Do I Need to Find an Accredited Homeschool Program?
Is my homeschool curriculum accredited? Is it legit? Is it approved? Is it enough? You can ask this question in so many ways. However, what you are truly asking is this: Is this a quality education that meets the requirements of my state and prepares my child for college and a career? Let’s unpack this complicated topic of accreditation with some simplifying and myth busting!
What is School Accreditation?
Accreditation is a form of credentialing that applies to schools. The truth is that homeschool curricula cannot be accredited; only academic institutions can. Accreditation occurs when a school, no matter if it’s brick-and-mortar or virtual, is reviewed by an accreditation agency and is said to achieve certain standards. Often, the accreditation process involves self-evaluation by an organization during which it compares its own data and feedback against research-based performance outcomes.
So what does accreditation mean for homeschoolers? You may scour the internet for something called an “accredited homeschool program” or even try to find a listing of homeschool accredited programs. However, researching accredited homeschooling programs will likely lead you to online or virtual schools, like Brightspire Virtual School (more on that later), and while there are similarities, these education options are a bit different than homeschooling.
Does My Homeschool Curriculum or Program Need to be Accredited?
There is no U.S state that requires you to have an accredited homeschool program. However, in some states, a homeschool may need to be affiliated with an accredited program (e.g., an umbrella organization) or monitored by a state-certified teacher. Accreditation, then, is merely one little piece of your homeschool’s quality control department.
While homeschooling remains a popular option, there may be reasons for choosing an accredited virtual school over traditional homeschooling:
- Work or other obligations limit your availability to plan and/or provide instruction.
- You prefer that your child learn from professional educators.
- Your child is planning to return to public or private traditional school and would benefit from an official school transcript.
- Your child’s post-secondary plans include collegiate sports, and applying would be easier through pre-approved NCAA-eligible courses.
- Graduating with a state-accepted, school-provided high school diploma is important for your child’s future plans.
Choosing an accredited virtual school may be right for your family if you would like to combine many of the benefits of homeschooling–like flexibility and individualized instruction–with the accountability and more traditional outcomes of an online school.
Know Your Own At-home Learning Goals
Evaluating your underlying reasons for educating your child at home can help you determine which option is best. These are some questions you should ask yourself as you plan or re-envision your homeschool or virtual school experience:
- What is your primary reason for at-home learning?
- What are your priorities for the education of your child?
- Will your child be transitioning back to traditional school?
- Will your child be applying to college in the future?
- Does your child hope to play college sports?
- What is the budget for your child’s home education?
Understand the Education Laws in Your State
Prior to homeschooling, make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities as a homeschooler by researching your state’s homeschooling laws.
Here are some questions you should be asking:
- Are there minimum qualifications for the person who is providing instruction?
- Are there homeschool curriculum or subject requirements?
- What is the minimum number of high school credits required for homeschool graduation in your state?
- Do you need oversight of your homeschooling program by some type of umbrella organization or a state-certified teacher?
Answers to these questions can provide a foundational structure for your homeschool and can determine whether “accreditation” even needs to be part of your at-home learning vocabulary.
If you’ve already decided that an accredited online school may be a better choice than traditional homeschooling, make sure that you understand your state’s education policies related to virtual schools as well as current research on virtual schools. Then be sure to explore virtual school options to find the school that best meets the needs of your family!
Is Time4Learning Accredited?
If you have been reading carefully, you know that this is a trick question! The term “accredited homeschool curriculum” is a misnomer, yet the question “Is Time4Learning accredited?” is one of the most common ones received. Since Time4Learning is a curriculum and not a school, you now know that accreditation does not apply. However, the curriculum offered by Time4Learning is used at many accredited schools across the United States, is educationally rigorous, and does prepare your high schooler for college. Therefore, while Time4Learning is a curriculum, and is not eligible for accreditation, there are many indicators of quality that you can document for monitoring agencies, for future pathways, or just to reassure yourself!
That being said, Time4Learning knows that some families may prefer an accredited route to graduation. In response, Time4Learning has launched Brightspire Virtual School, a Cognia-accredited online school for students in grades 6-12 that combines the rigorous, customizable, and self-paced coursework that Time4Learning members have come to love with the support of dedicated teachers,on-demand tutors, and mentors that can help your child reach that full potential. Brightspire courses are NCAA approved and standards based, with completion of high school coursework leading to a high school diploma.
To sum up this important topic, traditional homeschoolers generally do not need to worry about having an accredited homeschool program because homeschool curricula, by itself, cannot be accredited and states do not require homeschools to be accredited. However, if you would like some of the benefits of homeschooling but need a more accredited path to graduation, you may want to consider an accredited online school like Brightspire.