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Home Education
for High Schoolers

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General Legislative Info

Home Education for High Schoolers

Whether or not your student is bound for college, you will probably find information of benefit to your high school student on this page and the connected pages. Other than assembling a challenging academic program, there are several others things that you need to be certain to provide for your high schoolers: documentation and study skills that include meeting deadlines (colleges and employers will not take excuses for tardiness of attendance or submission of work). We will attempt to provide as much information on this site as possible. If you do not find the appropriate information on this site, please contact us. More info on choosing careers and the non-college bound student will be added in the future.

Parents who are contemplating home education for high schoolers typically ask the following questions:

Q #1. What about socialization in the high school years?
Q #2. What about activities like sports, proms, etc.?
Q #3. What if I donít feel qualified to teach high school level subjects?
Q #4. How do I determine which courses my high schooler could/should take at a college?
Q #5. What courses must my high school student take to fulfill the graduation requirements in PA?
Q #6. Are there content requirements or any other requirements beyond that list?
Q #7. Are foreign languages required?
Q #8. What should be covered in art, music, physical education, health and safety?
Q #9. Are there any limits to the number of credits that a student may take?
Q #10. Can students have other electives?
Q #11. How do I determine the number of credits?
Q #12. What kind of documentation do we need for the high school years?
Q #13. How many times should my student take the SAT/ACT?
Q #14. When and where are the PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, CLEP, AP and ACT tests offered?
Q #15. How do I figure out a Grade Point Average (GPA)?
Q #16. How can I decide which college is the right one?
Q #17. How do I know if my student will qualify for financial aid?
Q #18. Where can I find scholarships for my student?
Q #19. Can I deduct the cost of postsecondary education on my taxes?

Q #1. What about socialization in the high school years?
If a school is doing a proper job educating a child, there is little opportunity to socialize during the school day. School is not supposed to be a meeting place. Itís supposed to be an educational institution. If the after-school activities are important to your student, God will make sure, through your effort or someone elseís, that it is available to him/her without being enrolled in a school. If it does not become available, you may never know the protection to your studentís body or soul since he/she was protected from exposure to that activity.

Q #2. What about activities like sports, proms, etc.?
Since home education has grown, there are increasing numbers of opportunities available. Sports teams of home educated students are available in many areas. If you have the time and talent to invest in a team, please do so. The number one reason for teams not forming in an area is lack of volunteers to coach. Proms and many other activities are available, but there are a number of activities, including classes and sports at public schools that homeschoolers can attend. Family vacations can be far better than a class trip, and donít hesitate to check out class rings and other items at department stores and jewelers. Beginning in 2002, this network held its first Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement Exercises in Harrisburg.

If it is beneficial to your student, God will work it out. If He has some reason for protecting your student (attacks to their faith, sports injuries, etc.), then He will not work out those possibilities and you should trust Him in this. During the high school years it is even more important to guide and guard your students' social situations so that they can avoid the many near occasions of sin that teens can encounter.

Q #3. What if I donít feel qualified to teach high school level subjects?
When one young mother thought her husband wanted her to go back to work and put their children in daycare, her husband said, ďIf I would have wanted someone else to raise our children, I would have married her.Ē In the same way, if God wanted only certified teachers to teach children, He would have given all of His children to them. Also remember, if you were able to learn this material as an immature teenager, just think of how much better you will do as a mature adult who now sees value and purpose in all aspects of education.

Every couple should reassess each year what God is calling them to do with regard to their student's education. If God is calling you to continue or begin home education, as a very active Superintendent of your homeschool, God will make sure that everything falls into place in just the right timing. Trust in His Divine Providence.

God's plan may be quite varied from one year to the next or from one student to the next. Some high schools will allow students to take individual courses on their campuses since the state will reimburse them for the studentís partial enrollment. However, please note that the reasons why you do not have your student enrolled in the school full-time might be the same reasons why you wonít want them there part-time either.

There are a number of video courses, full-service curriculum providers, online courses, co-op run courses, and community and other colleges that provide classes as well. The benefit of accessing college level courses is that students are less likely to experience Ďsenioritisí and will be able to begin earning college credit at the same time that they are completing their high school credits. This will also help students to make the transition to college level courses while still having the benefit of parental oversight and influence. Many times these courses can cost less for high school students. College level classes sometimes are more likely to transfer to another college than Advanced Placement (AP) or College Level Entrance Program (CLEP) credits.

It is better to follow whichever direction God leads you than to eliminate possibilities because of self-doubt. Homeschooling high schoolers is a great time to draw upon the graces you received in the Sacrament of Matrimony. It is also the time when peer pressure, school violence, and the influence of secular and politically-correct curriculum is a more serious concern.

Q #4. How do I determine which courses my high schooler could/should take at a college?
First of all, be selective in choosing colleges, courses and the instructors who teach them. There are many, even well respected institutions, that will offer courses that are intended to lead students away from their faith, away from every semblance of any faith, or to put doubt in their minds. If you cannot access a truly Catholic college, at least be as careful as possible in choosing which institutions you access for which courses or which college your student attends full-time.

Find out if there are any pre-requisites to the courses. For instance, some colleges want the student to have high school level knowledge of subjects like chemistry before taking it at the college level. Sometimes there is a math pre-requisite before a physics class or an English pre-requisite before a speech class. Be certain to find out if they are college level pre-requisites or not. Some colleges have entrance tests they will wave based upon SAT scores, so be certain to ask about this if confronted with this situation.

Before taking classes at a college or other postsecondary institution, it is best to double check that those credits will be accepted by the college into which your student intends to transfer, if any. Some colleges are more fussy about taking credits from certain other colleges, and most prefer that classes in the area of your major (computer courses for computer science majors) be taken at their institution or your student may have to repeat those classes in the future anyway. Sometimes your local community college or other area colleges may have an atriculation agreement with the college your student will transfer to later. The atriculation agreement will list specific course titles at their institution that correlate with specific courses at another college. By referencing that information, you will be more certain to be taking the specific course that the next college will accept.

Please be sure to distinguish between non-transferable classes that are in your studentís best interest at this time and those that you would rather wait till later so that they need not be retaken. ďGeneral education courses,Ē such as English composition, speech, and other liberal arts courses, are more likely to transfer than discipline specific courses (e.g. computer classes for computer majors, teaching courses for education majors, etc.). However, some colleges have fewer general education courses than others.

Other links regarding this information:
College Board

Q #5. What courses must my high school student take to fulfill the graduation requirements in PA?
Pennsylvaniaís Home Education Law includes the following graduation requirements:
4 years of English
3 years of mathematics
3 years of science
3 years of social studies
2 years of arts and humanities

Q #6. Are there content requirements or any other requirements beyond that list?
There are no specific, detailed requirements. However, PAís Home Education Law states that at some point during the high school years, the following should be covered:
English, to include language, literature, speech and composition. Typically, students will study both American and English literature. There are no requirements as to the number or length of compositions, and no requirements for all of these to be taught every year.
Geography which could be a separate subject or incorporated into other subject areas.
Social studies, to include civics, world history, history of the United States and Pennsylvania. This does not mean that civics or PA history must be done every year or for an entire year. It just must be done in some manner at some point during the high school years. Many families and schools typically spend a year in high school doing U.S. Government at which time the civics requirement is dealt with in greater detail.
Mathematics, to include general mathematics, algebra and geometry.
Physical education;
Health; and
Safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fire.

Parents may, if they choose to, cover such subjects as economics, biology, chemistry, foreign languages, trigonometry, or any other subjects. College bound students are more likely to cover a number of these courses.

If any of the above are covered at a high school level before grade 9, they may be counted towards the graduation requirements on a transcript.

Q #7. Are foreign languages required?
No. However, many colleges will expect to see a year or two of languages for college entrance though some will waive that requirement of home-educated students as it is not a graduation requirement for home educated students. Some families have been using sign language to fulfill that requirement, but it is not universally accepted as a replacement for foreign language yet. We recommend that you check with the colleges your student is considering for help in determining whether or not to include or omit foreign language from your curriculum.

Q #8. What should be covered in art, music, physical education, health and safety?
Again there is no content requirement or mandate that they be done every year at the high school level. They may be non-credit courses or ľ, Ĺ, ĺ, or full credit courses. Home educators typically have plenty of ideas for fulfilling these requirements, but the content is not further defined by law. That is entirely up to the discretion of the parent(s).

Q #9. Are there any limits to the number of credits that a student may take?
There is no maximum number of credits. However, to fulfill the graduation requirements, the student must complete at least the 15 credits noted in Q #5. Colleges looking for a demanding curriculum expect to see more credits. For example, students who are science majors should take at least 4 sciences. Engineering majors should get through precalculus before entering college. Hint: College admissions personnel do not always know course requirements for entrance to a particular major. College personnel from the department of your student's major are typically the ones who can better address that with more specific details.

Q #10. Can students have other electives?
Yes. The subjects and number of credits are at the discretion of the parent(s). Some electives might be:
Religion courses,
Family and Consumer Science--child care, nutrition, budgets, car maintenance, insurance, major purchases, etc.
Home Economics--cooking, sewing, child care, child development
Industrial Technology--including wordworking, home repairs, home renovations
Psychology--This is a great opportunity to read self-improvement books or study ways to interact with others. Remember that your student will be more mature, less peer-oriented, and more level headed than the majority of his/her peers. This will require learning how to deal with such individuals in college, the workplace, and the community.
Art appreciation or other art courses
Music courses
and more

Q #11. How do I determine the number of credits?
Finishing an entire book or doing at least 120 hours of the subject at the high school level undoubtedly would be a full credit. Some diploma programs consider 2/3 or ĺ of a book to be an entire credit. That would be up to the discretion of the parent or the curriculum program you are using. If keeping track of hours, however, traditionally the following is the designation:

30 or more hours - ľ credit
60 or more hours - Ĺ credit
90 or more hours - ĺ credit
120 or more hours - 1 credit

If you use the above hour measurement, it could be noted on the transcript, but it is not necessary or required. Keeping track of hours is absolutely not a requirement, however. Any institutional school that has one early dismissal or late start for snow or any other reason, and does not make up that time does not fulfill the 990 hours although they may fulfill the requirement of 180 days.

Q #12. What kind of documentation do we need for the high school years?
Transcripts--Keeping professional looking transcripts of your studentís work will eliminate a tremendous amount of difficulty in getting a college to pay attention to your studentís application. This should include at least the course name (not the book name) and the number of credits per course. For instance, Saxon Advanced Math would best be entitled Trigonometry/PreCalculus. Fancy names are okay as long as someone ready the transcript will not underestimate the true content of the course.

Colleges prefer to see at least a letter grade, the number of credits, and a Grade Point Average (GPA) to determine how your student performs in the classroom. A letter or number grade is preferred by many colleges so that when they look at the GPA they can see in which courses your student excelled. Colleges want to see whether your student expecting to be a science major is strong in science and not just in gym, home economics, and art. Most colleges will require SAT scores, but they are not always as accurate as the GPA in determining performance in the classroom.

Documentation of high school level courses taken before grade 9 should also be included in the transcript. These early courses can be easily noted depending on the style of transcript you choose. It is an excellent idea to make a notation (in the course name or elsewhere) which courses would be considered AP (Advanced Placement) courses or Honors level courses. It is always helpful to provide colleges with any information to help them to determine the level of challenge or quality of the studentís program.

Whether your student plans to attend college or not, it is an excellent idea to prepare transcripts for your student just in case he/she would need them later in life. It is also a good idea to keep a copy of those transcripts on a computer disc or CD and store it in your safe deposit box for future reference.

It is certainly not required, but sometimes helpful if you maintain a list of activities, sports (community or otherwise), community service (including parish activities), professional publications read and subscribed to, honors and awards, number of years of music or dance lessons, employment and any other items of interest. This will give colleges and scholarship committees a better picture of the whole person they would be admitting. Colleges are very selfish and they want to know that your student will be bringing talents and interests to their institution. It also gives them a better understanding as to whether your student knows how to be productive with after-school hours or not. Sometimes these listings are helpful to the college in letting them know if you qualify for specific scholarships or whether they might mail out information or invitations on other campus activities. A number of scholarships are based upon community service or certain activities. Some scholarships will even request the amount of time per week or total time devoted to each act of community service. Having a summary list of these items will make it easier filing out those scholarship applications as well.

SAT/ACT Scores--Almost all colleges want to see SAT or ACT Scores. The majority of the East Coast colleges lean towards the SAT, and the ACT is favored more in the Midwest and West. However, most colleges accept either one. The SAT has only a math and verbal section, whereas the ACT covers chemistry/science as well. We recommend that you prepare your students for the fact that politically correct topics may appear in the reading passages of the SAT Verbal section. The ACT does not tend to be as politically correct. The SAT test will be changing in coming years. Please see the article on the College Boardís website for information on these changes in March 2005.

In preparation for the SAT, the College Board developed the PSAT which has also become the test to select National Merit Scholarship students. Thus, a preparatory test is actually a higher stakes testÖthe PSAT/NMSQT. Since some colleges will offer scholarships to students who are finalists or commended students in the competition (no actual money is given to the student upon being a finalist), it is recommended that your student take the test in 9th or 10th grade to familiarize himself/herself with the test and to determine areas of weakness before the scores count for the National Merit Scholarship. The PSAT, however, is not required for college entrance, only for competing for the National Merit Scholarship.

Occasionally colleges like to see at least some selected SAT II test scores. The SAT II has selected tests for math, composition, etc. If a student scores well in an SAT II test, it gives the college reassurance that you have accomplished a level of proficiency in that subject beyond what the basic SAT will test if that subject is covered at all.

Even if SAT/ACT scores are required, that does not mean that the college leans as heavily on those scores for admissions determination. Some colleges believe that a GPA tells them more about your consistent performance in a classroom and will base their selection of students and scholarships on that basis. Therefore, it is good to have both the test scores and the GPA available on transcripts.

From our research, the SAT and ACT test more how a student takes this type of test than the actual knowledge that the student possesses. For example, students who are doing trigonometry and pre-calculus will be disappointed to see that it does not appear on the SAT, while other students may be relieved. Students who believe in reading a passage thoroughly before answering questions will find that the College Board does not recommend thorough reading but only scanning of the passage before answering questions. These test taking techniques may go against the ethics of some students, but there are books such as Cracking the SAT and Cracking the ACT that will help in understanding how these tests are expected to be taken.

Many students who go into professional fields that require licensing will find this style of testing coming up again and again. Therefore, we recommend taking the time to begin understanding how they work while still in high school.

Course descriptions--It is an excellent idea to keep a list of books used and course descriptions for any courses that you believe would be of concern to a college admissions counselor. Such as, a student entering the science or medical fields might want to provide the colleges with a course description of all sciences taken in the high school years. Students entering the computer and engineering fields might want to provide colleges with a course description of math courses taken during the high school years. Performing arts students might want to maintain a resume. Course descriptions are definitely not a requirement, but in limited situations it may be helpful to show the college the quality of your student's home education program.

Parentís letter of introduction--It is very helpful to colleges to have you describe for them the type of student and educational program he/she has taken. They like to know if you have chosen a curriculum for the student that is college preparatory or not. If there is any other information that you can give about your student, this is the time to let them hear it.

If an interview is not required, sometimes it is a recommended anyway as a good opportunity to have the college admissions personnel match an enthusiastic personality to an otherwise impersonal application. Many colleges will waive application fees if you apply on campus as well.

Other paperwork--Most colleges request at least 2 letters of recommendation. It is a good idea for you to use people outside the family who is familiar with your studentís interests, character and abilities for this purpose. This does not have to be an home education evaluator, but it should be someone who is dependable, a good writer and can be an advocate for your student. Letters from evaluators during the high school years are typically not written in a manner suitable to this purpose.

Some colleges require essays (sometimes on a specific topic or answering some specific question), interviews or samples of student work. If they request samples, it is usually to determine the amount of challenge in the studentís curriculum. If requested, we suggest that you ask the college specifically what they believe your student's application and accompanying paperwork does not already cover. Colleges look for SAT/ACT scores, letters of recommendation, applications, and transcripts from all students. However, they typically do not request samples of work done unless allowing an essay done for school to fulfill the essay requirement. (Not all colleges require submission of an essay.) Some colleges in PA mistakenly believe that submission of a portfolio is expected to be part of the admissions process. This is absolutely not normal or required procedure.

If necessary, it is recommended that you send photocopies of at least one composition in any subject area and at least one test or written project from the core subjects or subjects related to his/her chosen major taken in the junior or senior year. You might want to note which year the work was done. Do not necessarily choose the easiest tests or essays. If no tests are available, consider offering a course description for relevant subjects. If this is already part of your transcript when needed, you are less likely to be questioned from the start.

Do not send them an entire portfolio, especially if you maintain comprehensive portfolios. No college should need this volume of paperwork to make such a determination. Additionally, they do not have the time, the storage space or the personnel to go through an entire portfolio of student work. Make it easy for them, and consider asking the admissions personnel if they prefer that you bring it along to an interview so that you can take the material home again.

Q #13. How many times should my student take the SAT/ACT?
Most colleges recommend taking the SAT or ACT no more than 3 times. Even if well prepared, most students will do better on subsequent testing but not always. Sometimes scores will go down. Therefore, colleges are willing to take the best verbal score and the best math score from the SAT tests that were taken if taken more than once.

Q #14. When and where are the PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, CLEP, AP and ACT tests offered?
Please see the College Board and ACT websites for that information. Information is also available from the guidance office in your local public school. Typically, these tests are offered at public and private high schools. If you believe that your student might not perform as well surrounded by students he/she knows, we recommend that you register your student for these tests at another high school even if it is in the next county. Since not all high schools offer the tests on any particular testing date, the schools are accustomed to students from other districts using their testing site. Therefore, this will not be out of the ordinary for them.

Please see the College Board's article on homeschoolers taking the PSAT/NMSQT test. We recommend checking with the testing location you will be using in June before they order these tests for the October testing date. Then call back after school starts to formally register.

Before taking any of these tests, be sure to determine if your calculator is acceptable for use on the test.

Q #15. How do I figure out a Grade Point Average (GPA)?
To do this, you need to have letter grades or transfer number grades into letter grades. This does not need to be done on a quarterly basis. Busy home educators can wait till the end of the year to work this out as it is the cumulative GPA that is most important. There is no distinction between A-, A, or A+ on a GPA. All three would be treated like an ďAĒ. For each letter grade, assign the following numbers numbers depending on the number of credits that the student has earned.

Letter Grade # of Credits Points based on
4.0 scale
A 1
B 1
C 1
D 1
F 0 0

After assigning the above to each subject, add the total number of credits together. Total the number of points that the student is receiving and divide it by the total number of credits. This will give you the GPA for the year. An example of how to calculate the GPA follows.

Josephís transcript for this year reads as follows:

Course Title Letter Grade # of Credits Points
Catholic Morality
and Religion
A 1 4.00
American Literature
& Composition
A 1 4.00
Alegbra 2 B 1 3.00
Chemistry B 1 3.00
Ancient History A 1 4.00
Driverís Education B 3/4 2.25
Industrial Technology A 1/2 2.00
Art in the Christian Perspective C 1/4 .50
Total 6 1/2 22.75

Now divide the total points by the number of credits:
22.75 points divided by 6.5 credits = 3.50 Grade Point Average for the year

If Joseph has a GPA of 3.80 in 9th grade, 3.73 in 10th grades and 3.50 in 11th grade, then 3.80 + 3.73 + 3.50 = 11.03 divided by 3 years = 3.68 cumulative GPA when entering his senior year. The GPA does not need to be calculated annually but may be calculated cumulatively. Either way is acceptable.

Q #16. How can I decide which college is the right one?
Below are some websites that will allow you to locate this information. Additionally, you can check out books in your library which contain lots of information on colleges and indexes based on your desired major.

The College Board
PHEAA Mentor website

Q #17. How do I know if my student will qualify for financial aid?
Although discounts may be offered for high school students to take classes at a college, rarely is any financial aid available for students enrolled less than half-time at most colleges.

There are a number of financial aid calculators on the Internet that allow you to plug in your current information anonymously to determine federal and state financial aid. For calculations of what your student might qualify for, see the below sites. No personal information is requested, and parents/students may use various figures to project possible scenarios, i.e. if the student has a job during the applicable tax year, if a parent receives a raise during the applicable tax year, etc.

The College Board calculator
PHEAA calculator includes a projection on qualification for the PHEAA grant not found elsewhere

For projections as to how much it might cost to put your child through college, see FinAidís Website.

Institutional aid granted by the college can be estimated by searching their website and attending open houses, where available aid program are usually described. However, you will not know the total aid that a student could receive for attending a particular institution until after the student applies to the college and receives the financial aid package. The financial aid package will include federal and state funding as well as work-study, if any. Most colleges determine this after the parents complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This should be done after January 1 of the senior year and not later than May 1 to qualify for the PA state grant. Each college will have varying deadlines for institutional aid. Once it has all been allocated, all future applicants will find the coffers empty.

Below are some links of interest on federal and state grants and loans. Loans are repaid; grants and scholarships are not.

FAFSA -Apply for your PIN number online at least by early December to have it in time to apply online in early January. Paper applications are also available, but electronic filing reportedly cuts down on possible mistakes of government personnel who enter your written information into their computers.

Federal Pell Grant-for students of greatest financial need
Federal SEOG Grant-for student of greatest need
Federal Perkins loan-based on need
Federal Stafford loan-available to all students
Federal PLUS loans-when parents are filling in the gap with loans that begin to be repaid as soon as the money is dispersed to the college
Federal Work-Study Program-dependant upon checking this off on the FAFSA form as something your student is interested in doing.
PA state grant (PHEAA grant)-based on need and automatically applied for through the FAFSA form. They will contact you after May 1.
Private student loans-when students and/or parents are responsible for loans to fill in the gap of aid with deferred loans

For a calculator to project loan repayments, see Fin Aidís Website.

Q #18. Where can I find scholarships for my student?
Beginning in junior high years there are many scholarships available. Of course, everyone else in the country is applying for those same scholarships too, so you might also want to check with your local public school guidance office for local scholarships as well. Insurance companies, businesses you deal with, and organizations that the student, parents or grandparents belong to will often offer scholarships to a select number of students.


Q #19. Can I deduct the cost of postsecondary education on my taxes?
Please see your financial advisor and the website for the Hope Scholarship and Lifetime Learning Credits for more information.

DISCLAIMER: Information contained on this website does not constitute legal advice and does not replace reading the actual homeschool law or consulting with the Pennsylvania Department of Education or appropriate legal counsel or financial advisors.

Webmaster: Timothy Kramer -- E-mail: webmaster@catholichomeschoolpa.org
© Copyright 2002 Ellen Kramer or Catholic Homeschoolers of Pennsylvania unless otherwise noted.
This page was last updated on July 16, 2004.