Finding a Great Umbrella Program by Jenna L. Coghlan

As a homeschooler in Middle Tennessee, you have the opportunity to create your own unique schooling experience. Whether your family enjoys structured schooling from the dining room table, splitting your time between co-ops, or experimenting in your friend’s kitchen, homeschooling is going to look different for every family.

However, all Tennessee homeschoolers have one thing in common, the need for an umbrella program. While it is true that a homeschooling family could register with the State Department of Education, having local law enforcement check on you is not ideal for most families. The vast majority of homeschoolers in Tennessee choose an umbrella program for their legal protection and peace of mind.

At the simplest level, an umbrella program maintains your student’s records. Student records are a mix of birth certificates, immunizations, cumulative grades, testing, and any other information you would like included. While maintaining records is the main responsibility of every umbrella program, a great umbrella program will do a stellar job of maintaining all records for your students, will communicate clearly and consistently with you, and will offer opportunities for annual advising and continued self-education.

When searching for an umbrella program to best fit your needs, shop local! You are likely to find yourself in a situation where you need immediate help and immediate answers. For example, your son is a contender for a large scholarship. All the university needs in order to decide is a new copy of his transcript, and they need it tomorrow. Would you rather call, beg, and plead with a long-distance umbrella program to “Please, mail my son’s transcript today!” or would you rather swing by your own, local umbrella program, pick-up a copy of his transcript, and mail it yourself? The same answer can be applied to questions about curriculum qualifications, high school credits, annual testing, driver’s permit forms. You name it. Having a friend nearby, who can help you in a pinch, is a must!

Local umbrella programs also are able to offer extra-curricular opportunities for your students. Football, Basketball, Soccer, Golf, Volley Ball, Cross Country, and Baseball are some of the common sports available to area homeschoolers who sign up with a local umbrella program. Many umbrella programs will also offer workshops for students of all ages, parent get-togethers, field trips, Chess club, graduation ceremonies, teacher and student ID’s, and college counseling.

Call your local umbrella program, swing by for a visit, and you are likely to find a whole new community of people passionate about your success in homeschooling.

Jenna L. Coghlan is the registrar for The Comenius School in Franklin.

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