View Full Version : Do State-Sponsored Online Schools Pose a Threat to Independent Homeschoolers?

04-05-2010, 09:19 AM
Do you think state-sponsored online schooling poses any threat to independent homeschoolers? This article (http://www.wenatcheeworld.com/news/2010/apr/03/home-school-definition-identity-blurs-with-new/) got me curious, and I wondered what those of you who have participated in this kind of homeschooling think about it....

Home-school definition, identity blurred (http://www.wenatcheeworld.com/news/2010/apr/03/home-school-definition-identity-blurs-with-new/)

04-05-2010, 09:48 AM
Noah hasn't participated in virtual schooling per se (he's used online programs for some subjects) but my oldest p.s. kid is currently taking Spanish through Florida Virtual School, which is p.s. at home in Florida, free to any Florida resident. I really chaffe under the control of the government when it comes to education and this is why I registered Noah through an umbrella school, to avoid the annual portfolio review (if you don't like the evaluation you get, you can pay another evaluator to get another one so why ever bother?!) and to avoid standardized testing. Florida Virtual School is used by some homeschoolers, but it's not homeschooling. It's really school at home. The teachers call the the parents if the kids don't complete the assignments on time, they have to do x amount of assignments per week, etc, they have tests, grades, it shows on their transcripts, etc.

I totally get where this article comes from, and, while I'm grateful that FLVS is an option for Florida residents (it's cheaper to us taxpayers than B&M schools and many people have good reasons for using it including having access to classes that are not offered at their local school), I agree that letting the public at large assume that it's the same thing as homeschooling is dangerous to our liberties. I'm not sure that there is a conspiracy to get homeschoolers to register with virtual schools necessarily, but I could see several politicians using the excuse of state-sponsored virtual schools to try to force homeschooling families to register with them. I do believe that there is a push in this country to weaken the rights of parents to further the rights of the individual child, and while it is disguised as "progress", I personally think that it's eroding our parental rights, and could definitely erode our right to homeschool the way we see fit. Feel free to disagree, I'm really not here to start a fight on this, I'm just expressing my opinion :)

But it's going to be hard to get the people to understand what homeschooling truly means, when, among ourselves, we sometimes don't agree ("You don't homeschool, you do school at home!", "You are an unschooler, you don't "school at all!", etc.), and when we have so many different ways to homeschool, from family to family, from state to state. I'm not advocating standards for homeschool, I'm just making a remark. Technically, Noah isn't even a homeschooler, he's considered a private school student. It's not fun to try to explain that to people who are not familiar with how homeschooling works in Florida (i.e. 99% of the population!). They think I'm some kind of fraud, I guess, they always have this "Uh?!" look on their face and look dubious like I'm crazy and misunderstood what homeschooling means. It's irritating when I get that from someone who's not even a homeschooler themselves, lol.

04-05-2010, 09:55 AM
I thought anyone doing school at home could be considered a homeschooler. I didn't know this was an issue. To me it's odd and I really don't see the problem. I thought there were many different types of homeschoolers. Some use umbrella schools, correspondence schools, public or charter school programs, while others just put together their own curriculum. I use Calvert and in Maryland that defines me as a homeschooler, in other states it might be part of a public school option or private school option. It seems like a really complicated issue to begin with, trying to create labels and stick with them. I think the focus shouldn't be on separating people into groups, and refusing to allow someone to call themselves homeschoolers, but on protecting the rights on every homeschooler on all levels.

04-05-2010, 12:20 PM
We haven't used any of these kind of resources yet, though I would certainly consider using some on-line courses in conjunction with other teaching methods and curricula as I find appropriate in my children's best interests. Because these types of courses and programs could give some excuse to the anti-homeschooling elements to try to toughen legislation governing home education, it seems important that homeschoolers stay on top of those kind of attempts and fight hard to block them. It seems to me that homeschoolers really need to stick together to maintain the right to control and guide our own children's education and not let differences in philosophy/approach to education get in the way.

We know there isn't just one way to "properly" educate our kids and the greatest benefit to home schooling is that we can individualize our approach. But that is one reason why I would support having these on line, state sponsored programs available-they may work very well for some kids-but there is a big difference between having them available and making them mandatory.

New Hampshire has recently had some large battles over the rights of parents to direct their children's education (and we have won, more or less), but we need to be vigilant in protecting these rights...and to be even more aware when small, incremental steps are taken to limit our abilities in that regard.

04-05-2010, 01:03 PM
This is a huge issue here in CA, one I have to be honest, I'm largely dispassionate about, but I do understand the passion. Technically, homeschooling is not legal in CA, so homeschoolers either file as a private school, use a charter (public school), or an umbrella school. I've done both as my own private school and using the charter. The freedom of on my own is nice, the resources of the charter is why we currently use them.

However, there is definitely a strong anti-charter among many independent homeschoolers and then, when I joined the charter, a weird sort of "what kind of homeschooler" are you. The first time someone asked me my percentage I gave them a blank stare (it refers to how many days a week your child is with you opposed to in classes). I do think the divisions among homeschoolers did not help at all when CA had the legal problems a couple years ago regarding the legality of homeschooling.

Personally, I'm a "do what works" parent, and that extends to my schooling.

04-05-2010, 01:29 PM

This is where defining things makes things sticky. I'm not sure about all the different p.s. programs available through texas that could be categorized as this, but fortunately Texas makes the distinction of a homeschool being a private school and not subject to the testing/attendance/standardization in the state. Whether here or in other states, I agree with snoopy about having programs available at home for public school children since it can make options available to students that would otherwise miss out. However, when the definition of what homeschool is gets blurred into a quasi-public umbrella school and makes it easier for the state to control the education process for children regardless of where they're being educated and that is not right. There is a disctinct definition between home school and public school and these programs shouldn't be called 'home school' but off campus school or something like that. They are not parent controlled schooling, or at least, home school should be standardized as private school, because there are several different options, even from state to state and within the state on how a parent can control their child's education.

I just went and did a more in depth look into Texas Law concerning education. The summary of that is: home schools do not have to initiate contact with a school district, submit to home visits, have curriculum approved or have any specific teacher certification. Home schools need only have a written curriculum, conduct it in a bona fide manner and teach math, reading, spelling, grammar, and good citizenship. This makes us a private school under the legislation too so we're not subject to anything the public schools are (outside of the basic cirriculum).

04-05-2010, 02:00 PM
I think there is a big difference between using a virtual school and home schooling. And of course, the closer you get to unschooling, the bigger that difference becomes. But yes, umbrella schools can smudge the difference a bit. To me one of the big differences is . . . who's paying for it. If you are paying tuition somewhere, thats a private school. If a government is paying for your child's education, whether through classroom programs, on-line programs, or even just providing materials, that is public school. If the parent is buying (or borrowing) materials and teaching the child, thats home school. And yes, you can do a mix of all of these. But having your child do a virtual public school is, to me, doesnt have much in common with home school.

I guess your motivation can affect how you see it. If you want your child out of the school because of bullying or physical health issues, virtual academies seems perfect. But I think the majority of people are home schooling becuase they want their children learning different material, or in a different way, than what is covered in school. Classical home schoolers want more rigor; parents of gifted kids, as well as unschoolers, want more leeway to follow their own pace; some kids who are developing unevenly need the freedom to take different classes at different grade levels. Kids with learning differences might need more individualized attention, or a curriculum that works better for them than standard read=then-fill-in-a-worksheet education.

But you have to see that going on-line and taking classes which were created by your school district is VERY different from getting books out from the library and creating your own learning environment where the kids can follow their passion. Especailly in texas, where they want to take Thomas Jefferson out of the textbooks and put phylis schlafly in?! Do you really trust those crazies to design your curriclum?

04-06-2010, 12:34 AM
According to dictionary.com -

public school 
1.(in the U.S.) a school that is maintained at public expense for the education of the children of a community or district and that constitutes a part of a system of free public education commonly including primary and secondary schools.

So, that backs up what Cara said about funding. If it is publicly funded, it is public school, no matter where it is held. Dictionary aside, I would add that who is in charge defines whether or not you are homeschooling. Do you pick, design, and tweak your child's curriculum based on their needs and desires, or does a stranger prescribe it based on national averages and other nonsense? Who decides if your child just needs a few days off? Who decides when and where to do school? I could go on. If you're putting your child's education in someone else's hands, that is not homeschooling.

04-07-2010, 12:15 PM
WOW...I am blown away by the great responses on this post...I'll be bumping this thread to the front page later today....:eek:

04-08-2010, 01:45 PM
Especailly in texas, where they want to take Thomas Jefferson out of the textbooks and put phylis schlafly in?! Do you really trust those crazies to design your curriclum?

Oh don't even get me started!!! This is so [email protected]#!%#! infuriating! What's worse is that Texas helps to dictate what the rest of the nation's cirriculum is! As much as I like a lot of the freedoms and such that being in Texas grants me, the idea that we can change history to better suit the current political climate just makes my brain want to explode.

04-08-2010, 10:26 PM
When we first pulled Cody out of school (almost 10 years ago), we were living in California and the state was VERY hostile towards homeschoolers at the time. We signed on with a charter and quickly learned that the requirements were way above and beyond what those of homeschoolers. And quite frankly, it didn't take long to find that we hated the ps curriculum that was available for use for "free".

My concern with this issue is with the blurring of lines in regards to precedence. If legislators confuse publicly funded school-at-home with homeschooling (defined as being bankrolled by the parent), then my fear is that they will put the same requirements/restrictions on homeschoolers that students in charter schools have. In Oregon, the charter schools that I'm familiar with require a lot more of students in regards to records and testing than is required of homeschoolers. I would hate for the state to start requiring those things of the rest of us.

04-11-2010, 09:14 AM
State-sponsored online schools are still public schools; but in my opinion, just let kids escape the negative socialization that exists in school settings. The curriculum, content, and measurements of standards and "achievement" are the same in public school.

It is my thought that homeschoolers are more connected and invested with thier kids' education. I am new to this - so maybe I am wrong. However, coming from public school - just our "exploratory" period has been so much more relaxing and reinforcing than anything the public school has done.

Perhaps the emergence of these state online school will help spark the passion of homeschooling for some families.

04-11-2010, 04:31 PM
adelinemace: Ours has been the same. Logan is still in Kindergarten right now, but I made the decision that finishing what he started is the important lesson (plus it gives me the chance to finish up all my research into what cirriculum we want to do and how I want to plan the days to start off with, even though I know that'll change as I learn how he learns things).

What might be cool, in a perfect world, is where there is a melding of public resources to supplement homeschool (and vice versa). Where parents can choose to incorporate as much or as little as they wanted of both public, private and home school and it was as interchangeable as college can be. But at the same time, an idea like that might be too practical for the bean counters that run this.... (sorry for the snark, but the further down this road I travel, the further I want to be away from anything 'public' concerning my son's educational pursuits)

04-11-2010, 08:07 PM
I really appreciate the way in which this thread was presented, and I hope I can express my thoughts here without being perceived as inflaming or offending. Were the future of Independent Homeschooling threatened legally by the growing popularity and availability of Virtual Charter Schooling, that would be terribly sad and wrong. However, were that the case, the government would be to blame - NOT the parents who had chosen to pursue Virtual Public Education. However, this discussion almost inevitably seems to pit Independent Homeschoolers against Virtual Charter Schoolers, instead of against a government that might attempt to restrict their rights to educate as they see fit. As a family who has decided to utilize a virtual public school as our (initial) alternative to attending a B&M public school, I have been really disheartened by some of the pejorative, disparaging discussions (not here!) I have come across. I continue to be baffled by the notion that one family's choice as to how to educate its children at home somehow diminishes the validity/legality of other familys' choices. I know that traditional homeschoolers have fought long and hard for the right to have control over their children's educations, and they blazed a trail for all of us who wish to have more say in how, where, when and what our children learn. I am the grateful beneficiary of their efforts and perseverance. I have the most trouble with what seems to be the underlying presumption that, because I do not create my own curriculum or because I follow public school calendars, guidelines or attendance requirements, I am a "poseur", ignorant or - even worse - an apologist. I am none of these. What I am is a parent who is seeking to teach my child in a setting and a style that works for him and for me.

Would I be satisfied with adopting my son's current B&M public-school's curriculum and simply teaching it at home? Absolutely NOT! His school's curriculum is incredibly weak, lacking in both depth and breadth and is geared to the "lowest common denominator" among the student body. However, I am not a trained educator and do not feel equipped at the present time to adequately research, prepare and teach a completely native curriculum in time for this coming school year. (I know, I know - if I do it myself, there is not the pressure of a start date. However, I personally feel the pressure of time because my son is so thirsty for knowledge and structure that I cannot imagine NOT having him back in an educational setting by the end of summer.) I know I need to get my son out of this school ASAP, and I feel very fortunate to have found a curriculum that we feel is more than adequate that just happens to be available in a virtual charter setting. We do plan to make use of ancillary/optional coursework available in our curriculum, and we also plan to provide supplement the curriculum with coursework that we feel is important, so we are most definitely not just boxing up his public education and taking it home. This curriculum is also available to me for private use, and there is no guarantee that we won't choose to take that route in the future. However, it seemed reasonable for us to at least try the virtual charter option before throwing the proverbial baby out with the (virtual) bathwater.

Additionally, as a military family that has no say over when or where it is relocated, having the ability to - even minimally - provide for consistency and quality in our son's education is another driving factor in our decision to educate our son at home. A curriculum that is already approved in all 50 states and that will allow us to transition to meeting a new state's guidelines as easily and seamlessly as possible is a major benefit for us. Relocating our family and our entire household (with a few months' notice) to a town and state where we know no one and have no connections is daunting enough. The challenge of having to research the homeschooling guidelines, complete the necessary applications and paperwork, jump through all the required administrative hoops and finally make any required modifications to our curriculum in that same brief window would be prohibitive at best. A pre-approved program of study that guarantees me the ability to educate our son, without interruption, in the manner we see fit, regardless of my temporary domicile, is worth its weight in gold to me.

In addition, there seems to be such tremendous possessiveness of the vernacular! I have no inherent need to use to the term "homeschooling." Were there an equally descriptive and succinct term for Virtual Charter Schooling, I would gladly and proudly adopt it! When and if Virtual Charter Schooling becomes pervasive enough that it has its own specialized resources, support groups and syntax, I will forgo all connection to "homeschooling" if that is the wish of the traditional homeschooling community. If I could call myself a CyberSchooler without having to explain what that meant 99.9% of the time, I would gladly adopt the moniker! For now, I am just looking for support from other parents who are managing to spend almost all day, every day with their kids and are still managing to maintain some degree of sanity! :-)

All of this being said, if the program turns out to be lousy, I'll be back at square one!

04-11-2010, 11:21 PM
Alisha, Hopefully you will find (IRL, not just here) that there are all sorts of "homeschoolers" or "non-traditional" schoolers or perhaps we should call ourselves "non Brick and Mortar" schoolers (I couldn't quite bring myself to put B&M). And, the more that public schools funding is cut, the more people are pushed out of the schools at least where I am) and the more people are looking for different options. Over 1000 teachers in my district were laid off this year, after lay offs last year, and all classes at elementary level will be minimum 30:1 next year. People already chose not to return last year, more will make the same choice next year and most do not want to be completely independent. There is definitely support where I am for all sorts of schoolers. I hope you find it as well.

04-12-2010, 06:26 AM
Holly, I just spent half an hour perusing your blog. I think I love you! :-)

Thanks for your wisdom and humor!

04-12-2010, 09:51 AM

What you are doing is the best you can for your child and don't let anybody tell you any different. Don't say "you can't" homeschool, say "you can" be a part of your childs education. I think that is the hardest thing for relating parents to get across/perceive...that there is this inherent idea that if you're homeschooling, private schooling, public, virtual or anything there in between that one is somehow better than the other...don't let yourself think that way. You're not a poseur, you're crafty because you're finding the situation that works for you.

There is a want to keep the venacular true to it's meaning and it's does have to do with the government since, for example, what's in a word like 'marriage' -we've got a whole defense for it (OT: which is a bad example because I think that is one word that shouldn't be defined). In many states, homeschoolers have to appease the government by submitting to testing, cirricula approval, and other hoop type jump throughs to make sure that they preserve the right to educate at home without any public funding. Then, the public school system comes along and starts using the same venacular and since the state is unable (too stupid) to recornize the difference between a privately funded, customized cirriculum used in place of the standard, home based student who is solely/dominantly educated by a parent/guardian/or privately issued educator at home and a publicly funded, public/standard cirriculum who attends school through a virtual classroom at home because all they see is that last little part: "At home" and they only see that because it gives them the ability to use that as a caveat for defining legislature -at least historically they have (and of course, it varies state to state, but that's the general idea). So, I think that is why there is this acute worry that the word stays pure to it's meaning -not against other types of schoolers, but against the government who might use it against them.

As far as what you say you are or what you call yourself- do what you please, darlin, I do! :D

04-12-2010, 10:29 AM
However, I am not a trained educator and do not feel equipped at the present time to adequately research, prepare and teach a completely native curriculum in time for this coming school year.

Hi Alisha, and welcome to the group. I think that people should be entitled to educate their children the way they see fit without having to worry about what other people think. If virtual school is what's best for your family, for whatever reason, then that's what's best for your family. Do I think that there is a fundamental difference between doing public school at home and homeschooling? Yes. Does that mean that I think less of you because you don't "homeschool" per se? No. I love the term "cyberschooling" because it's really what virtual school is, IMO. The only reason why I would want the terms to be clearly defined is to ensure the protection of homeschooling as we practice it... education provided at home by the parent, without having to follow government-sanctioned guidelines or requirements. Enemies of the homeschooling movement are insidious and allowing the confusion to persist will only undermine our rights. That's my opinion. I bothers me that Noah is legally considered to be a private schooler instead of a homeschooler because I chose the umbrella school option so as to NOT have to follow state requirements such as the standardized testing and the portfolio review. His umbrella school does absolutely nothing but report his attendance (as reported by me) to the state of Florida. I provide his entire education by a mix of packaged curriculum, self-designed unit studies and exercises utilizing a wide variety of sources and materials, local classes offered by science museums, etc. He is homeschooled.

That being said, I'm troubled by your assumption that you do not feel equipped to teach your child because you are not a "trained educator". You are his mom, and you obviously are well-spoken, inquisitive and persistent enough to seek alternative ways of educating your child. Being a "trained educator" is NOT a guarantee that you are equipped to teach a child, IMO. You don't need a degree to teach your child how to read, write, count, calculate, think for himself, be inquisitive, find information where available.... What you do need is the desire to do so, the aptitude to do a lot of research on your own, an open mind to recognize when you're in over your head and where to turn to at that moment, and willingness to seek new knowledge yourself. Oh, and lots of patience :)

You are new to all of this and still feeling your way around. We've all been there. We all had assumptions about what homeschooling was and how to make it work, and I think everyone who's done it for more than a month or so, has made many adjustments to their way of thinking and of doing things. I know I have. I make adjustments every day because that is what the greatest benefit of homeschooling is: the ability to tailor your approach and the content to what best benefits your child at that moment. I would urge you, as you move forward in your journey, to keep your mind open to other possibilities too. Right now K12 seems like it is the best option for you and your child and I hope it works out for you. But please don't discount yourself as an educator just because you have not received formal "training", whatever that may be.

I'm glad you're here!

04-12-2010, 12:08 PM
Nathalie, I really, really appreciate your support, your kind words and your outstanding exploration on this issue. I want to clarify my comment that you quoted: "However, I am not a trained educator and do not feel equipped at the present time to adequately research, prepare and teach a completely native curriculum in time for this coming school year." I should probably have separated those two thoughts, but I did not because I have a sick innate fondness for run-on sentences! ;-) Thought One: I am not a trained educator (and, thus, feel a little intimidated by the notion of taking sole responsibility for educating another human being. Heck, I would just as soon perform my own appendectomy as I would develop a math curriculum!) Second thought: while I would and will certainly tackle the task if need be, I do not feel I could do so to any reasonable standard of quality in time for the next academic year.

Words do have meaning, and I agree with that notion and respect it. As I am schooling my child at home, he will, technically, be home-schooled, but not Homeschooled. I am educated and trained professionally as a Social Worker, and while lots of human services workers provide social services, they are not legally allowed to call themselves Social Workers. Many are unaware of this and are surprised, offended and put off when told they cannot call themselves "social workers" because they are not legally Social Workers. I have no desire to usurp the title Homeschooler, nor the meaning behind it. As long as the battle remains one of syntax and one of preventing the government from taking back hard-earned education rights, I have no problem with the distinction between Homeschoolers and Cyberschoolers. As long as the distinction does not take a turn into a pejorative or a judgmental arena, I can accept the request for distinction and will support it and defend it with every fiber of my being! I already feel put on the defensive among the home-educating community because of my non-religious approach, and I have to remember - at least here in this group - that I am not being judged. Thanks for the reminders!

I am really glad to have found this group!

04-12-2010, 02:54 PM
I already feel put on the defensive among the home-educating community because of my non-religious approach, and I have to remember - at least here in this group - that I am not being judged. Thanks for the reminders!

I am really glad to have found this group!

If there is one thing I've learned, especially from these forums, is you can drive yourself crazy with the defense you have to put up, or that you feel you have to put up. In my own experience, which has very little to do with religious stuff in the homeschool arena, I've already become battle weary with friends and family members who give me more than just their two cents. I've had to learn how to not let it in and not let it bother me, which is by no means an easy task! I'm a very friend and family oriented person so being exclusive with them so that fights don't break out has been a hard modification to take on. With anyone who is going to battle the religious front with you, there is likely no winning and you're best off not putting yourself into situations where that can become a topic. Remember: you're mommy and mommy makes the rules! (and daddy follows them too...at least around here) ;)

04-12-2010, 09:15 PM
Holly, I just spent half an hour perusing your blog. I think I love you! :-)

Thanks for your wisdom and humor!

Aww, shucks. :o

04-13-2010, 03:15 PM
Perhaps the emergence of these state online school will help spark the passion of homeschooling for some families.

I know of A LOT of families who start out with state online/charter schools, and then move on to other forms of homeschooling. In fact, that's how we started :D I think it's especially prevalent among families who have pulled their kids out of public school, because it looks somewhat familiar to what their kids were doing before, and it gives the family some time to adjust to a new way of life.

I also know that when we did it (in California) the school districts liked it because they got the same $$$ for a kid doing this as they did for one that was in a brick and mortar school - only without all of the overhead! There are some states (like Oregon) that have a love/hate relationship with them, though, and will yank funds without warning. This has happened here a couple of times in the past few years (in fact, it's going on at the moment) - and it can very quickly leave families in the lurch. There's a number of families in our hs group that recently found out that they weren't getting their expected reimbursments for classes (they were supposed to get $500 per kid per term) because the state decided not to pay the charter school ANY of the money it owed because the state is out of funds. Some of the families also learned - after the fact - that the teacher's that they'd been working with all year had been fired, and now they don't even know if the charter will be around next year.

04-22-2010, 08:25 PM
What about people, like myself, who utilize a public online school (WAVA) primarily because they use a curriculum I like and can access for free but still spend a good half of our "school day" (which means the waking hours, more or less) doing more traditional homeschooling things? We pick and choose what works for us. A lot of the K12 curriculum they provide works well for my son. What doesn't, we skip over and do our own thing.

We'd need a dictionary to keep track of all the definitions of styles of homeschooling, school-at-home-ing, non-BM-ing (lol), cyberschooling, etc. :) I do consider myself a homeschooling mom. You might not. My son's education isn't limited to the K12 stuff, not at all. I do sometimes feel guilty, as if I'm taking advantage of the system in order to get free curriculum that, if WAVA wasn't available, I would purchase on my own. There are also a lot of other services WAVA offers that we don't utilize so perhaps that is where I get my opinion on my status. I'd say we use less than half of what they offer.

I know two WAVA moms who have been made to feel very unwelcome at local homeschooling groups. It's sad. I don't see why the two groups can't co-exist and share resources. :) I like everyone.

And hello all. :) I just found this group off a Google search for atheist homeschooling.

04-22-2010, 09:38 PM
non-BM-ing (lol) Welcome to the group, Trisha! For a second I thought you were talking about not letting your kids poop. LOL.

04-23-2010, 12:59 AM
Welcome to the group, Trisha! For a second I thought you were talking about not letting your kids poop. LOL.

Thanks! And no, they are allowed to do that. If I'm feeling nice that day... ;)