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The Homeschool Diner's Guide to
Distance Learning for Homeschoolers

Umbrella/Cover Schools, Cyber Schools, Gifted Education  

by Julie Shepherd Knapp, copyright 2006, 2007

What is "Distance Learning?
"Distance Learning" is an educational option where teachers use correspondence (letters or e-mail),
online or computer-based instruction, or any other communication technology... to teach students who
are not physically "on site" at an educational facility.  Many distance learning institutions, these days,
are "
cyber schools" or online academies, where learning takes place on the computer.  Homeschool
students may use single distance learning courses as a supplement to any homeschool curriculum, or
they can enroll as full or part-time students.  

If you are not really interested in enrolling in a school... but your child enjoys learning on the computer
-- check out the
Computer-Based Instruction section, where you will find full curriculum, many "a la
carte" choices, and quite a few free online options.  Also look thru the
Homeschooling by Subject
section where you will find plenty of online resources in each subject area.

What is an "Umbrella School" or a "Cover School"?
Enrollment as a full-time student in a distance learning "Umbrella" or "Cover" school (which will
approve and oversee a homeschool program) may be required to meet some state homeschool
regulations.  Some distance learning schools are accredited, others are not, but accreditation is not
always needed to comply.  If your state requires you to enroll in a "Cover/Umbrella" school in order to
homeschool, then you'll need to check your state regulations and consult your local homeschool
organizations before deciding on which distance learning program to use. (see the
Know Your
Homeschooling Regulations
section for more info.)  Some School at Home curriculum providers
also have the option of enrolling in an online academy, to provide families with a Cover School option.

Seeking "Peace of Mind"?
Even when an Umbrella/Cover school is not required by statute, some parents are still more
comfortable with a third party overseeing their child's education -- especially for
high school level
-- and will enroll, full or part-time, in a distance learning institution.  Many distance learning
institutions can also issue high school diplomas and will provide transcripts for college applications.

On the issue of diplomas...
Some distance learning programs issue "accredited" diplomas when a student graduates from their
high school, meaning the diploma will probably be considered equivalent to a public high school
diploma.  Others are not accredited -- their diplomas are from an "unaccredited" institution, similar to
those issued by many private schools.  In most states, homeschool diplomas are also considered to be
from an "unaccredited" private school.  

The lure of having an accredited diploma causes many families to choose distance learning as their
homeschool approach.  But, thankfully, colleges are becoming more aware of homeschooling as a valid
educational option, and homeschool-issued diplomas are sufficient for admission into most colleges
(including those famous Ivy League ones ;-) and for many vocational schools, too.  *Do double-check,
though if your child is already planning to apply to a particular school or training program, and confirm
ahead of time, that homeschool diplomas are accepted there.*

What curriculum do they use?
Many distance learning schools will work with families to choose a curriculum that meets a student's
learning style or a family's preferred homeschooling approach.  Others are very inflexible.  You will want
to explore several schools to see which best meets your child's needs.

Some Distance Learning schools offer a
standards-aligned curriculum similar to what is used in
public and private schools, which is well-suited to those wishing to create a
School-a-Home type of
homeschool.   Others have their own curriculum or will work with each familiy to choose a curriculum
and a homeschool approach suitable for each child.  

What about special Talented and Gifted (TAG) programs?
Several distance learning institutions offer Gifted Education, Talent Search programs, Gifted
Enrichment, and Advance Placement (AP) courses to homeschoolers who qualify.  Some of these
schools require qualifying standardized test scores for admission, others provide online placement
tests to evaluate a child's abilities.  Also, many colleges with online classes will allow highschool
students to take courses in their areas of talent.  See
Distance Learning Options for Gifted
Enrichment. Acceleration, and Full-Time Programs for details.

There are also many free and subscription online courses, modules and curriculum -- you will
find them within each school subject in the
Homeschooling by Subject section of the Diner.
The Homeschool Diner logo and all pages of this website
are protected by copyright law.
Copyright 2005-2012 by Julie Shepherd Knapp,
unless otherwise noted.

To request permission to republish, reprint, make multiple
copies of, distribute, or post a particular article of julie's --
please contact :

julie at HomeschoolDiner dot com
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