You have heard of them… but what in the world are they? An umbrella school may be lifesaving to one high school homeschooling family. To cut through the confusion, an umbrella school is typically part of a private school, or an entity created specifically for the protection and assistance of the homeschool family. In some states the regulations on homeschoolers are incredibly stringent. In fact, some states require homeschoolers to have an umbrella school. This is where the umbrella school becomes a necessary option for some. The official definition of an umbrella school would be a type of support group for homeschoolers that is organized and often recognized under the state’s private school laws. The umbrella school is designed to take the burden of paperwork (grades, immunization, and attendance records), standardized testing, transcripts, and diplomas off the parent and help them fulfill state requirements. In some cases, certain colleges will view the transcripts from an umbrella school as more “verifiable” than scores reported only by parents. This has more to do with the idea of accountability than anything else. The size of the umbrella school does not directly affect the “legitimacy” of the school yet having an umbrella school with a good reputation will go far.
What Does the Umbrella School do for Me?
The benefits that an umbrella school provides will vary from state to state. In some states like Alabama, it is a state requirement to either have your own teaching certificate or to be under an umbrella school. Typically, parents will pay a fee for the umbrella school services. The more the umbrella school offers, the more the fee will be. For the most part an umbrella school will help the homeschooling parent by:
· Providing homeschool legitimacy by law.
· Issuing report cards
· Tracking attendance
· Keeping permanent records (transcripts)
· Hosting field trips
· Holding co-op meetings (or something similar)
· Student clubs/activities
· Standardized testing
· Provide ID cards for students (convenient benefit for discounts, etc.)
Standardized testing is often one of the most appreciated benefits of umbrella schools. While almost every state requires a standardized test of some kind for homeschoolers, those test requirements vary. Educators Inc has a great standardized testing resource on improving your child’s scores and what each state requires. Homeschooling in a state with restrictive homeschool regulations can get tricky, and umbrella schools can help alleviate the pressure and stress related to fulfilling those requirements.
One of the other desirable perks of the umbrella school is the high school diploma. The umbrella school diploma is usually equal to the diploma that a student would receive from a private school (again check with your state for confirmation). In most situations, the umbrella school diploma would be of greater benefit than the GED. This is simply since most colleges will want to conduct additional testing and may even require GED students to take remedial courses until they have proven themselves.
Is an Umbrella School for Me?
The first step to successful homeschooling is to research state homeschool laws. LHSHS has a great resource to help the new homeschooler find state homeschool requirements. Once you understand what is expected of you, you can then move on to determining if a homeschool umbrella program is a good fit for your family. Another point of interest is to determine if your state has limits on their college financial aid policies regarding in state vs. out of state umbrella programs.