Homeschool Diaries: What is an “Umbrella School”?
This is a year of firsts for our homeschooling family. We have been homeschooling now for 4 years; aside from stints in traditional preschool programs for both of our girls, they have always been homeschooled. As much as we enjoy it, homeschooling has required us to be particularly flexible with our daughters’ learning styles and finding ways to keep things fresh. This year as we have enrolled both girls in an “umbrella” school called Circle Christian School.
Circle is a state recognized private school (with multiple locations in the Orlando area) that specializes in providing learning resources and support for homeschooling families, aka an Umbrella School. For elementary school grades they offer specialized learning programs which hold classes once or twice weekly. These programs are mostly literature based but there is a wide variety of involvement available with the different programs. They also offer extracurricular or add on classes including science labs, team sports, and drama.
To provide state recognized coverage and records the school keeps records for each school year and provides an easy to use monthly reporting database which holds their transcripts, scholastic testing reports, attendance records and curriculum information. Every month I enter my daughters grades per subject, noting the material covered in that time frame. The state bench marks for each grade are also listed so I am able to keep track of what I am covering vs what the traditional school system is covering each year. I have a lot of flexibility reaching these goals; the school year at Circle is an actual calendar year so I have 365 days to complete the benchmarks, allowing me to follow the homeschool calendar that works for my family.
At this school families have the choice of also choosing and enrolling in multiple learning tracks offering fun and engaging learning opportunities for each child. High school students even have the opportunity to take AP or college level classes ( engineering and aviation are among the coolest ones offered at Circle) and they are easily linked into the community college and state college systems available to high school seniors here in FL.
My youngest is enrolled in the Kindergarten level Explorations learning track. The learning tracks run on a traditional school schedule with weekly classes starting in August and ending in May. Every few weeks they study a different children’s book and in this unit study they extrapolate literature, history, art, and writing/grammar lessons from each book. She loves her classmates and her teachers there and has been excited for class each week. Explorations also hosts a quarterly presentation day when the students present a program for the parents and staff; this offers valuable experience in public speaking and group presentations that my children miss out on as homeschoolers. My oldest was in the Explorations class last year and we enjoyed all of her presentation days, especially the Christmas extravaganza.
My oldest is enrolled in the 4th grade Frameworks learning track. This is a serious upgrade from last years Explorations program for her. Frameworks is unique in that it offers a true partnership between her school teacher and me. Her teach provides the instruction, lesson plans and grading for half of her subjects and I am responsible for the other half (we are using Abeka Academy at home). So far it has been going well. It did take some adjustment in the early weeks as we were trying to balance the “school” assignments with our home studies but we now have a good rhythm and we’re not pulling our hair out anymore. Well, not as much…. LOL.
I am so blessed to have the support of this school as I continue my homeschool journey and as long as we are a homeschool family we will probably continue to partner with a program like this.
Do any of you homeschoolers out there use a similar school or program to supplement your home education? What system do you use for state record keeping that has worked the best for your family?