There’s a lot of conflicting information about homeschooling, particularly when it comes to high school and graduation. Many people wonder if homeschoolers even graduate, and if so, how? One common question that is asked is if homeschoolers are required to get a G.E.D (that is, pass the ‘general education development test’) as proof of graduating?
We have homeschooled four children; two of whom have graduated and received scholarships to public universities. I can tell you with confidence that, no, homeschoolers do not need the G.E.D. test in order to graduate, nor for their diploma to be valid AND accepted by major universities.
When you start your homeschooling journey, it is necessary to familiarize yourself with your state’s requirements. You will need this information to establish your ‘home school’. Once you have done this, congrats: you are now the ‘principal/teacher’, and thus, the diploma is set in motion.
Starting your Home School
Each state varies as to what they require from families as far as enrollment, notification, attendance, curriculum, and so on. But don’t worry; we’ve homeschooled across the country in three states (CA, TN, and VA) and the differences are usually slight.
We started homeschooling while living in Tennessee when our oldest (Brandon) turned five. This was 20 years ago. Keep in mind, this was after I’d been teaching in public schools about 4 years, but that is another story! We did not need to do much to get started other than filling out a form, and demonstrating at least one of us had a high school diploma.
By the time our second child (daughter, Alexis) was ready for kindergarten, we were living in California. We initially tried LAUSD and then a year of independent charters, but neither met our children’s needs.
So, we found ourselves looking up requirements for homeschooling, and discovered they were not much different. Officially, California requires all “home schools” to register as private schools, but again, it was just paper work to get started.
Flash forward to our move back east to Virginia. After a short stint in public schools (with me teaching in a local high school), we set up to home school again. By now, we had twin boys in elementary; Lexi in middle school and Brandon closer to ‘graduation’.
It is not difficult to conduct the search to find what you need. As you can see, we’ve done it three times. Simply google your state + Department of education homeschool (or home instruction). There you will find all you need to know in order to be compliant to your state and get started.
One thing to pay particular attention to is the high school home school requirements, as these might be different than homeschooling elementary and middle school aged children. But again, it is not generally difficult to meet the requirements; you just need to be aware of what they are.
Why NOT a G.E.D for Homeschoolers
Since all states provide a method for students to obtain a diploma through a G.E.D., why not use it as a means for homeschoolers? Sure, you can enroll your child to take the test for a nominal fee. But is it worth it?
In actuality, the G.E.D. has a negative connotation as most see it as evidence of not graduating high school; as well, a G.E.D. has been shown as having minimal link towards post secondary credentials. So, there is really very little appeal to go the route of G.E.D.
Let’s look for a moment at what is actually meant by a G.E.D. Some might be under the impression that it means ‘general equivalency diploma’ or something similar, as that makes sense since it is what students get instead of graduating high school, right?
G.E.D. means ‘general education development test’. Surprised? Currently, this is a four part test, with each part allotting more than an hour, and each module with their own fee of $30 or more for most states.
This test is designed for high school drop outs. It’s promoted as an option that, if passed, provides them proof that though they left school without enough credits to graduate, they have obtained the same or similar academic skills as a graduate. Is this what really happens?
However, in reality, most high school drop outs have struggled academically throughout their school experience and as such, don’t usually pass the G.E.D. modules on the first try. Therefore, most are expected to attend prep courses which take weeks, sometimes months, to complete and then, after NOT passing, sit for retakes (most fees for each module include retake opportunities).
Much of the manipulation surrounding the G.E.D. is the fault of public schools themselves. Public high schools strongly encourage students to take the G.E.D. (if the students have already dropped out of regular attendance) because if passed, they can count them in their numbers as graduating students.
And I’m sure you’re not surprised that schools collect a portion of the testing fee (as well as prep course fee) for their efforts in the administration of the G.E.D.
Some taut the G.E.D. as a means that the high school drop out student could attend college. However, in a 2011 study, it was clear that the G.E.D. did not lead to more students going to college. Evidenced surfaced to show that very few of those who obtain the G.E.D. do so for college admittance. Sure, most colleges accept the G.E.D.; it’s just not necessary to go that route.
Whether a G.E.D. or diploma, students will need to take college entrance tests such as the SAT or ACT. Those scores are more important for colleges to consider for acceptance and will hold up on a homeschool diploma just as easily as attached to a G.E.D. and with the homeschool diploma, you won’t face the almost certain negative reaction OR pay the fee to sit for an ‘equivalent’ test.
Those taking the G.E.D. think that ‘at least they got their G.E.D.’ But is that something you should consider for your homeschooler? With the negative implication, is a G.E.D. really helpful to further post-high school job aspirations?
Therefore, what is the point of obtaining the G.E.D.? Is it so your child will get a trade job instead of college? Trade schools or just-out-of-college jobs will be just as satisfied, if not more so, with the homeschool diploma as a G.E.D. Save yourself the G.E.D. headache, and provide a home-made diploma.
So, knowing all of this, is it any wonder that the G.E.D. has negative connotations in our society? Does it really seem like this is a feature your child would want to highlight on his or her college applications, or use to get a job after high school? Um, probably not.
Importance of Homeschool Transcripts
In our experience homeschooling four children in three states, we have always needed to provide a general list of content taught. All three states required that we send a list of subjects taught. This list consisted of something like this:
- language arts
- Physical education (e.g. Our kids have taken karate every year.)
- foreign language (Our kiddos learned German, Spanish, and Latin over the years.)
And guess what? As your kiddos grow, this list essentially becomes your transcript once you start your high school home school.
The transcript is what you use as proof that your child has earned his or her diploma.
You’ll coordinate the transcript with your local/state requirements for graduation. For example, will your child need 4 years of English or is 3 years enough? How many credits is necessary for math and science? Will your child need specific types of math such as algebra in order to graduate. These are the kinds of things you will find out from your simple google search either at the state level or from your zoned school district.
Don’t wait for your district to tell you. It’s important that you find out this early on so that you won’t need your child to take two math courses in one year (though it can be done…in another article I explain how our daughter took her sophomore and junior year requirements together to afford her time to study abroad in Germany a year).
Now that you know that the transcript can be used to fulfill the ‘subjects taught’ list you send to the district, it’s our experienced opinion, you don’t send it as is. We strongly suggest you adjust it beforehand. You want this list specific for colleges, but not for ‘Big Brother’.
For instance, instead of Algebra 2 listed on the transcript, you’ll submit ‘math’ to the district. I also suggest removing all standardized test scores before sending to the district unless you are specifically required to provide those, too.
A transcript will have many common features, in addition to the ‘name’ of your home school:
- Name, dob, address, years of high school
- Core subjects taken (Math, Science, Social Studies/History, and Language Arts)
- Extracurriculars such as P.E. and foreign languages
- Standardized tests and scores, as well as dates taken (if your child retakes and earns a better score, you should remove the previous test information)
The transcript will certainly need standardized test scores-if college is a possibility in the future. These will include the PSAT, SAT, ACT or even subject matter standardized tests from your local school district or other (depending again on your state’s home instruction procedures).
You will want to update the transcript after each quarter or semester, as well as at the end of year.
For both of our graduated kids, we used an online provider (HSLDA)to create the transcript. It was a simple, inexpensive way to create something with the look and feel of a traditional transcript, even providing an embossed seal.
I was able to update it whenever necessary. For example, after each high school year and when they took/retook a standardized test, I could go online and add the new details. I did not always print or pay for a paper copy (only when needed for applications). But it was good to have it ready.
I truly appreciated this service when my children were filling out multiple college applications.
A Homeschool Diploma
Now let’s talk about the alternative to the G.E.D.– the homeschool diploma. This is what we used successfully for our two now adult children. Once your child has earned enough credits to graduate (based on your district but completely in your control), your child is ready for his or her diploma.
You can certainly design the diploma yourself. With the upgrades of most computers, the inclusion of at-home color printers, and the multitude of certificate/fancy paper you can purchase from Staples/Office Depot/even Walmart, this won’t be too difficult for most.
If you prefer, there are many online or local providers that can make this for you instead. You can order your child’s diploma (and let a professional handle it!). This can save you the time and potential frustration of creating it on your own, just like with the transcript service.
Whatever you decide, it is probably best to keep it simple. Whether you design it or you elect to use an outside vendor, you don’t need to overdo it. It’s legitimate in its own right. You don’t need to embellish to prove anything.
Now besides the diploma, you could mark the occasion with an actual graduation too. Either by hosting a small get-together for your immediate family or something larger to include friends, or joining other homeschool graduates for a large ‘to do’, graduation is a milestone that you will want to celebrate.
This is a good time to include your child in the decision-making, too. Maybe he or she really wants that walk across a stage in cap and gown or perhaps a back yard BBQ is more than enough for your graduate. Talk it over and remember, this is personal…not something required by the state in order to validate the diploma. It’s valid!
But with all this, keep in mind, the transcript is the most important piece of evidence for your child to move on in his or her career goals.
The diploma is something you will hang on the wall, while the transcript is what will be used by colleges, universities, and even the military, depending upon your child’s direction (our eldest in now in the Air Force after earning an associate’s degree). The diploma is a significant symbol that recognizes the hard work of your child, evidenced by the critical transcript.
The Proof that G.E.D. is not Needed
So how can you really know if your homeschooler doesn’t need a G.E.D? What is my evidence that a homeschool diploma is enough for after high school success?
Our title says we’ve homeschooled four, but what about GRADUATING homeschoolers? Let me introduce you to Brandon and Lexi, our two homeschool graduates.
Brandon ‘graduated’ in May 2013 from our home school in Virginia. He was early accepted to George Mason University (GMU), James Madison University (JMU), and Old Dominion University (ODU). He received a tuition scholarship (for academics, not sports) from GMU, but ODU provided enough to cover books and even a bit left over to use for room and board.
He stayed at ODU through his freshman year but later transferred to something local, to save money. He was able to earng his associate’s degree while working part time with his dad teaching little ninjas. He is now an air man with the USAF, stationed in Texas, married with two little ninjas of his own, and he and his wife just purchased their first home. I admit I’m a proud mama (and Oma!)!
Our second graduate is our daughter, Alexis. She graduated in May 2017 after studying abroad her senior year in Germany (again, I’ll detail this in another article). Lexi was early accepted to all the same schools as Brandon, in addition to a few more. You know how little sisters like to outdo their big brothers!
However, she was awarded the President’s Scholarship from Louisiana State University (LSU) which covers absolutely EVERYTHING with money left over for incidentals. GEAUX TIGERS!
At the writing of this article, she is starting her senior year at LSU, with majors in biology and German, and a minor in education. And incidentally, she’ll be awarded an honors diploma at graduation in May 2021.
Homeschool Diploma Takeaway
So what is the takeaway from this article? What do I hope to help you with as you homeschool your children, consider homeschooling your children, or help someone else looking into homeschool education?
Not only does your child NOT need to take the G.E.D. test as a homeschooler in order to graduate, but I recommend he or she does not because it very well may be detrimental to his or her future.
The G.E.D. is not necessary, simply put. Just ask Brandon and Lexi.