Thursday, February 16, 2006

Who is a homeschooler?

There is a growing trend in education; the formulation of partnerships between the public school and the parent.
Parent partnerships are alternative programs that identify the parent as the child's primary teacher. Students are considered public school students, however, and use the school's materials and teachers.
There are some attractive advantages,

Parents who choose these programs say they like the return on their tax money, as well as accessing expertise in subjects they find difficult to teach on their own.

Home-schooled students registered with the state also can access public school services part time.

Many of these partnerships use online courses and virtual academies. This is an attractive option for the state as well. Many of these parents would opt out of the system completely if this were not offered. They retain their funding as long as the child is enrolled. The question is, should they be considered homeschoolers? Or should there be a distinction between "homeschooling" and "school at home".

Personally, I think HOW someone educates in their home is their business. However, WHAT we call what takes place in the home matters to society and legally.

Terminology is important.

Moreover, it is important that the definition be determined by who the student is ultimately accountable. If the parent holds the authority they are homeschooling...if another entity holds the authority they are not. Keep in mind; I am not saying the parent has lost their complete authority in the home. They have just decided to allow another entity to hold the authority for the education of their children. In parent partnerships the school determines curriculum, grading, etc. The parent is a facilitator who follows the state guidelines, curriculum, and tests. This is attractive to many for a lot of reasons but it isn't homeschooling.

A distinction is necessary to ensure that the freedom to homeschool is not lost through increased regulation. If we combine the two groups then when the state seeks to increase regulation or make changes to the "schooling at home" crowd the "homeschooling" crowd could be affected by the changes and potentially lose some of the authority to direct the education of their children.

Here's an article that sums it up pretty well.
The foundation of the original fight for homeschooling was freedom. Many virtual academies and cyber charter schools begin with leniency, but over the years,rules creep in, subtle new policies begin to crop up, and gradual restrictions choke out your choices at home like crab grass run amok. This sets a precedent to increase regulations on other students who are educated at home, whether they're enrolled in a virtual academy or not.
A distinction is important, not to cast judgement, but for clarity in who is affected by increased regulation. That's a distinction all should welcome. If the parent ever decides to dissolve the partnership, or abandon the cyber charter school for another way, they will have the freedom to do so without having to prove anything to the state.

Tim Haas had a post a last year that explains the long term effects of this trend.

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