Homeschooling families have some unusual vocabulary that can be confusing when you’re just getting started. One of those weird terms is umbrella school. You may also hear it called a cover school or church-related school (CRS).
What is an umbrella school and why would a homeschooling family need one?
What Is an Umbrella School?
An umbrella school is an entity, typically considered a private school, which serves to oversee homeschooling families and help them meet the requirements of their state’s homeschooling laws.
Sometimes the umbrella school is an actual physical private school with which homeschooling families can partner. In other cases, an umbrella school is more of an organization established to help homeschoolers comply with the law.
Why Use an Umbrella School?
Some families use an umbrella school as one of their state’s legal homeschooling options. Others use a cover school to make some aspects of homeschooling, such as transcripts and graduation, easier.
We live in Georgia, which doesn’t require umbrella schools. However, my family, like many others I know, opted to use one for the last 5 years. Why on earth would we do that, you ask? One word: convenience.
Because we live so close to Tennessee, my kids are likely to attend a college or trade school there. Since the schools are used to seeing records from umbrella schools, we decided to use one for Josh and Megan’s high school years. (We graduated Brianna on our own.)
Cover schools in this area are relatively inexpensive. Plus, it seemed an easier option than possibly gearing up for a legal battle with an uninformed school in the future. Because y’all know I hate confrontation, right?
People use umbrella schools for many reasons including:
- Compliance with homeschooling laws
- The convenience of maintaining records (transcripts, attendance)
- Having a diploma (or report card) issued by a more official-looking entity
- Guidance on curriculum and course options
What Does an Umbrella School Do?
An umbrella school provides oversight and maintains records for homeschooling families. Some offer more oversight than others, so ask around to find a cover school that is right for your family.
The umbrella school we chose (HomeLife Academy for those who are curious) wanted a little more detail than I was used to providing, but not so much that it was stifling. We have to submit grades and attendance at the end of each semester and an education plan when enrolling each year.
Submitting the education plan is what I find most tedious. The school wants to know the courses the kids will be taking and the curriculum we’ll be using so that they are in compliance with the law. I don’t always know as early as they’d like, and they won’t “approve” an education plan with words like undecided listed in the materials section. (I have used the term self-directed with no issues.)
However, the umbrella school doesn’t actually dictate what we use. They won’t reject one resource over another, for example. (The school did allow only 0.5 credit hours for a class I that I’d intended to be a full credit.) If I’m not 100% sure what we’ll be using when we enroll, I just list one of my options and update later. No big deal.
It’s my understanding that some umbrella schools do expect more say-so in what you use. And, they actually do have to approve your curriculum. However, for all my loathing of confrontation, I’m a bit of a non-conformist rebel. And, my state laws don’t require an umbrella school, so I don’t have any experience with those types. If I wanted someone telling me what and how to teach my kids, they’d be in public school.
Some of the services that umbrella schools may offer include:
- Guidance in choosing curriculum
- Maintaining records (attendance, grades, course descriptions)
- Testing (for states that require it)
- Teacher and student ID cards (nice for getting teacher discounts)
- Graduation ceremonies
- Issuing diplomas
- Offering clubs, field trips, and scholarships
- Discounts for other organizations (such as HSLDA membership)
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.
Are you part of an umbrella school? What was your experience?