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Homeschool Accreditation

We have all been conditioned to think that when something is labeled “certified” or “accredited,” it is somehow superior to those things that are not.  While this might be true for “Certified Angus Beef,” it is not necessarily true for education.

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Homeschoolers seem to have certain fears in common, and one major fear is how to homeschool through high school.  When I started homeschooling high school, I was filled with insecurity and self-doubt.  Could I educate my children independently or would I need to become “accredited” to avoid crippling their chances to go to college? Even if they did manage to get accepted into colleges, would there be any scholarship money available to them?

Accreditation is a process in which school standards are evaluated by an accreditation agency. In the United States, this process is not completed by the federal government, but by states or private companies with varying rules and standards.

Different groups promote accreditation for homeschoolers. They suggest hard and fast rules on how things should to be done, leaving parents feeling that their way of homeschooling was somehow deficient. It’s as though they think only a certain format or approach, or a single method will guarantee success. Looking around, it’s easy to see that homeschoolers of all varieties do indeed succeed, so it must be possible therefore to succeed even without accreditation.

Unaccredited Public Schools

If not a guarantee of success, then what good is accreditation? You might not be aware but there are public high schools across the nation that are not accredited. I contacted the Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, asking how I could determine which public high schools in my state are accredited. I received this surprising response;

While most public Washington State High Schools are accredited, not all are. Each school, public or private, decides if they want to go through the accreditation process. You would need to contact each school individually to determine their status.   ~Elona Dopson, Executive Services, K12.WA.US

Each individual school makes the decision about accreditation. Some public and private schools decide that it’s not worth the hassle, so it must not be important to those schools. Apparently, it is not a significant issue for the public to know either, since there is no state registry, and parents have to contact their district and schools individually. My local high school made no mention on their website about being accredited. Apparently they work under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” philosophy.

One school district webpage in Missouri clearly explains what I have been telling parents for years. Accreditation isn’t the “be-all-end-all.”  How does a public school district explain to their parents the consequences of being unaccredited?



What Happens When a School District Becomes Unaccredited?

May students transfer from an unaccredited district to another district?

Yes, if another district will accept them.

Does unaccredited status affect students’ diplomas?

Students who graduate from an unaccredited school district still receive diplomas.

What about admission to college?

The unaccredited status of a school district should not have a negative impact on a student’s admission to a college or university. [Because] higher education institutions typically consider multiple sources of information

What about eligibility for scholarships?

Students who graduate from an unaccredited school district should still be eligible for any scholarship for which they would otherwise qualify.


It’s interesting to read the no-nonsense, the-sky-isn’t-falling response to parental concern about accreditation. Consider their advice, and apply it to unaccredited transcripts made by homeschool parents.

Unaccredited Homeschool Transcripts

Homeschoolers should learn something from the information about unaccredited public schools. Colleges and universities will view a homeschool the same as a public or private school that is not accredited. Do you know if your local high school is accredited? How would you know? There is no national list of accredited public and private high schools that I could find. There were partial lists involving other states, but none that listed my state schools in Washington.

Most parents assume their local high school is accredited and happily go about the college admission process oblivious to the truth. There are dozens of articles and reports in the media about the “education crisis,” but none about the “accreditation crisis.” The reason…there is no “accreditation crisis.”

Public school children who move between an unaccredited school and an accredited school may experience difficulty.  Homeschoolers may as well.  Children who move from district to district may also suffer. I’ve heard from many parents who have started homeschooling after they move because of the trouble they had with the local public school about inappropriate grade level assignments. That isn’t an issue for homeschool families. We can always teach our children at their level, regardless of how many times we move from district to district.

A homeschool diploma has value. Unaccredited public schools can provide a diploma, and so unaccredited homeschool families can do the same.  Providing your child with a diploma is a meaningful rite of passage. A quick visit to can provide that symbol of success. Yet education is not about the piece of paper. The paper doesn’t matter—the education matters.

Although it could be difficult for an unaccredited homeschooler to enter an accredited high school, it is significantly easier for the same homeschooler to get into a high-quality college. Universities have a very sophisticated method in determining the suitability of prospective students. Whether their diploma is accredited or un-accredited, whether they come from a public school, private school or homeschool, universities take the same “trust but verify” approach. An accredited diploma or transcript is not carte blanche to university admission.

Accredited Public Schools

What happens when a school district IS accredited?  The truth is…nothing magical. Schools are still schools, whether they are accredited or not. In Washington State, for example, the “report card” from the Superintendent of Public Instruction is dismal.

Only 79% of children graduate high school within 4 years. When given more years to complete high school, only 82% will graduate. In our state, they spend almost $11,5001 per student and yet almost 20% do not meet minimum requirements in reading and writing, and more than half do not meet minimum standards in math. How is your homeschool doing? What percentage of your students will graduate –even graduate late?

In my neighborhood high school, I found these interesting statistics:

94% of classes were taught by teachers deemed highly qualified. On average, they had 10 years of teaching experience, and most had a Master’s Degree in education. Even so, only one fifth of students with these highly qualified teachers could pass the math section or science test. What percent of your homeschool students are working at their grade level?

School failures result in students who can’t read or write, who can’t function in college or careers. Colleges complain that high school students across the nation are admitted with stellar grades but still need remedial help with reading, writing, and math. Nobody is perfect, and even homeschool children have free will to make stupid decisions. Still, most homeschoolers are able to manhandle their child into graduating from high school. Like making sausage, it isn’t always pretty, but homeschoolers are a resilient bunch, and they manage to get it done.

Whatever their failings (ALL children have weaknesses, after all) even the thought of calculating a homeschool dropout rate seems silly.  How are your homeschool students doing? Can they read, write, and do math by the time they graduate high school?

Schools are quick to point out that they can’t be solely responsible for the failures of public education. Parents are also culpable. With a group of highly qualified, certificated teachers and professionally selected curricula, success is not guaranteed. On the other hand, homeschool parents have a deep love for their children. Motivated by their love, they can see appropriate curriculum, and compensate for their own weaknesses with heightened motivation for success. It’s easy for homeschool teachers to compensate for tight curriculum budgets or lack of advanced degrees. It’s almost impossible for quality public or private school teachers to compensate for a lack of parental involvement.

Stop worrying about accreditation. Focus on what’s important and I promise you that your superior homeschool education will win out in the end.

Who Cares About Homeschool Accreditation?

Colleges understand homeschooling and homeschool transcripts. Beyond that, colleges truly appreciate homeschool students. We’ve come a long way from the early days of homeschooling when colleges viewed homeschoolers as alien life forms. Now most colleges appreciate the variety of homeschool students. They understand our quirky course titles, our “delight directed learning,” our “mommy-grades” and “kitchen credits”. Most shocking of all, they don’t seem to care much about accreditation.

In fact, in my research it has become clear that ONLY ONE GROUP really cares about accreditation—the agencies that make money on accreditation. Accredited transcripts cost parents lots of money. They place ads all over the internet and in magazines, spouting phrases like “accredited homeschool” and “real transcript” as if accreditation was a huge deal. At the same time, they hamstring parents who don’t fit neatly in the unschooling-to-classical continuum.

There are really rotten schools that are accredited. There are great schools that are not accredited. Does it matter? Colleges and employers value our homeschoolers for who they are, not because of accreditation.

Official or Accredited

When you educate your children within the bounds of state law, you can provide an official homeschool transcript. There is a difference between an “accredited” and an “official” homeschool transcripts. Homeschool credits are official, and our transcripts are official. Homeschool transcripts are usually NOT accredited, however. Accredited transcripts are provided by certified organizations.

There are programs that can accredit your transcript. They can be VERY expensive in the long run. On average it would cost a homeschooler $2000-$5000 simply for a piece of paper that says “accredited.” It’s not more official than a homeschool diploma made by a parent. It’s equally official. Homeschool parents can proudly name their transcript “Official” just as unaccredited public schools use the word.

Children from unaccredited public schools are admitted to college just the same way as homeschoolers with unaccredited transcripts. Colleges are used to considering multiple sources of information, from letters of recommendation to test scores and class schedules. We are NOT unique as homeschoolers. We are just another “unknown” school to colleges, and we are treated as such.

Scholarships are possible. There are some scholarships unique to public school students, just as there are some homeschool scholarships that public school students can’t access. However, many scholarship opportunities are open to everyone, and a homeschool education will have little impact on your ability to finance college with scholarships.

I homeschooled my two children independently through high school. I gave my children a homeschool diploma printed from I gave them mommy-made grades and kitchen credits. My children earned four-year full tuition scholarships based on my official homeschool transcripts.

I am not alone in this accomplishment. I have helped many families who have done similar and even more remarkable things with their humble homeschool. Don’t be intimidated by those who want to profit from your insecurities. You can do this and you don’t need to spend thousands to do it with excellence!

1 “Education Spending Per Student by State,” Table: 2016 Public School Spending Per Student By State, data for Washington state ( : accessed 13 August 2018).

[The data in this post has been updated by TheHomeSchoolMom to reflect 2015/2016 data released by the Office of Superintendent of Pubic Instruction for Washington state available on their website. For more about accreditation and homeschooling, see "What is Accreditation? Should My Homeschool be Accredited?"]

© Lee Binz, 2011
Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee’s 5-part mini-course, “The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School.” You can find her at TheHomeScholar. Sign up for her newsletter, The HomeScholar Record:

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  1. Bonnie McNair

    I have a masters of ed and current teaching certificate 6th-12th for Family and Consumer Science and middle grades science and social studies. I would like to offer some classes to local homeschoolers. How would I go about this?

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      Hi Bonnie,

      If you want to offer classes to homeschoolers, I suggest you network with homeschoolers in your area to find out what their needs are. There may be existing co-ops and homeschool groups that have paid teachers, and they might hire you. You might also offer classes independently, setting up your own registration and doing your own marketing in your area.

      I suggest you do some reading about the main approaches to homeschooling and understand that most homeschoolers are looking for high engagement learning situations. For example, while there may be some who will pay for a textbook social studies class in order to check off a requirement, many more would want higher quality and/or a more unique approach. This might include field trips, small class sizes, hands-on projects, creative use of video and technology, interdisciplinary learning, and more. You need to immerse yourself in homeschooling in order to learn what homeschoolers are looking for.

      Homeschoolers are typically budget conscious, time conscious, worldview conscious, and child safety conscious. They are typically not that impressed by credentials and licensure, though they will flock to effective teachers that their children enjoy and learn from. They have widely varying opinions on grades, grade levels, curriculum, amount of structure, and testing. They often want wider age ranges, so siblings a year or two apart can attend the same classes. Except when they don’t, because younger children dilute the experience for older ones.

      Talk to homeschoolers in your area about local needs, and for best results, understand and respect homeschool culture.

      As more parents decide to homeschool, more are also outsourcing select classes. Prospective teachers who are effective at discerning local needs will be able to fill classes, if there are enough homeschoolers in their area.

      Good luck!

  2. Sara

    I want to teach art classes at my local community arts building where home schooled children can come and take them and earn credit. Where should I start?

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      Hi Sara,

      Part of my response to Bonnie, below, will also apply to your question, so read my reply to her question.

      Things are a little bit different with art than the science and social studies that Bonnie wants to teach. Homeschool art teachers do still have to keep in mind the preferences of parents, but they are not necessarily dealing with worldview issues that will come up when teaching those classes.

      Art teachers have to think about age level, cost of supplies, safety in working with equipment and supplies, and whether to focus the class around art creation or art appreciation (or both – which is fairly popular with homeschoolers). Like I told Bonnie, you should network with local homeschoolers to find out what is needed.

      You use the term “earn credit.” Be aware that in most cases, parents themselves award credit to their children, and they typically only do that during high school years in order to make a transcript. Homeschooled children do not need to take art from an art teacher or science from a science teacher in order to earn credit. I know! It’s a different world!

      That said, many parents love outsourcing classes like art, which they perceive as messy and skills-based, and which may take expensive supplies they know little about. But it’s typically not the credit they are interested in! They will be interested in your experience, your ability to engage kids, and your expertise in helping them create.

      Some parents are more product-oriented and will want kids to come home with art or crafts projects that look “finished.” Other parents are more process-oriented and will prefer their kids to work more freely, learning to use the materials. They place a high value on children working independently and with self-expression. You will want to be clear about your approach, which might also blend the two.

      Good luck developing your art classes for homeschoolers!


  3. Michelle

    As reading through this, the way I understand this is that as I begin to homeschool, I can choose whatever curriculum/courses and it really does not matter if they are accredited or even if the student is learning at grade level? How does that come into play in doing the necessary standardized testings?

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      Hi Michelle. in the U.S., if you are an independent homeschooler, you can choose whatever curriculum and courses you want, and it does not matter if you do that with an accredited institution. In fact, you do not have to have your child learn through any kind of institution or formal classes at all. Your child can learn in any way you find beneficial, and that learning could be cross-curricular and not organized into distinct “classes.” Or it can be five distinct “classes.” It’s up to you.

      Some states require homeschoolers to submit evidence or progress annually or after certain grades. This could include standardized testing or portfolio reviews.

      All fifty states are different, so you need to do some research at your state organization’s website and among your local and regional homeschoolers. Today it is often easy to chat them up in a Facebook discussion group, but make sure that you are getting authoritative information.

      In many states, the standardized testing does not have to be aligned with what children are learning in order for the children to pass. For example, a child might be improving her reading by reading a lot of articles on an area of interest to her, but she would still have no problem with the passages on the language arts portion of a standardized test that is typical for her grade.

      “Grade level” is also usually not an issue for homeschoolers. A child who would typically be in fourth grade for his age might be doing math that is typical of a high schooler because he’s a math whiz, but might be reading and writing behind grade level due to learning challenges or his own pace of development. Homeschoolers can choose the grade level of their curriculum, or they do not have to use a formal curriculum at all, if they are homeschooling independently.

      A portfolio review or evaluation, which is accepted in many states, is a way to show what your child HAS learned rather than how her learning is standardized, so that can be a good option in states where evidence of progress is required. And some states don’t require annual testing or portfolios.

      Again, your best bet is to contact homeschoolers in your area to find out the specifics of how it plays out. But accreditation need not be a part of the picture. I just checked my state’s school accreditation rate and found that 14 percent of schools are not accredited here. Accreditation is not the be-all, end-all.

      Homeschooling gives your child the flexibility to learn in the way and at the level where she actually is, and that is one of the many benefits of homeschooling.

  4. Steven Henderson

    Is there a way to find if a online school is legit and not a diploma mill ?

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      Hi Steven. The key to whether an online school is legit or not is whether they require actual work to be done or learning to take place and be documented – OR whether they simply take money to award credit.

      Many online schools require students to move through classes that require assessments, assignments, or documentation of learning. Students will interact with real teachers and/or real curriculum.

      Others institutions may award credit for projects and independent studies that a student documents thoroughly, demonstrating time, effort, and legitimate learning.

      These are not diploma mills.

      You may also network with other homeschoolers on social media and through your state’s homeschool organizations to ask about specific institutions. Most of the time, homeschoolers can tell other homeschoolers about diploma mills.

      Where it can get tricky is in terms of quality. Some institutions that are NOT diploma mills may have students move through curriculum and assessments in a way that results in temporary learning and short-term retention rather than the deep learning that many homeschoolers prefer. These are not necessarily diploma mills, and they may actually use similar strategies as some online public schools and bricks and mortar public schools. The kid has really studied the material, completed the assignment, and passed the test. Some kids may even be well-suited to learning in this way.

      However, just as with other education styles that don’t create long-term learning in a majority of students, there may be a problem with retention and authenticity of learning, but it doesn’t mean it was a scam or diploma mill.

      And, just to explain both sides of that fence, there are online schools and classes that are rigorous and require the kind of student participation that does create deeper learning.

      The most important key is – is there money changing hand for credits and courses for which work is being done or learning is being documented? Or is the money changing hands just for credits and course titles, with little to no effort?

  5. Elizabeth Henderson

    Great info! I do customer service for an online homeschool. I will refer them to your site for questions.

    You may want to fix the “$9,3000” under Accredited Public Schools and “and one major fears” in your second paragraph.

    • Elizabeth Henderson

      I will refer them to your site for answers to their questions =)

    • Mary Ann Kelley

      Thanks, Elizabeth! This was a reprint from Lee’s site and I didn’t catch those errors. I’ve fixed them.

  6. Mary Ann Kelley

    Hi Jessica,

    Check out our New to Homeschooling page. It will point you in the right direction.

    Mary Ann

  7. Jessica

    I am wanting to homeschool my son this will be his first year of school so I am kind of lost on where to start?

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