How to count credit hours

Homeschooling through highschool, the how to's


This is a complimentary post to the earlier article, “How to add debate to any schedule.”  It is also by Terry, Deanna & Ryan Stollar, from Coaching Policy Debate. You can find the original article here.

GraduateThis is simple and complex at the same time. An excellent resource, The High School Handbook, by Mary Schofield helps answer this important question. This Handbook is one of the finest and most complete “how-to” books on the market for helping you home school your high schooler. Yes, you can home school through high school. Mary Schofield’s book tells you how with such chapters as “Emergency Quick Start to Home Schooling Teens,” for those who find themselves instantly home schooling. (E8)

Most college admissions department consider a year long high school course as worth 10 credits (1 credit in Texas, take the credit numbers and divide by 10). How many hours of school work do those 10 (1 for Texas) credits represent? There is some latitude regarding this answer. Schofield explains how to figure out the number of hours of school work equal to each credit. Her calculations are based upon the average number of hours for each class in an institutional school year, since this is what most colleges are used to:

  • The average institutional school meets 180 days out of the year.
  • The average class time is 50 minutes long, with most teachers pleased if they accomplish 40 minutes of real instructional time. Here is where the latitude comes in:
  • If one counts 180 days times 50 minutes per day, that equals 150 hours of class work for each 10 (1) credit course.
  • If one counts 180 days times 40 minutes per day, that equals 120 hours of class work for each 10 (1) credit course.

Whether a parent wants to count the instructional times as 50 minutes or minutes to derive the total number of hours towards the 10 (1) is a matter of choice.

  • Simply put, colleges would expect that a one year course, valued at 10 (1) credits, would encompass 120 to 150 hours of educational time. Whether your 10 (1) credits, 10 (1) credits represent 180 hours, 150 hours, 120 hours, or some other number, they must be justifiable. Your reasoning should be consistent and maintain integrity. For purposes of consistency, the following examples assume 150 hours per year as equaling 10 (1) credits, 75 hours as 5 (1/2) credits, and 15 hours as 1 1/10) credit.

Next consider how the student’s transcript will be formatted. Will it be by grade (Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, or Twelfth), listing subjects taken under each of these grades? Or do you want the transcript to be one in which the subject matter (Math, Biology, P.E., American History, and so forth) is simple listed with no reference as to when the student completed the material? The most common format is by grade, but by subject is also just as acceptable. Because of debate’s intermingling of subjects (and the multi-year nature of debate), it is somewhat easier to employ a subject style transcript (see the sample transcript that follows).

Next, one must determine the number of hours spent on the different subjects. Some clearly defined and distinct subjects require only basic addition and division. You simply add up the total hours and divide by 15 hours (the number of hours per 1 credit), to come up with the number of credits.

For example, if a student spends ½ hours per day over a 180 day school year playing the piano, the total number of hours spent playing for that year is 90 hours. The 90 hours spent playing the piano divided by 15 hours (per credit) gives 6 credits of piano for the year. Your child probably spends more days than that practicing piano and in many cases more time than that. Some days he may spend less, but just chose an average number and then use the following formula:

Hours (per day) x Days (per school year) / # of Credits

Some classes are not so cut and dry. Subjectivity enters when subjects overlap, such as research skills and typing, or Constitutional law and government. When this happens, one needs to add up all the related hours and decide how much time one wants to count towards each subject. This often becomes completely arbitrary, based solely upon what the teacher or principal of the home school feels is in the best interest of the student. There is no right or wrong when doing this, as long as the decision is logically justifiable. If the student has put in 180 hours of Constitutional law and government over the course of the year, the formula would be:

180 hours / 15 = 12 (1.2) Credits

The options available for these 12 (1.2) credits are: use 6 for Constitutional law and 6 for government, or split them unevenly, such as 8 for Constitutional law and 4 for government, depending on where you think the emphasis was stronger.

Besides overlapping subjects, debate frequently builds on the knowledge gained the previous year. The subject format transcript permits recording of this process in a simple manner. For example, if Economics played a role in debate several years in a row, instead of listing 2 credits for Economics for the freshman year, 1 credit for the sophomore year, and 3 credits for the junior year, just add up all related credits and list them in the subject format as: Economics – 6 credits total. This goes for all subjects. Those that carry over from year to year, such as History, Constitutional Law, Research Skills, Debate, Public Speaking, Typing, Computer Skills, Political Science, Government, Economics, and Composition, are all easily accommodated this way.

Each year the new resolution brings opportunities for specialized subjects to be added to the transcript. These might be electives, or they might be better counted under core classes (general education). Research skills and composition easily fit under the core area of English. Debate is an elective. The principal of each school or home school must determine how to classify all the hours worked.

You can find the original article here.

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