Guide to homeschooling high school

Homeschooling high school differs from homeschooling lower grades, especially for college-bound students. Universities typically welcome homeschooled applicants, but most require a high school transcript with standardized components such as a course listing, credit hour record and GPA. There is also a commonly accepted set of courses which are recommended for admission at competitive universities.

Even if your student does not yet have college plans, it pays to learn about these requirements early on and organize academic work during the high school years in a way that will keep university options open.

High school course credits

High school courses in the United States are organized into credits. In general, one credit is awarded for a year-long course of 120 to 180 hours (the equivalent of an hour-long class each weekday for eight months). A one-semester course of 60 to 90 hours is worth a half credit.

Most high school students take six or seven courses each semester, resulting in a six- or seven-hour school day for students doing school eight months per year. This intensity can be reduced if you homeschool for more than eight months per year. For example, at Great Books Homeschool the standard high school academic year lasts for ten months, with daily time requirements for students correspondingly less.

College admissions requirements

Competitive universities commonly require that applicants have completed 24 to 28 credits in high school, including at minimum the following academic courses:

  • Four credits of language arts, which include substantial writing
  • Three to four credits of math (usually Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2, with an option to take Trigonometry / Precalculus during the fourth year)
  • Three to four credits of social studies, including a year of world history and a year of American history
  • Three to four credits of science, including two years with substantial lab work (usually biology and chemistry with labs, physics and an optional additional course such as astronomy or psychology)
  • Two to three credits of foreign language
  • At least one credit of fine arts, such as drawing, painting, music or art history
  • At least five credits of electives

At Great Books Homeschool, students fulfill these requirements by completing the recommended core courses plus electives. You may view a sample schedule here.

Determining credit hours

For homeschooled students, independent study replaces much of the time that traditional students spend in the classroom, and schedules often do not line up with the traditional academic year. For this reason, it's important to keep track of how much time is actually spent on each course when awarding credits.

Students should plan to spend at least 120 hours on a one-credit course, and at least 60 hours on a half-credit course. This time may include watching video lectures, reading books, and completing lab or writing assignments.

At Great Books Homeschool, course credits are determined based on the estimated number of hours students will spend on the core course components. For video-based material, the total playing time of one iteration of the recording is used. To determine credit hours for books, we use the audiobook listening length or "time to read" listed on Amazon when available. We display the number of credit hours next to each course component to make it easy for parents to substitute an equivalent component of their choice if desired.

If you choose to add courses outside Great Books Homeschool to the curriculum, you can specify the number of credits the course is worth. Dual enrollment courses and other standardized courses are generally worth one credit for a year-long class, and a half credit for a one-semester class. If you are designing your own course, you can use the methods described above to determine credit hours for recorded lectures and books, and your own estimate for independent assignments. If your student ends up spending more or less time on a course, you can edit the number of credits at any time.

Creating a transcript

Most university admissions offices require homeschoolers to submit a standard high school transcript which includes a list of courses taken, the credit and grade for each course, and final GPA. The GPA is calculated as the average grade on a four-point scale, weighted by the credit value of each course.

Students using the Great Books Homeschool high school curriculum can generate automated transcripts which include all courses that have been added to the curriculum (including those still in progress). Parents assign grades for each completed course, which are then used to calculate the GPA displayed on the transcript.

Students not using our curriculum can instead use our free high school transcript generator to generate official transcripts at no cost.

Getting help

If you'd like advice on homeschooling high school, reach out to us at We'd be happy to share our own homeschooling experience, and assist in any way possible.