As homeschoolers, we want the opportunity for our students to receive recognition for his or her hard work. We want to aid our student's application for college. And wouldn't it be wonderful if homeschooling students could join a national honor society and receive national awards for their hard work!
When looking for honor societies, you might think first of the most well-known, the National Honor Society, but it is the rare homeschool student who is eligible to join this group. However, there are two other honor societies homeschool students have successfully joined and you may want to consider them for your student: Eta Sigma Alpha and The National Society of High School Scholars.
Eta Sigma Alpha's Mission Statement
The purpose of Eta Sigma Alpha National Home School Honor Society shall be to recognize and encourage scholarship among home school students. To achieve this purpose, Eta Sigma Alpha National Home School Honor Society shall provide opportunities for the development of an intellectual climate that will stimulate the exchange of ideas and ideals, foster scholarship, and promote academic excellence. Eta Sigma Alpha shall also advocate homeschooling as a viable and successful educational methodology and act as a [liaison] for homeschooling to the general public, colleges/universities, and the media.
Eta Sigma Alpha was founded in 1999 by Joanne Juren, a former public school teacher and assistant secondary principal, because she wanted her son to have the opportunity to belong to an honor society. Mrs. Juren said she first contacted the National Honor Society about the possibility of including homeschool students, but the National Honor Society "didn't seem to understand that parents of homeschoolers really want the best for their children and wouldn't just give them the grades necessary to join NHS." So Mrs. Juren decided that homeschool students should have their own honor society in order to have an equal footing with non-homeschool students. The new society was named Eta Sigma Alpha; Eta is the Greek letter "h," Sigma is the Greek letter "s," and Alpha means "first." Therefore, Eta Sigma Alpha means "first home school" honor society.
Mrs. Juren felt that Eta Sigma Alpha students would need to take a nationally recognized test for the scores to be considered legitimate by others such as college admissions departments. In addition to being recognized, she says that belonging to Eta Sigma Alpha, "helps students get experience filling out college applications when applying to ESA." Mrs. Juren wants to make it clear that "Eta Sigma Alpha isn't just another honor roll," because there is a community service requirement and there are elected positions such as president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.
Since its beginning in 1999, Eta Sigma Alpha has grown rapidly. Currently, there are at least 75 chapters and some groups have as many as 50 or 60 members. There is even a chapter in Mexico City! Mrs. Juren said there could easily be as many as 1000 homeschool students who are a part of Eta Sigma Alpha. Eta Sigma Alpha is also developing a line of products for their members who would like to wear a graduation shawl with ESA insignia, patches, gold honor cords or have a membership card.
To be a member of ESA, a student must meet the mandatory requirements and any additional requirements that an individual chapter may set. The mandatory requirements are a test score of 1200 on the SAT, 26 on the ACT, 120 (verbal/math) on the PSAT, or a composite score of 90% on the IOWA, Stanford, California, MAT or other nationally standardized test. (Note: The SAT is changing its format in 2005, and the new scoring for ESA will be 1800 for the SAT and 180 for the PSAT.) The additional requirements set by the individual chapters might include requirements such as: be in grades 9-12 or grades 7-12; a 3.5 grade point average based on a 4.0 scale; community service projects; a transcript; letters of recommendation; an essay. Each chapter pays a small charter fee and yearly dues. They will also receive a charter certificate and a chapter name. For more information about Eta Sigma Alpha, visit their website at www.etasigmaalpha.com. To begin a chapter of Eta Sigma Alpha in your area, e-mail Barbara Gorman at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her at 281-922-0478.
The National Society of High School Scholars' Mission Statement
The mission of the National Society of High School Scholars is to recognize excellence and to encourage members to apply their unique talents, vision, and potential for the betterment of themselves and the world.
The National Society of High School Scholars was founded in July of 2002 by Claes Nobel. Although this national society is new, Mr. Nobel's family has been involved in recognizing excellence in many occupations since 1901. The Nobel Prizes are awarded to scientists, authors, and leaders worldwide. Maudelle Driskell, Vice President of NSHSS, says that Mr. Nobel "created the society to continue his family's legacy of recognizing and rewarding outstanding achievement . .[and] to highlight the academic accomplishments of high school students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, scholarship, and community commitment, as well as to foster their continued success."
The National Society of High School Scholars is an international society open to all students who meet the requirements whether they are public, private, or homeschooled. Mrs. Driskell states that "NSHSS is committed to insuring membership is open to all qualified individuals . . .NSHSS recognizes the importance of the homeschool program and is proud to make membership available to those students in the program who excel academically." She says that last year NSHSS had many homeschool students become members and a scholarship was awarded to a homeschool student.
In addition to providing recognition for academics, NSHSS offers a variety of benefits to its members. For instance, NSHSS offers a number of scholarships, competitions in a variety of subjects, special events, and resources to help students in high school and in college such as a member-to-member connection so students can meet other members with similar career interests. NSHSS also offers opportunities to participate in projects abroad. The society has a store which offers graduation items for graduating seniors and other recognition items for its members.
Regarding requirements for NSHSS members, Mrs. Driskell says "NSHSS uses an objective criteria of a 3.5 grade point average—not a subjective voting process." A student can be invited with an equivalent score on a standardized test. Students must also be in the 11th or 12th grade and must receive an invitation from the society. A counselor, teacher, or an education group can nominate potential members. Once the student receives an invitation, s/he fills out the application and pays a lifetime membership fee to become a member. For more information about NSHSS, visit their website at www.nshss.org. For specific information regarding homeschool students, a homeschool group can contact Maudelle Driskell at email@example.com or call 1-866-343-1800.
National Honor Society Purpose Statement
The name of this organization shall be the National Honor Society of Secondary Schools. The purpose of this organization is to create enthusiasm for scholarship, to stimulate a desire to render service, to promote leadership, and to develop character of students in secondary schools. The NHS shall be under the sponsorship and supervision of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), 1904 Association Drive, Reston, VA 21091-1537.
Dr. Edward Rynearson helped to establish the National Honor Society in 1921. Today there are 20,000 chapters (including the junior chapters) in every state, U.S. territories, and Canada and it is estimated that more than a million students belong to NHS. Mr. David Cordts of the National Honor Society's national office says that, "NHS is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious student recognition program in the country . . Our criteria of scholarship, leadership, service, and character are the qualities that we believe will lead to success for any student who meets the selection criteria."
On the subject of homeschool students, Mr. Cordts said that, "NHS has always been school-based, and as such would have to significantly revise our current guidelines to incorporate homeschooling." Mr. Cordts also said in an article with the Dallas Morning News (10/29/02) written by Joshua Benton "that he's happy to know about Eta Sigma Alpha. Now he'll have somewhere to direct the homeschool parents who call his office, asking if their children can join NHS. He said he gets those calls several times a month." Additionally, Mr. Cordts said that it is possible for a homeschool student to be invited to become a member of the National Honor Society if the student is enrolled part time in a school that has a NHS chapter. However, Sarah E. Mehrens of the Home School Legal Defense Association does not recommend doing so.
To become a member, a student must be enrolled in a school that has an accreditation which is accepted by the National Council of NHS. Students must also have a grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, be in the 10th-12th grades for the National Honor Society and in the 6th-9th grades for the National Junior Honor Society, and be reviewed by the local selection committee for leadership ability, service, and character. Membership is by invitation. Mr. Cordts said that to date, more than 10% of their current chapters are in non-public schools. The selection of students is made by the local chapter rather than the national office. To start a chapter of NHS, schools pay a fee of $100 and fill out a charter application. For more information about the National Honor Society, visit their website at www.nhs.us and for charter information go to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703-860-0200, ext. 214.
Advice and Opinions
When contacted for information about honor societies and homeschooling, Sarah E. Mehrens, CLA, Legisilative Assistant of the National Center for Home Education responded, "The National Honor Society is open to institutional schools. The door is closed to homeschoolers." She said that Eta Sigma Alpha was specifically designed for the homeschool student and that "its standards are higher." She also mentioned that one of Home School Legal Defense Association's attorneys, a homeschool dad, is starting a local chapter himself. Mrs. Holly Craw of the Covenant Home School Resource Center in Phoenix, Arizona states, "I was told by a mom in Houston, who has helped with starting Eta Sigma Alpha, [the student should] join any honor society for which you qualify, even if it costs some money . . . all those groups are great to have on transcripts and resumes, and often they have internal scholarships for their members, and may lead to other scholarship opportunities." When starting a chapter of ESA in Phoenix, Mrs. Dana Tabeek says, "You need two parents who are willing to head up the group as sponsors. This is necessary in order to really get the ball rolling. Advertise with your local homeschool association and newspaper. The state homeschool convention would be a great place for a display to attract new members. Find a place to meet and set a date for an informational meeting. If you have 5 students who qualify, you can apply for a chapter." Jeff Otto, president of the Phoenix chapter of ESA explains why he joined Eta Sigma Alpha and the National Society of High School Scholars, "I thought it would look good on a resume. . . I joined Eta Sigma Alpha because I wanted to improve my life." I am also a member of Eta Sigma Alpha and believe it is worth the effort to belong to an honor society. It was exciting when I received my invitation to join ESA and was happy to belong to something which would help getting into college. It's nice to be able to meet homeschoolers who are near my age, too. I also hope to be able to join NSHSS when I'm old enough, since I'm just in the 9th grade now.
Here are some more words of advice from Mrs. Craw about planning ahead: "Consider high school as a tremendous opportunity to learn and grow. Desire to do well and truly apply yourself to your studies. You never know what doors may be opened to you through great academic scores. Even more importantly, doing well gives the confidence and skills to make the best use of your talents and gifts. It is far easier to keep the positive momentum going with a good start, than to try to make up for wasted time or a few poor grades." Keep up the good work!
Copyright, 2004. Used with Permission from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Erin McRee is a 14 year old homeschooler residing in lovely Arizona. www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com