I homeschool through a public charter school.
So according to the state of California, my daughter is a public school student. Even though I am her only instructor and she spends all her days with me.
There is a lot of negativity in Christian circles toward charter schools. I can talk about that another day. Today I want to talk about some of the pros and cons of homeschooling through a charter school and how things have worked for us during the last year and a half.
Funds are available to buy curriculum, supplies and to pay for classes.
(To be honest, this is the biggest pro for us.) We are allotted a significant amount of money each semester to request curriculum, supplies, and to pay for various classes. This is not a blank check. In fact I never actually see the money. I submit my requests to our "teacher," and she will order the items requested. The funds available have been enough to cover all our curriculum, dance classes, and lots of supplemental materials as well.
We meet with my daughter's "teacher" once a month for about an hour to review progress. These meetings are a really good way to take an objective look at what we've done the previous month. My daughter gets to talk about what she's accomplished and learned. Knowing we have a scheduled meeting is a good kick in the pants for me on those days when school gets lost in the shuffle of life. Since I get along great with my daughter's teacher it's like having a friendly coffee date with a friend!
Freedom to choose different methods, curriculum, or scope and sequence.
I am not required to use a California-adopted curriculum. I have been following the classical scope and sequence, which means we are currently studying life science and ancient history. This is fairly different than what is being taught in California public schools in first grade. The job of our "teacher" is to take what we've learned, and see where it fits the state standards. In the long run, I believe we will have covered all the same state standards (and then some), but in a different sequence. I have the freedom to teach what I want when I want and the charter school allows me to do that.
Field trips (though limited socialization)
The charter school offers several field trip opportunities throughout the year. Since there are so many students from all over southern California, we've found that it's not the best way to meet new friends. It is, however, a great way to see friends we already know and spend the day with them while learning some things at the same time.
No daily requirement of instructional hours:
We are required to do school each day, but when we're done, we're done. We typically spend 2-3 hours doing direct "schooling" during which we cover Bible, reading, phonics or grammar, math, science or history, and either art, music, Shakespeare, or hymn study. The charter school recognizes the efficiency of homeschooling and thankfully does not mandate set hours.
Mandatory state testing (although no mandatory test prep)
This one is painful. Next year my daughter will be old enough for state testing. I do not believe high-stakes assessment are a good indicator of student progress, especially at such a young age. The positive side of it is that I am not required to do test prep. As my daughter's teacher, I will not "teach to the test" nor do any significant test prep with her. In public schools much time is spent doing mandatory test prep rather than real instruction, which I think is a greater detriment than the test itself.
Four other tests throughout the year.
There are several other tests my daughter must take throughout the year. Fortunately most of these are given during our monthly "teacher" meetings. There is also a writing test administered at home, which I am not excited about at such a young age. I view these as $400 tests that "earn" us our funding. Am I selling out? Maybe.
Limitations on what funds can be used for
There are definitely restrictions on what can be purchased. Things can only be purchased through approved vendors and that are grade-level appropriate. They must also be non-sectarian (not Christian). I purchase or find my own materials for our Bible lessons and hymn study.
Follow the set school calendar
The charter school has as set calendar that follows closely to a traditional school calendar, starting in late August and ending at the end of May. It's not really a negative for us, but it could be for some families. We can and have taken vacations during school days and called them field trips and brought our school work with us.
Other than the field trips, being a part of a public charter has not directly provided us with social opportunities. (Some public charter schools offer drop-off classes. Ours does not.) Fortunately, we have plenty of other activities to meet this need such as co-op, church activities, library storytime, and park days.
With all that said, the public charter school option has been the best choice for us. I have spent much time and thought weighing all of our options for education, and this option is the the best one for us at this point in time. It is not perfect. It is not the best choice for everyone. I do, however, feel that it it is an option that deserves consideration.
I know this can be a touchy subject, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. Comments, questions, and discussions are always welcome!