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Homeschooling Your High Schooler

by Kathy McKinnon

Find answers to your FAQs for homeschooling your teenager

Educators agree that private education is one of the best approaches to teaching. No one loves or knows your children as you do, and you are in a good position to provide instruction that meets each of your child’s needs. Though sometimes you may not feel qualified, there are many homeschooling resources to which you can turn. One of those resources is experienced homeschool educator Kathy McKinnon. Kathy answers some frequently asked questions about homeschooling your high schoolers.

What do I teach my high schooler?

Before parents decide exactly what to teach in ninth through twelfth grades, they need to help their young people consider their goals for the future:

  • What occupations especially interest them?
  • Do they want to go to an institution of higher learning such as a college, university, or technical school?
  • Do they want to join the military or pursue an apprenticeship?
  • Do they want to go immediately into the work force?

Once these goals have been determined through counsel, prayer, and evaluation of God-given talents, parents can decide what to teach. The basic course of study is outlined in the chart below and is measured in "Carnegie units."1 For further assistance, consider using the Career Guidance Assessment service offered through BJ Testing & Evaluation. (For more information, call 1-800-845-5731.)

The basic standard for earning a high-school diploma in most states is approximately 24 units. Many states mandate certain subjects to teach. In addition, it is wise to check admission requirements of the colleges that your teenager is considering.

What is the difference between a college track and a general track of study?

A college track of study is a high-school course of study that would help prepare a student to meet the expectations of college admission after receiving the high-school diploma. Typically this track includes basic subjects and some higher-level subjects such as Algebra II and additional science. A general track of study prepares a highschooler sufficiently to enter a technical college, junior college, or apprenticeship while earning a high-school diploma.

What is a high-school transcript?

A high-school transcript is a cumulative record of a student’s accomplished course of study. A transcript should include final grades for the school year, the grading scale used, the student’s GPA, and his biographical information. Attachments to the transcript should list course descriptions, extracurricular activities and awards, and may include latest standardized achievement test scores and immunization records if available. It is most beneficial to create a transcript in an easily understandable, organized, professional format because these records are what validate a student’s diploma.

What are college entrance exams?

College entrance exams such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Test (ACT) are a combination aptitude and achievement test. Achievement tests are used in evaluating a student’s skill and knowledge in academic studies, and aptitude tests are used for predicting a student’s level of academic performance. Most colleges use college entrance exams to help determine admission and/or course placement and to award scholarships. These exams are administered in different subject batteries such as English, math, reading, and science for the ACT or math and verbal for the SAT. They are scheduled on certain dates at designated testing sites between the months of September and May. Students should contact the colleges they are considering to see which test the colleges prefer.

When registering for the SAT or ACT, note carefully the registration deadlines to avoid late fees. Students take this type of test in their junior year of high school or at the beginning of their senior year if they are considering college. You can obtain information on registration, test preparation, test dates, and testing sites from the following references:

For SAT:
The College Board
45 Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 10023-6992

For ACT:
P.O. Box 168
2201 N. Dodge Street
Iowa City, IA 52243-0168

As a homeschooler, can I actually award my child a high-school diploma?

The answer is yes. It is legal to homeschool in every state in the U.S. Many states allow a family to homeschool by setting themselves up as a private school; a parent has the freedom to issue a diploma as a private school. The laws do vary from state to state; therefore, a family needs to check the state laws and consult the registering agent for clarification. Just remember that a diploma is simply an attractive certificate. Its importance is in what it represents. The diploma needs to be validated by thorough documentation of what the student has academically accomplished and then recorded on a transcript. (Several tools to assist you in maintaining academic records are available through BJU Press. Learn more about our transcript and record keeping service, the Academy of Home Education, and our record-keeping folders available through Testing & Evaluation.)

What is a grade point average (GPA), and how is it calculated?

A GPA is an average of the cumulative grades that a student earns during his highschool career, most often converted to a four-point scale. Typically a GPA is calculated on a semester basis. To calculate a student’s GPA, set up three columns. In the first column, list the subjects; in the second, write the corresponding letter grades; and in the third record the points. Add the points in the third column and then divide the sum by the number of grades listed.

A GPA is often used to help determine a student’s class ranking, admission into a college or university, and eligibility for scholarships.

As you continue teaching your high-school student, be assured that many home educators who have gone before you are accessible and ready to help. We at BJU Press are eager to listen and to help when we can in your ministry of Christian home education.

1A "Carnegie unit" of credit is determined by the amount of time that a student studies a subject successfully. This measurement is used to determine completion of a high-school diploma. The measurement is based on 180 days of instruction (2 semesters) for an average of 45 minutes per day. The basic standard for earning a diploma is approximately 24 credits, which must be accumulated between the 9th and 12th grades. The number of credits required for a diploma varies depending on where a student wants to attend college or the state in which the student lives.

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