Get access to our homeschool planner and more! Sign Up

What Is Accreditation? Should My Homeschool Be Accredited?


Do I Need to Use an Accredited Homeschool Program?

With the slow but steady growth of homeschooling across the United States comes a parallel growth in online, distance learning programs and schools. While many parents continue to provide independent, customized instruction to their children, others seek “enrolled homeschooling”—that which provides teacher-guided instruction, report cards/transcripts/credits, and other familiar elements of traditional education.

Looking for a curriculum your kids will like?
An online homeschool curriculum can open new doors by creating an interactive learning experience that brings concepts to life.
Text Time4Learning and rotating graphics for math, science, social studies, and language arts
Homeschooling should be fun.
With Time4Learning, it can be!

Accreditation & Homeschooling - Woman wondering, "Does my homeschool need to be accredited?"

Choosing a provider for this type of schooling naturally leads to an increase in questions about accreditation: what is it exactly, and how does it pertain to homeschooling?

Accreditation in Brief

Briefly, accreditation of schools in the US means that an outside agency has reviewed a school based on a given set of standards, and certified that the school meets or exceeds those standards. This is not a one-time action, but requires periodic review and renewal in order to maintain this “seal of approval.”

Over one hundred years ago, the accreditation process was created to help high schools across the country standardize some courses and graduation requirements for college preparedness. Six regional agencies were set up for this purpose, and over time they expanded to include all levels of education: primary (K-8), secondary (9-12) and tertiary (college and university).

Some states continue to use regional accreditation through a consolidated group called AdvanceEd; others use their own state department of education to evaluate their K-12 public schools. Over time, this voluntary process became desirable, since it was seen as a way to build and maintain a credible reputation. This led to vocational programs – nursing, cosmetology, industrial, etc – wanting a similar system for quality assurance, and today there are about a dozen national accreditors based on specialty.

With the rise of online, distance learning programs for all grade levels comes a relatively new cottage industry of unofficial accrediting agencies. Shockingly, there are over 50 accrediting agencies of dubious nature in the US alone, designed primarily to support so-called “diploma mills.”

How Does Accreditation Relate to Homeschooling?

In a nutshell: Homeschool accreditation is not required.

No state requires that a homeschool program, curriculum, or diploma be accredited. Most institutions of higher learning do not require this either, although there may be exceptions by individual institutions or programs; and of course schools may change their requirements at any time.

Many families come to homeschooling from the public school system. As a result, they are asking questions based on a public school frame of reference, such as “How do I find an accredited homeschool program?” A better question to ask is, “Do I need to use an accredited homeschool program?” The answer is generally no.

Why Might a Homeschooler Want to use an Accredited Homeschool Program?

  1. The number of distance learning programs for all grade levels has grown so great that it’s hard to know how to choose. So while accreditation does not guarantee quality, it does provide assurance that there is oversight and adherence to standards. Some parents receive peace of mind knowing that they’ve invested in a program that has been reviewed and approved by an accrediting agency.
  2. If there is a likelihood that your student will return to public high school, then the transfer of recognized course credit becomes an important matter. Your state may have a list of recognized distance learning providers; any coursework completed with one on the list should transfer easily to public school.
  3. If your high schooler intends to pursue NCAA sports in college, more extensive documentation becomes necessary, and some families may find it easier to use an online or virtual school (which may or may not be accredited) and be evaluated as a nontraditional program rather than a homeschool program. Be sure to go directly to the source for updated information on NCAA requirements:

What’s missing from this very short list? Acceptance to community colleges, trade schools, the military, employment, and colleges/universities generally.

In years past, this was not always the case. For example, up until 2012, a high schooler interested in joining the military upon graduation would have been advised to earn an accredited diploma, since it was more readily accepted by military recruiters than parent-issued diplomas. New policies went into effect in 2012 that recognize the parent-issued diploma as the standard for enlistment in all branches of service.

Likewise, many vocational schools unfamiliar with homeschool laws have sometimes denied enrollment to a homeschooled student who does not hold an accredited diploma or a GED. These cases are usually based on erroneous assumptions, not on fact; and while frustrating to deal with, are usually resolved in favor of the homeschooled student based on state law.

Regarding employment: a prospective employer may ask if a distance learning program is accredited, and may see it favorably since it rules out the possibility of it being a “diploma mill”, but again, there is nothing in state or federal law that requires such accreditation.

Lastly, regarding colleges/universities: over the past several decades, it has actually been easier for a homeschooled graduate to gain acceptance to these than to vocational schools or military enlistment. In part, the latter two have dealt more with applicants who did not complete high school. Colleges/universities have a wide array of factors to evaluate for student admission: coursework, standardized test scores, letters of reference, written essays, personal interview, etc.; thus having an accredited diploma was not required.

How do I Find an Accredited Homeschool Program?

With the rise of online, distance learning programs for all grade levels comes a cottage industry of unofficial accrediting agencies. Make sure that the accreditation you see for a particular online school comes from a legitimate agency. The best choice is the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), which up until 2015 was known as the Distance Education & Training Council (DETC).  Enter the name of a program you’re considering, or search the entire list. This will also help you to avoid the 50-plus dubious accrediting agencies and all the online schools they promote, thus saving your time and sanity.

Accreditation for homeschoolers applies mostly to those in very specific situations like potentially returning to public high school, and even that is only in certain localities. For the rest, accreditation is a nice-to-have, not a must-have.

Karen Skelton homeschooled her two children through high school, and now devotes her time to supporting others through the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers. She served 4 ½ years as vice president and president of the board of directors, and continues to serve as the director of government affairs/school division liaison. She and her husband, Robert, live in Fairfax, Virginia, and are both avid students of US History and genealogy.

THSM Contributor

TheHomeSchoolMom is pleased to offer blog posts from many veteran homeschooling authors and contributors.

Read Next Post
Read Previous Post

TheHomeSchoolMom may be compensated for any of the links in this post through sponsorships, paid ads, free or discounted products, or affiliate links. Local resource listings are for information purposes only and do not imply endorsement. Always use due diligence when choosing resources, and please verify location and time with the organizer if applicable. Suggestions and advice on are for general information purposes only and should never be considered as specific to any individual situation, nor are they a diagnosis or treatment advice for any kind of medical, developmental, or psychological condition. Blog posts represent the views of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of other contributors or the publisher. Full terms of use and disclosure


  1. Dawn Miller

    Hi, My name is Dawn. My son and reside in Colorado. Upon looking up the CO Homeschool laws, I read this :

    Homeschooling falls under non-public education and is not accredited by the Colorado Department of Education or a local school district –

    Will you please help me make sense of that information?

    Also per CO HS Laws, I have to file intend to HS days prior to starting. What happens if I file and do not wait the fourteen days?

    Thank you for time,

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      Dawn, we do not provide interpretations of state laws, since legal requirements to homeschool are different in all fifty states. Please contact your local and state homeschool support organization for state-specific information.

      Typically, statements about accreditation are intended to be a type of “full disclosure” from school divisions and state departments of education. That’s so that parents don’t think that just because they are letting education officials know about homeschooling, their homeschooling is some kind of officially endorsed education. Ask homeschool advocates in your state to be clear.


  2. Robert

    Hi, my name is Robert, our son recently decided after attending our local high school for 4 weeks, he wanted to be homeschooled. We only had the weekend to get all necessary paperwork together and into the school by Monday, so we decided to go with Penn Foster Online High School. My question is, after joining because of recommendation by other parents in our local area, we have now found after doing research there is a short list of colleges who will accept this as a high-school diploma. Mary Washington University is the college our son wishes to attend, but it is not on the list. What do we do now that we’ve already joined and started paying for this program in order to show this college or any college our son has a high school diploma? Thank you, Robert.

    • Mary Ann Kelley

      Hi Robert – It sounds like you have worked hard to make sure that your son has the best opportunities available to him. Like most parents unfamiliar with how homeschooling is dealt with in college admissions, you may not be aware that most colleges, UMW among them, do not require a diploma from a physical or online school from their homeschooled applicants. The student is evaluated as a graduate of a homeschool, not of an institution.

      Parents are the administrators in a homeschool, and students do not need to be limited to online schools or colleges that accept diplomas from those schools. The beauty of homeschooling is in its flexibility, and colleges recognize that. Homeschoolers who have never enrolled in any kind of distance learning program are accepted into colleges every year using parent-created homeschool transcripts. You may find the following posts on TheHomeSchoolMom helpful in understanding the relationship between homeschooling and college admissions:

      College Admission Requirements for Homeschoolers
      How to Create Homeschool Transcripts
      Outside Evidence and College Admissions
      Homeschooling High School

      UMW has an admissions officer who deals almost exclusively with homeschoolers; you can find her contact information here. If you have any questions after reading through the information I linked above, I recommend reaching out to her to see what UMW likes to see from homeschoolers and incorporate that into your plans for your son’s high school courses and activities.

      Best wishes to you and your son as he homeschools high school.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Left Menu Icon