Seven Ways to Earn High School Credits

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Seven Ways to Earn High School Credits. This post is running concurrently on the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

Seven Ways to Earn High School Credits.

Seven Ways to Earn High School Credits

Some parents who are homeschooling a high schooler may be wondering how in the world they can earn a high school credit? Is there just one way or are there other ways? Well, you may or may not know this, but there are in fact seven different ways to earn high school credits! Your child will be building a valuable transcript for their high school years before you know it.

7 Ways to Earn Credits In High School

Because there are seven different ways to earn credits in high school, that means there is not one “right” way to homeschool your high schooler and therefore not one right way to earn credits as well.

You can choose from a variety of different topics. For instance, you might have a textbook you would like to use for math, and then you might want to do independent study for history. These would count for your credits. 

You can use all these different, creative ways to earn credits for different subjects, for all kinds of learners, and to meet your family needs.

Textbook Credits

The classic way to earn credits for homeschool high schoolers is with a textbook. If you read the textbook description, it will usually tell you how much credit is earned when teens complete the work of that textbook. 

And usually with textbooks, there’s associated tests or assignments that they do. When they’ve completed all that work, they have either earned half a credit or a full credit.

Online Courses

Another way to do that is to do some online courses. There are two kinds of online courses:

  • Live online courses: If you have a subject you want your teens to learn from somebody else, this is a good way to do that. It also puts the responsibility for getting that information to your teens onto someone else. They can teach your teen in a way that might even be more understandable than you could do, or even more understandable than you’re interested in doing it (which is totally okay by the way!).
  • Self-Paced courses: One-off courses are also available where the courses are not live but instead are self-paced. Teens just simply go online and take the course on their own schedule in their own time. This is great for teens who like to study late in the veenings or want to knock out a chunk of school or credits really quickly.

You can find a few places online right now that have online course academies for teens! Places such as True North Homeschool Academy, Funda Funda Academy, and Dreaming Spires Home Education are just a few of them.

Also, our 7Sisters course, Psychology, is self-paced which is perfect to go on a high school transcript. But keep your eyes open for more!

College Classes

Another way to earn credits is with college classes. So very often local areas, like community colleges, will make teens wait until they are juniors or seniors. And sometimes teens can do online courses through a university a little bit younger than that.

Just check with the different schools around your area. If you get to something that you just don’t want to teach, or that your teens have outgrown the information you have available for them, then they may be ready to take a course college level. 

Independent Study

Another way to earn credits for our homeschool high schoolers is independent study. We very simply call that logging hours because it’s just so clear what teens are going to do. 

For example, let’s say you have a teenager who loves history. They just want to learn everything they can about a specific topic in history, like maybe the World Wars or the Colonial Era fashion. They can simply just study and learn everything they can from valid websites on the internet and library books and field trips and crafts and cooking, and just all kinds of online and in-person experiences. These make rich electives on the transcript.

And your teen will log the hours down. They will write down what they did on a certain day and how long they did it until they reach a Carnegie unit credit.

Side Note:

If you go to the Carnegie website, generally they’ll say it is 120 hours of instruction, but each state has adapted that to their own wish. Like in our area, a Carnegie credit for teens is 135 hours of education or instruction, which is about average. But some states need 180, so make sure you look at your state’s Department of Education site or check HSLDA. Both should tell you how many equals a credit, but you should aim for at least 120. 

The good thing about that is teens can earn a credit in anything that is meaningful to them. The tough thing is they have to remember to log that. Sometimes you may need to meet with them regularly and go over their progress by having them show you what they’re doing so that you’re sure they’re actually logging it down.

As the saying goes, if you didn’t write it down, it did not happen!

Here are some more tips from Carol Anne Swett in this Homeschool Highschool Podcast discussion about practical credits for reluctant learners.

Take Co-0p Classes

Another way to earn credits for high school is to take co-op classes or umbrella school classes. These are like live in-person classes, and they’re usually so much fun to do because:

  • They usually get a different teacher each class or term
  • They get to hang out with friends in person
  • They get local expertise

Your kids can learn about so many topics that you just don’t have the talent nor knowledge – nor energy – to teach about. For example, your kids can learn all about poetry or how to cook.

Generally, you know how much credit a teen is earning in a co-op class or an umbrella school class because it will be in the course description. If it’s not, you can ask and work with whoever the teacher is to clarify how much credit is being earned. Because you don’t want to shortchange your teen, but then you don’t want to exaggerate either.

Read Real Books

Another way to earn credits that is actually quite popular among the teens who love to read is…reading! Some of teens are bookworms and love to read. They will explore an area of particular interest by reading real books of historical novels, biographies, nonfiction, and so on. 

And as they read real books, they are accumulating hours of knowledge. Generally, teens will have them do a study guide, book summary or a reaction paper to show they had read it and interacted with the material in order to show they’ve learned from it. Because you don’t want them to passively read something. You want them to engage it and think about it and write it. You can have some kind of written interaction for them to do. 

And for a Carnegie Credit, usually around sixteen books will be pretty close to one Carnegie credit, but it varies. Also, if you have a monstrous book, you may count that as a couple of books, like an anthology book you could count as several books. 

Have teens keep a book list and their interaction papers or study guides that they have completed, so you could count those as a credit in that interest area.

Life Experiences

The final way to earn high school credits is through life experiences. Teens sometimes get opportunities to do a variety of things, like traveling or mission trips. These could easily count as an immersion experience because of seeing different cultures, hearing different languages if they are out of the country. This is experience and education that you can get in no other way!

When teens are having an immersive experience, you could count a week’s activity or a week’s travel as a quarter credit, so your teen could get a quarter credit for missions if they were headed for a Christian college. If they are headed to a secular college, a week would be a one-quarter credit called cross-cultural.

If your teen is going to do an apprenticeship, this experience looks incredibly valuable. Generally, teens will put a lot of hours in there, and it will really inflate what their transcript could look like. They might get two Carnegie units worth of hours done. 

A good example of earning credits by life experiences comes from our interview with our 7Sisters Cousin Sue Sobczak, who talks about alternative ways to earn government credit.

Seven Ways to Earn High School Credits

As you can see, there are so many ways a teen could earn credits in high school. As a recap, they could earn from:

  1. Textbooks
  2. Online courses or self-paced, asynchronous courses
  3. College classes
  4. Co-op and umbrella school classes
  5. Independent study
  6. Reading real books
  7. Life experiences

Also, you  can combine credit styles to earn credits, check out this episode for details. Here is information on leveling up the credits to Honors.

And all of those go together to make a credit on their transcript. So sit down with your teen and discuss with them about how they can have a really awesome educational experience and a mighty transcript for their homeschool high school!

Thanks to Richie Soares with Homeschool and Humor for transcribing this episode.


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Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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