How does my high school student graduate from homeschooling?

As a parent, you are in charge of graduating your homeschool student. The administrators of a homeschool (the parents) have the ability to determine requirements for graduation, just like private schools do.

When your child has completed what you determine to be your school’s requirements for graduation, you may:

  • graduate them
  • award a diploma
  • and write a transcript for college 

(**MICHN members have access to customizable high school transcript.)

A Michigan Homeschool Diploma can be issued by parents. In Michigan, homeschools are considered nonpublic schools.

By taking responsibility for your child’s education, you are also taking responsibility for maintaining education records, establishing graduation requirements, and issuing a diploma.

Maintain Education Records

Michigan law does not dictate HOW homeschool families should keep records. This freedom allows families to be flexible and not be burdened by cumbersome regulations.

No one has a more vested interest in the success of your child’s education than you as the parent. Keeping excellent records is in the best interest of your child, but HOW you do it is left up to you.

Things to consider: 

  • Keep samples of your child’s work. There is no need to keep ALL of your student’s work, but having a sampling of tests or assignments that show their progress and achievement is easy to do.
  • Keep multiple copies of important paperwork. Things happen and paperwork can get lost. Make an effort to routinely scan important records. Be sure to save copies of these files on your hard drive and online somewhere as well.
  • Report cards are NOT required. For anyone coming out of public or private schooling, report cards are a traditional part of education. But, when the parent takes on the role of the educator as well, a report card becomes irrelevant. Would you or your student LIKE to have a report card? Go for it.
  • Create transcripts for your high school students. Record-keeping with older students is more important than with any other age group. Transcripts can be created in multiple ways, from using a simple word processing program to online transcript creators. (More detailed info below) 

Establish Graduation Requirements

Homeschools in Michigan are free to set their own graduation requirements. Parents are able to decide what subjects and credits their child must complete in order to graduate.

How do you decide? 

  • Use Michigan’s public school diploma guidelines as a template. Homeschool families are NOT required to follow Michigan guidelines, and most homeschool families far exceed Michigan standards. But using Michigan diploma guidelines is one way to create a blueprint for getting started with the high school years. Did you know that in Michigan counts a year’s worth of work as 1 credit? Being aware of our state’s standards will help parents craft a transcript that aligns with others.
  • Use college admission standards as the goal. Does your student have a college in mind for their future academic career? Use the college’s standards as a roadmap for making sure that you are able to cover the material needed.
  • Above all else, create criteria that benefit your student. Do you have a special needs student? Decide what accommodations should be made to provide a high school education that is best for your student. Do you have a student striving for an Ivy League education? Create standards that will challenge them and provide for a top-notch education.

Issue A Diploma

The end of high school is traditionally marked with a graduation ceremony with the presentation of a diploma. A diploma is simply a certificate of completion presented to the student for their records. Many homeschool families decide to forego a traditional graduation ceremony for a family celebration. Some local groups and co-ops host a larger ceremony. If your student participates in a graduation hosted by another organization, the parent is still responsible for issuing the diploma.

A diploma can be created from scratch or can be ordered online. While a diploma is a valid record of the completion of your student’s high school years, it is only one piece of paper. Students are more likely to be asked for copies of their high school transcripts by potential employers or in their post-secondary education.

What about the GED?

The GED was designed for, intended for, and recorded as “non-completers”. People who take the GED are recorded in state data as those who did not complete high school (dropped out) and wanted to gain their diploma through this alternate means. Your homeschooled child who satisfies your custom-designed program for them is *not* a drop-out and deserves a legal diploma showing that they did complete. Your parent-signed Michigan homeschool diploma is LEGAL and equally valid in all states as any public high school diploma and even when filing FAFSA for college financial aid.

What about testing?

Michigan does NOT require any testing for homeschooled students. Students headed to college should consider what college prep tests are appropriate for them. Many students take the PSAT, SAT or ACT at their local high school. Alternative tests are also available.

IMPORTANT

Be a wise steward.

It is important to have a long term plan for storing records. Create digital copies of your student’s diploma and transcripts and store them in multiple places that you share with your child. Many homeschool alumni find that need copies of their records ten to fifteen years after graduation.

 

Writing a Homeschool Transcript for College Admissions

With the growth of home education today very few college admissions officers are unfamiliar with homeschooling anymore. But the question remains, how do I best prepare transcripts for my student to get into college? Cindy Morris provides some simple answers!

First, what is a “homeschooler”? Many admissions officers ask themselves that same question each year. While you may understand your homeschool, you know that there is no “homeschool mold.” A well-compiled transcript of the high school years will provide the answers an admissions officer needs in defining your particular school while highlighting your student’s achievements and skills.

However, before discussing transcript details, allow me to give you a few quick pointers for coordinating the high school years. These will prove to be helpful when you construct your student’s transcript later.

Planning

In Michigan, your homeschool is recognized as legal and valid if you have chosen to homeschool either under the homeschool statute based on exemption (f) of Michigan’s Compulsory Attendance Law: “(f) The child is being educated at the child’s home by his or her parent or legal guardian in an organized educational program in the subject areas of  Mathematics, Science, History, Civics,  Reading, Writing, Spelling, Literature, and English Grammar” or as a non-public school, based on exemption (a): (a) The child is attending regularly and is being taught in a state approved non-public school, which teaches subjects comparable to those taught in the public schools to children of corresponding age and grade, as determined by the course of study for the public schools of the district within which the non-public school is located.

In either case, the laws pertaining to the public schools do not apply to you, but, if you cannot prove that your child has received an education comparable to, or better than, what the public school provides, colleges may not accept your student.

Pick up a high school handbook or curriculum guide. Resources for homeschooling through high school are abundant. Remember that as a private school you determine your graduation guidelines and your own curriculum. Use different references when you are looking for another English course, ideas for electives, or needing a name for the hands-on, part time job in which your student deserves a high school credit.

Would you like some specific examples of how I used the curriculum guide? First, during high school, our oldest son worked part time for two years on a hog farm, learning all the steps from breeding to birthing to going to market. It was a fantastic opportunity, but what could I call it? Livestock Production was listed in the guide, a perfect fit.

Working as nannies for a set of triplets starting the week they arrived home from the hospital, two of our daughters received credits in Child Care.

And yet another example is that one of our sons enjoyed stereo components, com­puter programming, and electronic giz­mos. He tinkered, tore apart, and rebuilt a bunch of things. Later, he studied and received his Amateur Radio Operators License. A credit for Electronics appeared on his transcript.

Recordkeeping

As for recordkeeping, Michigan law requires homeschoolers to submit no records, but keeping thorough and organized records during the high school years, especially, is strongly recommended!! The absence of records won’t help much when you need to compile a tran­script! You need to be able to prove that you did, indeed, provide an “comparable” education to what they would have gotten in the public schools, and that you covered the nine required subject areas. So, jot down details in your planner for each day, and record scores whenever there is something to grade. A check mark may suffice on days when the assignment was simply to complete assigned reading. How­ever, it is wise to record the topic studied, chapter titles of the material read, or textbook page numbers for reference.

Counting Credits

There are two ways to count credits. The easiest method is this:

1 credit = 1 full year of study per course. As an example, World History is a two-semester course, so you will give your student one credit for the entire course. However subjects like Government or Economics are only one-semester courses, so students would receive .5 credit (1/2 credit) for completing these.

In Michigan, each full year high school class is worth one cred­it, with the exception being college level courses taken as dual enrollment, whether in person or online.  These would normally be worth twice as much. So a one-semester college course of at least 3 college credits, counts as one full high school credit as opposed to only a half credit.

 

The second method of recording credits is in Carnegie Units which requires record­ing the hours of study. One hour x 5 days a week x 36 weeks = 180 hours for a 1 full year class or 1 credit. Frankly, this is a little laborious and I am thankful that I’ve never been required to count Carnegie Units. If you know that college your student plans to attend, call them early in the process to learn of their preference for counting credits.

How do you count credits for creative courses in which you do not have typical textbooks, like Livestock Production? I always leaned toward the conservative side to avoid being challenged by an admissions officer. In other words, don’t be overly generous with these credits. It is better to be too tight than to give more credits than what a college feels are acceptable for the course.

Figuring Grade Point Average

GPA means “grade point average”. It is an overall score given for each year of high school. To calculate GPA:

  1. Find the semester average of your student’s work for each course. Apply a letter grade to the percent­age score such as:

Percentage

Letter Grade

Grade Point Average

100%

A+

4.0

95-99

A

4.0

90-94

A-

3.7

87-89

B+

3.3

84-86

B

3.0

80-83

B-

2.7

77-79

C+

2.3

74-76

C

2.0

70-73

C-

1.7

67-69

D+

1.3

64-66

D

1.0

60-63

D-

0.7

<59

F

0

  1. Add the GPA decimal values of all scores within a given year.
  2. Divide the total by the number of scores added.

The answer will be the GPA for that year.

Compiling the Transcript

You may purchase blank transcript forms and fill in the information or create a form on your own computer. Our school has done the latter and it has always been honored by the admissions office.

On the front of the transcript, make a nice letterhead, using your school name and address. Below that, make a chart entitled STUDENT IDENTIFICATION. This should include: student’s name, birth-date, gender, Social Security number, and parents’ names, address, and telephone number.

Next print: STUDENT’S ACADEMIC HISTORY

One year at a time, list the courses, applying a letter grade to each semester the course was studied. During the senior year, it may be necessary to submit the transcript to a college before graduation. In that case, simply designate the courses being studied during the cur­rent semester.

The STUDENT’S ACADEMIC SUMMARY is another way to present the above with less detail. By school year, list the number of credits received in Language Arts, Math, Social Sciences, Natural Science, Practical Arts, Business, Physical Education, and Other, which is anything that doesn’t fit into one of the other categories. “Other” would include Livestock Production and Child Care. Provide the Grade Point Average for each semester, as well as a cumulative GPA.  In this section, also provide a total of credits earned, or expected to be earned, by the graduation date. This total covers all credits earned during the high school career.

Transcript Extras

Colleges want to enroll self-motivated students who have good social skills. On the back of the transcript, list anything and everything that will get the attention of the admissions officer. Has she gone on mission trips? How about 4-H? List any offices or volunteer positions your student has held in the community and special talents or hobbies. Also, be sure to record jobs your student has worked over the years. This may include relevant activities previous to the high school years too.

Are there any unique features to point out about a particular course? A one-line description is appropriate. Don’t overlook science labs. Our children were required to study Understanding the Times by Summit Ministries during high school. Being atyp­ical, I wrote the following description: “Understanding the Times is a course on worldviews from a Christian perspective.” One college asked for the publishers of each course.

It is wise to provide scores for any achievement or placement tests your stu­dent has taken during his high school career. Examples of these are PSAT, SAT, ACT, and achievement tests — Stanford, Terra Nova, and Iowa Achievement tests. With each, provide the month and year the test was taken.

Make your transcript look official by adding lines for signatures of the principal, and primary instructor. If you feel that your transcript is a good representation of your student’s achievements, make the extra effort to get it notarized. When designing your own transcript form, be sure to allow space for the notary’s signature and stamp.

Course Description

When submitting your transcript, it is sometimes helpful to also include a cover letter and a Course Description sheet. On this sheet, you would define your school’s requirements for graduation, listing the special features and expecta­tions that each of your children must meet before you present a diploma to them. This page should present a clear description of courses, especially those which are not typical in the public school.

Finally, print your transcript and descrip­tion on attractive paper.

Remember, the admissions officer is wondering, “What is a homeschooler?” or more specifically, “What makes this homeschooler stand out?” Use your student’s transcript as an oppor­tunity to make your student shine!

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2008 issue of The IAHE Informer and was adapted to apply to Michigan by MICHN. It was written by Cindy Morris for homeschoolers in Indiana. She and her husband Steve began homeschool­ing out of conviction from the Lord in 1981. Formerly, Cindy coordinated the annual IAHE Home Educators Convention and was a featured writer for the IAHE Informer. She now enjoys ministering to home educat­ing parents and mentoring young women to become the Proverbs 31 women God wants them to be.

 

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