Whether it's college, career, or travel, by the time they finish high school, we want to make sure that our children are prepared to tackle their next adventures—adventures that will likely take place out of the nest, so to speak. And of course, if college is a consideration, or if we want it to be an option, there are certain preparations that must be made to make sure it is a viable route.

So yeah: big responsibility.

Here are a few things you'll want to make sure you've got on lock.

Assigning Grades

It's perfectly acceptable for all of the courses your child completes to be self-designed, but if that's the case, you'll want to make sure you have a reliable way of grading the coursework.

You may want to use something along the lines of this goals-based grading tool form developed by North Atlantic Regional High School (NARHS). NARHS also has a grading tool for self-designed courses that you can use as a model to create your own. (Copyright prohibits download and use of the form unless you are a NARHS member, but take a peek and it'll get you started.)

Dual Enrollment

Many colleges, including community colleges, offer dual enrollment for high school students, which means that your homeschooling high schooler could be earning college credit at the same time she's earning her high school credits.

Sometimes there are even a certain number of courses a high school student can take free of charge through a dual enrollment program, so be sure to check out the options available in your area. Whether the goal is mastery of a subject that takes more in-depth instruction than you can muster in the home, or gathering up some units that'll look good on those college applications, this can be a great step to go about it.

Standardized Tests

The PSAT can be taken in the second semester of sophomore year, but junior year is when the scores matter more since students who hit a certain threshold will qualify for the National Merit Scholarship competition. As a homeschooler, you can arrange to have your child take the PSAT at a local school—you just need to contact the guidance department to make arrangements.

The SAT and ACT are the tests most often required for college admission. If your child has a few specific schools in mind, you may want to see which tests they require or prefer before registering for either. Generally, students take the SAT for the first time in the spring semester of their junior year. Some students decide to follow up with a second attempt in the fall of their senior years, but that's completely optional.

You can register for these tests online (for the SAT here, and the ACT here) and choose a testing center nearby when you do. No need to contact your local school for this one, since students from all over can use any available test site as long as there's space.

P.S. You want to make sure your student is prepared for the test, right? Send 'em right on over to Shmoop for all their Test Prep needs. We're talking comprehensive review, targeted drills, practice exams, videos, and more.

State Requirements for Graduation

Each state has its own requirements for graduation from a public high school. Did you get that? Public high school. As a homeschooler, you don't actually fall under that heading, but, of course, states have different guidelines for homeschoolers in terms of annual assessment practices and curriculum requirements. Which means at the top of your list should be making sure you're on top of all of those.

All this is to say that while you aren't necessarily bound by your state's requirements for graduation from high school (unless, of course, there is a specific homeschooling statute in your state saying that you are), it's a good idea to be aware of them. You may, in fact, want to make sure you're meeting them so that if your child does decide to attend a traditional high school at some point along the way, she'll be on track to matriculate without any snags popping up.

Both the ECS (Education Commission of the States) and NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) offer overviews of the requirements for all 50 states, but for the most up to date information, be sure to check your state's Department of Education website and search for high school graduation requirements.

Your Own Requirements for Graduation

That's right—your ideas may not line up exactly with those of your state. Sure, you can model them after your state requirements (4 years of English, 3 years of math, and the like), but you can also come up with a completely different set of goals and conditions.

For instance, you may require that in order to graduate, your child must have 2 credits in community service or 45 hours of volunteer time. Perhaps you want your child to have completed an internship of some sort, taken CPR, or participated in a program such as Outward Bound. The options are limitless, and it's up to you and your child to pin down what the requirements should be.

So, sit down and figure out what your child should accomplish in order to complete her secondary education, and make your list. Before you veer too far from the standard state requirements, though, consider that "2 years of alligator wrestling" may not be viewed as an adequate substitute for lab science by some college admissions officers. You know, just as a for instance.

To that end, you may want to check out the admission requirements for a state school in your area, as well as any other colleges that may interest your child, just to be sure you're hitting the minimums to keep all of your options open.

Finally, Homeschool Success has a chart that may help you determine the requirements you want to set for graduation, particularly if your child is planning to pursue college. It never hurts to make a chart.

Record-Keeping

This is a big one. You'll want to make sure you're on top of your records from the get-go, as it's easy to forget what your child has covered or accomplished over the course of a year (or longer) when you try to figure it out in retrospect.

Not sure where to start? Check out our articles on portfolios and high school transcripts to make sure you're prepped and ready to go.

Issuing a Diploma

Yep, this is your responsibility, too. As the person supervising your child's education, you are the one who will issue her diploma. That is exactly why determining your requirements for graduation is an important step along the way. You can learn more about this process—including where to get the actual diploma—in our article "How Do Homeschoolers Get Diplomas?" That's right, it gets a whole article to itself.

Applying to College

Most colleges are homeschool-friendly these days, understanding that homeschoolers' transcripts and experiences may look different from those of traditionally schooled students. But that doesn't mean they don't want the right documents, charts, and writing samples to see what your child is capable of.

So, if college is something you think your child may want to pursue, you'll want to start familiarizing yourself with the application process and preparing materials during the second semester of their junior year. Check out our article on applying to college, specifically penned for homeschooling students.

Wherever your homeschooler is planning to go next, making sure you've covered your bases is key. That can seem daunting when you don't have an institution like the traditional school system breathing down your neck, but on the bright side…you don't have an institution like the traditional school system breathing down your neck.


If you're looking for additional support with homeschool curriculum and learning resources, Shmoop has a great Homeschool Subscription Plan for you and your students!