Homeschool Program – Ten points to review before choosing a homeschool program.
Learning how to choose the right homeschool program is your most important first step! It takes approximately four minutes to read these ten points. Four minutes is a good investment when choosing a program that will be used over 700 hours per year. Bookmark this page.
1. Years in existence. It is crucial the school or homeschool program has operated longer than 13 years so curriculum and structure is polished. Concepts need to spiral properly in the scope and sequence between grade levels for better mastery. Many programs and online schools have not been in existence long enough for a 1st grader to graduate! You want to make sure your child’s education is not an experiment. How many years in existence?
2. Offers multiple curriculum formats. Experience with online learning at a younger age is beneficial for many reasons. It can give the student a head start because many high school and college courses use software-based or online formats. However, some younger students may be challenged with entirely online school work. Most programs do not even consider online learning below 3rd grade for several reasons. However, students from 3rd grade to 5th grade often adapt to online learning at different ages. A program or school that offers a combination option of paper-based and online may be a better first step to introduce online learning. Having some paper-based courses also allows the student to work in those times when internet is not available. It also provides for more handwriting practice. Many schools only offer one curriculum format. If the school or program has more than one curriculum format option, especially for 3rd-5th grades, it prevents having to enroll in another program or school if there are problems using the current curriculum format. A school or program that offers all three of these options is ideal: paper-based format, combination of paper-based and online format, and entirely online format. These multiple options allow the parents to gradually transition their student into online learning at the right time. Do they offer multiple curriculum format options for 3rd-5th?
3. Consider 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 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 in transferring high school course credit if you should transfer to another 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, NCACASI, NEASC, WASCWEB or Advanc-Ed. Look up a school here to see if they have a regional accreditation. Some states also recognize religious or independent accrediting agencies. You will have to check your state’s Department of Education website for other recognized agencies. Is it accredited?
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4. Includes standardized achievement testing. This 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. 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. Extra academic support option. 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. Offers elementary grades 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. 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. 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. High school science labs. 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 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?
Recommendations: Because it can take quite a bit of time to research these qualities, here are two homeschool programs we found that cover the criteria above, plus have some additional benefits. These programs were also selected because of their competitive cost to other programs.
- Accreditation- both have regional accreditations recognized by states’ Dept. of Education AND a separate private school accreditation for peer review from a private school perspective.
- Both use a Biblically-based curriculum with a Christian worldview.
- Both have each been in existence for over 30 years.
- Both use booklets for Pre-K through 2nd grade. Both offer online, online with teacher support, booklet, and combination formats for 3rd-5th. Online with Math and English teacher support or online with teacher support for all subjects is used for middle school. Online with teacher support for all subjects is used for high school.
- Both include annual achievement testing in tuition. Achievement tests help parents receive an additional perspective on student progress. This testing can also meet requirements for a few states that require achievement tests when completing school from home.
- Both assist with transferring from prior school along with records management.
- Both include curriculum in tuition.
- Both have quarterly, semester, and annual payment options to save even more money.
- Both diagnose students when they first enroll to make sure there are not missing concept gaps.
- Both offer a 10% discount for siblings. Both offer a 10% discount for a single child of pastor, missionary, and active military families.
- They are larger nationwide schools that offer preschool through 12th grade.
- Both use more comprehensive science lab kits with high school science courses.
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