I’d like to finally end my series on cyberschooling with a review of some public charter schools. In previous posts I talk about the pros and cons of online homeschooling, a list of 5 virtual private school options, and a listing of 30 faith-based virtual schools. And now for the infamous “bringing school home” topic that gets so many feathers ruffled. I’m guilty of being part of the crowd that tends to lean as far away as possible from the idea of having a “school-at-home” mentality. But with a few mindset shifts and refocusing on our family vision here’s what we came up with:
This year our family finally decided to tackle a new and unchartered territory that we felt ‘called’ to for this season of our family transition- and that is cyberschooling. However, we’ve chosen a path that is not popular among many homeschoolers, mainly because it’s government-funded. We elected not to go with a private option and chose, instead, to use an online public charter school.
I reveal this bluntly, not to be dramatic, but to be completely honest and open about where we are in our homeschooling journey. We’re still on that path of homeschooling, but taking a slightly different route that hopefully lands us where we need to be in the end. And I also want to free up others who are contemplating the idea of cyberschool that it’s not as scary as it looks (or it can be, depending on how you look at it!) But you should do what’s best for your family in the season that you’re in.
By all means, please look at this listing as just that: a list. It’s a simple list with options for school-at-home, or virtual-based schooling. This is not for everybody, and if you’re a completely independent-type, this blog post is most likely not for you. Feel free to skip to another post. But you have to know me first, the fact that I’m an extremely independent homeschool mama who for 8 years has been doing this thing all on my own, and after much prayer (and tears) and hesitation, and finally-resolution- I decided that what was best for my middle school daughter at this time is to let her try her wings as I step back and learn to take the role as “learning coach” while working with her assigned teachers. Collaborating with certified teachers and helping to develop her individual learning plan is not something I would have ever considered doing just one year ago. My home, my school, my way…that has always been my motto. Until I realized that my daughter’s needs extended way beyond my way and the Lord really would have me to seek Him for His way in helping to pave my daughter’s way. So it’s really not about me. And when private virtual schools are too pricey the options that have been most attractive to me are, of course, free. So free and online public charter it is for us- this year. I don’t know what will happen in the future, or if this is something we’ll even stick with long-term, but it’s the direction we’re heading in for 2014-15.
I also realize that many parents just starting out with homeschooling – especially if you’re pulling your kids out of the brick and mortar schools for the first time- might be overwhelmed with the liberties of breaking away and doing things your own way. Some parents don’t want the complete responsibility of homeschooling but still want the benefits. Getting help when you need it is perfectly okay! Other parents (like myself) have been been doing it on my own for years and find that although it is an initial challenge to partner with a school there are definitely some benefits to having the additional teacher and peer support for both myself and my students. Just be aware of your options and be educated about the different ways to homeschool in your state. Know that you don’t have to go through any other avenue (charter school/cyberschool) to be a legal homeschooler. In fact, most homeschoolers do it on their own and are doing a wonderful job. The cons: once you team up with a school, the flexibility to some degree is gone and you’ll need to conform to the school you’re enrolled in. This includes testing and if you have issues with Common Core you’ll need to take a second look, do your research and figure out what CC is exactly and how the school you select handles this in the curriculum. The pros: you’ll have teacher support and many times the extra peer support and social “extras” and perks that make it feel more exciting and fun for your kids.
I’m providing these list of options, and I haven’t researched each of these thoroughly (except for the first option), so please do your own research. Also, please note that many free cyberschools are not offered in some states.
Free Public School Options
K12. Many schools throughout the nation (and countries worldwide) recognize K12 as an accredited curriculum utilized by private, public, and independent homeschools. K12 is essentially a curriculum that can be used in partnership with state charter schools (such as the California Virtual Academy, Georgia Virtual Academy, or Florida Virtual Academy, etc.), or as a private cyberschool (K12 International Academy), or independently on a subject-by-subject basis. I do have some experience with K12 since in the past I have used the curriculum as an independent homeschooler, and I honestly thought the material was well-researched and planned out. A lot of thought is put into the making of the curriculum as it is mastery-based. I used the writing component and some of the grammar for my daughter in 5th grade several years ago (purchased on sale from Ebay), and I found it to be excellent material. (This is not an ad for K12 and they don’t sponsor me, just so you know.)
I think where many parents fear K12 is the regulated aspect of the cyberschool. When checking for virtual schools be sure you feel comfortable with the requirements of the school. For 2014-15 we have decided to use the free cyberschool and take advantage of the full program, and it is a lot to swallow, especially if you’re accustomed to doing everything independently. That’s why I emphasize, it’s not for everybody.
Overall, I don’t have any issues with the curriculum or the way the virtual school is run. In fact, so far, I have positive experiences from the enrollment process- and, of course, I won’t have all the “real deal” juicy details until we’re elbow-deep in science projects close to Christmas time. Then I can give you my full opinion 🙂 We shall see. (If you have any personal questions about this program please feel free to contact me personally and I’ll give you honest updates and how things are going for us. momzest *at* gmail dot com).
Connections Academy. Similar to K12, Connections is an online accredited college-prep cyberschool which offers both state-regulated public charter schools in addition to online private schools.
Calvert Schools. Both paid and free options are available, depending on where you live. Calvert has been around for years and many families feel extremely comfortable with this school choice.
Different states have different schools.
If you’re interested in going the route of school-at-home, you’ll need to check your state for its local listings. Some I’ve seen pop up in my google searches are:
- Florida Virtual School
- Village Green (Rhode Island)
- Vallivue Virtual Academy (Idaho)
- South Carolina Public Charter School
- Virtual Learning Academy (New Hampshire)
- Oregon Department of Education E-learning options list
- North Carolina Virtual Public School
- Georgia Cyber Academy
- Indiana Charter Schools
Cyber schools and virtual schools are not one and the same.
Charter schools and virtual schools are not the same thing, although they can be. Some charter schools are brick and mortar, some are virtual. Some virtual schools are private schools and are not charter schools. Ask lots of questions and get your facts cleared up before you jump in so you know what you’re getting in to. That’s why it’s important to choose wisely. If this is the direction you want to go in, pray first, then get informed.
Read the entire series:
- Pros and Cons of Online Homeschooling
- 5 Virtual Private Schools-Online Homeschooling Options, pt. 2
- 30 Faith-Based Virtual Schools
Feel free to ask me any questions you have regarding this and I’ll see if we can find some help for you. Comments welcome below.