Homeschool Program – Ten points to review before choosing a homeschool program.
Here’s ten main points to look for and the reasons why. Also look at our Homeschool Program Reviews page! Learning how to choose the right homeschool program is your most important first step!
1. How many years in existence?
It is crucial the school or homeschool program has operated longer than 13 years so curriculum, procedures, and structure are polished. Many programs and online schools haven’t been in existence long enough for a 1st grader to graduate. You don’t want your child’s education to be an experiment! How many years in existence?
2. Is it an accredited homeschool program?
It can be very beneficial to use a homeschool program or online school that has an accreditation from an accrediting agency recognized by your state’s Dept. of Education. It does not mean you will have to sacrifice Christian or other values in the curriculum! An accredited homeschool program or online school will have a school number to use for college entrance, military, college financial aid (FAFSA), etc. An accredited program may help you get credit for completed high school courses if you should ever transfer to a campus-based school. Some states that have tougher home education requirements may look more favorably if you use a regionally accredited online school. All states recognize the regional accrediting agencies of SACS, MSCHE, NCA, NEASC, WASC or Advanc-Ed. Look up a school here to see if they have a regional accreditation. Some states also recognize additional religious or independent accrediting agencies. Is it accredited?
3. Do they offer transitional curriculum formats for younger students?
Online curriculum has many advantages over other formats. Generally, online learning is not used below 3rd grade for several reasons. These younger students do not have sufficiently developed hands for proper keyboarding. Penmanship and handwriting experience is also needed during these younger grade levels. However, many parents and educators feel 3rd grade and older students do very well with online curriculum. Still, not all younger students make the transition from entirely paper to entirely computer exactly the same way. For that reason, it is very beneficial if the homeschool program or school offers curriculum format choices for grades 3rd-5th. A program or school that allows a combination format is a very valuable structure to transition a student from paper-based to online, because the student can complete some subjects in one format while completing other subjects in the other format during the transitional year. Some feel this also provides a valuable extra year of handwriting experience. Having a program or school that offers multiple formats from 3rd-5th grade allows parents to choose which grade between 3rd-6th to transition to an online format, yet can stay in the same program or school. Do they offer multiple curriculum format options for 3rd-5th?
4. Do they include standardized achievement testing?
It does not mean they are aligning with common core state standards, but is a sign the school is monitoring its academic results for success, weakness, and improvement. You should be concerned if the homeschool program or online school does not use assessment testing to measure achievement over the last year. Although some states exempt homeschoolers from testing, some states require achievement test results to be occasionally submitted to the local school district. Using a homeschool program or online school that facilitates testing may prevent the student from having to test in unfamiliar surroundings. Check homeschoolingbystate.com for specific testing requirements for your state. You should note if testing is a hidden or extra cost of the homeschool program or online school when comparing tuition. Do they include nationally normed testing to meet local requirements if required?
5. Do they provide student record maintenance?
It is a plus if the new school will assist you with the transfer process from the prior school. Some schools will contact your previous school to take care of everything. It is essential the new school will make sure your child’s academic record is in good shape, even if it was not before. Will they build or maintain a cumulative folder in case you ever transfer to a different school?
6. Do they offer extra academic support options?
Many homeschool options place the student’s academic help entirely on the parents. Even if the homeschool program offers course counseling, it is not the same as day to day academic help. One important academic help to look for is if the homeschool program includes “subjective scoring”. Junior high and high school students are normally required to write full sentence or paragraph answers for several subjects that a computerized system cannot score. This can consume much time and energy if that responsibility falls on the parent. Having a teacher on call may be the difference between success and failure for some homeschool families. If you are a work at home parent, this is vital. Some families need a different person to assist with occasional academic challenges. Some students are more motivated if someone else besides Mom or Dad is also expecting achievement. Additional academic help can free the parent to focus on encouragement. It can also keep a parent from burning out. Some schools do not automatically include academic help so they can keep the cost down for families that do not require it, but offer it as an option. Do they have an academic help option if you need it at some point?
7. Do they offer kindergarten through high school graduation?
It can be beneficial to use a homeschool program or school that offers all grade levels. This gives families the opportunity to continue with procedures and structure they already know as their child advances. In tougher school districts, staying with the same homeschool program can make the annual registration process much easier. It also allows different aged siblings to be enrolled in the same program for efficiency and continuity. Are they a K-12 program?
8. Are they a nationwide program?
Although families do not plan on moving, it happens. A nationwide homeschool program can make the transition much easier if the situation ever arises. Having a regional accreditation is very helpful in a nationwide program. Are there any local or state-based dependencies that would prevent you from using the program elsewhere?
9. Are they a larger school or program?
It is not always the case, but large homeschool programs grew large for good reasons. They also have some benefits a small program may not be able to provide. Unless you can get an endorsement or opinion from already enrolled families of a smaller homeschool program, it is often better to choose a larger program. School districts and other agencies may respect a larger school or program in their evaluations if it ever becomes an issue. Does it appear they have many other families using the homeschool program?
10. Do they offer sufficient high school science labs to prepare for college level sciences?
Make sure your homeschool program includes sufficient high school lab work to meet the high school science requirements of a prospective college. Science labs can be one area that is more scrutinized by colleges or even when transferring to a different high school. Even some accredited programs do not include enough hands-on experiments and lab work. Do they have an exceptional high school science lab structure?
Please see our Homeschool Program Reviews page for school that meet or surpass our ten points for choosing a homeschool program.
Homeschool Program Topics: