Just a few years ago I never would have touched charter schools with a ten foot pole. You just couldn’t convince me. But today? I have a different take on this subject, and I’d like to share with you my experience with charter schools at this point in my journey.
As I mentioned, today I have a completely different take on charter schools- what they are, the different types of charter schools, how they can be helpful or not, and how they might fit into the lives of homeschooling families.
If you haven’t followed my homeschooling journey of weaving in and out of different cover schools, charter schools, and independently (traditional) homeschooling, you’ll want to check out my video about that.
I ultimately started off completely independent and traditional. We purchased or created our own curriculum, set up our schedules, and made it work.
From independent to charter and back
Not long after our traditional homeschooling approach, we moved to California and we got involved with a local charter school. I had mixed emotions on our experience that year, so we decided to go independent the following year. That’s when we purchased Sonlight. (Here’s our unboxing experience.)
The following year, my daughter- then in 7th grade- decided she wanted to try online school. Full time virtual schooling is simply a form of public school that your family cooperates with…in your home. So in our experience, we signed up our kids for K12 (my youngest in 1st grade only lasted about a week or two before we withdrew her), were assigned teachers and lessons for each week, and gained a boat load of free curriculum and supplies to last us the entire school year. Everything was free. Here’s our K12 unboxing video.
Mid-way through the school year (around Christmas time), we withdrew my 7th grader, and transferred her to Connections Academy to finish out the school year. Connections was a much better fit…but I still knew that for the following year-8th grade, we didn’t want to repeat a full time virtual school experience.
So, here’s my take on the truth about online schools. And my updated thoughts on cyberschools. The two videos are pretty much the same info- the first being more in depth than the other. Watch them if you have extra time on your hands since they are long.
Parent Choice Charter Schools (California)
For my daughter’s 8th grade year, we decided to go back to the charter school we initially ditched for Sonlight 2 years prior. And this time, we loved it. We ended up signing up my then 1st-grader first for a trial run mid-way through the school year. Since our experience was pretty awesome, we brought my oldest over for the following school year, and my kids completed 2nd and 8th grade with our charter school. We’ll be staying in the charter school another year (this year- 9th grade) and for my youngest (3rd grade).
This is very different than online school. As a parent choice school which is publicly funded, I was was drawn to the level of freedom we have as parents to make decisions regarding curriculum, pace of assigned lessons, and funds to assist our kids with extracurricular activities and electives. We can select online school courses as well. It meant public school funds funneled back into our families and supporting our homeschooling endeavors- despite that it also meant mandatory annual testing and once-monthly meetings with a “teacher” or “educational specialist”. I have no problems with the meetings or the annual testing, and was assigned a wonderful ES with whom I’ve developed a pretty nice relationship with over the years.
The freedom I have to select from a wide array of curriculum options, homeschool philosophies, and educational activities makes this type of charter school fit well for my family. It works for us.
I’m not sure if this type of homeschooling option is offered in other states, but I found the parent choice charter schools in California to be a wonderful option for homeschooling families. I think it gives newbie homeschoolers a nice transition into what could be a scary experience jumping in independently to the world of homeschooling, but it also helps “veteran” homeschoolers like myself by giving us funds to support our homeschooling mission and allow our kids opportunities to explore their interests through dance classes, art classes, P.E. and sports, paid-for co-ops, and other educational enrichment without us ever having to spend a penny.
Yes, it means giving up my “independence” to some degree, as I’ve agreed to align myself with the school’s need for assessments and agreement to use resource materials. But my homeschool hasn’t been changed for the worse. My homeschool is my homeschool , and I teach my kids anything I like- including the bible. (I just don’t report bible courses to the publicly funded charter school). And I’m okay with that.
I’m not too familiar with independent study, but I know that these are offered through local school districts. There are a few different types I know of.
Some require classwork be turned into an assigned teacher in a more personal one-on-one relationship- almost a tutoring situation. Some students who haven’t done so well in public schools opt to homeschool this way. They still receive support from their local public school and can participate in sports. The only difference is, they just do the work at home. I know of at least one family that selected this for her son in high school.
Other independent study programs I’m more familiar with allow students to take classes on site (though not in a school setting) while taking others at home.
Ou independent study is quite different. It operates more like a parent choice program. Here is a 20-minute video explaining the difference and what I like about our program.
If you’re living in the area, or know of someone who lives in Silicon Valley, along the coast of Monterey Bay into San Benito County or up throughout the Bay Area (San Mateo), you may want to recommend the IEM schools.
Let me know if you have any questions about my experience in charter schools. I usually respond quickly to this blog and youtube channel.
Have a great week!