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Do Homeschool Programs Need to Be Accredited?

Note: This article originally appeared at CatholicMom.com March 9, 2015. Visit the Catholic Mom website where you’ll find a treasure trove of articles to lift you up in your faith as well as help you in your everyday vocation as wife and mother.

Homeschooling and Accredited Programs
Do I need to sign my children up for an accredited home study program? This is a frequent question among homeschoolers, especially as their children approach the high school years. The answer depends upon the family’s individual dynamic. Here we’ll explore what accreditation is and when it is necessary.
What is Accreditation?
Accreditation of educational programs is a process voluntarily initiated by schools, performed by private agencies, to ensure they meet minimum standards. It helps parents make sure a school is not merely a diploma mill or part of an educational scam.
There isn’t a central control or government organization that oversees accrediting agencies. Because there are both good and bad accrediting agencies, parents need to make sure the accrediting agency is legitimate itself.
Accreditation alone is not assurance that an educational institute is superior to a non-accredited institution. There are great schools that are not accredited. Conversely, there are bad schools that are accredited.
Why Wouldn’t a School or Homeschool Program Seek Accreditation?
Accreditation is an expensive and time-consuming process. It adds to the cost of tuition and therefore puts an added financial burden on parents.
Accreditors may restrict a school from offering nontraditional programs in order to be approved. A school that wants to offer an “out of the box” curricula, or give parents more authority in choosing curricula, may find their hands tied by their accrediting agency.
Accreditation itself does not create or develop curriculum, it only gives a “stamp of approval”. Therefore, the staff of non-accredited schools and programs sometimes find that marketing and recruiting are the only advantages to accreditation.
When is Accreditation Necessary?
Generally speaking, accreditation is not necessary for homeschool programs. However, there are some cases where an accredited transcript or diploma will be required.
If you plan to put your child into a site-based high school after homeschooling a few years, check entrance requirements with the prospective school. Some public and private high schools will require an accredited transcript before accepting your child. In most cases, the school will have an option of allowing your child to test into their grade level without an accredited transcript.
Children seeking scholarships from the NCAA (National College Athletic Association) may be required to have an accredited diploma to be accepted. Speak with your NCAA contact first as the rules have changed over the years.
Many parents assume that accreditation is necessary for college acceptance. Always check with prospective colleges, as requirements can change, but it is extremely rare that accreditation is necessary. Colleges have a long history of accepting students from private schools and homeschools that are not accredited. They will instead base acceptance on an evaluation of the student’s application, the results of their Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Testing (ACT) scores, and their high school Grade Point Average (GPA).
What if I want to design my own curriculum or use a non-accredited program, but am one of the rare cases where accreditation is necessary?
There are several accredited agencies that will review your course of study and issue an accredited transcript or diploma for a fee. These programs include, but are not limited to:
West River Academy
As always, do your research to find the best accrediting agency for you.
In Conclusion
Accreditation is an issue that unnecessarily burdens parents. In most cases, it is not required. You as the parent are the ultimate authority when it comes to your children and their education. Homeschooling does not involve attending a school and the focus should be on providing the best education for each individual child. Sometimes the best education will be enrolling in an accredited home study program and sometimes it will not.
As private homeschoolers, parents are the ones who provide “accreditation” for their children’s education. The quality of home education should be assured by parents first and foremost.
Note that this article refers to accreditation of kindergarten through high school programs and not accreditation of colleges and universities. 
Copyright 2015 Maureen Wittmann.
Image copyright 2015 Maureen Wittmann.
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