Confused about high school credits? Not to worry. I get tons of questions at parent meetings about awarding credit for high school. It isn’t that people can’t figure this out, ’cause they almost always can. It’s more like parents want to make sure their instincts are correct about awarding credits for certain things. Parents like to hear how other people do it, so they can feel confident they’re doing what’s commonly acceptable. Though though there’s nothing really standard when homeschooling, this can bring peace of mind. I completely understand.
With this in mind, I’m providing a review of the meaning of “credits”, some ideas on how to award credit, and some different ways to get creative with high school credits, too. Make sure to follow the links at the end to get even more information about this — in particular, the 3-part series that will not only teach you about credits, but also about transcripts, too.
I want to start by telling you that people and organizations often use the words CREDITS, CLASSES, and COURSES interchangeably. When counting up the number of high school courses, experiences, or “things” worthy of credit, people tend to think:
credit = class = course
and, for the purposes of this blog, that’s okay. Whichever word you choose, try to think of it as referring to one successfully completed high school-level experience worthy of space on the student transcript. As in, one unit of something you’re wanting to count.
The second thing to know is that it’s okay to assign a slightly different value to a credit as someone else. As long as you’re in the ballpark, and you think the experience is truly worthy of the credit you’re awarding, honesty and ethics always prevail. Use this formula if you find it helpful:
1 high school credit = somewhere between 125-175 hours of work
Don’t worry if different people and organizations use slightly different numbers; just try to gauge what’s most comfortable for you. Personally, I always aim high for my kids and clients, but that’s just my approach.
Next, you need to be aware that there really is such a thing as partial credit. Meaning, if you’re feeling like an experience is only worth half a credit, it probably is. You can crunch the number of hours if you like, then award 1/2 credit instead. You can even award 1/4 credits if that’s all the experience is really worth.
Here are some examples of what I’ve talked about so far:
165 hours of driving practice = 1 credit of Driver’s Ed
82 hours of painting = 1/2 credit of Studio Art
38 hours of poetry writing = 1/4 credit Creative Writing
NOW, what if you’re not really into counting hours? I get that. Many people aren’t. Besides, some experiences don’t lend themselves to counting hours anyway…it’s tough to count what people learn in non-traditional settings (either through hands-on experiences, when practicing practical skills, or simply thru “osmosis” in which they seem to soak things up from many sources). For those kinds of high school experiences, there are other ways to justify credit — none which involve counting hours at all:
- Completion of an entire textbook, a year-long course, a homeschool curriculum advertised for a one-year course, some class taught over a one-year period, some combination of classes taken over a one-year period (like 2 semesters at college), or a year’s worth of lesson plans. Please understand this is very approximate, but should give you an understanding that there are lots of different one-year “things” that are worth a credit. I never want anyone feeling guilty if a teen didn’t quite finish all the assignments, or if your family decided to skip a couple of lessons in a book. It’s still worth a credit anyway. Okay?
- Successful mastery of the ideas, skills or concepts you were trying to teach that year. If you can observe, prove, or otherwise find evidence that your student learned everything he/she set out to learn, by all means, award credit! Students should never EVER be punished for learning something more quickly than expected! If your teen takes just 7 months to master something that takes other kids a year, please don’t fill the rest of the year with busywork just to justify the credit. Mastery is mastery. Period. Move on.
- Some kind of test. Despite what you may feel about testing, testing does have its place when deciding when credit is due. Testing can be right out of a curriculum or textbook, or can be done using a standardized assessment tool you buy online. Passing a test (or battery of tests) to demonstrate understanding of a year’s worth of something is just as worthy of a credit as anything else. It’s something to keep in mind, even if testing isn’t usually your thing.
Additional places where parents tend to get hung up include: how many credits are required in certain academic disciplines, how many credits are required for homeschool graduation, whether they can award multiple credits in the same subject in the same year (is it okay to award 2 credits of 9th grade English?), and if it “looks weird” if their child has random credits in non-traditional areas. To answer these questions, I refer you to previous blogs about:
Finally, it’s perfectly fine to gather partial credits and group them into full credits for the transcript. For instance, if a teen completes 1/2 credit in something during 9th grade, and completes another 1/2 credit of the same thing in 10th grade, it’s okay to give a full credit (1.0 credit), as if it were taken as one single course (because, really, it was, just not according to a standard academic calendar). Similarly, if a student studies something a little bit (say, 1/4 credit worth) for a few years of high school, it’s okay to group those 1/4 credits together to form a full credit on the transcript, too.
Here’s an example to illustrate that concept:
1/4 credit in Japanese language
+ 1/4 credit in Japanese culture
+ 1/4 credit in Japanese cooking
+ 1/4 credit participation in Japanese club
= 1 credit in “Japanese Language & Culture”
Here’s a helpful 3-part series about credits as they relate to transcripts. I highly recommend you run through that series, as well.
For additional high school questions, check out my high school e-book here in my e-shop. It explains credits in more detail than I’ve had space to do here, plus you’ll also learn about grading, creating a 4-year plan, and lots more.
To your success,
Dr. Marie-Claire Moreau is a college professor who traded in her tenure to become a homeschool mom 20+ years ago. The founder of homeschool groups and organizations, she works to advance home education, and is an outspoken supporter of education reform coast to coast. Her book, Suddenly Homeschooling: A Quick Start Guide to Legally Homeschool in Two Weeks, is industry-acclaimed as it illustrates how homeschooling can rescue children and families from the system, and how anyone can begin homeschooling within a limited time-frame and with no teaching background whatsoever. A liaison for regional school-to-home organizations and a homeschool leader in Florida, Marie-Claire also mentors homeschool families nationwide. A conference speaker, she has appeared at FPEA, H.E.R.I., Home Education Council of America, Luminous Mind, Vintage Homeschool Moms, iHomeschool, and many other events. Her articles have appeared in and on CONNECT, Homefires, Homemaking Cottage, Kiwi, Circle of Moms, and hundreds of other blogs nationwide. Marie-Claire can be reached at email@example.com.