Sunday, March 3, 2013

Planning a High School English Credit

What constitutes a high school credit and what can be used to meet credit requirements? Several conversations I've heard have led me to believe that many homeschooling moms are unaware of how to meet high school graduation requirements in general and for English classes in particular.  

Below is some information on how to decide what goes into a high school credit. But keep in mind that learning doesn't have to look a certain way to be education (or credits).

HSLDA offers this information about how much work should be included: 
"For courses that do not use a standard high school-level textbook (perhaps you are putting together your own unit study, or you are using an integrated curriculum), log the hours that your child spends completing the course work. One credit is approximately 120-180 hours of work. The upper end of this range (180 hours) is usually
appropriate for lab science courses, while 150 hours is the average for a year long academic course such as English or History. Don't become legalistic in keeping track of each minute, but generally, when evaluating credit for an academic course, a good rule of thumb is 50 minutes a day, 5 days a week for 36 weeks, for a one-credit course. Logging hours is a good method of determining credit for elective courses such as art, music, sewing, carpentry, web page design, etc. The lower end of the range (120 hours) is fine for elective courses. For a half-credit elective, log approximately 60 hours; for a quarter-credit elective, log approximately 30 hours."

Let's take English for example, since I teach writing classes and moms often ask me about how to earn an English credit. A high school English credit should include writing, reading, listening, and speaking. Stated another way, I would include composition, literature, vocabulary, and oral language skills. Some other skills to consider are: literary interpretation,  the vocabulary and analysis of poetry, cross-cultural literature, and the analysis of plays, just to mention a few.

A nice outline of 4 high school English classes can be found here (grades 9-10) and here (grades 11-12). For my Michigan readers, you can peruse the Michigan Curriculum Framework to see what the Department of Education has chosen as goals for students of various ages. Specific Course/Credit Requirements for Michigan high schools have also been put together for each high school grade.
 Other states have similar documents which you can find online. However, for the homeschool student, I would consider these as a framework. For the parent who doesn't know what to do, these course requirements can give you a clear idea of what is ideally taught in Michigan high school English classes. 

The key to remember is that YOU are the one who gets to decide what your student takes. You can choose what counts for the class. You give the grades, you write the transcript, etc... As I said before, learning does not have to look a certain way. Homeschooling gives us the freedom to decide what to teach. 

Now for some specifics... I will list some practical ways a British Literature class I co-taught at our local homeschool co-op could have been used to earn a high school English credit. You can use this same method to help you figure out credits for any high school class.

Remember that HSLDA recommends about 150 hours for an English class? Let's see if we can come close to 150 hours with our Brit Lit class.

We assigned five novels to be read outside of class time. Audiobooks of the novels total about 58 hours. (By the way, free classic audiobooks are available 
copyright-free at, and I highly recommend audiobooks for those who prefer other activities to reading.) Some may read faster or slower, but the audiobook length gives me an appropriate number to decide how long a student might take to read the selection. 

Each student also completed a poetry mini-report which I estimated would take about 3 hours to prepare. Students gave their reports in front of the class (fulfilling the oral language portion of the English requirement). 

Our class met for 14 hours in class and  we also met for 15 or so hours to watch and discuss the film adaptations of the novels. That brings us to 90 hours already just with the class as planned, more than enough for a half-credit class. I would consider this the literature portion of the class, keeping in mind that a full English credit should also include composition, vocabulary study, and oral language skills. 

So, what else can students do for the remaining hours for a full credit? I would recommend a large quantity of writing, also known as composition. Writing, writing, and more writing! If a student wrote an assignment for each of the five novels and spent three hours working on each one, that's another 15 hours. I would consider it important to also assign at least one longer paper or project that should take much longer to complete, but 3 hours per paper is a probable estimate for an essay. 

The class traveled to experience a Shakespeare play performed at a university. We also put together an end-of-the-year presentation for our co-op program (another oral language component). This added at least 10 more hours to the total.

What else can be included? How about 6 hours working on vocabulary and 6 hours studying for tests? We offered one optional novel inc lass that could include another 11 hours of reading time. Since our co-op only meets September through early April, my own children will continue their lessons through late May, so I assign them one or two more books to be completed on their own. That brings us to 138 hours, leaving 12 hours for you to fill as you like. 

The remaining hours could be used for review, study, further reading or writing, or a research paper, depending on your desires. Keeping a reading journal is a good idea! Some other possibilities could include vocabulary quizzes, more writing topics, tests, viewing another performance, and any other appropriate activities, each to be evaluated by you. 

By the way, it is definitely acceptable to list your student's high school English classes simply as English 9, English 10, etc... on his transcript. Public high schools commonly list credits that way. You can also list the courses by content if you prefer, such as American Literature and Composition, World Literature and Composition, British Literature and Composition, Creative Writing, etc...

If this information has helped you, please leave a comment as to what specifically was helpful. If you have any questions, I would be glad to try to answer them as well.


Anonymous said...

I am beyond impressed and think your info here will be SO helpful for your home school followers. Love, Mom

Karlene said...

I just discovered your blog while searching for homeschool support groups in Michigan. Thank you for this post on English credit - it was especially helpful to see it broken down into blocks of time. I've only been homeschooling since the fall of 2011 when my son was starting 10th grade and my daughter 7th. I've been a "bit" overwhelmed as I also work outside the home every day. I'm hoping to spend a little more time gleaning bits of wisdom from your blog. THANK YOU! Karlene

Lisa said...

Karlene - I am so glad that you found this post helpful! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.