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Homeschooler's Guide to Umbrella Schools in Maryland

written by: Sandi Johnson • edited by: Noreen Gunnell • updated: 9/11/2012

When you make the choice to homeschool, be sure to familiarize yourself with the laws in your state regarding the process. In Maryland, homeschooling families must work with an umbrella school. The process is not as hard or as intimidating as it might seem. Learn how it works here.

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    Program Supervision on Maryland

    State law mandates umbrella schools in Maryland for homeschooling. The state’s public school system supplies information for parents about specific homeschooling requirements, readily available through the state’s website. Specifically, the laws governing homeschooling in Maryland are codified in COMAR 13A.10.01. However, to the novice, understanding the function and purpose of an umbrella school, not to mention choosing the right one is a daunting task.

    Boards of education and other governing bodies exist to ensure all children in a particular district receive an appropriate education, no matter what type of school they attend. Homeschooling in Maryland, like homeschooling in other states, requires compliance with state law. In short, COMAR dictates that all homeschool programs require the supervision of either the Board of Education or an umbrella school approved by the state of Maryland. The Maryland public school system maintains a list of approved umbrella schools for homeschooling parents.

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    What Does an Umbrella School Do?

    umbrella schools in maryland After parents properly notifying the school system of the intention to use a home study program, umbrella schools provide the necessary supervision required by state law. Not all umbrella schools require parents to use a specific curriculum or follow a prescribed teaching method, although under correspondence requirements, these schools may be required to provide curriculum to homeschooled students. Primarily, these schools serve as a secondary, professionally trained advisor.

    In an umbrella school relationship, a representative from the school must meet with parents to discuss the child’s progress periodically during the school year. State law requires at least one annual review of the child’s academic program by a representative of the umbrella school. The representative may discuss the chosen curriculum or educational program, observe instruction for a short period of time, and review portfolio documents to assess the student’s progress. Parents pay fees to the umbrella school for each year a child is enrolled under the umbrella program, to cover the cost of teaching assistance and reviews.

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    Do I Have to Use an Umbrella School?

    In a word, yes. Homeschooling laws in Maryland provide parents with four options for supervised instruction of homeschooled children between the ages of 5 and 16. All homeschool programs require supervision via an umbrella school, whether the public school system or a private nonpublic school. While supervision is required, by law parents must still provide the primary instruction to the child no matter what specific umbrella school they choose.

    • Supervision directly administered by the local school system. Parents must maintain a portfolio for each student, outlining the child’s instruction in areas of math, science, social studies, English, music, health, and art. Portfolios are reviewed at the conclusion of each school semester. At least one, but no more than three reviews are allowed in a single year and may include observing actual instruction of the child.
    • Supervision administered by a Maryland Board of Education approved nonpublic school. The state of Maryland views such supervision as a correspondence school, thus requires such an umbrella school to provide a certified teacher to assist the parent, as well as curriculum materials. The teacher issues progress reports, grades student work, and tracks required paperwork.
    • Supervision via a church-exempt nonpublic school, or supervision via a church’s education ministry. The supervising umbrella school must be appropriately registered by the state Board of Education. Pre-enrollment and ongoing parent conferences, curriculum materials, and annual visits are required for both forms of church-based supervision.
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    Where Do I Start?

    First, familiarize yourself with Maryland's laws governing homeschooling. The state provides extensive information online for homeschooling parents regarding the laws and requirements.

    Second, file the necessary forms to register your homeschool program. As with most states, parents must file a form letter indicating that they will be homeschooling their child. In Maryland, it is referred to as a Notice of Consent, and must be filed 15 days prior to beginning instruction.

    Third, if you choose not to have the local school system supervise and review your child's portfolio, find the right umbrella school that meets your needs and budget. The state provides a list of approved umbrella schools in Maryland for homeschooling.

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    References and Resources

    Maryland Public School System Rules http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/MSDE/divisions/studentschoolsvcs/student_services_alt/home_schooling/docs/homeschool_factsheet.htm

    List of Maryland State Approved Umbrella Schools http://www.msde.state.md.us/nonpublic/home_instruction/DisplayLocationsByCounty.asp

    Image courtesy of Amber S. Wallace Photography of North Carolina http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1174098