Unschool is one of the more confusing aspects of homeschool for many families looking into swapping their child to a home-based curriculum. Sadly, the most common question about it is probably whether unschoolers get high school diplomas. There are two crucial things that you need to understand about this subject. First, a diploma is a piece of printed paper issued by a recognized individual or institution that oversaw a student’s education. Second, and most vital, all homeschool parents, unschoolers included, are a legally recognized entity that can sign these diplomas. So long as the student has earned it per local laws and the signator personally oversaw the education, that diploma is valid. That said, there’s a lot more to the diploma confusion than meets the eye, and I will help you navigate it, so your unschoolers have a diploma just like traditional school children receive.
Do unschoolers get a diploma? Yes, unschoolers get a diploma. Any parent or guardian has the right to print a diploma for their child upon completion of homeschool high school (unschool is an accepted form of homeschool). Moreover, these diplomas are legally as valid as any other institution’s diploma. So long as the child in question has done the work and met the requirements in your state, they can have the diploma.
Are Unschool Diplomas Valid
Concerned parents and guardians often ask whether they can truly issue a piece of paper to their own child as a valid diploma. The answer is a simple yes. As a parent, you can teach your child, grade their papers, and oversee their K-12 education. With those rights come the ability to issue a diploma for work completed. Asking vital questions, such as this, is the heart of learning for parents and children.
For those seeking a more elaborate printing, many companies are offering pre-fabricated diplomas. Alternately, you may opt to design your own and affix any stamps, watermarks, foil stickers, or other accouterments you like. The validity is the same, but presentation matters to people on a personal level. Your child deserves as beautiful and official-looking documentation as any other for their graduation.
According to the HSLDA, which fights for homeschool rights, “Because the diploma attests to the fact that the student finished his or her high school program, it should be signed by someone who exercised authority over the high school program and who has verified that the student completed it. In the case of a homeschooled student, one or both parents are generally the appropriate people to sign. If the family is enrolled in an oversight or umbrella group and the group desires to sign, the diploma can be signed by one parent and the group director. If a school is issuing the diploma, a school official will sign it.”
Unschool Diplomas From Parents Who Didn’t Teach Every Subject
If your unschooler had a particular area of interest, say learning a foreign language, or a particular need such as a specialized tutor for dyslexia, their diploma is still valid when you sign it. You do not have to teach every class in person to be considered the authority figure responsible for educational oversight. If that were the case, virtually every public and private school diploma issued would be invalid since those children have multiple teachers.
Your student can take a correspondence course or an online class and still graduate as an unschooler. Similarly, they can take a year or three years of traditional school and ultimately graduate from unschool-homeschool. In fact, many advanced unschoolers spend time between the ages of sixteen and eighteen earning college credits at a local college instead of going to home classes because it furthers their educational goals. If the parents don’t issue the diploma beforehand, they can still issue a highschool diploma at that point and treat these classes as advanced work in a home-directed high school curriculum.
The idea that there is only one path to a diploma, success, or higher education is as ridiculous as the idea that you get a cold from being cold. Nevertheless, this mentality persists due to simple misunderstandings and a lack of widespread information disbursal.
What Does an Unschool Diploma Look Like
A valid unschool diploma should look similar to any other diploma. The vital information is relatively simple. A diploma needs the name of the person who earned it and a statement that it is a high school diploma. Additionally, it should say that they finished the secondary education required. Finally, it needs a date and the name and signature of a competent adult who oversaw that education.
Technically, this could be printed on a business-card sized piece of paper or handwritten in blue or black ink, and it would be of the same legal value. However, impressions matter, and it is important to treat this document with the same respect as any diploma. Your child has worked for years to achieve a major milestone, and they deserve a well-made, professional-looking diploma to commemorate the event.
I do not recommend using a home printer and a standard piece of printer-paper for a diploma. The paper is often flimsy, and many home printers lack the ability to turn out truly professional-looking documents. However, you can get pre-formatted, unsigned diplomas, or outstanding formats for high-quality printers online.
What Can My Child Do With An Unschool Diploma
It is natural for parents and guardians to worry about their home learner’s future happiness and success. If you give them an unschool diploma, can they go to college? Will employers accept it? What if they want to go to Ivy League schools or the military?
It’s eye-opening to note the incredibly high chances that unschoolers have of reaching their goals. Unschoolers are more likely to pursue a bachelor’s degree and more likely to graduate than other students. Additionally, they tend to score highly on tests, receive high grades, and report high satisfaction levels in their jobs and lives.
The real question here is how do you, as an unschool parent show yourself, and any doubters that this diploma was earned for genuine, valuable work done by your child. That is something many homeschool and unschool parents, especially traditionally educated people, have trouble with. The answer is to create good transcripts.
As an unschool parent, making a transcript and following state guidelines for a diploma is your responsibility. You need to categorize and document the student’s activities in a manner that is consistent, clear, and in keeping with the laws and regulations in your area. However, your transcript needs to reflect your child’s goals.
Documenting the necessary extracurricular activities and advanced placement work that a child needs to go to ivy league school is different from keeping a record of a child who plans to become an entrepreneur right out of high school because they love and work hard at coding indie games. If your state requires a highschool student to take two years of math and a year of language arts, you need to find ways to include that in your student’s interests and record it, but you do not have to force them to do pages of busywork that doesn’t help them reach their goals.
Let’s use those same two children as examples. The kid who wants to go to Harvard needs to show that they are studying the highest possible math and language arts levels. Plus, they need to volunteer in their community, score very highly on an SAT, create a portfolio, and write an entrance essay that will impress the Harvard admissions officer. Therefore, you need to help your student talk to Harvard about their requirements and aim to exceed these.
Meanwhile, your coding guru needs practice coding. If they wish to run a business, then taking a local college class to learn about accounting will further their goals. Plus, it ensures that your future businessperson will understand the books in their own business. They need language arts, but rather than taking AP work; this child is better served by doing exercises in creative writing and attending workshops with published authors who can help them create better dialogue for characters.
These two very different learners may have the same IQ, but their transcripts should also reflect who they are because their goals are different. Unschooling is all about creative problem solving, and not only for the students. Both those transcripts would honestly show work done to take two math classes and a language arts credit. However, they certainly don’t need to do the same type of math or the same writing style to achieve those results to get a diploma and a transcript that works in their favor. Success is setting a goal, then working until you achieve it.
Your unschooler’s diploma may mean a lot of extra work for you as a parent, but for them, it’s a step on the road to success. Whether they want to pursue higher education, become an entrepreneur, or head straight for a career that cares more about innovative thinking than cookie-cutter paperwork, there’s no need to fret over that framed diploma. If they earned it, it is theirs to keep.
Traditional school and traditional school mimicking homeschool is not the only path to success. Children are natural learners and will happily pursue knowledge with or without structure, but giving a diploma and creating a transcript is the educators’ responsibility. Unschoolers paths may differ, but their education is just as valid, worthy, and legally protected.
Giving a diploma to your unschooler isn’t strictly necessary for most post-graduation goals, but it is a good idea. Some schools, jobs, and the military may require that document, and it memorializes a vital turning point in their lives where they begin to move on to adult goals.