COVID-19 Homeschooling Options...You have choices!
Most families never considered homeschooling as an option for their families, until this year when distance learning was thrust upon us all. While overall, families have seemed supportive of the efforts made by their schools and teachers, few parents are looking forward to more of the same when the new school year begins.
Fortunately, families have options beyond public school offerings and are free to choose from several homeschooling models that are legal, flexible, tried, and tested.
Homeschool programs vary in content, methods, and delivery. However, all fall under one or more of these categories:
· Public School Distance Learning or Independent Study Programs
· Charter School Independent Study or Hybrid Programs
· Private School Independent Study or Hybrid Programs
· Independent Homeschooler: Create your own private school
· Form a Co-op with other families
In this article, we will discuss these basic categories and explain how each may benefit your family.
Public School Distance Learning or Independent Study Programs
These programs operate through your local school district. The distance learning program may be similar to what your school offered last year, or changes may have been made in curriculum and instruction to adapt last year’s spur of the moment launch into a program that is more organized. Some districts have chosen to utilize an established online curriculum next year, and most have their own ongoing independent study program in place.
If you are happy with your public-school curriculum, its subject matter, rigor, pacing of lessons, and assessments, then continuing with your local public school’s distance learning program may be perfect for your family. It is free, provides all curriculum, books, etc. that your students would need, and is aligned with the local schools should you decide to transition back to your school.
However, after closely monitoring and teaching the public-school curriculum for the last quarter, some parents now have questions regarding its effectiveness in educating their children. Issues with pacing, level of difficulty, basic skills instruction, methodology, and course contents that conflict with a family’s core values give pause for reflection. For these families, a charter or private school independent study program may be more suitable.
Charter School Independent Study Programs
For over two decades, charter school independent study programs have gained popularity with families seeking an option to public schools. Charter schools are public schools that are independently operated. They tend to have more freedom to design programs that meet their students’ interests and academic goals. All charter schools operate under a contract, or charter, with a charter school sponsor such as a school district or county department of education.
Like public schools, charter schools are free and adhere to the State public school curriculum, although they do have more flexibility with the actual topics and means of instruction. Many provide families with monthly stipends to spend on educational materials, outside classes, or lessons. Because charter school independent study programs have existed for decades, they have tried and tested curriculum, streamlined operations and procedures, teachers that are used to distance learning and instruction, and they offer a variety of methodologies from the advanced and rigorous Classical method, to basic skills, to art or music themed schools.
A quick Google search of “charter schools in my area,” will display general information about programs offered near you.
Private School Independent Study or Satellite Programs (PSP’s)
To further maximize freedom and flexibility in your child’s education, a Private School Independent Study Program may be the best fit for you. PSP’s operate as private schools
following the legal requirements of the state in which the family resides. These laws vary from state to state. In California, private schools, whether brick and mortar or independent study, file a Private School Affidavit (R-4) with the Department of Education outlining general information about the school and its programs.
Under California law, private schools must offer instruction in the core academic subjects, however, each school is free to choose the topics, methods of instruction, curriculum, scheduling, pacing, etc. Families may choose faith-based curriculum, Classical curriculum, arts-based curriculum, advanced or remedial levels, and much more. With a PSP, families can tailor each child’s academic program their interests, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.
Families have a great deal of freedom and flexibility by enrolling in a PSP. The PSP provider maintains each student’s records, guides the family in meeting the State’s reporting requirements, and generally grants each family the freedom to homeschool their way. The parent acts as the teacher, choosing curriculum, and implementing the educational process. Some PSP’s organize park days and field trips for their families, although with Covid-19 measures in place, these may be put on hold for now.
As private schools, PSP’s charge tuition and additional fees for services may apply, such as for curriculum design, consultations, transcripts, etc. However, PSP tuition is usually quite low.
Creating Your Own Private School
Another option that supports family rights and educational freedom is for your family to file its own R-4 Affidavit, creating a private school of your own. Your program would be similar to that offered by a PSP, however, you would be solely responsible for meeting the legal requirements of homeschooling.
Families who are confident in their ability to navigate the system, create and implement their own programs independently, and have researched curriculum ideas may find this option to their liking.
Forming a Co-Op with Other Families
If you'd like to join other families to share ideas, meet-up at parks or for fieldtrips, take turns teaching a subject or skill, and giving the kids a chance to work together in either academics or playtime, then forming a homeschool co-op would be a great way to keep connected with others in your community.
Co-Ops come in different sizes and with different purposes. The first step will be to find a few like-minded parents who want to work together for academics or social time. Then, decide on a schedule. Whether your group meets once a week or once a month, will be determined on the goals you set together. You will also need to think about where and when your group will get together. Will you share your homes, rotating through the membership, or will you meet at parks, libraries, or museums? Remember to remain flexible and don’t be afraid to admit if the original plan doesn’t work out as well as you had expected. You’ve got time to experiment.
These homeschool options give you the basics when it comes to independent learning. Talega Prep is a PSP that has offered independent study programs since 2002. For more
ideas, to find curriculum recommenations, booklists, sample courses of study, and more, visit our Homeschool Resources pages.
For more information about homeschooling in California, including resources and methods visit the California Homeschool Network or Homeschool Association of California. These organizations were created by and for homeschoolers to support you!
For more information about homeschooling anywhere in the US or internationally, visit the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. HSLDA provides a wealth of information, guidance, and support to homeschoolers and the rights of parents to homeschool.
Your support of these organizations will help to keep homeschooling freedom alive.