What Is An Umbrella School?
Umbrella schools, also known as cover schools, provide security and peace of mind for homeschooling families who want to ensure they meet their state laws. If you live in a state with strict homeschooling laws and many requirements to keep track of, an umbrella school may be a good fit for your family. Read on to learn more about what umbrella schools are, how they benefit homeschoolers, and how to find the best one for your situation.
About Umbrella Schools
Umbrella schools are a more extensive homeschooling resource than umbrella groups (found only in a few states). An umbrella group allows you to pay a small fee to join the group and satisfy state requirements. For example, in my home state of Maryland, we are required to participate in up to three portfolio reviews per year. Normally, you would file with your school district and complete reviews through them, but you also have the option to pay a small fee and join an umbrella group, which provides the reviews instead. Umbrella groups may also provide legal resources to help homeschoolers know their rights. Not all states have umbrella groups or cover schools, because not all state laws permit them easily.
Umbrella schools provide the same services but have a more robust offering in subjects and resources. For example, some of them offer guidance in choosing a curriculum or scholarship application. Technically, umbrella schools are private schools, but they allow children to complete their schoolwork at home. Umbrella schools oversee the more administrative details of everyday homeschooling, such as record keeping, attendance, and evaluations. Remember, however, that enrolling in an umbrella school legally changes your student’s status from “homeschooled” to enroll in a private school – even though, in practice, you are still teaching your child at home.
As an example, Aspiring Heights Academy in Englewood, Florida, provides the following services for enrolled families:
- Teacher and student identification cards
- Record keeping
- Accounts with Office 365
- High school diplomas
- High school transcripts
Students enrolled in the program are considered full-time private school students, even though their work is completed at home and overseen by their parents or other home educators.
Since one of the primary purposes of an umbrella school is to help homeschoolers meet state requirements, you usually have to be residents of the state where your umbrella school is located to enroll. This is the case for Aspiring Heights. Some other umbrella schools, such as Home Life Academy, allow students from any state to enroll. However, just because you are enrolled does not mean the umbrella school will automatically fulfill your state requirements, so be sure to look into the particulars of the program you choose and your state laws.
Why Join an Umbrella School?
Peace of Mind:
Umbrella schools provide a convenient way to meet your state’s homeschooling requirements. For this reason, the benefits really depend on where you live and how comfortable you are with your state laws. If your state has many requirements and you are worried you won’t be able to keep track on your own, an umbrella school could be an invaluable resource.
Umbrella schools also tend to be quite affordable. For example, Home Life Academy charges $65 per family annually, plus $25 per K-7 student or $50 per 8-12 student. That’s a pretty affordable price to pay for peace of mind!
Record-keeping can be surprisingly difficult to keep up with. If your state requires attendance logs or other types of records, an umbrella school can help you keep track and free up your time for other homeschooling tasks, like planning your curriculum.
Unlike many online schools, umbrella schools allow you to choose your own curriculum and follow your own lesson plans. Some of them provide guidance and resources to help you find the right curriculum for you, and others even feature online courses, but none of that guidance is mandatory. This makes umbrella schools a great option for homeschooling families who want to choose their own curriculum and have some help with the more administrative tasks homeschooling entails.
So what are the downsides? The primary reason homeschoolers cite for not choosing an umbrella school is that it changes your child’s status from homeschooled to private school. This means that you are still legally obligated to abide by and report to the school administrator at the umbrella school. Some families are more comfortable reporting directly to their county and see an umbrella school as an inconvenient middle man.
How to Find an Umbrella School
If you think an umbrella school might be a good fit for your family, a simple search on Anything Academic will give you results for your area. Don’t forget, umbrella schools go by a few other names, including cover schools or church-related schools (CRS). However, they will always be referred to as umbrella schools here on our site.
Local homeschooling groups are also an invaluable resource for anyone interested in finding an umbrella school. Anything Academic can help you find homeschooling groups in your area right now! Social media is also a great place to connect with other local homeschool families and find umbrella school options that meet your state requirements. You can find everything from Facebook groups to local community groups right here on the site. We are here to make your life easier!
In the end, like most homeschooling decisions, whether or not you enroll in an umbrella school really comes down to your family’s needs. If you are looking for peace of mind and less stress regarding record-keeping, you might need an umbrella school!