One of the most common questions we see from new homeschoolers is whether curricula they are interested in is accredited.
For families who may intend to return to public schools, “accreditation” seems like a good way to smooth re-entrance into public school, particularly for students hoping to transfer homeschool credit to public high schools. This is a perfectly rational thought process.
So to the question...
Is <fill-in-the-blank> curriculum accredited?
Nope, nope, nope!
You don’t need accredited curriculum for homeschooling.
And it’s a good thing, since curriculum cannot be accredited!
And guess what? Veteran homeschoolers—you know, the ones who have been at it years before the current situation (including the ones you hear about getting into great colleges)—don’t use accredited curriculum either!
Because there is No. Such. Thing. As. Accredited. Curriculum.
How accreditation works
Accreditation is offered to institutions by accrediting agencies which accredit public schools, private schools, university model schools, colleges and universities. These schools and universities can be accredited because they are institutions.
Curricula aren’t accredited (not ever!) because they aren’t schools or colleges. Curricula are learning resources or lesson plans; curricula are not institutions—so, they can’t be accredited!
Some people who opt their kids out of public school do enroll their kids in accredited private schools or accredited online schools, and the child might be “at home” while they are taking part in the accredited private or online school.
Is an accredited school a guarantee of credit transfer?
Transferring back to public school from an accredited private school or accredited online school is still no guarantee of grade placement or credits toward a public school diploma/graduation. Your public school division may or may not recognize the accreditation agency that accredited your kids’ online learning program or private school, so accreditation alone offers no guarantees.
In fact, some accrediting agencies have no clout at all, and some are scams at worst or marketing tools at best.
This doesn’t mean your child can’t get a good education from an online school or private school. It doesn’t mean that your child can’t get a good education using a curriculum that isn’t accredited (because it can’t be, since it’s a curriculum).
But it does mean you should think twice about spending money on any educational resource claiming to be “accredited” with the assumption that accreditation will hold value for your child.
Consider these things if your children plan to return to public school
If your plan is for your children to return to public school at some point, it's important to learn more about:
- Who determines grade level if/when your child returns to school?
- What happens when a homeschooled child returns to public school?
- Who decides which credits transfer if a student returns to public high school?
Your state’s Department of Education (DOE) or your local school division may have a specific list of pre-approved online schools or private schools from whom they will accept credit during a student’s high school years.
These schools may or may not be promoted as accredited, and their list might even only include virtual classes or a virtual school run by the state or local school division itself—public school at home.
Accreditation is not the magic ingredient that makes high school credits earned while homeschooling acceptable for transferring back to public school. We also know every state is different.
And guess what? While there are life-prep and college-prep things you should do while homeschooling high school, colleges don’t care if homeschoolers are using anything “accredited” either. Mind blown; I know!
Why do I keep hearing about accreditation?
Because it's all about the money.
With the rise of online schools and charter schools, some companies and institutions get accredited in order qualify for state funding in the minority of states that allow such funding. Accreditation may allow their programs to be offered for free (paid for by tax dollars) in specific states—or for families in specific states to use education funds to participate in those academic programs.
If you live in a state that doesn't have taxpayer funds for this kind of education, accreditation is probably meaningless.
You'll still hear accreditation mentioned, though, because the companies and academies that offer programs have national reach despite state-by-state education laws. They paid for accreditation; now they're going to promote it—even if it doesn't give any advantage in many states.
If you live in a state that does have these funds, a program's accreditation status may matter to you because that may be what qualifies the program to be "paid for by the state"—not by individual parents.
Accreditation's significance for online schools and charter schools is an ever-changing situation because there are so many accrediting agencies, state education laws, and state budgets involved.
Where you live and which accrediting agency is involved make the difference.
Accreditation may matter for children educated at home if their family lives in a state where accreditation signals eligibility for state funding. Learn more by reading our article about getting government money for homeschooling.