- Keeping Your Teaching Credentials Fresh and Current - January 13, 2014
- Leaving the Classroom? You Can Still Make a Difference! - November 5, 2013
- Why I Resigned From My Teaching Job: It's Not What You Think - October 21, 2013
- Fluency Fix-Up Strategies Part II - October 17, 2013
- Fluency Fix-Up: Teaching Sight Word Phrases - October 8, 2013
- Working Together to Break the Silence: October is Selective Mutism Awareness Month - October 2, 2013
- Stressed Out! Helping the Child With Selective Mutism Cope With Anxiety - September 26, 2013
- Using Booktalks to Create a Community of Readers - September 17, 2013
- Beyond the Jitters: Selective Mutism and Social Phobia - September 13, 2013
- Say No to Boredom! Dynamic Incorporation of Nonfiction Into the Classroom - September 12, 2013
In part one of this series, I explained the reasons why my husband and I have chosen to use a cyber- charter school for our two children this fall. In this installment, I share the definition of homeschool and why many do not consider a cyber- charter school to be homeschooling. Over the last several years I have detected and noticed some animosity and criticism from some in the homeschool community toward the public school system. That many homeschool parents are vehemently opposed to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is no secret. There are many arguments they espouse, but one that I have read over and over again is that parents are fearful that the CCSS mandates will trickle down to homeschooling families, thus sacrificing their independence. But, that is a topic for another post. What I didn’t expect to discover is that cyber-schooling is in some, maybe many cases, highly polarized from the homeschooling community.
Homeschooling is legal in all fifty states, although the regulations and the amount of requirements vary. There are between 1.5 and 2 million children who are homeschooled in our country. In my state of Pennsylvania, there are about 24,000 children homeschooled, although this number does not reflect the children who are younger than eight years old who have begun their at-home learning. In PA compulsory attendance starts at age eight. According to Pennsylvania Senate Bill 154, Act 169-1988 (PA law on home education -also called homeschooling), homeschooling is defined as parent-led education where the parent or guardian takes full responsibility for educating a child in the required subject areas, and they assume the financial cost of this as well.
On the other hand, a cyber- charter school is often described as public school completed at home. In fact, PA law makes a distinction that cyber school is different from homeschooling because the former is considered to be a public school and must follow all state regulations. Moreover, cyber- schooling is funded by tax payers, has an on-line, virtual component, and includes certified teachers who work along with the parent who is often called the learning coach. Grades are assigned by the classroom or content teachers and a specific curriculum is used. In a cyber -charter school, the learning is done at home with the parent or guardian overseeing the child(ren) on a daily basis. The parent take on the role of a learning coach teaching lessons and facilitating learning by following the daily lesson plans that are provided.
So, I notice two distinctions between homeschooling and cyber-schooling. The first is the financial component. Homeschool parents provide all materials and purchase curricula, with no assistance from state tax payer dollars. However, in some states, the local district must make available textbooks to homeschool families. In contrast, cyber-charter schools are funded by state monies. In the state of PA, all textbooks, supplies, materials, and a computer with a printer is provided for the students. A second difference I see is that in homeschooling, the parents have complete freedom and flexibility in what curricula they use, how they instruct, and how they structure their day. Parents have complete control over their child’s education, other than state-mandated requirements such as the subjects that must be taught, attendance policies, state assessments, and other regulations. With cyber-school, the parents can augment their child’s education, but there is a specific curriculum that is used, daily lessons must be completed, there are mastery tests, and in some cases state tests and/or standardized assessments that must be administered.
As a teacher with over fourteen years’ experience in a public school system and seven years spent teaching in private school, the issue is minimal to me. For, I am used to having a curriculum to implement and have been very fortunate that I never had to use a scripted program. As a teacher, literacy coach, mentor, and reading specialist, I was given my curricular objectives, outcomes, and standards and was allowed professional freedom and creativity to help my students master the standards and expectations. I am seeing my role as a cyber-school parent in much the same way. There will be required assignments, but I am anticipating that I will be able to supplement and to offer enrichment opportunities.
I am educating my children in our home, I have opportunity to discuss and clarify topics with them and to intervene with our personal religious and moral beliefs. Since my children will be considered public school students, they may participate in the district’s sports and extra-curricular activities. We will have more time and opportunity for afternoon field trips, community involvement, and family activities. Cyber-schooling appears to have many of the same benefits as homeschooling.
I say appears, because I won’t know for sure until we begin our school year in early September. My hope is that my local community of homeschooling parents will accept us as “one of their own”. Just as there are several different philosophies of homeschooling, I see my approach to teaching my children as a personal privilege to be able to select the mode that is in the best interest of my children. Coming from a public school background, I am used to working with teachers with differing teaching philosophies, yet we all shared the common goal of educating our students in the very best way possible and striving to do what was in the best interest of the child. Teachers are also known for sharing resources, encouraging each other, networking with one another, and learning from each other. My hope is that I can find such an environment for my own children as we desire to socialize with other homeschool families.
But there I go again. I am not a homeschooler. So what am I? What are my children? A public school mom that teaches her children in her home? A cyber school mom? The semantics and label do not really matter to me. What does matter is that I am blessed to have this opportunity to teach the most important students I have ever had and to be able to spend an incredible amount of time with them during the fleeting days of childhood.