Diploma or No Diploma?

GraduationNote: I originally posted this on HomeSchoolBenefits.
One issue that homeschooling families must consider is what to do about a high school diploma. Is a high school diploma even necessary? What are the options for homeschooling families? Today’s column seeks to discuss some of the options available for homeschooling families.

Understanding credentials are essential to choosing the best diploma option for your child. Credentials can be defined as denoting confidence or authority and usually transcripts, diplomas, certificates, etc. issued through an educational institution. Credentials may be either formal or informal. Formal credentials include course credit or transcripts usually issued by an accredited school, private organization or government agency. School accreditation means that a school has met a set standards determined by an outside agency.(1)  Accrediting organizations include state i.e. Texas Education Agency (TEA), regional organizations like Southern Association of Schools and colleges, or national organizations such as Association of Christian Schools International. Informal credentials are usually created by an individual to demonstrate their experiences and abilities. (2) Portfolios are an example of informal credentials. Formal credentials such as a high school diploma are sometimes necessary. However, a high school diploma alone is not enough to get a job. Informal credentials often provide the advantage needed to get a job.

Seeking an exemption is one of most basic things homeschoolers can do.  Colleges that understand homeschoolers do not have a conventional high school diploma may be willing to waive this requirement based upon other parts of the application. (3) Contact each university to discover their requirements.

Create your own credentials. In some states it is possible for homeschoolers to form their home private schools and issue credentials. You may set your own course requirements and guidelines for graduation. A good starting point for determining graduation requirements are the state requirements. This helps ensure that the basic requirements are being met. If you know what college your child is interested in check their required courses.

CLEP or AP exams are also a great option. It is possible to earn up to 30 hours of college credit with these exams. CLEP tests allow you to demonstrate proficiency in a subject and test out of it, but it does not affect your GPA.  AP or Advanced Placement classes are college level classes taught in high school. It is possible for homeschoolers to participate in AP classes through independent study. Through AP courses The Big Guy was able to enter college as a sophomore (30 hours of credit) and not a freshman. CLEP and AP exams are a great way of reducing the cost of college.

Umbrella schools are also another option. They may not have specific course requirements but rather require documentation of the work and the time spent.(4)

Getting a diploma through a correspondence or independent study program is another option. Some publishers of home school curriculum also offer a diploma. A Beka offers programs that include record keeping and issuing transcripts.

The state of Pennsylvania allows homeschoolers to earn a recognized diploma from a homeschool organization. Currently there are seven recognized organizationsa. (5) The Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency even holds two graduation ceremonies each year.(6)

Taking courses through a community college or dual enrollment can be a good way to take advanced courses while earning college credit. It is possible for a student to be dually enrolled for 11th and 12th grades and finish high school with an associate’s degree. In Pennsylvania students may receive the Commonwealth Secondary School Diploma after earning 30 hours of college credit.(7) Eligible high school students in Ohio and Minnesota may take college courses through a community college at no cost.

In some states it is possible for students to take a state exit exam. In California it is possible for students to take California High School Proficiency Examination in lieu of a high school diploma. Eligible students who pass both the math and language arts sections of the exam are issued a Certificate of Proficiency which is equivalent to a high school diploma. More information is available on the website CHSPE

Another alternative to a high school diploma is a GED. GED is a recognized alternative to a high school diploma. One disadvantage the GED has is that by some it is viewed alternative for “drop outs.”(8) However, the GED can be a good choice for homeschoolers going a technical school or not going to college. The GED program was created to meet the need of servicemen returning from World War II to demonstrate they had the skills necessary for employment or higher education. The GED is a more practical exam than the SAT with more emphasis on life experience. (9)

Notes:
(1). Larry & Susan Kaseman, “Taking Charge –Credentials for Homeschoolers: Problem or Opportunity” in Home Education Magazine [Available on-line http://www.homeedmag.com/HEM/236/tch.credentials.html, accessed 29 June 2007].

(2) Kaseman.

(3) Kaseman.

(4) Cafi Cohen, “How Do We Know When We are Done?” in Home Education Magazine [Available on-line http://www.homeedmag.com/HEM/HEM154.98/154.98_clmn_ok.html, accessed 29 June 2007].

(5) Howard Richman, “Diploma Options Currently Used by Homeschoolers in PA”, in Pennsylvania Homeschoolers newsletter, Spring 2003 [Available on-line http://www.pahomeschoolers.com/newsletter/issue82c.htm, accessed 29 June 2007].

(6)PHAA, Graduation Ceremonies [Available on-line http://www.phaa.org/, accessed 29 June].

(7) Richman.

(8) Judy Aron Homeschoolers Things You Should Know About Diplomas [Available on-line http://yedies.blogspot.com/2007/04/homeschoolers-things-you-should-know.html accessed 29 June 2007].

(9) Karen Kirkwood, “The GED Option” in Home Education Magazine [Available on-line http://www.homeedmag.com/HEM/234/ged.html, accessed 29 June 2007].

Sources:
Home Ed Mag. [Available on-line: http://www.homeedmag.com/blogs/closer_look/?p=12, accessed 28 June 2007]

Kelly Woods, Admissions Counselor, Hardin-Simmons University.