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Understanding High School “Credits”

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As a homeschool parent, you are a school administrator.  Most homeschool parents don’t understand what homeschooling actually is, which is why they ask questions about accreditation, transcripts, grades, and so on. They seem to think that they need a school to provide records and verification for their children’s studies–as if they’re not in school.

Your children ARE in school.  Your homeschool is a real school–as real and official as any school anywhere.  And you are the administrator of your homeschool school–as real and official as any school administrator anywhere.

So, if you’re wondering about your children’s transcripts, looking around to find out where they’re supposed to come from, or who will provide them, the answer is: YOU!

Now, if this is the case, why do homeschool publishers charge money for “homeschool transcripts”?  They do so for three reasons.  First, they know that homeschool parents don’t understand what homeschooling is and imagine that they need homeschool transcripts from someone else.  Second, they exploit this ignorance to make money off of an unnecessary paid service.  Third, they use the transcript to force parents to choose their curriculum and use only their products.

None of this is necessary–just as their talk about accreditation is unnecessary (and makes no sense).

So, if your child is applying for admission to college or the military, or a religious community, and they are asked to provide a copy of their high school transcript, RELAX.  This is not complicated.

First, if you need a template to start from, you can use this high school transcript template.

Second, you can see that each course listed is assumed to satisfy one high school “credit”.  This is where many homeschool parents get confused and, again, homeschool publishers provide false information about this topic.

What is a High School Credit?

When the public school system was created in the late 1800s, a unit of measurement was created that would allow schools to track student progress–especially when children changed schools.  This was called a “Carnegie Unit”.  One Carnegie Unit is equal to 120 hours of contact time with an instructor.

If you think of a modern school, there is a 180 day school calendar.  Classes meet daily for 40 minutes, or 2/3 of an hour.  If you multiply 2/3 of an hour by 180 days, you end up with 120 hours, which is one Carnegie unit.  Where “block sheduling” is used, classes meet for 80-90 minutes, every other day, producing the same amount of time in a school year–one Carnegie unit.

A “high school credit” equals one Carnegie unit, or 120 hours of instruction.

So, if you wish to award your child with one credit for a high school subject, he must have 120 hours of instruction in that subject.  YOU are the instructor in your homeschool.  Therefore, you do not need to pay an outside to actively teach your child for 120 hours.  This does not mean that you need to hire a tutor for 120 hours of intense, one-on-one coaching.  Rather, think of what school teachers do, and realize that all of the activities together contribute to the satisfaction of the required 120 hours of “time with an instructor”.

Surely, an instructor spends some time “teaching” the students, working on the board, lecturing, etc., but that’s only a part of “time with an instructor”.  This time includes class activities, class trips, class videos, etc.  It is NOT time studying or reading, but time with an instructor, that is, supervised study time in a subject.  No one, for example, gets any credit for study hall in high school.  That is not study time with an instructor.

Note that “time with an instructor” DOES NOT include time spent doing homework, or studying without supervision.  You should be honest and make sure that your child receives 120 hours of time with an instructor in a subject to award him with a high school credit in any subject.

If a homeschool student studies high school subjects, under the direction and supervision of a teacher (i.e., his parent) for 6 hours a day, 5 days per week, for 48 weeks a year, for 4 years,  he would have a high school transcript with 48 credits — double that of modern school students.

Modern school teachers are not experts in their fields.  Their work consists primarily of supervision, grading and managing resources on behalf of the students.  You would probably be shocked to learn what actually goes on behind the scenes in modern schools, as opposed to the organized appearance that is seen by parents and students.  Over-estimating what school teachers actually do is a source of great anxiety in homeschool parents.

Here is a form you can use to track “time spent with an instructor” for your homeschool student in a high school subject:

What Ultimately Matters

No college admissions representative has any clue what you do in your homeschool–and they don’t care.  Ultimately, your child’s SAT or ACT scores will be used to judge whether or not the education they have received is sufficient for college preparation.  You can list 100 courses on your child’s transcript, and if he lays an egg on the SAT, no one will be interested because his preparation will be suspect.  It will be best for him to start with community college courses, earn good grades, and transfer into a selective college.  On the other hand, if your child rocks the SAT, earning a school above the average score at the university, no one will doubt the quality of his education, and they will simply look to see that the required high school coursework has been covered.  If your child is interested in gaining admission to a selective university, and you wish to remove all doubt about the quality of his high school work, he should take SAT subject tests and prove his studies in each subject.  I have had three children enter the military and two enter college studies and, because of their good test scores, I have never had any colleges ask about the details of their high school studies–nor will they.

If you have any questions about these things, please feel free to ask.

God bless,
William C. Michael
Classical Liberal Arts Academy