Umbrella Homeschools – What Are They and Why Join One
If you’re new to homeschooling, and maybe even if you’re an established homeschooler, you may not have heard about Umbrella schools, which are also sometimes called Cover Schools. These are schools incorporated as traditional private schools that provide the legal standing for enrolled families to homeschool their children in a supportive, interference-free environment.
There are many reasons to join an Umbrella School:
No interaction with the school district – for many families, this is the #1 reason to join an umbrella. Because the student is enrolled in a private school, the family does not have to register with the school district, and the school district has no authority over the family’s program. This means no need for an annual evaluation and no chance of being selected for a portfolio review (aka “audit”) by the district. Instead, once you enroll with an Umbrella School, the school is responsible for overseeing your program.
Freedom and Support – Current or former homeschooling families run many Umbrella Schools. So many are that there isn’t any reason to consider one that isn’t. Unlike school district employees, Umbrella school staff are there to help and guide you. This means that the people overseeing your program want to help you succeed. They’ve been in your shoes before and can help you with curriculum selection, teaching methods, shared struggles, and more. Knowing you can pick up the phone, send an email, and connect with someone there to support you can make all the difference in the world.
Diplomas, Transcripts, and Other Records – Because an Umbrella School is a private school, it can issue report cards and transcripts. At the high school level, it can validate credits and issue a diploma. Schools like mine, Atrium School, validate high school credits and help parents map out a plan for their high school students to ensure all needed credits are in place for graduation. We also ensure each graduating senior has a transcript that can be used for whatever comes next: college, military, trade school, or job.
Courses on FLVS Flex – Many Umbrella Schools have articulation with the Florida Virtual School, which means your student can take FLVS Flex courses – up to 6 per semester – at no charge to you. This is a huge help when it comes to taking courses that are either out of your field of expertise or fulfill graduation requirements – like science labs – you may not be set up for at home.
Something to keep in mind if you are considering enrolling with an Umbrella School is that they are all different. Aside from following statutory requirements established for all private schools, no two Umbrella Schools are alike. Areas in which schools will differ can include: Curriculum – Some mandate a curriculum; others let you choose your own. Since one of the big advantages of homeschooling is choosing materials that engage your child, selecting a school with a required curriculum can be limiting. This is especially true when it turns out the program that was a huge hit last year isn’t working this year.Religion – Some schools require you to sign a statement of faith or attest to specific religious principles; others do not. Some families prefer to know that they are in a school where the religious tenets mirror their own; other families like having the freedom to worship (or not) in their way.
Teaching Methods – Some schools require you to adhere to specific teaching methods, while others do not. For example, some schools explicitly allow for unschooling, while others prohibit it. Whatever teaching method(s) you plan to use, it’s a good idea to confirm with your school that they not only allow your choice(s) but embrace it.
Services Offered – Some schools offer report cards, transcripts, and diplomas; others don’t. As you evaluate schools, consider your needs both now and in the future. If you have a child transitioning to a traditional setting at some point, it may be helpful to have transferable records. Similarly, a college-bound child may benefit from having a private school transcript.
Cost – Schools can vary widely in what they charge and the flexibility they offer in payment plans.
Want to get started researching Umbrella Schools? Check out the listings on the Florida Homeschooling website.
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