Thank you, Kristen, for the great article in The Tennessean!

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Kristen Kindoll: Here’s the deal on umbrella schools

Umbrella schools are a popular registration choice for home-schooling families.

The best description of an umbrella school is a private institution that maintains student records and paperwork. The parent who is doing the teaching still decides on curriculum, instructional style and the school year calendar.

HomeLife Academy is an umbrella school in Jackson, Tenn. It is a Category IV church-related school. According to Tennessee code, schools classified as Category IV are exempt from submitting a notice of intent to the local superintendent of schools, attendance records to the superintendent, meeting teacher qualifications and standardized testing requirements.

The staff members’ jobs vary. The main tasks fall in the realm of fielding requests for records and preparing transcripts and diploma packets for high school students. There are several counselors on staff who provide insight and answer questions about home education.

Kenneth R. Shreeve, assistant administrator for HomeLife Academy, explains their philosophy:

“At HomeLife Academy, we consider the service that we provide as a ministry to our families. We do not view other schools as competition but fellow workers in the ministry field,”

Families can feel uncertain about choosing an umbrella school over their local district. The reasons for going with an umbrella school can differ. Some families crave a sense of autonomy. Others may find the religious affiliations of the umbrella school attractive. Perhaps the familiar faces and voices of staff members provide a level of comfort needed in a family’s home education. This could be a factor when registering with a local umbrella school compared with one in a different city.

“While we do occasionally have a student or family come by our office to pick up a form or transcript that is needed right away, or a counselor may meet a parent to discuss home schooling over coffee, almost all of HomeLife Academy’s support services are available via email, phone or online.” Shreeve stated.

Umbrella schools typically have a fee associated with their services. It should be noted most districts are free, unless a student enrolls past the registration date, and then a penalty fee is typically assessed.

Umbrella schools can provide other amenities.

HomeLife Academy has online grade reporting. This is a high convenience factor when settling on an umbrella school that does not offer this service. HomeLife Academy does not require standardize testing, though other umbrella schools may.

“One reason that a school may choose to require achievement tests would be to establish an independent, unbiased way to assess a student’s progress to validate the student’s education,” Shreeve said. “It was decided that we would revise our application process. This will allow us to continue offering the same level of freedom to those families that exercise those freedoms responsibly, while hopefully reducing the number that would abuse them.”

To learn more about other umbrella schools, seewww.mthea.org/information/church_related_schools.php. To learn more about HomeLife Academy, see www.homelifeacademy.com.

Contact home-school mom Kristen Kindoll of Brentwood athomeschool@kindoll.org.