Part 9 – Umbrella Schools in Tennessee

You might want to start at the beginning…

The truth is, we still haven’t made our final decision about homeschool but we are about 95% sure that we will, at this point. In fact, we are proceeding like we will start homeschool in January. There are a few final particulars that we are waiting to fall into place and both have to do with our jobs.
For now, the first step is enrolling with an “umbrella school” and, of course, withdrawing her from Metro. Our girl just finished the 2nd grading period and school is on holiday break until January 6th. Students are due to return January 7th. The research queen (moi!) did some fact checking and tLG would have to miss 5 consecutive days before we are reported to the truancy department. When you do the math, that means I technically have until January 13th before I have to make a conclusive decision. On that day, I will either send her back or show up to dis-enroll her. The type A in me shudders at waiting until the last minute but, in this case, I’m trying to buy myself as much time as possible because there is so much riding on this decision. This is a burn-a-bridge scenario and I’m not quite ready to strike that match.
So, assuming that the measly 5% of doubt doesn’t change, I’ve researched umbrella schools and have at least made a decision on that. I think. I’m pretty indecisive these days, aren’t I? An umbrella or church-related school covers you legally and gets you out from under the local school board. For a small fee they report everything to the state on your behalf. Some provide additional perks such as group learning activities. I had it narrowed down to 4 choices. Here are the pros and cons to each.
  • PROS: Registration fee is $95 (early rate is $70). Provides organized group activities and tutorial through high school, including varsity sports.
  • CONS: Tutorial meets in Hendersonville (25-30 min drive).
  • PROS: Registration fee is $100 (early rate is $50). Meets in Old Hickory (20 min drive). Web classes available starting in 3rd grade. 
  • CONS: Tutorial is 2 days per week. Unable to find a family currently enrolled with them for a personal testimonial. 
  • PROS: Co-op meets in Hermitage (20-25 min drive). Registration fee is $95 (early rate is $65). Provides organized group activities and tutorial through high school.
  • CONS: Based out of Mt. Juliet and many of the group activities are in the Mt. Juliet area. Co-op is on Friday. Parents are required to teach for 12 weeks of the co-op. 
  • PROS: It’s at The Farm (home of Ina May Gaskin). Enrollment fee is $80 (early rate is $70) and includes a Homeschool Reporting Online account. Program is ran by Jacki Willard. They have an active and informative Facebook group. 
  • CONS: Any special activities would be in Summertown, TN. 

I think ALL of these umbrella schools are reputable options for homeschooling families. However, for us, the ultimate decision came down to location, cost, and flexibility. Aaron Academy was too far for us to take advantage of the tutorial. FCA requires 2 days per week and they just seem like they would be a little too involved in my business. I could be wrong but I can’t find anyone with a personal connection to verify their flexibility. It’s very possible that we would eventually switch to HCA but for now, we wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the co-op because of the day and teaching requirement. Also, if we are going to be involved, we need to attend activities and I literally despise driving to Mt. Juliet. 
That left The Farm School. As a doula, like most birth professionals, I’m a huge fan of The Farm. I’ve even doula’d a baby born at The Farm. In addition to the amazing birth culture there, I’m fascinated by the communal living situation and the history of The Farm. In regards to the school, the fees are reasonable, especially since we are starting in the middle of the year, and they are pretty laid back. The program is run by a woman who is highly esteemed in the general homeschool community so I feel we would be in good hands. Co-op isn’t an option because of the distance but I’ve found a non-umbrella tutorial right here in Donelson (10 min drive). Plus, there is no statement of faith required at The Farm School. For the record, we are Christian believers but, at this point in time, I just want an affordable, yet reputable, uncomplicated option. From my understanding, I simply pay the fee, send in my list of curriculum resources, report attendance and grades online (twice a year) and they leave me to educate my child in the manner I see fit. Sold!
Many of you are interested in our home remodel and I’m excited to share that with you but it’s just starting and kind of a disaster right now. I will definitely post some pics when we have made some more progress and that’s probably on hold until we get through Christmas. 
In part 10, I think I’ll finally be ready to say yay or nay. 


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