High School Credit for Work Experience

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“Can I count my high schooler’s work experience for credit?”

In the course of a week, three parents asked me this question. One in particular came through the Celebrate High School Facebook community.

The answer is multi-faceted, unique to state requirements and learner’s educational and career path.

First, parents must know and understand their responsibilities and freedoms under their state home education statute.

Find out

  • Are home educated students in your state required to meet state graduation requirements?
  • Does your state statute allow parents to oversee coursework and determine course credit?
  • Are parents given the freedom to create titles for courses or must the state DOE titles be used (as is the case with some private schools)?

The answers to those questions will contribute to your decision making process.


The second step in the process of deciding whether or not to award credit for work experience is to determine what the high schooler gained from his or her employment. Life skills? Knowledge? Personal development? The gains vary greatly dependent upon the high schooler's motivation, work ethic, job title, and employment requirements. Again, this is highly individual. 

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Determine Gains

Conversation with your high schooler is essential in the process of determining the gains. Why? Likely, as with most parents, you are not on the job with your learner to see and hear what he or she encounters or discovers. Engage in discussion. Ask questions. Listen for the young adult's passions, likes, and dislikes without condemnation. Often as young adults process, they need someone to mirror back or clarify what they expressed. I find it helpful to remind myself that when my middle and high schoolers share feelings, they are processing, perhaps sharing thoughts for the first time. The thoughts and feelings shared matter to them and when I ask clarifying questions, they often come to a better understanding of the situation. As you walk the journey with your middle or high schooler, not only will the gains of the current job become known, but the relationship between you and your teen will have great potential for growth as well. 

To help determine what skills and knowledge were acquired by the employment--the experiential learning opportunity--consider asking your high schooler:

What skills he or she feels were learned as a result of the work experience?

This is one of those occasions when I encourage parents to make a bullet-point list of skills and content the high schooler learned. Seeing the visual list often clarifies gains and aids in determining a course title which is specific and accurate to the experience. Examples may include Equine Science (barn assistant who interacts with equine professionals, observes or oversees equine care and nutrition), Nutrition and Wellness (assistant to a personal trainer), or String Ensemble (member of string quartet playing for weddings and special events).

Are the skills focused on a specific content area or are the skills broad, focused toward soft skill and personal growth development?

Looking over the content acquired, determine whether the skills were specific to an area of study (paid position at a zoological park) or broad, general and related to successful movement to adulthood (time management, personal growth, and communication skills). The difference may be titling the course Zoological Studies or Personal and Career Development.

Did the high schooler earn accolades, awards, or hold specific leadership roles (positional or managerial titles) associated with the experience? 

For example, if your young adult is a shift manager there are likely managerial and leadership skills involved in what he or she does while on site. Perhaps a course title like Managerial Leadership, Leadership Strategies and Techniques, or Exploration in Culinary Management might be suitable. 

Our daughter became a self-employed, small business owner in middle school. She continued to build her business through the high school years. Not only did she create and keep track of inventory, she registered her business with the state, filed quarterly sales tax, figured profit and loss statements, kept a running log of sales and inventory, opened a checking account, built a website, handled emails, filled orders, and participated in craft venues. She earned money, but she also gained knowledge and work experience. With integrity, I awarded her one credit in Business and Entrepreneurial Principles.

Our journey of awarding credit for paid work experience hasn’t come without criticism. Yours won’t either. In fact, you may have been told you can’t double dip —count paid work experience as high school credit. 

"You can't double dip!"

This happened to me. A well-meaning veteran homeschool mom informed me I couldn’t use work experience for credit. I listened. Yet, as a Mom who has the freedom to oversee our children’s education, knowing the life lessons and knowledge my young adults were gaining in their paid employment opportunities, I set out to research. It just didn't seem right not to be able to obtain credit from such rich, valuable life experience. 

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Credit Worthy

I discovered my state provides the right for me--as a registered home educator--to oversee the education of my children. In that freedom, I am able to decide what can be deemed credit worthy and I can title mastered content accordingly. I could not ignore the fact that my high schoolers were engaged in learning while on the job. And, with the valuable conversations Mike and I were having with our high schoolers, we knew they were learning content not taught in a traditional textbooks or acquired through lecture. The skills and content they were learning required experience--opportunity to do, decide, make mistakes, and to try again--often under the guidance of a mentor or the supervision of a professional in a career area. In addition, I observed our high schoolers applying what they learned in the work setting to other areas of their lives. They would summarize what they learned on any given day, share their thoughts about what they experienced, and ask questions about things that intrigued them. Our discussions led to discovering deeper life truths as well the building of grit, growth mindset, and personal emotional intelligence—some of the most valuable assets to adulthood and future employment.


What our learners were gaining on the job was credit worthy. 


In my mind, the experiences—the content learned while on the job interfacing with professionals—was credit worthy, regardless of whether or not the high schooler was paid. Essentially, the learner was paid to learn!

If life is learning and learning is life-long, it made sense to me that I could confer credit.

Our second son was invited to apply for a summer job as a teacher’s assistant at a preschool. I knew the Director and many of the teachers who worked at the school. In fact, I had worked there as a high schooler and my experience became a catalyst for my choice to pursue early childhood education. Knowing the value of my personal experience, I encouraged our son to apply for the position. Yes, he would earn a paycheck, but he would be mentored by knowledgeable staff who knew the developmental needs of young children.

Art camp began and indeed our son came home each day recounting his experiences. He commented on the conversations teachers had with students, how they listened and responded with open ended questions. He observed as teachers fostered curiosity and intentionally planned activities to promote wonder. His understandings of the developmental stages of art came from comparing preschooler's line drawings and seeing beaming smiles of accomplishment. Learning was experiences, not just memorized facts. In addition, he was learned about classroom management, developmentally appropriate art experiences, and the profession of early childhood education.

The summer came to a close and he was invited to remain on staff for the next school year. He would be the outside assistant--the preschool physical education overseer. He accepted. This change in position brought opportunities to observe the stages of motor development in real life. He watched children progress from running to galloping, from climbing stairs one foot at a time to alternating feet. He knelt down beside children who poured sand in funnels and floated boats in water tables. We talked about discoveries he watched children make and asked me about my experiences with children on the spectrum. The knowledge he gained through his experiences at the preschool were some of the very same things I studied in my college early childhood college courses.

At that moment, I realized the fifteen hours a week he was working at the preschool was preparing him with life skills of time management, communication skills, and workplace etiquette, but it was also equipping him with a foundation of knowledge in the area of early childhood development. In his junior year, I awarded him one credit in Introduction to Early Childhood Education.

Where is your learner employed? Maybe it is the local hardware store where knowledge of tools and home repair are prerequisite for employment. Maybe your high schooler was hired as a shift manager at a local eatery, managing and overseeing a team of co-workers. No matter where your young adult is employed, consider the skills being acquired, the career-related vocabulary being obtained, the decision making involved as part of the job, the conversations being had between coworkers and employers, and subject content being mastered through the opportunity. No doubt much more is being learned than you or your student imagined! 

Titles Speak Volumes

Generally high schools title work experience Executive Internship or Work Study. These are broad brush titles which say nothing about the student or content. However, if the home educating parent has the freedom to title courses, course titling can be strategic, mirroring the student’s interest and the content knowledge gained. Here is a small sampling of title examples. 

Arts

Creative Photography

Studio Arts

Printmaking

Dance Technique

Dance Performance

Dance Kinesiology

Choreography

Eurhythmics

Music Performance (use specific instrument in titles if appropriate)

Music Ensemble 

Jazz Ensemble

Chamber Orchestra

Music Internship

Music Composition and Arrangement

Musical Theater and Production

Music Technology and Sound Engineering

Theater Production

Cinematography

Technical Theater

Set Production

Acting

Theater Management

Print and Broadcast Media

Library Media Services

Journalism

Digital Art Imaging

Digital Media Design

Video Production

Visual Technology

Computer Sciences

Applied Computer and Information Technology

Information Technology

Business and Entrepreneurial

Business Principles

Marketing Strategies

Marketing Principles

Managerial Principles

Health Sciences

Nutrition and Wellness

Food Service

Human Growth and Development

Introduction to Early Childhood Education

Personal and Career Development

Capstone or Cornerstone Projects

Capstone Seminar

Capstone Research

Consider the course titles provided in this blog post about electives. 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

The Possibilities of Elective Credits: Part III

How are elective credits documented?

The answer to this question depends on your state's home education law as well as what college or university choices find their way on your learner's "top ten" list. Your family's record keeping methods will also factor into answering this question. This was definitely the case for our family.

For our family, if a learner has a distinctive interest or an extraordinary gifting--something they naturally spend a good amount of time researching and learning (for us 75 hours for a half credit and 120+ hours for a full credit)--we count if for credit. I personally do not label or flag courses as core or elective on our transcripts (I do however flag dual enrollment, CLEP, or courses taken at other accredited entities). Too many colleges access transcripts differently to flag core and elective courses. What one considers a core course, an academic elective, or an elective another will classify differently. 

As a learner is actively involved in the the learning process, I keep a bullet point list of the concepts learned or experiences completed on a digital document. From that bullet list, I can write an accurate title and course description should we need it for university admission or scholarship applications. Once the course is complete, I add the title, grades, and credit to the transcript--a one-page snapshot of the young adults academic record.

Elective courses often set one young adult learner apart from another, especially if potential applicants have similar, cookie-cutter type elective credits. 

What strengths, interests, or giftings do your learners have which might equate to credit. Some of the courses our learners have completed include Care and Concerns of the Elderly; Drafting and Drawing; Competitive Gaming; Business and Entrepreneurial Principles; Introduction to Early Childhood Education; Nutrition and Health for Disease Prevention; and Interpersonal Relationships. These off-the-beaten-path have proven to give our now adult children life skills they may not have received otherwise. 


Life skills + high school electives = WIN! for preparation beyond the turning of the tassel


 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

Real-Life for High School Credit- Care and Concerns of the Elderly

Have you ever been through a tough season, a season when you wonder if anyone learned anything?

I have. More than once. 

About three years ago--from January to May--we helped care for and love my grandmother in the last months of her life. I don't regret one day, one minute of how we chose to spend our time. We made wonderful memories with Grams during that time, memories our family relives and smiles over--all of us. But, it wasn't an easy time.

The six months prior, found us spending many hours touring assisted living facilities and government-subsidized care units. There were meetings with social workers and property managers. My high school learner asked if she could be included in the tours and meetings. 

At first, I wondered how she could accompany me and complete her scheduled course work. 

After a few conversations, Mike and I decided there was great value in our high schooler participating in the meetings, discussions, and comparisons. After all, she may be able to add a perspective my mom and I--being very close to the circumstances--might not be able to see. In addition, she was a consumer and might one day be faced with similar decisions. 

I was worried our daughter wouldn't be able to make visits and meetings with us and get her planned work completed. I was fearful and tentative. However, Mike and I decided there was life value to this season. 

Our high schooler would accompany my mom and I. 

Fast forward to the end of May.

After some really difficult months, Grandma passed away. Being the end of May, I was compiling work samples for our year end evaluations and updating my high schooler's transcript. In the process, I asked our daughter to look over the transcript and her portfolio of work samples to determine if I had missed any significant work she had completed--especially independent studies--while my mind was preoccupied with Grandma. 

Her response surprised me. 

"Couldn't I get credit for all I learned while helping with Grammy?"

I answered with a question. 

"What do you think you learned?"

I was astounded by her answers. 

Here are the highlights:

  • Medical care terminology 
  • Implications of elderly care, physically as well as psychologically
  • Family care of the elderly
  • Levels of care matter and costs associated with that care
  • Comparing and contrasting residential services and their differences: nursing facility, assisted living, retirement community, memory care
  • Levels of home care and the services rendered
  • Meal preparation, offerings, presentation, individualization of services in different facilities
  • Physical, emotional and spiritual care concerns at facilities
  • Support care for family, if offered
  • Comparison and contrast of social and group activities in facilities
  • Nursing qualifications at each facility-  RN, LPN, CNA
  • Staff to patient ratios
  • Emergency response systems and their importance
  • Financial options and obligations
  • Hospice and end of life procedures, care, and considerations

We talked for thirty minutes (at least) about all she had learned and experienced, first-hand, experientially. Not only had our daughter interacted with--playing games, conversing, and caring for--Grammy and other residents several times a week for several months, but she had also made visits to seven facilities and compared the offerings, care, staff qualifications, and financial costs of each. She helped us research at home and we brainstormed questions we would ask at each meeting. 

When our daughter visited with us, she asked questions and held conversations with staff, helping us understand the pros and cons of each location. Near the end of Grammy's life our daughter visited three hospice care facilities and listened to three presentations regarding choices we would have to make as a family. In addition, she observed how people processed Grammy's declining health and eventually her passing--from my parents to her youngest siblings--as we visited, asked questions, processed grief together. 

I couldn't believe what our daughter had learned! None of it was planned. And, I almost missed an opportunity to use her interest--a real-life situation--as a catalyst for learning. 

My daughter wanted to be an active participant of this season in our lives, and it was some of the most valuable learning she could have done that year. 

Could she earn credit for all she had learned? 

In our state, that final answer rests with Mike and I. We confer the credit. we sign the transcript. This is not the case for all states, so research is essential in regards to state requirements.

I also had to determine in my mind--really Mike and I together--whether I could feel confident in the credit we were giving. Would I--or my daughter should she be asked to explain her course work in an essay or interview--be able to substantiate what our daughter had learned? Did I feel the content was high school level or higher?

After researching high school courses (there really weren't but one or two) and content of college credit offerings (this was more helpful) as well as asking questions of professionals in the field, we decided to give our daughter one-half credit for her learning and experience. 

For readers with young adults interested in this field, in my research I learned the Red Cross has a family care-giver course. 

To document the content covered, should our daughter need it for college admission, I wrote the following course description of what she learned


Cares and Concerns of the Elderly

This experiential study was initiated by the student as a result of the direct care and concern of her ninety-five year old great-grandmother and her health and care needs during the last nine months of her life. The student interacted with elderly patients at in-patient care centers several times a week. One visit included making and delivering Christmas cards. During the student's visits she served cake and punch at a birthday party, helped residents participate in an Easter egg hunt, escorted patients through a nature garden, played card and board games with patients, and sang Christmas carols with a group of parents and students. As the great-grandmother required complete care, the student researched, visited, and compared nursing care and living accommodations at three local assisted living facilities and three hospice care units, participating in discussions of how to match patient needs with patient care. The student also participated in discussions about blood transfusions, intravenous nutrition, end-of-life care, death, and the grieving process. 


What real-life circumstances is your young adult facing? Do these experiences include internships, community opportunities, or apprenticeships? Do these circumstances or experiences provide high school level (or higher) instruction or content? 

Perhaps your young adult is experiencing something extra-ordinary, something which will impact life--and other people--far beyond the high school years. There may be job shadowing, internships, community opportunities, or apprenticeships involved in the learning. Lives might be changing because of your young adult's learning experience.

Might you consider what those experiences are, how they are impacting lives, and how might they equate to credit? 

 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

Using 4-H for High School Course Content

"Our high school learner is very active in 4-H. Can we use any of what the student is doing toward high school credit?" 

I love out-of-the-box thinkers! 

When I started homeschooling twenty-three years ago, 4-H was a well-known, popular option for home educators. Homeschooling families gathered at the extension office to glean curriculum for nutrition, citizenship, animal sciences, aviation, and more. Families loved the 4-H intentionality toward hands-on, experiential learning. 

Today, Mike and I walk with families--Kindergarten through high school--on the home education journey. Several use 4-H materials. 

This question was very appropriate as this particular family purposed to work with the interest of the learner. 

How does this family consider awarding credit?

  • Consider state statutes in regards to high school. States vary in regards to graduation and credit hour requirements for home educated students. Parents are responsible to determine what is required per their state statute.
  • Consider activities. Some families prefer to keep digital documentation, perhaps a bullet point list of experiences, projects, presentations, awards and the like or a spreadsheet log. Alongside each experience, the parent (or student) can record study, learning, or preparation hours for that activity. See the sample spreadsheet below for a student's work toward Filmmaking.
  • Consider documentation. One of the advantages of completing 4-H work is the paperwork and documentation required. This paper trail can be saved right along with the work samples in the student's portfolio, should this be required by state statute. If the young adult chooses to apply to a university which requires course descriptions, the completed work samples will be extremely valuable. 
  • Consider credit. Each family determines how many hours will constitute a credit hour of work (unless otherwise determined by the home education statute in your state).  There really isn't an established right answer for this determination. We know families where 120 hours is required for one credit, others where as many as 200 hours are required per credit. Generally, each half credit would require half the number of hours. Once the hour requirement has been determined, parents and students can tally up total hours spent on the each discipline or course. If the student is short on learning hours, other activities or assignments can be added.
SAMPLE LOG with hours. NOT required, but helpful for some families. 

SAMPLE LOG with hours. NOT required, but helpful for some families. 

  • Consider intern or volunteer hours.  A great way to add learning hours is to gain personal experience through internship, apprenticeship, or volunteer hours. These hours can be logged on the spreadsheet of activities. For example, in the case of filmmaking, perhaps the young adult might spend a weekend filming content for a church video presentation. These hours could be added to the spreadsheet log. Universities and potential employers appreciate practical, hands-on learning in a field of interest. These hours are valuable.

Let's assume the learner has achieved the determined hours to earn credit, either a full one credit or a half credit. 

What's the next step?

Course titling. 

Titling a course is very important, essential, in fact. It is, in many cases, the first impression of content as well as student.

The title should be an accurate, concise representation of what was covered in the course. For example, Film Production is assumed to be different than Television Broadcasting or Film Techniques. Each will encompass different processes, media, and likely marketing and audience considerations.

Often parents ask, "Do I have to use the title given by the company or curriculum?"

The answer to that question depends on a variety of factors. 

In light of this post's focus, 4-H is not a credit conferring entity. As such, a parent could use the title of the curriculum or the parent could--especially if significant content is added to the 4-H curriculum--choose a title which would more accurately define the course. For example, if 4-H  Filmmaking is used but the young adult also studies the history of filmmaking and changes in production technology, perhaps a better title would be History of Filmmaking or Historical Survey of Filmmaking. If the student completes Filmmaking and then completes an internship with the video production team at his or her church, perhaps Video and Film Production would be a better title. 

Need help with titling?

I have researched course titles online as well as read through local high school curriculum guides. Doing so has helped me understand the importance of accurate titling and has offered me guidelines. You could do the same by searching for course titles in an area of interest. In this case searching "high school film courses" or "high school film production courses" may render some title options. 

Back to the original question, 

"Can we use what a student is doing in 4-H toward high school credit?" 

YES! Indeed, 4-H can be a very beneficial learning tool and a young adult could potentially use completed content toward high school credit. 

Have you conferred high school credit to a learner using 4-H? Tell us what you did in the comments. 

If you need more detailed information about any of the topics--credit, course content, and titling--my book Celebrate High School has full sections dedicated to each. 

 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children.