When you are thinking about homeschooling, there are a lot of different options to consider. Hybrid homeschooling? Virtual schooling? Do you use a co-op or tutor? And then what about accredited homeschool programs? Are these really necessary? It’s a wonderful world where homeschoolers have so many options. But it can also be very overwhelming! As a mom who’s been homeschooling my 5 children for over 10 years, I’ve used both an accredited homeschool program, and been part of one that’s not. So I feel qualified to give some insight into whether an accredited homeschool program is really necessary or not.
What are accredited homeschool programs?
An accredited homeschool program is one in which the parent makes use of a curriculum or support school that is licensed or recognized by an outside body. This generally means that you are leaving the curriculum planning up to an outside agency or school. And you are also paying them to keep records for your child. An example of this is Bridgeway Academy, which offers many different options for accredited homeschool programs.
To be clear though, there is no state that requires that any parent use an accredited program. This is simply a parent’s choice or preference. It is mostly a question of level of support rather than legitimacy.
You can also find local accredited homeschool programs, which are sometimes called umbrella schools. These schools are part of a private school. And they also offer homeschool tracts as an option. This is the type of school that our family used to be part of, and is quite common in Central Florida. An example of this type of school is International Community School. This school receives national accreditation through Christian Schools International (CSI) and regional accreditation through AdvancED (SACS, CASI). It is also a member of the Association of Christian Schools International (ASCI). This is an example of a local private hybrid homeschooling program that provides all record keeping for your child.
What’s the difference between a hybrid homeschool and an accredited homeschool program?
This is a tricky question. There are so many different terms and labels in the homeschooling community. In fact, many of them don’t even have an agreed upon definition. When I talk about hybrid homeschooling, I am including any program that offers some form of a school environment, while not following a traditional 5 day at school schedule. This may be a 2 day a week program. Or it may be a mornings only program. However, there is always some form of outside support for a parent.
The question of accredited homeschool programs in hybrid homeschooling is not an either/or question. Many hybrid homeschooling programs are accredited. And many are not. To be honest, when we left our previous hybrid homeschool, which was accredited, I was nervous about the change in accreditation. If the program that you are thinking about for your children is not accredited, there is more responsibility on the parent to look over curriculum and graduation requirements. However, there’s also more freedom to choose what works for your child. And there’s also more freedom in grading.
In the state of Florida, if you are part of an umbrella school or private school covering homeschooling program, you are not considered a homeschooler in the eyes of the state. But if the hybrid homeschool you attend is not accredited, then you would be registered as a homeschooler with your local county. This need to register felt burdensome when I first considered it. But now I understand that it’s quite simple and there are some advantages to being an official homeschooler through the local county.
What if I want to homeschool totally on my own?
You can! You don’t actually need any program, or any set curriculum. And you don’t need any accreditation. In the world of homeschooling, there are unschoolers who have completely child led learning. There’s a wide variety in the world of homeschooling! And that’s something that’s so wonderful about it! Homeschooling allows you the freedom to do exactly what’s best for your child and your family.
If you feel more comfortable with using an accredited program, there are lots to choose from! And this doesn’t even mean you need to ever leave your house to do so. You can choose an accredited homeschool program right from the comfort of your living room.
With all of these programs, you are usually trading some of the freedom in homeschooling for the accredidation. But this can be very reassuring for new homeschooling parents. It certainly was helpful to me 11 years ago when I started my homeschooling journey. Being part of a local accredited private school as a homeschooler was a good way for me to gain confidence and eventually be able to be more on my own.
You’re the parent. You’re in charge.
Whether you have a child in private school or public school or are unschooling, you are the parent. You know what’s best for your child more than anyone else. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that parents feel more empowered to make decisions that work for their children. So to be absolutely clear: you do not need an accredited homeschool program. You can certainly homeschool completely on your own. But if you know that having that accreditation as reassurance that you are on the right track would make you more calm and relaxed as a parent, it might be what’s best for your family!
Homeschooling isn’t easy. I have five kids. We also have a new puppy and a cat. I work from home and our kids do lots of activities. We also go to Disney a lot. But we still love homeschooling and have developed a basic formatting of our homeschooling day. Having a routine is helpful to everyone! In fact, I’ve even shared a totally free Homeschool Daily Schedule Printable in a previous post. So once you realize what works best for your family, you will find your own routine. Just remember, you’re in charge. You make the decisions. And you know what’s best for your family.
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