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Homeschool Accreditation

Does Homeschool Have to be Accredited? Find Out Here!

Accredited Homeschool

By: Mindy Scirri, Ph.D.  

As a beginning or prospective homeschooler, you may feel bombarded with new homeschooling terms. You may wonder how to start homeschooling and how to navigate your state homeschooling laws and requirements. One of your early questions will undoubtedly be how to know the difference between an accredited vs non-accredited homeschool. In truth, this is the wrong question. Your real question should be, “Are homeschool programs accredited?”

What is an Accredited Homeschool?

Thoughts on the Homeschool Accreditation Myth

How to Create or Find a Quality Homeschool Program

Other Accreditation Resources

*This post contains affiliate links. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission. Although most of the resources listed here are free, those marked with a $ have a cost or require a fee/subscription in order to access the full range of materials. 

 

What is an Accredited Homeschool?

The basic answer to the question “Are homeschool programs accredited?” is “no.” There is essentially no difference between an accredited vs non-accredited homeschool because the terminology itself is misleading. The truth is that many educational organizations—like schools and colleges and even virtual schools—can be accredited. They examine their own processes and resources against outcomes designed by accrediting agencies and then submit evidence that they are achieving those outcomes. After being reviewed by the accrediting agency, the institutions may receive accreditation or work with the agency toward achieving accreditation. However, independent homeschool programs and homeschool curriculums cannot become accredited—even though some may advertise using such language. What you may be seeing is a fully online school that, in essence, is not really homeschooling.

 

Thoughts on the Homeschool Accreditation Myth

So, if the term “homeschool accreditation” is a misnomer, where did it come from? Perhaps it is just a product of homeschoolers’ desires to make sure what they are doing is best for their children. Wouldn’t the process of designing a homeschool be easier if homeschoolers could just search for accredited vs non-accredited homeschool programs and choose one of the accredited programs that were made accountable in some way through an accrediting agency? In theory, however, such a notion flies in the face of what homeschooling is about. Many homeschoolers choose this path because of the flexibility to customize an educational program to meet the strengths and needs of their unique children. Therefore, while accreditation would help to ease the uncertainties of the new homeschooler, it would, by necessity, be requiring a more standardized system of education—a feature that homeschoolers may specifically avoid.

Don’t despair! While the lack of accreditation in homeschooling programs does put more responsibility on you and more weight on your choices as a homeschooler, it also brings a freedom that provides a wealth of options and a freshness to what “school” can be for your children! Let’s examine what homeschoolers and homeschooling agencies think about the homeschool accreditation myth:

Do I Need to Find an Accredited Homeschool Program? | Time4Learning
“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: How can I be sure that what I’m providing is a quality education that meets the requirements of my state and prepares my child for college and a career?”

What is accreditation? | The Great Books Academy & Homeschool Program
What usefulness does accreditation have for an elementary or high school level homeschool program? The answer to this question, in our opinion, ranges from nothing to practically nothing. When accreditation is sought below the college level, the primary reason is, generally, simply to provide parents with some comfort level that the program is legitimate (i.e., of at least some minimal quality) – not a scam of some sort. Some parents consider accreditation important due to confusion and misinformation about accreditation at the elementary and secondary level of education.”

What is Accreditation? Should My Homeschool Be Accredited? | The Homeschool Mom
“With the slow but steady growth of homeschooling across the United States comes a parallel growth in online, distance learning programs and schools. While many parents continue to provide independent, customized instruction to their children, others seek “enrolled homeschooling”—that which provides teacher-guided instruction, report cards/transcripts/credits, and other familiar elements of traditional education.”

 

Accredited Homeschool 

How to Create or Find a Quality Homeschool Program

If homeschool accreditation is a myth, and there is no verifying agency out there making sure that independent homeschooling programs and homeschool curriculums are meeting certain standards, what can you do to ensure that you are providing a quality education for your child. Here are some steps to consider when planning or modifying your homeschool:

  • Know Your State Laws and Requirements: States across the country have varying requirements for homeschoolers, and you must know and understand your state laws and requirements to homeschool legally in your state. Some of these requirements are also in place to help ensure that your child receives a quality education.
  • Create Homeschool Goals: Take the time to set holistic goals for your homeschool—based on your family’s reasons for homeschooling—and then set goals for your child each year, semester, or quarter. Try to set specific academic goals in areas like reading, math, and science, as well as goals for other areas that you deem important for the growth of your child’s mind and attainment of your child’s potential (e.g., executive function goals, social and emotional goals, goals in specials areas like gym and music).
  • Find Quality Curriculum or Instructional Materials: With the understanding of your homeschool goals and budget, choose a homeschool curriculum that works for your family. If you are choosing to homeschool without a formal curriculum, be careful to choose quality instructional materials and create engaging and effective learning experiences for your child. Reach out to your online and local homeschool support groups for reviews and advice and ideas, and remember that there are plenty of free educational resources out there.
  • Evaluate Your Homeschool Regularly: Regardless of the record keeping requirements of your state, you owe it to your family to keep tabs on your child’s progress and the effectiveness of your homeschool, including the instructional materials and activities you are using. Reflect often and consider using what is out there for peer comparison: state grade-level academic standards, learning outcomes by agencies and organizations like the CASEL Framework for social and emotional learning, and even standardized testing (which may or may not be required by your state).
  • Get Feedback from Your Child: Perhaps most important of all the steps, be sure to ask your child how things are going. How is your child feeling about the content, schedule, pace, and rigor? Is your child feeling confident? Make sure your child is not suffering from student burnout and then modify your instruction in response to your child’s feedback. You are a team and are both experts who can determine what is working and what isn’t!

By completing these steps, you can, in essence, be a sort of accrediting agency for your own homeschool. While there may be no official certificate of accreditation that comes from this process, the result is that you can feel assured that you are providing a quality education for your child at home.

 

Other Accreditation Resources

The concept of accreditation has its good points, and you may want to learn more about it. Accreditation may be run by states or by accrediting agencies. Knowing a little bit about these agencies may help you as you deliberate K-12 options or as you choose a postsecondary institution. Below are some resources that can help you:

Accrediting Agencies Not Recognized Under GAAP
There are quite a few accrediting agencies that are not recognized under GAAP, the Generally Accepted Accrediting Practices […]. These agencies are not recognized by either the Council on Higher Education Accreditation in Washington or the U.S. Department of Education, nor by UNESCO or by the education departments or ministries of major countries. They range from a few sincere efforts that are working for recognition to many associations started by less-than-wonderful schools in order to accredit themselves.” Check this site for a listing of these “not recognized” accreditors.

Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
“The purposes of regional accreditation include encouraging institutions to improve academic quality, institutional effectiveness, and, ultimately, student success. The ACCJC focuses on community colleges, career and technical colleges, and junior colleges, through the creation and application of standards of accreditation and related policies, and through a process of review by higher education professionals and public members.”

Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
“A national advocate and institutional voice for academic quality through accreditation, CHEA is a U.S. association of degree-granting colleges and universities and recognizes institutional and programmatic accrediting organizations. CHEA is the only national organization focused exclusively on higher education accreditation and quality assurance.”

Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
“HLC is an institutional accreditor recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to accredit degree-granting colleges and universities. Institutional accreditation validates the quality of an institution’s academic programs at all degree levels, whether delivered on-site, online or otherwise. […] HLC maintains an active relationship with its member institutions, with frequent communication and regular reviews to ensure quality higher education.”

Middle States Association (MSA)
“The Middle States Association is a worldwide leader in accreditation and school improvement. For over 125 years, Middle States has been helping school leaders establish and reach their goals, develop strategic plans, promote staff development, and advance student achievement.”

New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
“The New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) is a voluntary, non-governmental membership association that serves as an institutional accreditor and promotes educational excellence and quality assurance to its member institutions. Our members are degree granting postsecondary educational institutions offering higher education and located inside or outside the United States, including, but not limited to, the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.”

Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) is recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to accredit postsecondary institutions. NWCCU […] accredits institutions of higher education in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and British Columbia, along with other domestic and international geographic areas.

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
“The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) is the body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. It serves as the common denominator of shared values and practices primarily among the diverse institutions in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Latin America and certain other international sites approved by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees that award associate, baccalaureate, master’s, or doctoral degrees.”

Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
“The purpose of the Commission is to foster excellence in elementary, secondary, adult and postsecondary institutions, and supplementary education programs. The Commission encourages school improvement through a process of continuing evaluation and recognizes institutions through granting accreditation to the schools that meet an acceptable level of quality in accordance with the established criteria.”

 

As an independent homeschooler, accreditation may be a non-issue for you. However, some homeschoolers choose to seek an accredited school for high school—and thus move away from true homeschooling—to satisfy requirements for a return to public school, to obtain state high school diplomas, or to meet other requirements for college, including NCAA eligibility for college sports, military, or other postsecondary pursuits. Knowledge is power!

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What are your thoughts on homeschool and accreditation? Share your comments below….

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