Virtual Schools, Distance Learning, Correspondence Schools

What correspondence schools or distance learning programs are “approved” for homeschooling in Virginia?

You may use any curriculum or curriculum provider you choose. You do not have to use any particular curriculum provider in Virginia. Some parents choose to use correspondence schools, distance learning programs, or virtual schools. Others purchase their curriculum from a variety of different companies and providers. Many choose to educate their children through some combination of hands-on learning, community and group activities, travel, and family experiences, rather than using conventional textbooks. The choice is entirely up to you.

But I heard that there was a list of correspondence schools “approved” by the Virginia Department of Education?

The home instruction statute §22.1-254.1 was amended effective July 1, 2008, to eliminate all reference to “correspondence schools approved by the Superintendent of Public Instruction.” The Virginia Department of Education no longer maintains a list of “approved correspondence school programs.”

So how do I pick the right correspondence school for my child?

The best way to choose a curriculum is to talk with other homeschooling families about what has worked best for them. You can meet other families in your community or online through our list of Virginia homeschool groups.

The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers does not recommend or endorse any particular homeschooling curriculum. Popular correspondence schools and distance learning programs among Virginia homeschooling families include: Keystone, American School, Indiana University, University of Nebraska, Laurel Springs, Calvert, Oak Meadow, Alpha Omega, and Bob Jones, to name a few. You can find additional lists of correspondence school programs in beginning homeschooling books in the VaHomeschoolers Bookstore, at A to Z Home’s Cool: Correspondence Schools and at Accredited Schools Online Guidebook.

Which correspondence schools and distance learning programs issue high school diplomas?

The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers does not maintain a list of accredited correspondence schools and distance learning schools which grant high school diplomas.

Two accredited curriculum providers which are popular among Virginia homeschooling families are Keystone and American School; both provide legitimate high school diplomas and have been in business for many years. Additional programs may be located through beginning homeschooling books or at A to Z Home’s Cool. We recommend you contact the school directly with your questions about diplomas and accreditation.

You may find our article on High School Diploma Options and Homeschoolers and the GED of interest as well.

How can I tell whether a correspondence school or distance learning program is legitimate?

“Diploma mills” and unaccredited schools abound, so do a little independent research and make sure your correspondence school is accredited and has a good reputation before you enroll your student. Your local Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission can help you determine whether a particular school is legitimate and accredited. The Accredited Schools Online Guidebook also includes a detailed breakdown of online learning methods and technologies, as well as information on how to identify quality online schools or programs.

My child will homeschool for a year and then return to public high school. How can I ensure that his correspondence school credit will transfer over to his public school transcript?

If your child is planning on transferring back to public school after homeschooling, then you may wish to consider picking a curriculum provider that is either accredited through the Virginia Council on Public Education (VCPE) or is part of a VCPE member organization. Coursework from these curriculum providers should transfer automatically to Virginia public high schools. However, many school divisions have granted transfer credit from other curriculum providers as well, so don’t let this discourage you from picking a provider not on these lists.

I heard about a “virtual school” run through the Virginia public schools. How does this compare with a correspondence school or distance learning program?

There are a number of different part-time and full-time “virtual school” programs run through Virginia public schools. Some of these programs offer individual courses which may supplement the homeschool experience, while others offer a complete curriculum which covers all subjects.

A few Virginia school divisions are allowing homeschoolers to enroll in individual online courses for high school credit through their “virtual school” programs. Participating students retain their legal status as homeschoolers, but may need to enroll in public school on a part-time basis to participate in the program. Participants in some programs may be required to take the relevant Standards of Learning (SOL) exam for their specific course. The school division may charge tuition. Check with your local school division for more information.

The Virginia Department of Education runs Virginia Virtual Advanced Placement School (VVAPS or “Virtual Virginia”), which offers individual online AP and foreign language courses to high school students in Virginia and elsewhere. While originally designed for public school students, homeschooled students are allowed to enroll in VVAPS courses as well. Participating families retain their legal status as homeschoolers, and pay tuition to VVAPS on a per-course basis.

Several Virginia school divisions have created “virtual learning academies” in partnership with the private curriculum provider K12, Inc. The virtual learning academies provide a complete curriculum for elementary and middle school children; some academies also provide high school coursework. Students enrolled in these programs do their schoolwork from home through distance learning, but are considered full time public school students and are accountable to the Virginia (SOLs). The virtual learning academy programs are typically free of charge (especially if the student lives within the school division boundaries). However, many parents have reported that these programs offer significantly less parental flexibility and more parental recordkeeping compared to other prepackaged curriculum options.

This information is provided as a courtesy of VaHomeschoolers. It is not intended as legal advice. For legal advice, contact a licensed attorney. VaHomeschoolers does not endorse any business or organization.

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