonderful, but occasionally I have come across a teacher or counselor who feels that somehow "serving time" is essential to character development. One teacher told me he was reluctant to grant credit, even when competency had been proven. He felt that sitting in a desk and being bored for an entire semester has merit—"it prepares you for a job that you don't like". That didn't fly too well with me. I hope my children will not be consigned to such a future!

When I encounter such a person, I try to move on to someone more like-minded who will work with us. In one instance, after many attempts to work with a teacher, I went to the principal and explained what we were trying to accomplish and asked for cooperation and help, with the understanding that we would have to go to another school if they would not work with us. The principal was sympathetic to us. Since schools are granted government funds depending on enrollment, that helps too.

Q- Why not test out of the class and get credit for it?
A- That is a great option! My son Ammon took Spanish 1 and found it too easy, so he arranged to take the Spanish 2 final test and he got an "A" on it. The teacher was willing to grant a whole year's credit of Spanish. He enrolled in Spanish 3 and did "A" work. Math, foreign language and other more objective courses work especially well this way. Either you know it, or you don't. It isn't very hard to prove you've done your homework in these subjects.

Best success!



  • At June 7, 2009 at 8:52 PM , Blogger jaradoron said...

    Thanks, that is good info!

  • At June 10, 2009 at 8:40 AM , Blogger Toni said...

    our state does not let homeschoolers use school resources at all your so blessed yours does. But then again, we have a great support system here we do a lot of fun and interesting classes.

    My hubby is actually the woodshop guy for the local homeschoolers,lol.

  • At June 12, 2009 at 7:52 PM , Blogger Monique said...

    I recently read your article on getting college credits from a community college during the last two years of high school, so that the child has an associates degree by the time they finish high school. Does that fit in with the scenario you described above? If so, how... I so appreciate your info on the high school years. My daughter is coming up on 14 and I don't know how to navigate all this. Thanks for all your wisdom!

  • At June 13, 2009 at 9:40 AM , Blogger Diane Hopkins said...

    There are so many ways to get an education!

    Some of my children attended community college during their last 2 high school years because there was a program in our area that catered to students that were still in high school. I found that works best for students that are more mature and eager to move on with life. Others enjoy the high school opportunities, such as being able to sing with a choir, do ballroom dance, or play with an orchestra. My son Ammon, who I described in this blog, enjoyed going to school part-time (3 classes in his senior year) and playing with the orchestra (we have an excellent orchestra teacher at our local school), and socializing with his friends at lunchtime. Then we did homeschool for the rest of his subjects.

    Community programs and opportunities change. Family car needs change. Plus, each child has different interests and needs, so I find myself adapting each time a child arrives at high school age (9th grade). This is the important time to have a plan because in high school, their grades will be recorded on a transcript for college acceptance. More importantly, the high school years are your last homeschool chance to give them a complete education. Most high school curriculum covers everything: all the sciences, US + World History, etc.

    I think the ideal situation is to homeschool with some added educational courses and mentoring outside the home, plus plenty of social contact with good, wholesome kids. Each child's needs are different— some will want lab classes in the sciences, others will love acting or debate— but every teen needs friends!

  • At July 8, 2009 at 12:09 PM , Blogger Tori, Jessie, Ria, Kat, and Tea. Who is next? said...

    I just found your blog.

    Certainly enrolling part-time is possible in some areas, but for most colleges it's no longer necessary to be enrolled in an "accredited" school. Many colleges are seeking out homeschooled students because they have learned that homeschoolers are often/usually the hardest workers and the most likely to complete what they set out to do (ie: Degree).

    Keeping the detailed records becomes super important for high school without involving a public school, but totally doable especially with the information avaiable online and for purchase.

  • At July 12, 2009 at 5:19 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Some of these comments have been helpful. I live in an area where the access to public school and support is also zero. My oldest at home is beginning 6th grade work but I find myself scoping out the future possibilities for college prep high school and I must admit to feeling intimidated and lost. It is an undaunting task for which I feel ill-equiped but we will just keep pressing forward 'with a perfect brightness of hope'... Thank you, Diane for sharing your experiences and uplifting attitude toward excellence. My girls (10, 9, and 7) love to read about what your girls are doing. :)


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