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Homeschooling Information

Homeschooling Information

RVA requires homeschooled high school students to have completed their schooling in grades 9-12 through an accredited or a credit-granting institution. Please see the items at the bottom of this page for further information on this policy.

Recommended credit-granting institutions:

We work closely with and strongly recommend the following three institutions. All three have excellent reputations. These are not the cheapest (although their pricing structures are among the best), nor always the simplest options, but they do deliver the quality we look for from a distance-learning program. Each of the following has something different to offer, although all offer AP courses and may provide dual credits.

Northstar Academy

  • Biblical integration is intentional throughout the curriculum.
  • Their primary emphasis is the traditional teacher-assisted (daily interaction w/instructor), live online course.
  • Teachers are committed full-time as instructors.
  • Courses are structured around a semester system. Since this is a live online course, students cannot just join at any stage of the course, or extend much beyond the termination date of the course. Flexibility in terms of timing for the beginning of the course and the completion of the course is therefore somewhat limited.
  • Canadian and IGCSE coursework are also supported.

Sevenstar Academy

  • The curriculum utilizes the Florida virtual school curriculum as a foundation; this is carefully aligned with US National Education Standards. Sevenstar has enhanced this foundation by integrating a biblical worldview in their final curriculum design.
  • The curriculum is structured to allow flexibility in pacing. Although the course is teacher-directed, it is not a live online course as much as it is an independent, well-supported delivery system utilizing streaming video and interactive exercises. Students can also engage in the class with other students through threaded discussions. Teacher assistance is provided.
  • Courses are structured on a semester (.5 credit) basis.

University of Nebraska Lincoln

  • This curriculum is delivered in an online or a print (correspondence course) format. It is a secular curriculum.
  • Students have a full year from the date of enrollment to complete full unit courses, allowing for flexibility in pacing.
  • Courses are structured around a semester system, and students are required to complete the entire semester in order to receive credit; cost is therefore fixed. This can create a challenge for those who only require a term’s worth of credit. The course must be taken as designed; units cannot be resequenced.
  • The online option can be taken with e-grading, where grading is handled online via objective tests (multiple choice, true/false, etc). Feedback is immediate. A second grading option is e-grading+ where written responses are also required. Feedback is provided within days of receipt of work. Teacher assistance is provided.
  • The print option is ideal for those in the bush where online courses are not an option. The interaction with the “instructor” is obviously severely limited, and feedback is delayed. The University of Nebraska Lincoln is willing to allow communication via email for our situation, rather than requiring all communication via snail mail as with many of their students Stateside.

“When we were students, RVA touched our lives in innumerable ways. Here, we were welcomed, nurtured, discipled, and taught to seek Christ above all else. Here, we built friendships that will last a lifetime, learned lessons we carry with us still, and saw every day what the love of Christ looked like, lived out.” –Hanna Kingsbury, RVA alum and teacher

Recognizing a Homeschooling Program as a Satellite School of an Accredited Institution (State of Tennessee Guidelines)

Rift Valley Academy has looked closely at the Tennessee law as an example of a state law addressing the legitimacy of satellite schools affiliated with church schools. While not claiming to understand all the legal implications, it seems clear that there is a definite distinction made between homeschools associated with church schools on paper only and those where the homeschool is legitimately functioning under the church school’s umbrella. The former creates a credit credibility issue; the latter is perfectly acceptable. You will find the appropriate sections from the Tennessee Education Law highlighted below. If a family follows the guidelines so that they are accountable to the accredited school and meet all the school’s requirements, we will certainly accept the credits given by the accredited academy. If they do not follow the strict guidelines and are simply loosely associated with the church school, they will fall under our current policies concerning acceptable credit for homeschooling situations.

If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to dialogue with us.

1999 Guidelines as recommended by the state of Tennessee:

In order to have children attend a church-related school while being taught at home by their parents, the home will have to be designated as a classroom or extension of the church-related school. The parent will have to be considered a faculty member of the church-related school under the direct supervision of its administration. Such an arrangement should have other characteristics which distinguish it from a home school associated with a church-related school, although there are no particular legal requirements as such. Following are examples of such characteristics which would likely be considered by the courts in scrutinizing this education option. The parents should have the same accountability to those in authority at the church-related school as any other teachers at the main campus or location of the school. The curriculum and schedule of instruction should be approved by the church-related school. There should be centralized record keeping, attendance reporting, and academic evaluation. Organized activities of the church-related school such as field trips, sports, and band, as well as group instruction in such subjects as music and art are all factors which further indicate that this is not just a home school program. Merely associating with a church-related school as described in Section 49-6-3050 as a home schooling option is insufficient. The relationship must be such that the school is being operated by denominational, parochial, or bona fide church organization described in Section 49-50-801, not being conducted by the parent as described in Section 49-6-3050. There is no requirement that the main campus of the church-related school be located in the same city as the home where the extension program is being conducted.

If advised by the parent either that a home school is being conducted in association with a church-related school or that the child is attending a church-related school through its extension program, this information may be verified by contacting the church-related school. In such an inquiry the church-related school may be asked to provide the name of the denominational, parochial, or other bona fide church organization operating the school, so that this may be verified as well. There should be no need for further inquiry.

Recognition of Credits Policy

Regarding recognition of credits for transfer students homeschooled in any of the high school grades, 9th-12th:

At RVA, we believe it is necessary for the homeschooled high school student to be enrolled in a homeschooling or correspondence program with a credit-granting institution. In such cases, all evaluations are done by faculty members of the institution, and credit is granted only when all the standardized requirements have been met.

Therefore, the following guidelines apply:

1. If a student is in grade 9 or above and has been homeschooled, the homeschooling MUST have been done through a credit-granting organization where tests and papers are evaluated by the organization, not the parents. This policy allows a school to give credit on the student’s transcript, calculate GPA and class rank, and will provide acceptable credits toward graduation. We can then easily place the student into our program with reasonable certainty that the student is prepared to meet RVA requirements.

2. Even if the student is only in grade 7 or 8, we still strongly recommend that homeschooling be done through a recognized organization.

If a student comes to RVA who has been homeschooled during any of his/her high school years but not through a credit-granting institution, we may not be able to accept that student, award credits or grades for courses taken, or place him/her at the desired grade level.

Click here to read an Explanation of the Recognition of Credits Policy

Dear Parents:

I understand that there may be some confusion about RVA’s criteria for accepting or denying credit for courses taken by students in a homeschooling context. The more restrictive parameters we follow are only applied to high school transcripts. This letter is an attempt to give an explanation to our homeschooled high schoolers policy.

There are many great homeschooling resources available to parents; the diversity of these options is literally increasing daily. These have provided tremendous flexibility for families. We are pleased with the expanding variety of options available to families and the opportunity it has provided for many families to delay the boarding option until their children are older. It is RVA’s perspective that while these include many wonderful programs, there are some programs that are poorly designed. In addition, there are times that despite the best of intentions, poor delivery (or administration) of excellent curriculum can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the instruction.

For grades 9-12, a student’s transcript plays a very important role in the communication of a student’s academic performance and competencies. When RVA places a credit on a student’s transcript we are vouching for the integrity and meaning of this credit and the accompanying grade. It is therefore the position of RVA that credits will only be awarded if RVA has directly monitored the curriculum content and ensured that the delivery (or administration) of the curriculum meets minimum internal standards. Credits for courses taken external to RVA are only recognized if they are awarded by duly accredited educational institutions. This is because it is a distinct conflict of interest to ask parents to monitor and assess the delivery (or administration) of the curriculum. Accredited organizations maintain the credibility of their courses by externally assessing student progress and/or delivering the curriculum via certified instructors. Although many parents may be well qualified to deliver certain courses, and can be trusted to objectively evaluate their child’s progress, this cannot always be assumed. RVA has chosen to rely on the use of accredited programs to establish credibility before accepting otherwise unknown credits and grades. We support homeschooling 100%, we just need to be careful to protect the reputation and meaning of our diploma programs.

There are many wonderful online academies that will meet RVA’s standard of credibility. Please refer to the prior section on this page that compares and contrasts three of our most strongly recommended distance learning providers.

If homeschooling courses have not been taken through an accredited institution then admission of the student and the determination of credit standing can be complicated. This does not necessarily keep us from ever awarding credits for courses not taken through an accredited program. In rare cases, we can grant credit based on the successful completion of the next course in the academic sequence, but there is no possible way to award any grade other than a pass/no pass. This does not produce a very favorable transcript. In such situations standardized test scores become a much more critical component of a student’s college application process, or even the sole component for establishing college readiness. This is why many families in such a situation will choose to bypass the high school diploma and establish their child’s competency through distance learning in college level courses and then attempt to transfer to the university of choice.

I hope this explains why we have limited ourselves to only awarding credits for home schooling courses where these courses have been taken through an accredited (or credit-granting) institution. We are continuing to research additional options for providing more flexible homeschooling programs for our families, particularly those in the “bush,” while still protecting our credibility.

Respectfully,

Tim Hall
Superintendent
Rift Valley Academy

P.S. Homeschooling in the younger grades does not create such a challenge since the transcript issue really only pertains to grades 9-12. In grades K-8, it is our hope that each mission agency will take responsibility for ensuring the integrity of the educational options chosen by their missionary families. This may be done through the support provided through a homeschooling coordinator who regularly visits and supports families utilizing this option. Mission agencies would hopefully offer annual standardized testing in order to monitor students’ academic progress. If a family chooses to transition from the homeschooling option to RVA’s institutionalized educational program, these same tests will be used for determining academic readiness and proper placement.

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