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How to Tell if You're Getting Your Money's Worth
Umbrellas are required to provide the state with an annual list of all homeschool children registered with their organization. Other than that, currently, no state oversight exists for any religious body, church-exempt school, or private school after they register their umbrella group with the state.
If you are considering having your reviews conducted by an umbrella organization, rather than your county, the following questions can help you evaluate whether you're getting your money's worth and if the umbrella actually operates in compliance with state regulations.
- How much do you charge annually?
Umbrella prices vary from $60 per family to $3,000 for your first child.
- Who conducts the review?
Some umbrellas allow peer reviews, which means you are required to find your own reviewer within the homeschool community. Most umbrellas hire current or former homeschool parents to conduct reviews.
- What are the qualifications of the family reviewer?
Most reviewers have homeschooled their own children for at least five (5) years. Not all reviewers have actually homeschooled one child throughout their entire K-12 education. While a homeschool reviewer is not required to have a formal background in education, a college degree in a related field may help the reviewer make more thoughtful suggestions on how you can improve your homeschool program.
- What am I required to provide at a review?
At a minimum you should be required to provide a sample of schoolwork that each child has completed. If you only review once at the end of the year, demonstrating "regular and thorough instruction" should involve a minimum of one work sample per month in each subject.
- Do you have additional review requirements beyond what's in the state regulation?
Umbrellas do have the option of imposing additional requirements on families, such as teaching some kind of religion.
- What services are included in the annual fee?
At a minimum you should receive an extended intake telephone consultation and an end-of-year review. Some additional services you may receive include monthly support group meetings; a mid-year review; help with maintaining a transcript; a graduation ceremony; and/or discounts on other support services.
- What type of support service do you offer families with special learning needs?
Be wary of umbrellas who respond with statements such as: "Every child learns differently", "It's okay if your child isn't reading by 9. They'll learn when they're ready", or "Just take them to your local public school for testing". These types of statements show a genuine lack of understanding that learning disabilities exist and should be taken seriously.
- Will my child get a diploma through your umbrella?
Some umbrellas offer diplomas to families who review with them for all four years of high school. However, an umbrella-issued diploma, even if the umbrella is operated under a church-exempt school, is no more valid than a parent-issued diploma.
- Where are the reviews conducted?
Reviews are generally held in an office, library, or the family's home. Some umbrellas will host a family fun day and conduct reviews at a playground or amusement park.
- What is the sponsoring organization for your umbrella?
Be sure to get the name and address of the sponsoring body. Per Maryland regulations, umbrellas must be education ministries operated by a church, temple, synagogue, or other established religious body, including Wiccan. Some families have gone so far as to create a state recognized "church" with the specific purpose of running a homeschool umbrella group.
- Is your umbrella accredited?
Maryland has no independent umbrella accrediting agency that can objectively verify that the organization is in compliance with state regulations or that they offer a quality service.
The information on this page is provided for informational purposes only. It is not considered legal advice.