Colorado Umbrella Schools for Unschoolers

Homeschooling is an “exception” to Colorado’s Compulsory School Attendance Law. We have another exception: we can enroll our children in an Umbrella School (aka “Cover” school, “Satellite” school). The Colorado Legislature officially calls them “Non-public, Independent or Parochial Schools.”

Before you choose an umbrella school, familiarize yourself with Colorado’s Legal Requirements for Non-Public Schools. Make sure the school knows the law and is complying with all the requirements. I’ve run across some fly-by-night operations, that have vanished and left parents holding the bag. It’s made me very careful about the schools I list and recommend.

What Exactly Is An “Umbrella School”?
Excerpted from The Colorado Homeschool Law In A Nutshell: It’s a licensed private school, like any other private school. However, umbrella/cover/satellite schools specifically cater to homeschoolers. They’re owned and operated by homeschoolers. Also, an umbrella school has to have at least one location in Colorado, in order to comply with our legal requirements.

The Nutshell also answers:

Why Are They Called “Umbrella” Schools? It Sounds Shady.
What is The Bohls’ Decision? Why Is It So Important?
What Are The Benefits of Enrolling?
Do Umbrella Schools Require Annual Testing?

There are a few other umbrella schools in Colorado, but they’re structured, require a certain type of curricula, and generally just aren’t unschooler-friendly. I only list schools that support child-led, natural learning.

West River Academy.
My personal favorite. WRA has two locations; one in Colorado and one in California. Here are some of their great benefits:
— Minimum oversight.
— Accredited.
— Affordable.
— Over 26 years’ experience.
— Supporting unique kids, co-ops and special needs.
— WRA graduates have been accepted into major universities all across the U.S.
— They have students all over the world.
— Tuition can be paid via PayPal’s “Bill Me Later” six-month, no-interest plan.
— New families: want a $40 discount on your first year? Email and ask for the RMEC discount.

Spiral Academy
Serving K-12, Spiral allows parents to chose the curricula and methodology that they prefer. They welcome all religious beliefs (or not), political viewpoints and cultures.

Alpine Valley School
NOTE: AVS is a private, brick-and-mortar school located in Wheat Ridge CO. It is NOT an umbrella school like those mentioned above. However, it is worth mentioning, because it’s a terrific option for parents who’d like to have a physical location for their unschooled children to attend every day, mingle with other unschoolers, and have on-site mentors available. Students age 5-18 explore the world and their interests, free of grades, grade levels, bells, whistles, tests, and required classes. AVS is based on the Sudbury Valley School, which was founded in 1968. Alpine is the only school of its kind in Colorado.

Online Virtual Academies Mislead Homeschoolers
If you want to enroll in one of these things, go right ahead. Just don’t call yourself a homeschooler. You’re a public-schooler-at-home.

Colorado’s Homeschool Law Turns Twenty:
The Battle Should Never Be Forgotten
Thanks to The Independence Institute for posting a concise little history of Colorado’s home school legal battles over the years. We need to remember how restrictive homeschooling used to be, and how wonderfully different it is now.