There are a few times that people panic when they homeschool:
1) When they first start,
2) Sometime during their homeschool journey when they worry if they are “doing enough” and,
3) High school!!
High School sends even the most confident veterans of homeschooling to their knees and why is that?
We all still “think” that without a high school diploma our kids’ opportunities will be limited.
High School “requirements” require a degree of “interpretation” and someone formally “accrediting” marks in order for them to formally count towards a diploma.
Most kids don’t really care whether they get a diploma or not – and this bothers us. We taught them to think outside the box and when they do – we question their thinking.
So before I begin let me just state – this dissertation is for Alberta only – I am in no way “qualified” to comment on other provinces or territories, all though I think you will find some commonality with some of the things I suggest here.
Secondly – get the terms straight – one thing I’ve learned in talking with people about High School is that everyone uses the same terms for different things, it’s REALLY important to get the terms and definitions right when talking with people in order to be sure we are all talking about the same thing.
Lastly – I will give the “technical” stuff first and then I will give you the “homeschool friendly advice” last. That is not to say I advocate one over the other – I believe – and I cannot state this strongly enough – that each family and each child must do what they think is right for them and their circumstances. I would NEVER say all people should do A or B – I don’t roll that way. But I do think everyone should have all the information when they are making a decision so that they can make the decision that is right for them. And one last thing – I know I already said that – but this important too – this is only my opinion based on my current knowledge and the current requirements set out by Alberta Learning as of this date – any and or all of this could change so you should always check all of the information yourself and come to your own conclusions.
Ok onto the nitty gritty …
In the world of traditional education in general High School is treated as a different beast than your Grades 1-9. It’s almost like there is a switch that goes off that says “it counts now, it really, really counts”.
Terms and Definitions: This is the stuff we need to get straight first.
When most people talk about a High School Diploma they are usually talking about Option A – 100 Credits.
However according to Alberta learning a “graduate” is:
“A student who is awarded a diploma or certificate from the list below is a graduate.
- Alberta High School Diploma (English or Francophone)
- Certificate of High School Achievement (English to Francophone)
- Certificate of Achievement
- Certificate of School Completion
- Alberta High School Diploma as a Mature Student
- High School Equivalency Diploma (by two alternatives).”
Lots of choices and in the homeschooling world there are other options as well that I will discuss at the end.
Here is the information from the Alberta Learning website on High School Graduation – I’ve provided the links so you can get the information first hand.
Let’s examine each one:
High School Graduation
A student must earn 100 credits in order to graduate from high school in Alberta.
Links to the Guide to Education document. To learn the requirements, view the “Diploma and Certificate Requirements” topic (found on page 81).
Certificate of High School Achievement – 80 Credits and students must successfully complete a minimum of one academic Knowledge and Employability course. https://www.learnalberta.ca/content/mychildslearning/certificate_high_school_achievement.html
Certificate of Achievement or Certificate of School Completion
The Certificate of School Completion in special education can be awarded to students with significant cognitive delays who meet the qualification criteria.
Alberta High School Diploma as a Mature Student
Mature student status is granted effective September 1 for the subsequent school year. All the necessary criteria are to be satisfied prior to September 1. • A mature student, for Alberta High School Diploma purposes, is one who, as of September 1 of the current school year, is: − 19 years of age or older; or − the holder of a previously awarded high school diploma from the province of Alberta, or an equivalent high school diploma from a jurisdiction acceptable to the Minister.
A mature student may earn senior high school credits in diploma examination courses by successfully completing course instruction and the diploma examination, or by successfully challenging the diploma examination.
Alternative 1 – A person 18 years or older as of September 1 of the current school year who is deficient in the credits needed for an Alberta High School Diploma and who has been out of school for at least 10 consecutive months can apply to the principal of a senior high school in the community. A list of credits will need to be obtained in order to receive credits and also includes credits for maturity (age) of student.
Alternative 2 – A person 18 years or older who has been out of school for a least 10 consecutive months who passes all five tests in the General Educational Development (GED) test battery with a minimum standard score of 450 or better in each test an who meets the eligibility requirements will be granted a High School Equivalency Diploma.
Please note in all of the above cases where “credits” need to be “awarded”, these must be done by an “accredited” school authority – which can include homeschooling boards. But it’s very important that these credits get recorded in order to achieve the diplomas or certificates noted above.
Okay now this is important! One of the primary reasons people believe they need a High School Diploma is for entrance into a post secondary program. A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA DOES NOT GUARANTEE ENTRANCE INTO A POST SECONDARY INSTITUTION, as noted by Alberta Learning themselves:
“General Requirements for Admission to Post-secondary Educational Institutions Possession of an Alberta High School Diploma or Certificate of High School Achievement does not guarantee admission to a post-secondary institution. Students who intend to enter a post-secondary institution should be advised, as early as Grade 10, to check the calendars of these institutions for admission requirements, and they should plan their senior high school programs accordingly. Information about post-secondary institutions can be found on the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website. For information on planning high school occupational and Career and Technology Studies programs that are articulated with Apprenticeship and Industry Training programs, see Apprenticeship Articulation under Career and Technology Studies in the Courses and Programs section as well as the Diploma and Certificate Requirements section.”
Also requirements for post secondary programs change, all the time. If you know what program you want check the requirements first AND talk to the registrar (because sometime exceptions for requirements will be made) before committing to a full 100 credit diploma program. MANY times only specific courses are needed and/or certain passing grades in specific courses and sometimes an “equivalent” or a “portfolio” is also acceptable for home education students. Once you know the requirements you can work backwards from there as to what high school courses to pursue.
100 Credits is about time spent (hours) and marks received including for the core classes (English, Math, Science and Social Studies) diploma exams. *Please note Alberta is currently changing the weighting of the Diploma exams from 50% of the final mark down to 30% of the final mark.
Also lastly Diploma Course Work and Exams CAN be challenged.
Now for the homeschooling friendly version:
In my opinion students either a) know exactly what they “want to be” and what they want to do upon graduation or b) they think they know but they are not sure yet (haven’t experienced it) or c) they don’t have any idea (most often they just want to be done).
So let’s address the a)’s first.
If your kid does know what they want to do then you need to check what the requirements are (either post secondary or business/job related) and go backwards from there. I would recommend looking at challenging the course work and/or exams first if possible. There are also lots of online options available to homeschool student now which is a great way to still do the work from home. Also some colleges offer “dual credit” classes, classes that offer high school credit as well as post secondary credit which could give students classroom experience and “kill two birds with one stone” so to speak. I would also highly recommend some work experience or job shadowing in their area of interest as sometimes what they think it is it is not and better to find out now before “pursuing” the course of study for it and then finding out it’s not what they want.
If your kid thinks they might know (or maybe even has a few on their list) I highly recommend some work experience or job shadowing in those areas. This can a go a long way in a short amount of time in narrowing their lists. Also if they think they might want to do some post secondary and you can provide an English or Math program that meets the Alberta Program of Studies they can go a long way in having the knowledge needed in challenging the course work and exams if they decide they need those requirements later on.
For those that don’t know what they want to do I recommend two options:
Continue to follow their passions and have them job shadow someone in that field or apprentice – for any length of time. They will either find out what they like or don’t like or guide them in some new direction.
If you absolutely feel you need to do something for high school work on a credit course in either English, math or one of the sciences, if your child doesn’t mind any of those subjects and are willing to do the work. This way down the road if they do decide to do a post secondary program that requires any of those three they’ve got some of the work done. (I don’t know many programs that require Social Studies).
Lastly, another option is have them work and travel – this opens their world to the possibilities and sometimes provides some direction in one way or another. They can always return to “high school” course studies the following year if that is what they determine is the direction that they want to go. In Alberta with the new Education Act they will have until the age of 21 to complete their high school education.
In conclusion, high school, as with the rest of the child’s education is about the child. If you want to truly home educate for the high school years it is entirely possible, just be sure you are honoring what the child’s needs and wants are because at the end of the day that is what home education is truly about.
This post was written by Lori D – a veteran homeschooling mom in Alberta who generously took the time to write this detailed information for her fellow Albertans who are on the search for information on how to homeschool for high school.