Homeschooling is flexible in many ways but there are requirements that must be fulfilled.  Graduation requirements, of course, are important to understand and follow - but also allow for flexibility.

In Pennsylvania, a total of 15 credits are required by law in a home education program:

  • 4 years of English
  • 3 years of Mathematics
  • 3 years of Science
  • 3 years of Social Studies
  • 2 years of Arts and Humanities

When deciding on what subjects to teach to fulfill these requirements, one must also take into consideration the subjects that must, according to the law, be taught at the secondary level (grades 7-12):

  •  Language( grammar, vocabulary and spelling), literature, speech and composition are to be covered within the subject of English- though not necessarily each of these elements every year.
  • Science
  • Geography
  • Social Studies courses are to include, at some point, civics, world history, history of the United States, and history of Pennsylvania; but again, not all of these need to be incorporated into each year.
  • Mathematics should include general mathematics, algebra and geometry
  • Art
  • Music
  • Physical Education
  • Health
  • Safety Education, including regular(yearly) and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires.

Any subject meeting the above requirements taught in 7th or 8th grade does not need to be repeated during the high school years.  For example, my son took piano lessons in both 7th and 8th grades, fulfilling his music requirement.  Therefor, while he would not receive a credit in music for his transcript, he does not need to take music in his high school years if he would rather focus on another subject rather than music.

If your child is planning on attending college, you will want to obtain more than the 15 credits required by law.  A suggested amount would be 20 or more credits. This is because most colleges require course work beyond the basic coursework outlined above and look for students who have a rigorous high school curriculum.

I strongly recommend that you and your child sit down together and discuss his or her plans for the future (knowing that a middle school child or high schooler may have no idea what they really want to do yet and could change their minds repeatedly--- that's OKAY...It's NORMAL... don't let the pressures of society tell you different!!) and what coursework may be most beneficial for them to cover. For example,  If your child has strong interests in science, you'll know you need to plan for extra time and coursework in this subject area - more than what is required by law.  If they have no interest in science, then this helps you know you only need to fulfill the 3 credits with general courses with curriculum that is not as intense as others. Or if your child knows with all their heart they want to be a child therapist, you know you'll want to incorporate at least a psychology course and a child development course into their high school requirements.

Consideration For College Requirements

If your child is planning on attending college, you'll want to consider additional requirements that colleges ask for in addition to the Pennsylvania Law. Consider, for example, that most colleges require a lab be given along with a high school science.  If your child is not planning on college, a biology textbook may be all that's necessary for graduation but if college is even a future consideration, it would be wise to include a lab within your coursework.

Many colleges require 1-2 years of a single foreign language.  Some ask for more.  If you are considering college, it would be wise to do some research into what colleges your child might be interested in and see what their foreign language requirements are.  If your child is unsure, I would recommend 2 years of a single foreign language to be included in your plans for high school.

Most colleges require two years of Algebra and a geometry course.  Most high schoolers planning on attending college automatically take these courses because achieving well on the mathematics portion of the SATs are dependant on knowledge of this coursework.

How much time/work makes a credit?

In short, 120 hours is equivalent to one high school credit.  This can actually be determined in a variety of ways though without keeping track of every minute/hour spent in the course.  A basic guideline on ways to determine what constitutes a complete course is as follows:

  • complete 2/3 of a textbook
  • Log 120 entries or hours of study for the course
  • Complete a research paper or long-term project
  • complete a 3 credit or 1 semester college course
  • Pass an AP or CLEP test
  • work as an apprentice or do on the job training
  • a variety of other ways -  get together with other homeschool parents and find out what they did to make up a high school course for their children!

One further note that most don't know about - You do not need to begin or finish a course in accordance with the school year.  You may actually start a course early, finish early or you may carry a course through more than one year!

This was a very basic outline to get you started thinking about high school graduation requirements.  There is much more I could add here, but I believe it's enough for one post!!  I am sure to cover more material at a later date, but if you have specific questions or would like to share what you have done to cover course requirements for your high schooler, please feel free to ask or share!!  Have a wonderful day!

Additional Resources:

Donna Young - Homeschooling High School



Too many times as an evaluator for homeschool students, I see children who HATE to write.   I can't imagine hating to write but I think I understand where it comes from.  Too many times educators and parents put sooo much emphasis on the spelling, grammar, and punctuation that the creativity and fun is lost. I've been guilty of this myself.  I guess I had too many years of public schooling in my system and add that to the worry of being the only one now responsible for my children's ability to learn to write well... well even the creative writer in me buckled under pressure to conform to how writing "should be taught."

I've tried at various times to incorporate creative writing just for fun into our homeschooling though.  It just hasn't always lasted as it does take time and along with anything else fun and relaxing, I'm guilty of worrying about future SAT scores and setting it to the side.  But in the back of my mind I'm thinking...I should write it... a writing curriculum that teaches all that important stuff, sure, but focuses on the creative fun aspects of writing. Maybe one day I will...

One way I've approached it with my kids is to do fun writing exercises they enjoy.

My son, just the other day, asked, "Hey how come we don't do those neat writing things anymore?"  I'm guilty.  My first thought... 'and just how am I going to fit that in the schedule??'  but realized later, 'where there's a will, there must be a way.'   So I'm hoping next week to restart those.  Even if we manage just once a week it will be good for him and good for me.

This is the exercise we will start with.  If I recall correctly, it's his favorite.  It's called Stop 'N Shop and I got it out of A Writer's Notebook by Caroline Sharp. With this exercise you imagine you are working as a check-out clerk in a convenience or grocery store.  A customer wanders up to the register with about 5 items.  Tell their story....   The book suggests coming up with ten character profiles first (29-year-old woman, sixty-four year old widower, etc).  My son and I skip that.  We just randomly list our items.  Then we decide what kind of person might buy those things and why.  Here is a sample from some time ago:

The List ( we take turns- one of us comes up with 2 items and the other 3)

  • pickles
  • peaches
  • granola bar
  • yogurt
  • milk

The Story (we usually time ourselves with 5 minutes)

This healthy young lady is on her way to yoga class.  She has grabbed some granola bars and yogurt for her breakfast before class.  She'll have peaches and milk after class.  The pickles are a snack she likes to have at night while she's reading.  She's weird tha way and knows it's a healthier choice than chips or cookies.  After class, she will go to the library where she works.  She likes working there amidst all the books and likes recommending her favorites to others.

It's not a prize-winning paragraph, but it's a fun way to be creative.  My son and I share one another's stories after we are done writing.  Sometimes these stories can be really funny.  And guess what else?  We DON'T check for spelling, grammar or punctuation.  We just have fun because writing SHOULD be fun.  I'm looking forward to starting this exercise again.