According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of homeschooled students in grades K-12 in the United States surged to nearly two million over the last two decades. Parents, and in some cases children, decide to homeschool for a plethora of reasons such as providing a safer learning environment, creating an individualized curriculum, or teaching a particular set of values, beliefs, and world views. While some parents oppose homeschooling, studies show that homeschooled students perform well on standardized tests, excel in college, and enter careers as successful workers.
If a homeschool student is enrolled in an accredited online school or umbrella school and completes the curriculum, homeschool students will receive a high school diploma. Mainly used for convenience, an umbrella school lets parents homeschool children under the private school law rather than the regular homeschool law, resulting in fewer legal requirements and less paperwork.
But individual homeschools are not accredited, meaning that the homeschool student’s parents issue them a homeschool diploma. Accreditation is a method of differentiating schools that uphold consistent academic standards. Homeschool programs do not have to be accredited but accreditation makes it official that the school’s program. Alternatively, homeschool students may seek to complete the GED. The GED is a high school equivalency diploma that homeschool students can use when applying for college or a job.
A high school diploma is an official document awarded as proof that a student has successfully satisfied the necessary state requirements for graduation. Depending on the state, high school students must complete a predetermined number of credit hours in high school-level courses such as English, math, science, foreign language, and history. More importantly, a high school diploma is a requirement for college admission, military acceptance, and employment.
Homeschool students do not need to complete the GED to apply to college or qualify for financial aid. Instead, homeschool students must prove their home-schooling education meets state law academic requirements. To minimize potential concerns during the college application process, homeschool parents should understand the state’s laws to ensure homeschool students complete the necessary academic course requirements. Alaska is the most lenient state, only requiring children to start homeschooling at the minimum age of 7. Beyond that, parents do not need to provide a final notice of withdrawal from public school, nor must they receive approval, submit records, or complete testing.
Homeschooling requirements for Vermont, on the other hand, are much more comprehensive than other states. For instance, parents opting to homeschool their children must first give official notice and then provide a written “narrative,” which outlines the course of study for every subject like math, language arts, and science.
Other states, such as Tennessee, offer the option to be a part of an umbrella school. An umbrella school is a school that assists parents who choose to homeschool their children by providing support to fulfill state educational requirements. Homeschoolers enroll in these schools because umbrella schools typically create the curriculum for parents. Umbrella schools also offer proprietary materials, testing services, transcripts, attendance records, and other helpful documentation students will need after graduation. Each umbrella school has unique graduation requirements and maintains records and transcripts based on the information submitted by the homeschool parent. Once a homeschool student satisfies the graduation requirements, the umbrella school will then issue a high school diploma to the student.
Since education laws vary state-by-state, homeschool parents must review state guidelines when selecting the best homeschooling institution. Verifying a homeschool program’s accreditation will ensure that students can transfer into other schools/programs at an equivalent grade level, transition easily into colleges and universities, and enter the workforce with a recognized high school diploma.
Unlike students enrolled in public or private schools, homeschooled students don’t always spend 9 hours per day on schoolwork. In fact, a homeschool student’s age, skill level, learning style, attention span, and at-home learning resources all contribute to how long students should dedicate to learning.
According to a chart from the Illinois Board of Education’s Remote Learning Recommendations, a typical school day is not as consistent as most parents would imagine when evaluated on a grade-to-grade basis. For example, first and second graders have a total instruction of 45-60 minutes/day with sustained attention about 5-10 minutes at a time. Contrast this to grades 9-12 that have 20-45 minute/class periods and cover one subject within this timeframe, which equals 120-270 minutes of schooling each day. Although this isn’t a strict guide for homeschooling, this is a general path that most homeschooling instructions should consider following.
The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is a set of standardized tests, which cover general subjects for students in secondary schools throughout England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. It is also the U.K. equivalent to an American high school diploma. The GCSE covers academic subjects like arts, humanities, foreign languages, and business studies. Students must be 16 or older to qualify for the GCSE.
These standardized tests can encourage students to explore the profession or field of study they may want to pursue someday. In most cases, students decide with input from their tutors or parents if they should wait 1-2 years to take the GCSE. While courses can be self-taught, they can also be taught in the homeschooling environment, since a professional tutor may provide additional support for the student.
Homeschool students are not allowed to take the GCSE at home. However, there are still ways to overcome this limitation. For instance, a student can be classified as a Private Candidate, use designated course materials at home and decide on exam dates at a nearby administered exam center.
Understanding your child’s needs is a vital step in identifying if homeschooling is the best solution. With growing mainstream acceptance, homeschooling offers a diverse set of people from different backgrounds such as religious upbringings, low-middle class income families, and more people of color the ability to offer their children a personalized approach to their education.
Homeschooled students have a bright future ahead of them, as many become active participants in community services, and graduate from college at an equal or higher rate than students enrolled in public or private schools.