Five essential transcript credits every homeschooler needs (and how to calculate them)

When it comes to your student’s high school transcript, gathering information on required credits—and methods of calculating them—can seem overwhelming. Luckily, there are a handful of basic essentials that are easy to get right. You can start from there to build a winning transcript for your student. In this blog post, we’ll show you how!

Core coursework

Even though homeschoolers have the freedom to be flexible with their curriculum and structural choices, there are still general recommendations you can follow to make sure your student has a well-rounded, college-ready transcript. There isn’t any one set of guidelines, on either a national or state level, that governs homeschool requirements. However, there are core essentials your student needs in order to earn a high school diploma and be considered for admission into their college of choice.

The recommended core credits include:

  • Mathematics (2-4 credits): Coursework for math electives can include geometry, vocational math, algebra, pre-calculus, calculus, accounting, and trigonometry.
  • English (4 credits): Your student may count courses in literature, vocabulary, composition, rhetoric, grammar, journalism, creative writing, speech, and more as transcript credits.
  • History/Social Studies (2-4 credits): History courses may include American history, world history, geography, ancient history, economics, or any combination of specialized topics of interest to your student.
  • Science (2-4 credits): Your student’s transcript may include coursework in anatomy, biology, chemistry, genetics, earth science, physics, and physical science.
  • Foreign Language (2 credits): Think Spanish, French, German, Chinese, etc.

Beyond core courses

Other common recommendations for credits outside the basic core include:

  • Fine Arts (1-2 credits): Your student’s studies may include theatre, music, dance, photography, art, and similar pursuits.
  • Physical Education (1-2 credits): Credits may include any combination of sports or physical activity your student engages in.
  • Electives (2-4 credits): If your student is focused on other specialized interests that don’t fit into the above categories, they can be included as elective credits.

The arts, physical education, and elective recommendations will enhance your student’s transcript beyond the core requirements, which is a plus when it comes time to submit college applications.

How to calculate your student’s credits

You have a certain degree of flexibility when it comes to calculating earned credits for your student’s transcript. When it’s time to start building a transcript for your student, take some time to consider and choose your method of tracking and recording earned credits.

You may find that one option works well for your student. On the other hand, you might decide to combine more than one method of tracking, depending on his or her learning style. Whatever you choose, make sure to document your methods. Many college admissions officials want to know how homeschool students validate the credits listed on their transcripts.

A few of these methods include:

The Ultimate Homeschool Guide to Creating a High School Transcript

1. Carnegie Units

This is a widely-accepted method of tracking coursework based on the institutional (public school) model of crediting courses. It involves tracking study hours and assigning a quarter, half, or full credit to your student, depending on how much time he or she invested in studying that particular subject.

A full credit is awarded based on roughly 120-150 hours of study (this number varies by institution). In other words, your student would earn one full credit for a one-year course, half a credit for a half-year course, and a quarter credit for a quarter-year course.

Using this method to calculate credits will require you to keep careful records of the time your student spends in each subject area. Consider whether your student’s learning style is conducive to this method. if he or she tends to learn quickly or thrive on a competency-based model, measuring credits in Carnegie Units might not be the best choice for you.

2. Content Mastery

This is a simple form of credit tracking that requires your student to demonstrate mastery of a course before moving forward. You may choose how you assess your student’s knowledge of the coursework. Some recommended methods are through written assignments, Advanced Placement testing, CLEPs, SAT testing in the subject area, and discussion to demonstrate understanding.

One plus of using the content mastery method is that your student’s test scores will be a plus on his or her transcript for college admissions officials. At the beginning, it may take some time and adjustment to establish the right pattern and methods for evaluating your student’s progress.

3. Achieving Learning Goals

This approach involves working with your student to establish the learning objectives he or she needs to meet by the end of every school year. Before embarking on this method, you and your student will need to decide how to measure progress and goal completion, including what it takes to complete a full course credit. This may include specific year-end projects or assignments that demonstrate your student’s competency in the subject area.

Check into state and college requirements

As you determine the appropriate credit tracking method for your student, keep in mind that your state’s homeschooling laws may provide additional guidance or requirements in this area. While there isn’t a national law governing homeschool families, individual states have their own guidelines that will shape how you track your student’s coursework and progress.

Another area to focus on is your student’s colleges of choice. Each college may have its own credit requirements for high school transcripts, so be sure to research that information as early as possible. While there may be information online, you’ll be more likely to learn detailed requirements from an admissions official at the school. It’s crucial for your student to meet or exceed his or her chosen college’s admissions requirements.

The bottom line

You can build your student’s high school transcript by starting with the basic essential credits and a game plan for calculating how they’re earned. Be sure to research state and college requirements early on to ensure your student is on track. From there, you can help your student enhance his or her transcript in preparation for college admissions or the workforce.

About the Author:

Haley Walden is a freelance copywriter/editor who collaborates with creative entrepreneurs, authors, and agencies to strengthen and clarify their brand stories through engaging website copy, blog posts, marketing copy, and more. She is a geek at heart with a love for books, music, movies, theatre, and all things Star Wars. Haley lives in northwest Alabama with her husband and two children and is currently drafting her first epic fantasy novel. Connect with her at haleywalden.ninja.

2 Comments

  1. Monica September 4, 2018 at 11:52 am - Reply

    Great article! I literally homeschooled for a quarter. Should I create a transcript for admissions to an online highschool?

    • Matthew Bass September 5, 2018 at 10:19 am - Reply

      If your homeschool quarter was your most recent school experience, then yes, I recommend creating a transcript showing any previous non-homeschool work you did (as “transfer courses” basically) as well as whatever you did in your homeschool quarter.

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