Homeschooling allows families to educate their children at home rather than sending them to a private or public school. In 2012, more than 2 million children, or 3 percent of all K-12 students, were homeschooled. Despite those numbers, homeschoolers, who must generally follow the curriculum requirements of their home state's Department of Education, have few opportunities to earn a diploma from an accredited public school system or institution.
Some homeschooling parents create their own diploma to present to the student, but it is not considered an accredited diploma. Other homeschoolers take the General Education Development or GED high school equivalency exam simply to have a recognized credential to attach to college or job applications.
Homeschool Diploma Programs
In the past, many accredited homeschool diploma programs have been faith-based programs that have required students to follow a set curriculum and earn credits in courses focused on religion. The Seton Home Study program is a Catholic homeschool program based in Virginia and accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. To earn a diploma from Seton, students must complete 22 credits including 4 credits in religion.
However, homeschoolers now have a broader choice of accredited online high schools that will accept homeschool credits. Students can complete most of their homeschool education designed and overseen by parents and earn recognized diplomas by taking a limited number of courses through an online high school program. The following programs are a sample of some of the accredited online diploma programs now being offered by colleges and universities and private, for-profit schools:
- University of Nebraska High School - This online program allows students to transfer homeschool credits and apply them toward a high school diploma. Students can enroll in either general education or college prep courses. Applicants must submit transcripts that outline course completion dates and grades earned as well as the titles and publication dates of the text booked used. The University of Nebraska also requires homeschoolers to take an approved standardized test to validate their credits transferred into the program.
- University of Missouri High School - This program welcomes homeschoolers and will accept homeschool credits based on an evaluation of student transcripts that include an outline of subjects studied at each grade level, a list of text books and study resources, portfolios and any other relevant documentation. To be eligible for a University of Missouri High School diploma, students must complete their final six credits through the online school.
- Keystone National High School - This Pennsylvania-based accredited online program will accept up to 10 homeschool credits which can be applied toward a diploma which is awarded after students complete 21 credits. Keystone evaluates each homeschool transcript or portfolio individually and uses lesson plans and student goals and outcomes to determine credits.
- University of Texas at Austin - While this online high school does not automatically accept homeschool credits, it does allow students to earn credits by passing exams for courses that have been completed at home. Students must take at least four courses through the program and pass final assessment tests to earn a diploma.
- University of Illinois Laboratory School - Uni High also welcomes and encourages homeschoolers to enroll in their high school diploma program. Parents are asked to submit homeschool transcripts that include an explanation of their philosophy of homeschooling as well as detailed information about curriculum and coursework. Scores from standardized tests and recommendations from teachers are also used to determine graduation credits.