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with Cheryl A. Bastian
We’re tackling some of the most common questions parents ask and sharing simple action steps to make it easy.
Commonly Asked Questions About Credits
What is a credit?
A credit is a unit of study—on average one hour of instruction or learning, five days a week for the school year. It is important for home education families to understand their state’s requirements for hours of instruction and find out if homeschooled learners must meet that standard.

Generally speaking, between 120 and 150 hours of instruction and coursework is considered one credit.

How many credits are needed for graduation?
States require eighteen to twenty-four credits, a combination of core and elective courses, for graduation. Again, knowing your state’s requirements provides a measuring stick for what your family will decide. Keep in mind, high school graduation requirements may not be sufficient for college admission.
What is the “average” number of credits learners earn in a year?
Public and private school students earn an average of six credits per year. That’s essentially four or five one-credit core courses (English, math, natural science, social science, and world language) and two or three electives (pending whether the electives are half or full credit). While most states require four credits of English to graduate, the number of credits for math, sciences, and world languages varies between two and four. It is best to know your state’s requirements, whether those requirements apply to home educated students, and what the admission requirements are for the universities of interest, should your graduate choose that path.

Our family simplified the process, planning at least one English, math, natural science, and social science course each year, adding additional core courses and electives pending post-graduation aspirations. This amounts to between six and eight credits per year.

How do I figure out and award credits?
In most states, parents choose the number of hours needed to earn one credit. As a homeschooling family, keeping your state’s laws in mind, choose a credit system, and stick with it for consistency throughout the high school years.

Like you, I quickly realized home education is not classroom instruction. High schoolers can learn through independent study, asking questions, consulting supplemental resources, or even job shadowing mentors in a field. The learning process is not determined by a bell and can be individualized and concentrated. In other words, more content may be covered in a shorter amount of time compared to traditionally schooled peers. Embracing the freedom to learn with the most effective means while representing what’s completed with a traditional credit system doesn’t have to be stressful.

  • Daily or semi-weekly. Though the assumption is that study in one subject should average one hour each day, five times a week, some learners prefer blocks of study—several hours a day, several times a week. The hours are the same, but are executed differently. Use what works for your high schooler.
  • Full year or semester. Core courses are assumed to be full year, but home learning makes it possible to complete a year’s worth of study in several months. Full credit is awarded in these situations as the same material is covered.
  • Textbook. Textbooks are typically designed to cover a full year of content—one credit—no matter how long the student takes to finish. Consult the company if you are unsure whether the course was designed as a half or full credit. Keep in mind, teachers (including homeschooling parents) often do not finish textbooks but still award credit. The general rule of thumb is 80% must be completed.
  • Independent study, interest-based, parent-created. These type courses often have the highest retention rate but can be the hardest for parents to confidently award credit. Some learners log study time for hour verification.
  • Co-op or online courses. Awarding credit for instructor-led courses has multiple facets. Some teachers present content, leaving assessment and grading to the parent. Other instructors present, grade assignments, and award final grades. Most often, parents remain the overseers and award the credit, generally one credit for full year courses and half credit for semester work.
  • Dual enrollment. Earning high school and college credit simultaneously can be beneficial for some learners. Check if your state publishes a dual enrollment equivalency list, outlining how college credit equates to high school credit. Generally, a three-credit college course (eight week or semester) equates to one credit on the high school transcript.
Can my high schooler earn credit for learning life skills?
Yes! As homeschoolers, often the content of core courses overshadows the value of the skills our teens need for life—managing finances and budgeting, maintaining a vehicle or home, personal wellness and nutrition, first aid skills, child and human development. These skills can be woven into core courses like economics, psychology, or biology, or could stand alone as elective courses, titled according to the content. We will unpack this topic in the next issue.
Is it possible to have too many credits?
More is not always better. While homeschooled students tend to have more time and move through courses quicker, potentially earning more credits, college admissions professionals are also leery of excessive credits. Four or five credits over what your state requires will not likely be a red flag.
Can my learner earn high school credit in middle school?
This is a parent decision with several questions to consider. First, is the content high school level? Second, does awarding the credit place the transcript in the gray area of excessive credits? A few years into high school, you may discover that middle school credits aren’t needed.

Note that traditional students often receive high school credit for Algebra 1 (or above) and world language taken in eighth grade, so it would be reasonable for your student to do the same.

I am eager to learn more. Are there any online resources you recommend?
You can go directly to these links using our Digital Magazine & Companion!

Home education provides endless possibilities for learning. Consider the freedoms offered to learners in your state and embrace the variety from which your high schooler can earn credit.
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heryl Bastian has been married to Mike for twenty-eight years and began homeschooling in 1993. A mother of eight children—toddler through adult—Cheryl knows the trials and triumphs of embracing each season of life and is passionate about equipping and inspiring parents who want to nurture a desire for lifelong learning in their children.