With all the different homeschool options out there, you may be in the epic battle of deciding which one is right for you. Homeschooling through a charter school is probably one of the options you’re exploring. If so, you’re in the right place.
After 4 years of charter school homeschooling, I’m sharing the pros and cons to help you make the decision that’s best for your family!
What is a Charter School?
A charter school is a publicly (or government) funded school that operates “outside” of the public school system. I say “outside” because they’re technically independent of the public school system. However, from my experience, it’s more of a relaxed replica of the public school system and that, to me, doesn’t quantify it as being “independent of.”
Now we’re going to take a look at the pros and cons of using a charter school for homeschooling. Keep in mind that my pros and cons may not, necessarily, be your pros and cons. This is simply a guide to help you make an informed decision. =)
Charter School Pros
Student Funding for Curriculum, Supplies, and Extracurriculars
One of the biggest benefits of homeschooling through a charter school is the student funding. Each student is allotted a predetermined amount of funds to spend on curriculum, supplies, classes, sports, and more.
Currently, our charter school allots $2,700 per enrolled student for the entire year. This is pretty generous, in my opinion, and allows us to do a lot of things. In the 4 years that we’ve been with this charter school, we’ve never used up the entirety of the funds for any given year.
Keep in mind that these funds are strictly for students and each purchase has to be approved by the school administration. It is at their discretion to determine if something is a wise use of government funds.
That being said, there’s a lot you can do with these funds and it’s extremely helpful for those who are on a tight budget.
They Keep Records for You
Ahhh, the dreaded keeping of the records. I’ve never had to do this myself and, admittedly, it’s intimidating just thinking about it. With charter schools, this piece is done for you.
Basically, how it works is samples of your student’s work are collected throughout the year. These samples are put into your student’s portfolio (which is located in a super-secret undisclosed location.) Actually, it’s just well kept by the administration but the discretion and simplicity give it a top-secret vibe.
I’ve always been grateful for this, particularly when we first started homeschooling. I had no clue what I was doing or how I was going to do it! I was so nervous that I was going to screw it up and forever maim my children’s educational future. But all dramatics aside, it’s given me an opportunity to find my bearings and my place as a homeschool mom.
Access to a Certified Teacher
I’m not sure how this works with other charter school programs. With ours, students are assigned a certified teacher (CT) who collects work samples and regularly checks student progress. We meet once a month for these progress checks and sample turn-ins.
Some people might find this cumbersome and inconvenient. While it does add a certain amount of undue pressure, it’s nice to have the added support and guidance.
My girls love their CT and our family has developed a wonderful relationship with her. She’s been extremely supportive of my husband and I and our homeschool approach and she’s always offering resources and tips to help us.
Lots of Homeschool Support
Another perk to homeschooling with a charter school is all the available resources. The support that’s offered, in our experience, has been great and really aim at helping homeschool parents to succeed.
You’ll have access to outside classes where your student can get additional help or just exposure to something new.
They even offer resources for special education and ASD students.
Our charter school is always holding events that aim to bring homeschool families together. We have book fairs, harvest festivals, dances, science fairs, spelling bees, and more. A lot of CT’s will even organize field trips for their homeschool families.
In short, you can pretty much find anything you need within the charter school support system. Either that or you’ll have access to someone who can find it for you!
Charter School Cons
Mimics the Public School System
One of the main reasons many of us homeschool is to get away from the public school system. If this is a big driving force for you, then choosing to homeschool through a charter school may not be for you.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the public school system. I don’t like the structure, morals, or ineffectiveness of the system as a whole. This is just one of the battles we struggle with each year we decide whether or not to continue with the charter school route.
The only real difference is that you have the ability to give your student one-on-one, specialized attention. You can target and cater to their individual learning styles. Don’t get me wrong, this is important!
However, you’re still subject to the erroneous standards and, in some cases, the immoral agenda upheld by government-funded schools.
Subject to Standardized Tests & Common Core
One of the more heated debates between educational institutions is the effectiveness of standardized tests and common core. I don’t believe standardized tests are an effective measure of a students intelligence, knowledge, or ability. There are simply too many factors to consider to make it a legitimate unit of measure.
Likewise, common core is an attempt to fit all children in the same learning box…so to speak. You have to know this and you have to learn it this way.
Case in point: My niece got every answer right on a math test. She got an F because she didn’t solve it this way. Seriously?
To make matters worse, she was left feeling inadequate and less than. Why? Because she learns something in a way that’s different than the majority?
So, learn the way we want you to learn or we’ll fail you. Anyone else see the logic behind this? Neither do I.
No Faith-Based Support
Because charter schools are government funded, they don’t acknowledge or support faith-based curriculum or teaching.
That doesn’t mean you can’t use faith-based curriculum or teach faith-based material. What it does mean is that you can’t use school funds to purchase or aid them in any way.
We purchase our curriculum ourselves for this reason. We also have to be sure that none of our work samples have any faith indicators (blatant or implied.)
Of course, this won’t be an issue for secular homeschoolers. But for us, it poses a conflict of interest when certain topics come up that we’re not in support of.
If you’re taking more of a traditional homeschool approach, homeschooling through a charter school will probably work really well for you. When we first started homeschooling, we were definitely more traditional.
However, we’ve recently made the decision to transition into a more eclectic/unschooling homeschool style. As we’re learning, charter schools are not quite as unschooling-friendly as we’d like.
For starters, because we have to turn in work samples on a regular basis, our lessons can be very worksheet heavy. I’ve since made the conscious effort to limit the amount of text-based work. Aside from the fun, hands-on activities I create for them myself, I’m taking more of an active teaching approach.
My goal is to cut out the traditional curriculum approach altogether but, as long as we’re using a charter school, that’s not an option.
We have to follow the same scope and sequence or pacing guide that the public school system uses. This subject is another post for another day. But to put it simply, you don’t have the control over your homeschool schedule that you could have.
For many of the reasons listed above, we’re strongly considering leaving the charter school program at the close of this school year.
Is a Charter School for You?
Homeschooling through a charter school program has many great benefits and many have homeschooled successfully using this method.
The success and effectiveness of this approach will rely heavily on your individual circumstances. If you’re a traditional, secular homeschooler, charter schools may work really well for you.
Not to say that this type of homeschooler is the only one who can benefit or homeschool successfully in this way. I know plenty of non-traditional, non-secular homeschoolers (like myself) who have and are succeeding and thriving through a charter school program.
Only you know what will work best for you and for your family. What may be ideal for me, may not be ideal for you. This is why I suggest considering all options carefully.
That being said, my husband and I are actively considering leaving the charter school program at the close of this school year. It’s been a great tool and a huge blessing to our family. But for our particular situation, we believe it may benefit our children more in the long run to take a more independent approach.
While we haven’t decided definitively, it’s something we’re actively and prayerfully considering.
Steps to Consider:
- Research and become familiar with your states homeschooling laws and options.
- Weigh your options carefully. Consider the pros and cons of each option.
- Don’t allow anyone else to influence your decision. Remember: Everyone’s circumstances are different! Do what works best for YOU.
- Know that you can always change your mind at a later time. You’re not locked into any one decision.
Are you considering homeschooling through a charter school program? Let me know why or why not in the comments below!