Homeschool Diplomas – Fact vs. Fiction


1. an official or state document
2. a writing usually under seal conferring some honor or privilege
3. a document bearing record of graduation from or of a degree conferred by an educational institution

It’s not exactly clear-cut, but the implication behind the word diploma is that it has been awarded to the recipient by someone with the explicit power to do so.


Here’s why I don’t like the phrase “homeschool diploma” (and I know many people find my site by searching that phrase, so I’m not just making this up!):

The family unit does have the power to confer some honor or privilege upon a child who has, in the family’s mind, successfully completed high school.

But, the family unit does not have the power to confer upon said child an award that others outside the family are forced to acknowledge.

It is misleading, I believe, to represent yourself as having earned a “high school diploma” because that phrase carries with it the understanding that a government-approved organization assessed and granted diploma status. In other words, if it came off your own printer, how “official” can it really be?


When I speak on the topic of university admissions, I’m often asked how homeschoolers “get a high school diploma.” The reality is, many homeschoolers do not get a high school diploma. And in fact, by definition (according to the universities), if you have a high school diploma, you are not a homeschooler!

If you go through the homeschool admission policies of the Ontario universities, you’ll notice that while you may be asked to provide a transcript, or portfolio, you will not be asked to submit a “diploma.” That’s because universities do not recognize diplomas unless they come from a government-accredited source.

And most importantly, a homeschooled applicant is one who by definition does not possess a government diploma. So, the university is not expecting you to present any diploma whatsoever. This is why you’re considered a homeschooler, and this is why you’re presenting a portfolio, or standardized test results or some other requirement that is not required of traditionally-schooled applicants.


Now, I have had this discussion with others re: “diplomas” that come at the end of comprehensive curriculum programs, mostly those available out of the U.S. and completed through distance studies.

One mother was adamant that her child’s university “accepted” this diploma. The reality is, and it’s a fine distinction so bear with me, the university accepted the child, who happened to have this diploma when he applied.

While the university took this diploma into consideration, and subsequently decided to admit the student, this does not mean that this program’s diploma is “recognized” or “accepted.” The university is not allowed to recognize a non-government-accredited diploma as fulfilling the “does this kid have a high school diploma?” requirement. Note that a government approved diploma can be from *any* government, not just a Canadian province. But, it does have to be awarded by ultimately an organization that is under the jurisdiction of a country’s own education system, not a private curriculum company.

That being said, there are some correspondence diplomas from the U.S. that are government accredited. In fact, the very first time I spoke at the KW conference, we discovered that two members of the audience were following a program that led to an official state diploma from the U.S. This meant that, in the eyes of the universities, these students were not homeschoolers because they had a government diploma to present. So, the specific program you’re following makes a huge difference. (More about these U.S. programs later.)


Here are some of the misconceptions I’ve encountered over the years:

FACT: A diploma is ultimately just a piece of paper signifying an academic honor or achievement. The diploma is not the high school education itself. If you homeschool, you may not receive a diploma for your work. To put it bluntly, get over it! What I mean is, separate the diploma from the education in your mind, and focus not on achieving the diploma at all costs, but rather achieving your life goals (e.g. university admission), then decide whether the diploma is absolutely necessary. Recognize that not every life goal requires a high school diploma, and in fact, some goals are more easily attained without said diploma. When you’re on my website, remember that my primary concern isn’t earning you a diploma — it’s getting you into university, and all advice is given within that context.

FACT: A diploma carries with it the underlying assumption that whoever issued the diploma has been approved by the government to hold the power to certify and acknowledge academic achievement, and this is what allows diplomas to carry universal recognition. This is why not everyone can have a diploma for doing just anything, no matter how worthy it is. Again, get over it! You are not entitled to a government’s seal of approval if you did not do what they specifically require for a high school diploma. The good news is, people like me have been working for years so that this lack of a diploma isn’t an obstacle when applying to university.

FICTION: You need a high school diploma before entering post-secondary studies, so even if you’re 23 with a lot of life experience, you should be figuring out how to go back and get those high school credits that you’re missing so that you can apply to university.
FACT: Apply as a mature student, or to an open university. Don’t waste your time with high school credits unless you really feel you are lacking the academic knowledge/confidence and specifically want to study at the high school level.

FACT: When universities use the phrase “high school diploma” they mean only diplomas issued by government accredited organizations. It’s important to realize that, in Ontario as in many other government jurisdictions, there is only one recognized high school diploma – the government one. All accredited schools (public, private, independent, correspondence) issue this same diploma, not an “equivalent” diploma, but the exact, same one. That’s what being accredited means — given the authority to issue the government diploma.

FACT: People will prey on your innocence/ignorance surrounding diplomas. A few years ago, I overheard one vendor at a large homeschooling conference in Ontario describing his program’s “diploma” to a parent. Words and phrases like “equivalent” and “our kids get into university just like everyone else” are misleading when the audience doesn’t realize two key points. First, there is no such official thing as an “equivalent” diploma. That’s not an official term and no one regulates what is “equivalent” to ensure that it really is like the original. In other words, having an equivalent diploma still means that you don’t have the traditional, government high school diploma. Second, while students with these equivalent diplomas may “similarly get into university” they certainly do not “get into university in a similar way” to kids with the government diploma. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with using an unaccredited program for your high school years, there *is* something very wrong with using verbal sleight of hand to make people think that your diploma “counts” as what we have come to know as a “high school diploma.” And, this is a huge difference. It’s the difference between applying as a homeschooler and applying with the traditional high school diploma (which, if you had, would make you not a homeschooler in the eyes of the universities).

FICTION: All Ontario high schools offer the government diploma, in other words, the one that is recognized.
FACT: In Ontario, all schools that have chosen to “register” with the government will be listed in database which can be searched here. But, not every school listed is permitted to issue high school diplomas. In other words, not every “registered” school (here’s my application fee) is an “accredited” school (permitted to grant the government high school diploma). Look for the indication “Offers credits towards the Ontario Secondary School Diploma” in their listing.

FICTION: Any correspondence diploma from the U.S. is one way to “get around” not having an Ontario high school diploma.
FACT: In the US, there is an extra layer involved in government accreditation. There are about half a dozen “accrediting organizations” that have government approval to accredit individual schools and school boards. So, when using a curriculum from the United States, it’s important to first find out which organization issues the school’s accreditation, and then determine whether this organization is one of the government ones. There are accrediting bodies in the United States who have not received government approval to accredit schools for the government diploma, meaning that the individual school or program can claim “certification” for its diploma, but just not government certification, which is what Ontario universities will demand. Be careful, there are some well-known names out there whose diplomas are not recognized by universities. This doesn’t mean that the universities won’t consider the academic achievement involved in obtaining them, but these diplomas are not stand ins for a government diploma.

FICTION: You need a high school diploma to put on your resume after graduating from college, university or other post-secondary education/training.
FACT: If you are continuing on to post-secondary education/training, that is the education that should be represented on your resume. Not having a high school diploma when you already have a university degree or college diploma should not ordinarily present any problems to you in the job market.

Want to tell some folks about this post?