Finding an accredited homeschool program may be high on your list of priorities if you want to give your children a high-quality homeschool education. But pursuing accreditation may not be the best option if you are looking for an affordable homeschool program or more freedom for your homeschool. Accredited homeschool programs have advantages and disadvantages to consider when choosing the best homeschool program for your family. Choosing a homeschool program or curriculum is no small decision, and we’re here to help provide answers to your accreditation concerns.
What are accredited homeschool programs?
Accredited homeschool programs are organizations that have been reviewed by an accreditation agency like Cognia or MSA CESS. The accreditation agency reviews the standards and policies of an organization applying for accreditation, and if they meet the requirements, the agency grants accreditation. Accreditation provides quality assurance for your child’s education.
Accreditation agencies base their standards on national or state education requirements. When they review an educational program, they look at the following criteria:
- Whether the program teaches standards-based academic objectives
- Whether the educators use best practices
- Whether the students are developing and meeting objectives
To receive accreditation for your homeschool, you would need to be enrolled in an accredited organization that will be much more involved in your homeschool experience.
Accredited homeschool programs offer you a mark that tells colleges, scholarship programs, and future employers that you have met their academic standards in your home. They can be at risk for fraud if they don’t keep track of what you accomplish in your homeschool.
Accredited Homeschool Programs Available to You
You have several options for accrediting your homeschool. Some curriculum publishers run internal organizations that provide the monitoring and record-keeping services required for accreditation. You may also be able to participate in an accredited umbrella school—a private school that oversees your homeschool—to complete your homeschool journey. You may not consider distance learning at a public or private school a “real” homeschool experience, but it is another way to obtain educational accreditation at home.
Accredited Homeschool Program Options
- The Academy of Home Education (BJU Press)—Christian
- Abeka Academy—Christian
- Bridgeway Academy (various curricula)—Secular or Christian
- Forest Trail Academy (various curricula) —Secular or Christian
Accredited Christian Homeschool Programs
You’ve probably found lists of “accredited homeschool programs” online that actually include Christian homeschool curriculum publishers like BJU Press, Abeka, Monarch, or Sonlight. The truth is none of these companies can publish accredited homeschool curriculum. But some offer accredited academies that work alongside the curriculum, like the Academy of Home Education for BJU Press and Abeka Academy.
Why aren’t homeschool curriculum accredited?
Simply put, homeschool curriculum, which include textbooks, DVDs, online lessons, and other materials, aren’t accredited because they can’t be. Few curriculum publishers have programs in place to monitor teaching quality and success. Without monitoring, they can’t offer accreditation. Most homeschool families purchase their curriculum directly from curriculum publishers. It’s like buying a new phone directly from the manufacturer. That phone would not come with a connection to a service provider; your phone service comes from a different company.
Is BJU Press Homeschool accredited?
BJU Press is a curriculum publisher with parent-led and video course options, not a homeschool accreditation program. However, we offer enrollment with The Academy of Home Education, an accredited option for parents who want to use our materials and receive educational accreditation.
The Academy of Home Education has partnered with Bridgeway and Cognia to offer accredited record-keeping services, academic counseling, and college and career options. Members of The Academy of Home Education (or the AHE) are required to use BJU Press materials for all core academic disciplines—English language arts, math, history, science, and Bible—and can receive accreditation with either the parent-led or the video course options. Members pursuing accreditation are required to submit their students’ tests, essays, and project rubrics so the AHE can meet monitoring requirements based on expectations from our partners and provide accurate and effective academic council. The AHE also offers non-accredited record-keeping services that do not require test and essay submission.
Does your homeschool need to be accredited?
No, homeschool accreditation is not required because no state requires participation in an accredited homeschool program. However, high schools, scholarships, and universities may require an accredited transcript for acceptance. You should consider what your child intends to do either during or after high school to determine if accreditation should be a consideration for your homeschool.
Is my homeschool program accredited or non-accredited?
You can quickly determine if your homeschool organization is accredited by checking your homeschool program’s website or talking with a representative. The program’s website should list an accreditation agency. You can confirm the accreditation agency’s legitimacy by going to its website or comparing it against the U. S. Department of Education’s list of school-level accreditation agencies that have been recognized by states and other authorities and are legitimate. However, the list has not been updated since 2008, so some agencies, like Cognia or Christian accreditation agencies like SCACS or ACSI, may not be represented on that list.
If your homeschool program offers accreditation, it should have strict reporting requirements for grading tests, essays, and academic projects. It should also require yearly standardized testing, and it should be actively using test results to monitor how your children are performing in their homeschool education.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Homeschool Accreditation
As with most homeschooling choices, there are pros and cons to pursuing accreditation. Not choosing accreditation can have long-term effects on your child’s education, while choosing accreditation can have an immediate impact.
- Academic excellence—With the rigorous expectations given by accrediting agencies, pursuing accreditation ensures your child receives an excellent education and assures you that your child will be equipped for future academic challenges.
- Recognition—An accredited transcript or diploma can make it easier for your child to be accepted into high-value programs or scholarships. As homeschooling gains acceptance, many schools have made it possible to accept students without proof of accreditation. But in some cases, especially when applying to an international school, it is still required. This recognition is especially important for high school students, as high school students receive the most academic scrutiny.
- Grade reports and transcripts—accredited programs provide you with grade reports, a formal diploma, or a formal transcript for your child’s education so you won’t need to issue or create those items yourself. Additionally, if you live in a state that has reporting requirements for homeschool families, your accredited homeschool program can help you meet those requirements.
- Less freedom—Partnering with another organization beyond your curriculum publisher may mean giving up some freedoms. Some organizations may require a specific curriculum (as in the case of accredited homeschool programs associated with a specific curriculum publisher). All require grade reporting, which may be problematic if you prefer not to track grades at certain age levels. Additionally, grade reporting requirements often mean you have less flexibility in your schedule and approach to a curriculum. You may not be able to cut out material freely, and you may need to arrange your homeschool around your program’s reporting calendar.
- Limited availability—Dedicated homeschooling programs have only recently begun gaining accreditation, so there are only a few to help you with it. Most accreditation agencies only review brick-and-mortar schools, and it’s difficult or impossible for homeschool families to meet the expectations of an agency or to be monitored effectively. Often, pursuing accreditation may mean partnering with a public or private school that offers distance learning or serves as a homeschool umbrella, but these options might not align with your goals as a homeschool family.
- Cost—Accreditation will increase the overall cost of your homeschool, as the organization offering accreditation will require payments in addition to the cost of your curriculum.
Are accredited homeschool programs affordable?
Whether or not an accredited homeschool program is affordable for your family depends on your family’s budget and homeschooling style. If you believe you need accreditation and are searching for affordable accredited homeschool programs, remember you will always need to factor in an additional cost for an accredited program, and that cost will increase when your children enter high school. Your accredited program may include the cost of your curriculum, or it can be an additional cost to your curriculum. That additional cost can be tens of dollars to several hundreds of dollars more.
Costs of Accredited Homeschool Programs
With some accredited programs, prices vary depending on your style of teaching and your choice of used or new textbooks. Accredited programs range in cost from between $1,074 and $5,395 for a single student in Grade 1–12 for a full year of core courses with all new materials. The Academy of Home Education ranges from $1,391.45 and $1,552, including the cost of all new materials.
Accreditation from The Academy of Home Education
What you receive by enrolling with the Academy of Home Education’s accredited program goes far beyond record-keeping services. We promise a hands-on, compassionate, and responsive level of support for your homeschool journey. Our class trip and graduation ceremony options are unique to the AHE experience. Here’s what we offer:
- Full support from experienced homeschool guidance counselors
- Monitoring for changes and struggles with standardized tests and regular test and essay scores
- Accredited transcripts and diplomas created and sent by the AHE
- Eligibility to participate in a junior class trip (all expenses paid outside of initial travel costs)
- Eligibility to participate in a graduation ceremony (expenses paid for ceremony, diploma, and banquets)
- Opportunities to connect with classmates and other homeschool parents
- Opportunities to participate in a homeschool yearbook
- Flexibility in your schedule and teaching approach
Are any free?
No, there are no free accredited programs that are true homeschool programs. Public schools like Connections Academy are able to offer free accredited online school, but this is not a true homeschool program. Any accredited homeschool program performs a service (most often record keeping) in addition to providing your homeschool curriculum. They also provide academic and college and career counseling and monitor your child’s progress and development to guarantee educational goals and objectives are met at home.
Is accreditation worth it?
To decide once and for all whether accreditation should be a key component for your homeschool, you need to evaluate your personal goals for your homeschool journey and consider where you might be in the future and what goals your children might pursue. If accreditation simply doesn’t fit your financial needs or meet your personal goals, you don’t need to pursue it and have other options. Plenty of higher learning organizations welcome homeschoolers without educational accreditation.
Learn more about accredited enrollment with the Academy of Home Education by connecting with a homeschool consultant at 864-770-1315 or [email protected].