Charter Schools and Homeschooling

This is one of those hot topics that circle around the homeschooling online communities: what impact does it have when charter schools use the term “homeschooling” to describe their program. And, what can we do about it?

In California, we don’t have the word “homeschooling” in any of our educational codes, so when charters use the term, the concern seems to be that they are giving the message to the people of California that charters are the only way to homeschool. I’m not entirely convinced this is true, but I’ll entertain the idea, and be open to the possibilities.

In the California media, when an article or PR comes out saying that a charter offers a “homeschooling” program, many letters are sent to the editor explaining that charters are public schools and are not the same as independent homeschooling, and shouldn’t be confused. So far, that seems to keep the lions at bay. And, since homeschooling is not in the actual ed code, we don’t have to be acutely concerned about the charter schools mowing over our rights to homeschool outside of the public school tentacles.

So, in your state, are there charter schools, and how have they affected independent homeschooling?


2 Responses to “Charter Schools and Homeschooling”

  1. onlysometimesclever Says:

    Well, Arizona has quite a few charter schools. In general, they’re roundly pronounced as “failures” because so many of the kids’ test scores are on the way-low end. However, that’s a bit deceiving, because many of the charter schools cater to niche learners: those who have had poor experiences at regular public schools, those who are accenting the performing arts, those who need to school at night, those who are seeking to learn a trade, etc.

    Also, there has been a rise in so-called umbrella schools: a charter school picks a curriculum that is well-suited to homeschooling (like William Bennett’s K12) and supplies home-learners with a computer and all supplies, as well as providing oversight by a teacher who will visit the home monthly, or as needed, and who is available for phone & e-mail support, as well. The family “homeschools,” but under the auspices of the charter school, which sets the guidelines.

    A friend of mine is in her 2nd year of doing this. In one way, it was a God-send, because they didn’t have the funds to purchase curriculum for all their kids, and she felt a little overwhelmed just jumping in by herself to homeschooling with 3 school-age kids. But, she now finds herself burnt out from endless records-upkeep and milestones, schedules, & testing that she is required to adhere to. (“Normal” homeschoolers in AZ are required to only sign and have notarized an affadavit committing to a well-rounded education, and to school for 35 weeks each year — no records, and no testing.) I’m not certain of *all* her reasons, but this friend has decided that, in the Fall, she will be sending her kids to a regular public school — well, no, actually, she’ll be sending them to a charter school that has a “normal” style school campus.

    I think the effect that charter schools have had on homeschooling education in negligable. Well, no… I’m re-thinking that. I know a number of families who would like to homeschool, but for one reason or another, don’t feel able to do so. So, as an alternative to their first preference (homeschooling), they are glad to have a school where they, say, can be on a committee that picks out textbooks, or that approves a reading list. They are glad to have greater input in their children’s education, and good communication with their kids’ teachers.

    After my first year of hs’ing, I had decided that I wasn’t “good” enough, and had enrolled my oldest son in a charter school. But, a month before school was to start, I found Sonlight, which fit 98% of my personal goals for schooling, and it provided a schedule (I had felt adrift in thousands of available choices, and wanted something to which I could adhere, but which wasn’t as structured/dry as, say, Alpha-Omega or ACE).

    What I’m stumbling along here to say is that the choices charter schools provide kind of present a good news/bad news scenario. I think that even MORE families would choose to hs if their only other option were “traditional” public schools.

    Clear as mud? 8)

  2. onlysometimesclever Says:

    “affidavit,” that is.

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