There is a common misconception about homeschooling that the parent does all of the teaching. In my initial research, receiving advice from experienced parents, I learned that I don’t have to do it all. This was a relief to me, having for the past twenty years been a control freak, doing it all has always been a bad habit of mine!
So, there are two approaches that can be considered in America. A parent can file a private school affidavit letting the government know that we won’t be enrolling our children into an accredited institution, but taking the responsibility to teach ourselves. Or, a parent can actually enroll the child in a charter school with most of the traditional homeschooling characteristics.
I decided to enroll my girls in a charter school. Here in Southern California, we have quite a selection of schools to choose from. Determining which fit best with my level of comfort took a few calls, conversations and research. There are basically two types of charter home schools: (1) Online Learning with a Curriculum and (2) Parent Chooses Curriculum and Teaching Method.
Let’s look at the first, Online Learning with a Curriculum. An example of a school that provides this type of education is K12. K12 is an online public school with teachers and a curriculum. Students log in to the website portal each day and attend classes led by a teacher online and do their appropriate school work as assigned. The curriculum is provided by the school and non-consumables such as text books must be returned. There are teachers available to ask questions and support the students as needed.
The second option is a charter school that allows the parent to choose the curriculum. Many of these schools offer the parents a per semester budget per child to purchase the curriculum. The budget may even allow for equipment such as microscopes, iPads or laptops. However, just as with any non-consumable materials, such equipment must be returned upon leaving the school. This works out especially well for parents with multiple children who may share the equipment. Now the catch is the budget may only be used with approved vendors. Vendors may include classes, tutoring, music and art programs. An example of such a school is Excel Academy AAS. With this type of program, parents are responsible to choose how the child is to learn. We may either purchase the books from approved vendors and teach the material ourselves, or we may even enroll our children in classes with an approved vendor and pay for those classes out of the budget. An example of an organization that provides core classes would be Discovery of Learning. With this program, a child can attend live, teacher led classes twice a week and do coursework / homework at home on the other days, and have the cost paid for through the charter budget.
These are just a few of the options available to parents. The primary difference between enrolling in a public charter versus filing a private school affidavit is that you will either be able to use public school funds to pay for your curriculum or you must pay out of pocket. Obviously, with a private school affidavit, you have much more control. If enrolled in any public schools, state exams are still a requirement along with reporting what you are doing. Also, funds may not be used toward a religious organization.
I mention religious organizations as many parents who choose to home school are doing so to keep religion in their child’s education. This wasn’t a reason I decided to home school, but I did end up with a mix of curriculum with my children, some religious based.
I did decide to go through a public charter school. I used the budget to pay for quite a bit of science materials and projects. For my younger daughter, I ordered several different math and language arts curriculum. Some of it was covered with my budgets, others I paid out of pocket. We jump from math practice exercises to creative geometry and do some common core / Singapore based math work. I decided to start one year grade lower and am glad I did. There are some grade level mathematics that she is doing, but for the most part we are focusing on the understanding, logic and critical thinking so 1 year grade lower was important to make sure she becomes solid before we progress.
For my 6th grader however, I enrolled her into teacher led classes at a local Christian University that provided home school academics programs. Yes, the cost to do this was out of pocket for me, but the classes will prepare her for college as she must follow a syllabus and stick to the rigorous agenda set forth. It is a very disciplining program. Since I didn’t use most of her charter budget for curriculum, I was able to fund piano lessons and will be adding some additional math tutoring in the coming semester.
So for anyone who has wondered or has been curious to the possibility of home schooling, there are many options out there and you don’t have to do it all yourself.