Making a Plan with the Requirements for High School Graduation

Homeschooling high school students can seem daunting and overwhelming. You might think that you as a mom need to be an expert in every field in order to ensure success for your student. There are so many resources and tools out there. That is a comfort, but could also feel extra scary. You might feel like you are standing in the grocery store aisle scratching your head trying to figure out the best deal on toilet paper (how thick is the paper, how long, and how many rolls – so hard to compare!!) while running late. Or maybe you feel like you are on the foothills of the Himalayas trying to navigate a plan to reach the peak without dying. And you’ve never climbed a mountain before! You may be hyperventilating, experiencing heart palpitations, and a whole host of physical ailments at the thought of taking on this Herculean, impossible task. Please take heart. Breathe in deeply and slowly and be assured that you can do this. You do not need to be an expert in every subject of high school in order to successfully navigate your child through high school. Although there are several requirements, it is not too difficult when you are familiar with the current perimeters for successful completion of high school, and what colleges search for in an application. A clear plan is essential for success. But what is the first step? 

First, please know that you can legally homeschool your child and you are considered a private school. You have the authority and ability to educate your child. You can do this. You can avail yourself of any and all resources, put those accomplishments on a transcript, and your signature is a valid, official signature. 

Next, familiarize yourself with the current requirements for graduation in your state. Here is a summary of the current requirements in Illinois, sent our way through Elizabeth York. Please note that these are the requirements for high school completion, not college entrance requirements. Those are not necessarily the same thing. 

TOTAL: 16 Units of High School (with each unit being a year-long class. Partial-year classes can be added together.)

Math: 3 Years including Algebra 1 and some Geometry

English: 4 Years  (no content specified)

Writing: 2 Years of ‘Writing Intensive’ courses, one should be an English class and the other is open.

Science: 2 Years (no content specified)

Social Studies: 2 Years and one year must be US History with a semester of specified civics content/Constitution (IL and US) exam if not completed in middle school

Consumer Education: 9 Weeks (may be part of Economics or another course)

Health: 18 Weeks of Health Education

Electives: 1 Year of arts (foreign language, music, art, etc.)

Physical Education: 4 Years of some sort of daily physical education but this is not a graduation requirement but rather a requirement that every high school program offer this to all students.

SCED. This is a standardized way to code classes in high school transcripts. Using these codes is completely optional but may help colleges in understanding a student’s achievements. Here is the link to the current catalog of codes and how they are used:

Note from EBY – – The Excel file can be kind of confusing. There is a .PDF version that is a little older but still includes most (hundreds!!) of the codes and is searchable:

After you have familiarized yourself with the requirements, there are many choices to be made. But this is the fun part! These choices can range from which science to take, which curricular activity to join, or what classes you might consider taking at an advanced level. The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that you can make these decisions and you don’t have to take them all from the same source. Some older high school students may even choose to enroll in community college classes getting both their high school and college credit checked off at the same time. 

Students who are college bound should look into college options as early as possible in their high school careers. Admissions offices are very willing to communicate with you about their requirements for entrance so if you have a particular school of interest to your child, by all means check with them well in advance of the expected graduation date to ensure time to meet all said requirements. For example, some schools do not care so much about foreign language study, while some require four years. Some schools will accept Latin as a foreign language, but not all. This is important information to be aware of. If your student is interested in a competitive school with a low acceptance rate, you should consider classes and activities that will increase their chances. Although many schools have components that are valued higher than the others, all highly competitive schools do not only look at grades and high testing scores. They also search for preparatory college courses such as AP or community college, they look for challenging extracurricular activities, volunteer and work experience, high-quality letters of recommendation, excellent essays, and a passionate and talented applicant. It can be challenging for homeschooled students to receive awards or recognitions, so it is even more valuable to strategize methods on how to add these qualities to their transcript. Another aspect to consider is the particular college of interest’s attitude towards homeschooled applicants. Many colleges are skeptical of high scores on a transcript created by a parent or close family friend. AP scores or other “official” sources help validate a homeschooler’s transcript and are extremely valuable in their chances of being accepted. This does not mean that all colleges do not like homeschooled students. Many are aware of the self-discipline and maturity that is required to be successful in high school as a homeschooled student. 

It is an exciting moment when you embark on the journey of a self-directed educational experience! There will be so much to learn, so much flexibility, and so much personal growth that stretches way beyond academic knowledge. Students will learn to self-advocate, push through motivational struggles, overcome a tendency to procrastinate, take initiative, and will grow into a well-adjusted adult ready to give back to society. Yes, there are many choices, but many of them are simply that, choices! Every homeschool parent guides their children down a unique path, finding personal strategies and plans. I hope you feel excited about this and if you have any needs or questions we are here to help.