Do We Really Need Accreditation?
©2005; revised 2011
I’m one of the pioneers and I’ve just got to get up on my soapbox because I have a beef. I started home schooling in 1983 before it was a fad, before it was acceptable, before it was really an educational alternative. When I started, there were very few home school groups (there weren’t enough people), no state conventions, no famous speakers, no home school textbooks, no used-book sales (nobody had any used books!), no extra classes for art, drama, sports, chemistry. We did what we had to do for our kids and we usually made the materials to go along with what we were doing. These days as I’m traveling around doing seminars and visiting support groups, I’m noticing an alarming trend. There’s a wave of doubt infiltrating our support groups and it’s centered on the myth that we mere parents can’t really provide what our kids need. We need outside help doing it and that help needs to be accredited. There are really two issues to be addressed: the first: that accreditation is necessary for admission to college; the second: that we can’t provide everything our kids need by ourselves; we need outside help in the form of “schools.”
One of the mainstays of home schooling has been our independence. I love the feeling that I don’t have to do what everybody else is doing and I don’t have to do it their way. I can teach my children the way I want non-traditionally and give them just as good an education, if not better, than they would have gotten had they gone the traditional route without all the busy work and junk of school. We’ve lost our vision. Instead of true home schooling, parents are turning the education of their children over to others. All of a sudden, we have a plethora of virtual charter schools and the “new” venue, thehome school “schools”. Homeschooling is teaching your own children in your home. Period. There’s a place for co-ops for some high school classes that are more difficult, but the trend these days is to send your child to one of the home school “schools” for just about everything. Since they’recompleting some work at home, we get away with saying it’s still home schooling. But, truth be told, it’s not. I’ve been in some of these classes – in more than one “school”, in more than one area. The ones I’ve observed have had from 20 to 40 students taught by former public school teachers who have no clue as to how to teach homeschoolers. The home school vision has been lost. We’ve bought into the idea that education must come from state-recognized teachers using state-approved methods and books.
The myth of accreditation is just that – a myth. When I taught in one of the large metro-Atlanta systems, we all dreaded the visit from the accreditation team. They would come in with their navy blue suits and clipboards and walk through the halls checking off things on forms and making notes. My job as a highly-degreed educator was to make sure the water fountains were free from gum and trash and to make sure there were no scuffs on the floor. The team checked how many buses rolled in and rolled out; they checked how many books were in the media center (new term for library); they checked how many hot lunches we served; and how many teachers there were per pupil. Quality of education was measured by cleanliness, not by how the kids were performing. This same thought process goes for accrediting home study programs. Somebody, somewhere decides on a list of qualifications a group or organization must meet in order to be an accredited program. Some of these qualifications may be worthy; some may not be. But, we buy into the system because they say they’re “accredited” and we’re afraid that if we don’t get that “accredited” transcript, our kids won’t get into college. No, no, no, no, no! In my home state of Georgia, there are three legal ways to educate children: public school, private school and home school. Three systems; three ways to graduate. I, as an independent, non-accredited, non-traditional home school can grant a diploma to my students when they complete the course of study required by my program. All three of my children have graduated from my non-accredited, non-traditional program and have gone on to higher education. My oldest son earned a full, academic scholarship to college and has graduated from Florida State University School of Law and has passed the state bar; my second son also earned an academic scholarship, has completed his Master’s Degree and is teaching school. My daughter graduated with her non-accredited, non-traditional transcript, and attended college with a great scholarship. She is currently finishing up her work at Le Cordon Bleu with her eye on being a chef. My husband and I have high standards for our students. Our standard for our students is to “Study to show yourself approved unto God…” Our standard of graduation is higher than the state standards. The state requires a student to have 22 credits for a college prep diploma; 24 for a diploma of distinction. Our standard is high and we expect excellence. Our students have graduated with 34 credits! We can do that because of the flexibility and independence of home schooling! If we turn the education of our home school students over to these accredited home school “schools” (what an oxy-moron), we are giving ample opportunity for the colleges and universities to begin to expect that ALL home school students will be going to one of these study programs. I’m proud to write at the top of my children’s transcripts, “Home Study Transcript” because we’ve worked hard and I want college admissions people to know it!
What the accrediting programs aren’t mentioning is that most of the colleges and universities now have recruiters who are actively seeking homeschoolers and the colleges they represent don’t require traditional, accredited diplomas. This is not by accident! This is because all of those pioneer students who paved the way (without accredited diplomas, by the way) did a great job in college. They have a reputation for being self-starters and independent thinkers. One college recruiter told me that the homeschoolers in her college were the best of the best, the cream of the crop!
The other issue is that we can’t provide everything our kids need by ourselves. Well, that may be true, but I don’t need a “school” to fill in the gaps. Years ago, those early pioneers would find mentors for their students to help with those difficult areas. If a student wanted to learn German, you found a German-speaking person to spend an hour with each week; if you weren’t strong in an area such as higher math, you found a retired math teacher to work with your student. I’m a firm believer in small co-ops. A few families get together and pool their resources to provide a small group setting for their kids and provide help in a needed subject area. I’ve done this with each of my children and have found it to be the best way to get those dissections done (it’s always more fun with somebody else!), that chemistry lab, essay writing and other difficult subjects. Just be careful that you don’t turn the education of your children over to somebody else. YOU’RE responsible for that education. Be proud of what you’re doing and do it “as unto the Lord.” Teach your children that truth. Colleges and universities are looking at us and liking what they see.