From time to time, homeschool families face a particular question. It goes like this, "Is your program accredited?" What is really being asked has more to do with the quality of education and some sort of outside validation, but that's where the misconceptions come in. Knowing the value of accreditation is important to homeschoolers, whether or not they choose to seek it, but keep in mind that there is a cost to accreditation, too. You will have to ask yourself whether or not it's worth it in the long run.
The primary reason that a homeschool family might choose to use an accredited homeschool program has more to do with a "parachute" than it does a quality program. There are many, many high-quality non-accredited homeschool programs and curricula out there, depending on your long-range plans and family needs. However, sometimes those needs can change. Sometimes a last-minute adjustment has to be made. If the homeschool family suspects that one day they may choose to assimilate their child back into a public school program, then the "parachute" of accredited homeschool curricula makes sense. An accredited program says to the public school systems that certain standards were met, as determined by the accrediting agency.
That brings us to the second aspect of accreditation that must be understood by homeschoolers. The standards by which accreditation is earned are set by the agencies offering the accreditation, not the public schools, not the private schools, and certainly not the colleges. Accreditation is voluntary, not required, from the perspective of college admissions. In fact, since there are a variety of accrediting agencies, the standards themselves can vary and all that accreditation means in the long run is that you have met one particular set of standards in your homeschool program. For this reason, colleges tend to ignore accreditation. They place much greater emphasis on SAT and ACT scores, since these are generalized across the entire population.
An interesting side-note to this topic is taking place at the college level regarding accreditation. In a recent proposal by the Department of Education entitled "Program Integrity Issues," accreditation rules for colleges, public and private, has been suggested. This proposal suggests that the federal government would begin to determine by what standards colleges may award credits and introduces more federal control over college programs, and therefore their own accreditation. Not surprisingly, this proposal is not being met with great support at the college level, which speaks to their general sentiment regarding accreditation. If they are not interested in it for themselves, it is safe to say that they do not value it much for their incoming students either.
However, if the parachute option is of relevance to you because you need to keep your options open for returning your homeschool student to a public school "one day," then you need to be aware that there is usually a financial expenditure for this service. Whether it's an umbrella program that reviews your work and attests to your ability to meet their guidelines, or it's a fully accredited curriculum, administered by a particular accreditation agency, you will pay more for their accreditation services.
Keep in mind that colleges will not require accreditation. Homeschooling does not require accreditation. The only group that requires accreditation is the local public schools and a few of the private schools. If that is the target of your homeschool program, then accreditation may be worth it for you. If, however, the target of your homeschool program is to prepare and equip students for life-long learning, college readiness, and use high-quality curricula to do so, then you will not need accreditation in your homeschool program.