I know what you are thinking. You are wondering, "What is honors? What does it mean? When does it go on the transcript?"
There is no country-wide definition of "honors." It just generally means "more than usual or expected."
Homeschoolers do not need to indicate they have an honors student. They should indicate which classes are honors level.
A class can be titled "honors" if it's "more than the usual level of high school." If the curriculum you use says "honors," then you can title your class that way too. Honors classes are more rigorous, more in-depth, and take more effort and study than regular high school classes. The honors designation is usually used for just core subject areas, or for a more advanced level than an introductory class. You can support the honors designation on your transcript with CLEP® exam scores or AP® exam scores. If your student scores well, these tests and exams can be used to show mastery of material at a higher level (college level) than normal high school classes provide.
At many public and private schools, there are at least 3 tiers of levels. The first tier is regular or standard high school level classes. The second tier is honors or college prep classes. The third tier includes college level classes, either AP®, CLEP®, or dual enrollment (dual credit) classes taken at or through a college.
If you'd like more information on these tests, download this free eBook, College Credit in High School: Critical Tests that Increase Admission Chances and Decrease College Costs. It's filled with tips for busy homeschool parents trying to learn about honors classes, and will help you choose the right high school subject test and prepare students for success.
When can you put honors on a class title on your student's high school transcript? Again, there are few rules. Generally speaking, if the authors or publishers of your curriculum say it is an honors course, then you can call it honors. Some curriculums suggest additional assignments that make the class honors level. If your student completes these additional assignments, you can title the class honors on your transcript. If your child passes an honors level test, like an AP® or CLEP® exam, you could call the class honors. If you used a college textbook or college class as the primary or supplemental resource, then the class is honors level. You would support the honors designation in your course descriptions, where you list your resources and types of assignments. You can place AP® Exam scores or CLEP® Test scores on your transcript, itself.
During high school, students may be sent information on honor societies, or homeschool honor societies. It's hard to identify if they are a legitimate offer, or if it's just junk mail. Many honor societies are just money-making businesses. I don't think an honor society will necessarily help you. They may not be worth the money.
Some so-called "Honor Societies" aren't very honorable. For a fee, they will allow anyone to become a member. Some will name the student in a book of "Who's Who"— but again, it's all for a fee. Colleges know that parents may be tempted to purchase these kinds of accolades. However, these accolades may not be regarded with any esteem at all. Colleges value genuine interests and quantifiable abilities, not store-bought accolades. In other words, your GPA, SAT®, and ACT® scores are important, but purchasing an honor society membership is optional.
One honor society for homeschoolers that has some real admission standards is Eta Sigma Alpha. Even so, colleges may not notice a difference. They tend to focus more on test scores and GPA, rather than honor societies they do not frequently see. Colleges award scholarships to students who achieve honors by learning to work hard. You get that value from getting good grades, having good test scores, getting honors through testing, and having an outside activity that the student enjoys.
Honor Student Graduation
Even without paying for honor society membership, your student can graduate with honors. Parents can purchase graduation bling without using a fee-based honor society. Homeschoolers can get a diploma from a great online supplier, HomeschoolDiploma.com. They provide diplomas for individual homeschoolers and for groups graduating together. You can purchase honors designation that is included on the diploma. Through HomeschoolDiploma.com parents can order a cap, gown, invitation, and diploma. There are optional fun things as well— "bling" as my son says.
When my son graduated from the university, he had all sorts of bling: White tassel for his Rhetoric minor, brown tassel for the School of Business and Economics from his major in Political Economy. He has two orange cords demonstrating that he was Magna Cum Laude, Red Stole indicating that he was a University Scholar, and a Medallion on white ribbon because he was a member of Ivy Honorary National Honor Society. We were very proud, but it did seem like almost every graduate had some sort of bling.
Having homeschool bling for a high school graduation is a fun option to consider. If it's meaningful to you, and makes your child feel special, then there is no harm in it. I did put the "honors" sticker on my sons' diplomas. I'm not sure my children actually looked at their diploma, or read the sticker, but it was very meaningful to me. I knew they had graduated with honors. Since it meant that much to me, it was worth it.
My boys wanted to keep things as manly and low-key as possible, and I had a hard time even talking them into wearing a cap and gown for their graduation party. I was happy with our little "honors" sticker on the diploma, and happy with our "honors" class designation on the transcript.
I hope this has helped you become confident as well. Many homeschoolers achieve honors level work in their academic studies throughout high school. Learn more about how to use AP® exams or CLEP® tests to show rigor, and learn which classes should be titled "honors" on your student's transcript in this free eBook, College Credit in High School.