A large relatively new player on the homeschooling scene is online charter programs run by the states and local districts with tax payer money. These programs allow you to enroll your child into a virtual academy run through a local district. The school is usually accredited by the state eliminating the worry of many parents that their child’s homeschool education “won’t count”.
Also the classes are typically facilitated by state certified teachers and a complete curriculum is provided free of charge to any family that signs up. Hassle-free homeschooling is how it surely seems to those parents that are apprehensive or struggling with taking their kids out of traditional schools, public or private.
So what’s the catch? Why have school districts started to bend over backwards to offer options to families that want to homeschool. Well, trust me, it’s not out of the kindness in their hearts.
If you as an individual purchase K12’s program and facilitate it without the help of teachers it costs about $238/class so for around $1400 you can get 6 classes for the year. If you buy the teacher supported program, again directly from K12, you pay $550/class so that would be about $3300 for the year, still less than many private schools charge.
So what about getting the program for “free” though a state chartered school; it’s the same curriculum but you are saving $3300! I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot a money where I come from. So why are districts so eager to give away this program that costs $3300? The school district gets state and federal funds for every student enrolled. In my state, Michigan, this comes to $11,361 PER KID!
But who cares, right? You don’t have to pay, your child gets to be homeschooled, it’s a win-win, right? Not quite. You see this “free” money comes with strings, lots of them. So there is a good chance that whatever your reasons were for choosing to homeschool, they will not be made any better; same problems in a different venue.
- Upset with the quality of teachers? K12 pays teachers far less than average.
- You have a special needs child? Now you’re trying to coordinate an IEP over the internet with teachers that live all over the state.
- Wanted the freedom to go on vacation? You child will have to get her assignments done before you leave or make them up (along with her currently assigned work) when you get back.
- Wanted your child to progress at her own pace? No. Your child will be put on probation and asked to leave if progress is not made.
- You don’t like the focus on high stakes testing? These schools are required to test students and their funding depends on your child passing them.
- Wanted more control over curricular content? As government schools these programs are strictly secular and conform to national education standards.
Now I’m being hard on K12 because they are currently the biggest player, but they do have a pretty good program that many people have used with great success. The issue is not K12 the company, but rather with their strategy of partnering with state run charter schools in order to feed at the government funding trough. If you read reviews on many homeschool blogs many people were very dissatisfied with their experiences, but blame the K12 curriculum and company for what, in many cases, are requirements of the local school district or charter program.
The moral of the story is you get what you pay for and when you allow someone else to foot the bill, you also give up control of your child’s education. Freedom to educate our children as we see fit is a big reason why many of us started this adventure in the first place.