Along with GPA, courses are the most indispensable part of a great high school transcript. So getting them right is crucial! At Transcript Maker, we often get the same question: “What counts as a course on a transcript, and what credit hours should I assign to courses?”

It’s definitely a thorny issue! For homeschool families, courses aren’t as clear cut as for public or private schools with an established curriculum. In reality, that seeming limitation is a good thing—you can get creative with what counts as applying toward completion of a course and mastery of content. In this blog post, we’ll show you how to navigate the complex world of courses and credits!

Different course types

First, it’s important to know the common types of courses that homeschoolers encounter. The easiest and most common approach is to use a high-school level textbook for your course. This method works well for math and the hard sciences. Completing an Algebra I textbook, for example, demonstrates high-school level mastery of the coursework.

Alternatively, some homeschool families prefer a wider mixture of content and approaches that go beyond a simple textbook. This approach, known as a “unit study,” involves a more eclectic method of combining books, experiences, research projects, and group activities. This can be a good fit for subjects like Physical Education, History, or Literature.

Whichever approach you choose, we suggest keeping track of how many total hours your students spends studying. This helps with the next step—determining credits!

How many hours count?

Most high schools and colleges in the U.S. use the Carnegie Unit approach to credits. One high school credit hour translates into 120 to 180 hours of classroom work. This approach makes it easy to determine partial credit for less intensive courses as well. Using the 120-hour benchmark, 60 hours of classroom time equals 1/2 credit, and 30 hours equals 1/4 credit.

To help your student’s transcript be as appealing as possible to college admissions departments, we suggest using the Carnegie Unit approach to credit hours. It keeps your transcript consistent and demonstrates a high-quality, rational approach to courses and credits.

That being said, one blessing of homeschooling is flexibility! Your student might attain high-school level mastery of a subject without completing 120 to 180 classroom hours, or you might not want to necessarily keep track of classroom hours. You are the best judge. Don’t be afraid to get creative, but always be honest, consistent, and fair in your determinations. It’s important for the integrity of your student’s transcript.

The Ultimate Homeschool Guide to Creating a High School Transcript

For more information on evaluating courses and credits, check out this post from the Home School Legal Defense Association and this one from Homeschool Success.

Success tips

Here are some specific tips for succeeding with courses and credits:

1. If it’s high-school level material, always count it!

If your student takes a high-school level Algebra course in 8th grade, it still counts for high-school credit. Many times, homeschool students will be more advanced in a particular subject—such as math or English—so don’t shy away from including those earned credits. To determine whether a course is high-school level, look at how the textbook identifies the material, check whether the course is considered high-school level by an accrediting agency, and use your own best judgement as a parent educator.

2. Dual enrollment and CLEP tests always count

Dual enrollment is when your student takes classes at a community college and earns credits that count toward high-school and college completion. Similarly, CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) exams allow homeschool students to earn college credit for passing a college-level mastery test. Needless to say, college-level work definitely counts as high-school level mastery! Remember that a college-level course usually counts as three credit hours, but that translates into one credit hour for a high-school course.

3. Be flexible about what counts as classroom time

As a homeschool parent, don’t be afraid to get creative about what counts as classroom time. Home-school students often use their study time more efficiently than do public or private school students, so you might determine that 40 minutes of homeschool studying is equivalent to one hour of public school classroom time.

4. Always check your state’s regulations

States have varying requirements for what counts as high-school credit, so be sure to check your regional requirements as well.

Need help?

If you’ve got a question about courses or credits, we’re happy to help! Call us at 844-487-2747, email, or connect on Facebook or Twitter.