A Private Online School vs. Correspondence Course

Q. I’m planning to enroll my child in an online private school related to a university. Do I need to file a Notice of Intent form?

A. You may not need to file a Virginia Notice of intent (NOI), but it’s important to understand the difference between a private online academy and a correspondence course.  With both types of schooling, education is taking place in your home; however, these programs are setup differently.

A private school may offer full time enrollment via online instruction to students who are not physically on their school campus. Most private schools are associated with an accrediting organization that oversees the schools operations and standards. A private school with an online academy provides the curriculum, establishes lesson plans, and maintains records of your student’s achievement. The student must reach certain benchmarks (grades) in order to move to the next grade level. The parent will receive scheduled grade reports from the school. Course information and grades will eventually be included in a high school transcript developed by the academy. When the course of study is complete, the private school will issue a diploma signed by the private school administration, not signed by the parent. Full time enrollment in a private school that provides online instruction would not require filing a NOI. Your student would be a private school student, not a homeschooler.

In contrast, a correspondence course is not promoted as a private school. It is a company that may provide a complete curriculum or individual courses to homeschool parents. A parent may pick and choose the appropriate courses. The correspondence company may or may not provide lesson plans and keep grades. The parent has the flexibility to move at a suitable pace for his child. A parent gives and maintains all grades, and at the high school level, develops a high school transcript for his student. The parent determines when the course of study is complete and signs a homeschool diploma for his student. When using a correspondence course, a parent would file a NOI and show proof of enrollment (a cancelled check or welcome letter) in the correspondence program. Your student would be considered a homeschool student.

If you are unsure of the type of school (i.e. a private online school or a correspondence course) further research online or a phone call may clarify the status. Some parents who use an online private school may still be more comfortable filing a NOI and complying with option (iii). If a parent decides to do this, he could easily use the final grade report as proof of progress. Filing a NOI indicates the student is a homeschooler.


Yvonne Bunn
HEAV Director of Homeschool Support and Government Affairs

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