If you are just starting to get familiar with homeschooling setups, the term “umbrella school” might sound foreign to you.
What Is an Umbrella School? An umbrella school is a substitute school system that monitors the operation of homeschools, making sure that the educational conditions established by the government are maintained.
The FLHSA, which is a homeschool advocacy group in Florida mentions that umbrella schools act as a buffer for homeschool setups, helping them gain experience without needing to meet a traditional public school.
How Does an Umbrella School Work?
An umbrella school works by overseeing the homeschooling of children to ensure that they meet the government’s educational requirements as outlined in their state’s homeschooling laws.
In most cases, umbrella schools provide families with the opportunity to homeschool under private school laws, where they might find far more freedom from intervention than if they followed homeschooling regulations individually.
Umbrella schools can either be established as a local organization or as a distance or through online schooling. While the main function of umbrella schools is ensuring that homeschool laws are adhered to, other umbrella school activities often include organizing standard tests, sporting activities, and field trips.
Many umbrella schools are formed by homeschooling families and do not have a fixed physical campus. The umbrella schools may function similarly to homeschooling groups, offering co-ops and enrichments, or they may only serve as a recordkeeping service.
In some cases, established private schools with in-person instructional programs may offer a homeschool umbrella school program that provides students who are educated at home with varying degrees of supervision.
The utilities of umbrella schools vary greatly. To best understand how Umbrella Schools work, let’s define what they entail. The features of an umbrella school are mostly state-oriented, but there are general guidelines that they typically follow.
Here are some of the common characteristics of umbrella schools:
- In states that require it, they provide legal legitimacy to a family’s home education program.
- Obtaining a diploma (or report card) from a more official-appearing entity.
- To keep attendance records for professional reasons.
- They organize field trips, academic clubs, reading contests, scholarship programs, and other helpful activities.
- Require health and immunization form.
- Get a proper student ID card (as this might be useful in obtaining academic discounts from sellers).
- Compliance with homeschooling laws.
- The convenience of keeping records like student transcripts and attendance.
- Guidance on course curriculum and recommendations.
- Plan graduation ceremony.
- Advice on homeschool laws.
Pros and Cons of An Umbrella School Experience
|Bright Futures Scholarships||Costs for entry|
|Provide a curriculum||College Enrollment can be Hindered|
|Issue report cards||Dual enrollment is not an option in most counties|
|Provide a high school diploma||Requires parents to turn in grades and to attend a few times a year|
|Offer clubs and field trips, along with planning of a graduation ceremony||Offer end-of-year standardized tests, but some do not require this|
What States Have Umbrella Schools?
Some of the states that have umbrella schools include Colorado, Maryland, Alabama, and Florida. These listed states are just a few out of the several states that have umbrella school setups.
You can find out if umbrella schools are available in your state by visiting your state’s information page or using an internet search engine or by asking on local homeschool social media pages.
Each state establishes its legal requirements for the education of homeschooled children. While education itself is required for children in every state, there is a wide range of what specific aspects are seen as necessary, and most states allow for a variety of ways to meet the mandatory school requirements.
The most obvious and widely accepted educational pathway is to enroll in the state’s public schools. However, states also permit students to attend accredited private or parochial (related to a church) schools. Also, if parents so desire, they can homeschool their children or run an umbrella school option.
Legal homeschooling is only permitted in some states if done through an umbrella or cover school, whereas in others, umbrella schools can provide benefits to homeschooling families but are not required by state laws.
- Search your state’s name plus “Department of Education” to learn about its laws.
- Once there, read the sections on laws that govern the operation of homeschools and private schools.
- The Home School Legal Defense Association maintains a list of state laws, along with interpretations and charts.
- Some states’ umbrella schools are subject to homeschool laws, while others are classified as private schools.
- Examine financial aid policies for state colleges, as well as any restrictions on out-of-state vs. in-state umbrella schools.
- Determine what appeals to you and make your decision.
Homeschool Vs Umbrella School
The difference between homeschools and umbrella schools is that a homeschool is a setup that educates a child at home while umbrella schools serve the function of monitoring homeschools and ensuring that they are up to standard.
Homeschool differs from Umbrella school in terms of compliance with state laws, the latter being the solution to the former.
While some families resort to homeschool “autonomously,” to choose and implement their curriculum, while adhering to their state’s homeschool law, others prefer the added support provided by umbrella schools.
Some of these advantages umbrella schooling offers include:
- Students are legally classified as students at a private school.
- Typically, parents select and implement their curriculum.
- Parents submit grades, and umbrella schools keep track of them.
- Students’ progress may or may not be assessed by umbrella schools.
- Field trip groups, co-ops, and enrichment opportunities are available to families.
- There is no public funding available; however, enrolment is usually inexpensive.
In some states, homeschooling is as simple as submitting paperwork to the appropriate authorities and selecting a curriculum. Other states have more stringent eligibility, record-keeping, school hours, and core subject requirements.
In such cases, parents may choose to enlist the assistance of an Umbrella or Cover school to oversee the deficits of homeschool. These schools can offer options that homeschoolers may not have on their own, such as educational trips, provision of resources, team sports, and extra teaching.
Umbrella schools also have widely disparate curricula, record-keeping, and sometimes, even religious affiliation requirements.
Because each school is different, parents should do their homework before enrolling their children in an umbrella school to ensure that it is a good fit for their family. Whatever the school’s structure; an umbrella school’s goal is always to meet the state’s educational requirements.
If your state offers umbrella schools as a homeschooling option, they are often the choice that provides the most freedom. Even if your state doesn’t require an umbrella school, the benefits, and services they offer often make it worth enrolling.
Although some states require homeschoolers to be enrolled in an umbrella school or for their parents to be certified teachers, some other states do not – an example is Florida.
In Florida, parents are allowed to instruct their children and choose their curriculum. However, in Tennessee, students are required to enroll in an umbrella school or take authorized online classes.
In this case, the umbrella school is used to ensure that homeschoolers’ requirements are met. They also require that the umbrella school meet specific accreditation standards.
Note: Umbrella schools are different from public or charter school programs that accept homeschooled students.
Umbrella schools exist primarily to fulfill a state’s compulsory attendance law; in contrast, programs run by public, or charter schools exist primarily to provide families with publicly funded services such as a virtual curriculum or reimbursements for educational expenses.
Are Umbrella Schools Accredited?
Unfortunately, most umbrella schools are not officially accredited. A drawback of this is that some universities do not acknowledge school diplomas and transcripts from schools that are not accredited.
Umbrella schools provide parents with a way to comply with their state’s compulsory attendance law and may provide enrichment opportunities, but they are not full-time schools and do not provide full-time instruction or accredited diplomas.
Umbrella schools are usually governed by state statutes that apply to private schools that do not seek state accreditation.
However, there are some exceptions. Homeschool Laws in Maryland, Tennessee, and Washington state allow parents to educate their children at home under the supervision of a state-accredited private school.
Even in this case, parents should check to see if their child will receive an accredited diploma, as this is not guaranteed.
Some key factors to consider before joining an umbrella school:
- The accreditation recognition of your umbrella school, and the type of accreditation it holds.
- If the umbrella school has valid accreditation, it is then considered a private school and will issue a diploma.
- You should inquire whether they have an articulation agreement with local authorities; otherwise, your child will be unable to take free dual-enrollment classes or benefit from public school services.
What if they aren’t accredited but still issue diplomas? Such a diploma will be considered inferior to a high school diploma. While Universities do not discriminate against students that are homeschooled, if your child attends a school that is not accredited, the University might not recognize their diploma.
Is Abeka an Umbrella School?
Abeka is not a typical umbrella school. It is a Christian homeschool program that is available for homeschooling parents to educate their children ranging from kindergarten to grade 12.
According to an Abeka-based website, “Abeka Academy is a homeschooling program that consists of video lessons taught by our master teachers. It offers all the advantages of Christian education without the burden of creating and teaching each lesson yourself.”
Abeka Academy provides two learning paths: independent study and accredited programs.
The accredited programs include record-keeping, monitoring of student progress, and more requirements in general for work and assignment completion.
For the Abeka Independent Study program, you can either purchase the entire curriculum for a fixed price or get two study tracks: Language Arts & Bible or Arithmetic, Bible, Science, & History.
Other Abeka features include:
- Provides Freedom to Homeschool parents
- Offers Full Accreditation and college-preparatory enrolment
- Offers active life support that a child can speak to for extra help
- Affordable pricing and payment plan that provide financial independence for a family
- Give parents flexibility while catering to their children.
How To Start an Umbrella School
You can start an Umbrella School by getting information on your state’s requirement for an umbrella school, plotting how the school will operate, and how much it will cost.
If you have considered starting an umbrella school, here are some steps that can help your plans become successful.
- Determine your mission.
Basic umbrella schools provide simple services while acting as a go-between for the state and homeschooling families. Since you are already familiar with the umbrella school’s features, you can work with it. You will be required to keep track of student progress and pass on official enrollment information to school districts.
- Construct your umbrella school program to your discretion.
Classes, graduations, field trips, and social gatherings are all possibilities that you can offer. You should also take note of whether religious faith or homeschooling methods might determine who gets enrolled.
- Check your state laws to ensure that you are fully aware of your limitations and requirements.
Search for your state’s laws by typing in your state’s name and “Department of Education.” Look up “private school requirements” on the website of your state. This way, you can ensure that families follow your state’s codes and regulations.
- Decide on your pricing
You can list all your expenses, such as the cost of a website, transportation, and marketing, and use the number of students to calculate specifics. Also, examine the various tax forms and regulations.
- Create a sole proprietorship, a DBA, or a partnership on the Secretary of State’s website
You can create an enrollment contract based on the laws in your state. Include a limitation of liability statement that defines parental responsibility and protects you from lawsuits. Although it is not required, having a lawyer review or write the contract for you may be a worthwhile investment. A paralegal may also be able to assist you at a low cost.
- Consider the dangers that your school may face
You should be aware that as a school administrator, you will be required to report any instances of abuse or domestic violence that you witness or suspect. Keep in mind that such behavior puts everyone in the school in jeopardy, so make an informed decision about whether to accept a family.
- Determine your school’s accreditation status.
You can make your diplomas, but make sure your parents are aware of whether your program is accredited.
After reading these steps, you can rest assured that you are qualified to start your umbrella school whenever you want.