I’ve know for a while that I wanted to homeschool. I studied education and got my teaching credential and I love working one on one so I figured it would be a great fit. Fast forward to last year when my oldest son turned five. It was time to figure out exactly how we would go about homeschooling Kindergarten. I had some neighbor friends who were homeschooling through a local charter school. Their charter school gave them funds for all their curriculum, field trips, and classes! Honestly it sounded too good to be true.
I was nervous that the charter school might mean too much testing, limited curriculum choices, and that it might take away from some of the freedom that makes homeschooling so appealing in the first place.
I had to decide if I wanted to homeschool independently or through a charter school.
If you are also wondering what the best route is, I’m going to break down the pros and cons. A lot of this decision will depend on your personal goals for homeschooling and your local charter school options. Are you looking to travel a lot or do year-round schooling rather than keep to the traditional school calendar? Are you desiring to use entirely faith-based curriculum? What state do you live in and what regulations and resources are available there?
In the US, families are free to homeschool in any state. Each state has different regulations when it comes to record keeping, test taking, and charter school options. Some states provide funding for families who homeschool through the local charter schools; other states don’t. To find out more about your state’s charter school options check out this great in-depth post.
This option provides the most freedom but not the most support.
- Pro: Complete control over your curriculum choices! If you want to use all religious-based curriculum this is a good option.
- Pro: Control over your school calendar. If you like to travel a lot or would prefer to do year-round school this is a good choice.
- Con: Paperwork! All the record keeping and transcript creation is up to you.
- Con: Funds. Buying all the curriculum, paying for field trips and classes is all up to you.
Homeschooling with a Charter School
This option has more structure and support than homeschooling independently.
- Pro: No paperwork! Your charter school teacher handles all the record keeping and transcripts while you just turn in work samples.
- Pro: Funds! Depending on your state your charter school may offer funds for curriculum, field trips, computers, and classes. Our charter school provides over $2,000 per school year to each student.
- Con: You are expected to mark attendance that follows a regular school calendar.
- Con: The curriculum choices are limited to non-religious curriculum.
Before I decided to join our charter school I had some questions.
1. What about testing?
Parents and teachers alike are wary of too much state testing. Assessments can be useful tools- they help us to see what our students know and what areas they need help in. The problem is a test can’t tell us everything a child knows and we don’t want to just “teach to the test” focusing only on passing the test rather than covering the best material and going at the child’s pace. Our charter school requires yearly state testing starting in third grade. I decided that wouldn’t be a problem for us. If my kids are ever testing on material we haven’t covered I won’t stress about it. Different states and different charter schools have different testing requirements so be sure to ask your school about this.
2. What about the separation of church and state; can I teach my child about my faith if I’m part of a charter school?
Yes, a charter school is a part of the public school so they cannot fund religious curriculum. You can certainly purchase faith-based curriculum yourself and teach your child, but your charter school will expect to see work samples that are not religious. If you want to use a curriculum that is entirely faith-based, a charter school may not be the best option. I decided to mix and match my curriculum and chose secular math, reading, logic, geography, and a science experiment kit. I purchased my own Bible curriculum separately and in the future I may buy some of my own science books that teach from a creation perspective.
3. What about work samples and teacher meetings?
Our charter school requires us to meet with our teacher every 20 school days. Meetings are relaxed and helpful. Our assigned teacher answers any questions I have and collects one work sample each time. The work sample is just what it sounds like: a page of my son’s work (math, social studies, language arts, or science).
4. What funding is available and what can you use it for?
This answer is going to vary widely among charter schools. We are fortunate to live in CA and have a lot of options. Our charter school is able to provide over $2,000 in funding per year for each student. Funds can be used for curriculum (consumable curriculum is kept and teacher guides and computers etc are returned when you leave the charter school). There is a huge list of approved vendors that you can buy curriculum from. I love getting to pick out my own curriculum and manipulatives! You can also use your funds for classes- from core subject classes, to music lessons, to soccer and swim lessons! Funds are also available for a wide variety of field trips.
When I met with our local charter school teacher I knew this would be a great option for our family. I love having extra support, knowing that our records are being handled properly, and having funds to spend on my choice of curriculum and classes.