Monday, December 19, 2011

I'm thinking of going over to the dark side

Ok, well maybe it is not that bad. But, I am considering using a public school independent study program next year.

When we first started homeschooling nearly 13 years ago, we started with a public school charter program. We were in that program for the first half of kindergarten with our first child. Our district was disqualified from the program and we have just filed the private school affidavit ever since.

Even when we were in the program (during kindergarten), I found myself not utilizing their services much. I mean who can't handle kindergarten? Through the program you could order materials from various vendors. The order process took weeks to a month or more. By the time my order had come in, I had moved on and used something else. Also, they prohibited the purchase of anything remotely religious. You could use religious materials. You just couldn't purchase them with the voucher money. The ES (Educational Specialist) would use a black marker to scratch out the any reference to God in the assignments we turned in.

Today, in our area, there is a good public school independent study program called Ocean Grove. A certified teacher comes to your house once a month and you turn in one sample for each subject for the 4 week period. You receive a spending allowance for products and services of $1800. They have an extensive vendor list which even includes my father-in-law who teaches Lego robotics and chess. Many of the classes and lessons that we now pay for would be covered.

The students are expected do standardized testing twice a year. That's not a problem for me. I currently pay a private school to do that.

Here's my problem. My children would technically not be homeschoolers. They would be independent study students in the public school system.

I just love being separate from the public school system. I just love withholding support from the teachers union. (Note: I don't know if the Ocean Grove teachers are part of the teachers union or not). I like not following the grade by grade curriculum decreed by the state. (Though Ocean Grove is pretty flexible about that.)

Many of my "homeschooler" friends utilize the Ocean Grove program and I still consider them homeschoolers (even if technically they are not).

Would we be selling out for $5400 (3 students x $1800)? That's a lot of music lessons.

Are we on the slippery slope to loosing educational freedom?


Anonymous said... are on a very STEEP slippery slope to losing your educational freedom. The fact that you will have a representative of the educational system coming into your home twice a month is enough to send me screaming in the other direction! One of the main reason we homeschooled all the way through (past tense, because both children are graduated and in college) was because we wanted freedom FROM the education establishment. We wanted the freedom to set our calendar the way we wanted it. We wanted the freedom to include or exclude subjects as we saw fit. We wanted the freedom to spend as much time on a subject as was required either for mastery or just because the child was really interested in it. Once you subject yourselves to the educational system, THEY control your life and THEY determine how you are doing.

I believe Brian Ray has some studies that show that those homeschoolers who use this sort of program don't achieve to nearly as high a level as homeschoolers who stay on their own. In fact, I believe his stats showed that those who use these programs often end up with very similar educational results to those who actually attend the public schools.

I urge you with everything that is in me to reconsider and not go down this route!


SoCalLynn said...

Oh, please Charley, tone down the melodrama! We use a charter school for our homeschool and have since the beginning. I am a Christian, just fyi, and our family has prayed about this decision and decided that for now, at least, it is good for us. The school we use is very understanding of our faith, and while I order our own Christian materials that we want to use, I also benefit from the tax money our family pays into the system by ordering classes and materials that are covered by the charter. My ES has never blacked out references to God in my daughter's school work. The monthly meeting is a breeze and for me anyway it helps keep me accountable for making sure my daughter is progressing. While it may not be for every family, it isn't the "road to evil" that many make it out to be. It's just one other option to choose from.

Jean said...

I sold out to The Man, in the form of Ocean Grove's northern branch, a few years ago. We had gone utterly and completely broke and I couldn't afford a math book, much less a science kit. I would never have thought I'd go charter, but I felt good about the decision at the time and we have had a really great experience.

They don't really care what calendar you go by, as long as you can say you got enough school days in. You can get away with showing them very little if that's what you want to do--you don't even have to let the ES in your house. All they want is proof of some work in each subject, the annual test, and an annual writing project. We've used religious materials and turned them in, though I usually try to find something that isn't too egregious.

The pluses have been way more money for science materials (we did a LOT of dissections for biology), nice field trip opportunities (esp. the living history day at Sutter's Fort), and many lessons paid for that we could not have afforded. Also I am quite fond of our ES.

So from my experience, I have no problem recommending Ocean Grove to my friends looking for money or a little guidance.

Anonymous said...

Oh, please Lynn, don't be so snarky!

It's a fact that if you allow the educational establishment in the door, they own it. Period. While they may be "nice" to you and you may not mind having someone else "holding you accountable"...for most homeschoolers, that's not the case. The freedom is critical!

Let's use a real-life example from a different venue. Back before the Berlin wall came down, there were three corridors through which Berlin could be accessed from the West. These corridors had very specific altitudes. However, airliners being what they are, preferred the upper altitudes because jet engines are more fuel efficient at altitude. The problem was, that if the altitudes weren't used, there was a very real danger they would be removed from the corridors by the Soviets. Therefore, we in the USAF would specifically fly our planes at the lowest altitudes, not because we had any special equipment for spying or anything, but because if the altitudes weren't used, they would be lost.

This is the case with homeschooling and the freedom that goes with it. If that freedom isn't used, it will be lost. If people continually are enticed by the breadcrumbs thrown out by the establishment, then the freedom we have as homeschoolers will be eroded slowly but surely. That no one censors God in your home now means nothing for the future of other families. It also means nothing about the continual battles that go on in all states just to maintain our right to educate our own children. Just ask the good folks at HSLDA.

I stand by my hope that one more family will hold strong against the enticements put forward by the government schools.

And I can say this with authority because we successfully homeschooled two children through high school without government supervision and without charter schools. Our state does not require umbrella schools, so we were FREE!!! And that was a good thing. Both are in a good college, with one about to graduate. So we were successful in our endeavor.


Deila Taylor said...

Well, I enjoyed reading this. I have homeschooled for 18 years, two kids have now graduated from college, one is off to medical school. I still have one more at home aged 16. We have used all kinds of programs and public school One was an independent study program, one the K12 online, one a homeschool program within the school district, one just me as the sole provider with the private school affidavit. We have mixed it up as needed. I say -- try it and see if it works, you know you are still in charge and you can try something else if it doesn't work. That's what homeschooling is about -- you decide and don't worry what some other family thinks.

abba12 said...

Homeschooling without something like what you're talking about is illegal in Australia, however at least 50% of homeschooling families I know do it. On the other hand, the other 50% are quite happy 'in the system'. It depends on your priorities and your learning style.

Are you happy to jump through hoops and have set grades? Are you the sort of person that finds a curriculum and sticks with it, do you use curriculums for every nececary subject as opposed to 'natural learning' methods? I assume as a foster carer you have nothing to hide from the government, you already recieve regular visitations am I right? So if you're happy with a little less flexibility for a large amount of money towards education, it may be quite worthwhile.

On the other hand, if you're much more free with your time and work, if you don't teach science and history formally in the early grades, if you tend to jump around the place and lack curiculum or paperwork for the things you do, if you don't like or take standardised tests, or if you homeschool year round in the sense that you may find yourself not doing much work in a 'school month', and lots of work outside of them, then maybe it will just be too complicated and restrictive for you.

I personally, at this stage, plan to keep out of the system because here in Australia we have been burned regularly by the system, and many of us, especially second generation homeschoolers like myself, have come to distrust it completely, but that's another country with very different attitudes to homeschooling. In america it sounds a fair bit safer. Still, there is red tape and hoops to jump through, restrictions in your life.

Pray about it, and assess how the restrictions may effect you. I don't think there's any wrong answer here, just a best answer for YOUR family. Worst comes to worst, you just re-enroll as a private school or whatever it is you do next year.

Kimberly said...

Been here, done this. Wasn't impressed by what the state programs in PA had to offer when we tried a charter to be honest. I am sure not gonna boil you in hot oil for the suggestion, though!

Give it a shot, if you like! You can always go back to homeschooling if it doesn't suit your family!

Jeanette said...

Educational Freedom is just that...freedom for you to choose what is best for your family and children. I hope you find the best fit in which ever form of education you choose!

Ami said...

Well, for goodness sake, like Kimberly said - try it, and if it doesn't work for you, just change back! It's not like you have to swear absolute fealty to the public schools in the ancient language (can you tell what book I am hopelessly mired in?) Your taxes pay for these materials. Go ahead and take advantage of them. Supplement where you want to, arrange it the way you want to, and keep doing what you've been doing, really.

Janine Cate said...

I still don't know what I'm going to do. Thank you for all the input from different perspectives.

I will have to study it out a bit more.

Susan Ryan said...

I am curious why the visits need to be at the home for these programs. Understanding homeschoolers' 'classrooms' are in the home, it seems respect should be given to the fact it is also our private haven. In Illinois, when homeschoolers are harassed, the standard manner is to invite themselves into our homes to "inspect our curriculum". There is rarely a 'request to bring your curriculum by our office'.
Surely the program administrators wouldn't be adverse to meeting with parents at the library or school to show progress/curriculum, etc, rather than our home. I understand it's a natural route to take, but there are many who fought/fight hard to keep school administrators or 'family services' out of families' home to not set precedents, et al.
There are many birth to school programs in many states that call for home visits to see if parents are 'acceptable' or whether they 'need help'. It's a continuing trend that is a bit alarming because many get used to these home visits as the norm and that seems unfortunate.
Good wishes on your decision! You know your choices, are doing the research and you'll make the best decision for your family.

Janine Cate said...

Actually, the ES doesn't have to come to your home. You can meet at the library, park, whatever. However, they may come to your home for your convenience.

In my thinking, the ES coming to the home is a plus not a minus. One less place I need to drive to.

kat said...

I guess if you are super-technical then our family are not considered homeschoolers either. We use a Catholic home study program (Seton) to which we send in tests/essays/progress reports quarterly and they send back report cards. According to some states the children are private schooled students, though they have never had a teacher other than their mother and never done school other than in our home.

You can always try it for a semester or a year and see what you think.

Katie said...

A lot of people used OG in Silicon Valley when I lived there. Most were happy with it. A few had ECs they didn't like, but they asked friends who was better and switched.

One thing that bothers me about it is that really, OG is getting the full money for a student and you *only* get $1800 of it, plus the schools get to claim your kids are students. It irks me. But sometimes, you pick the best thing you can.

The other reason I never used them was because I was afraid it would change how I homeschooled. Just subconsciously, I'd try to make what we were doing more like school or whatever. Now that I'm in a state that does mandatory portfolio reviews, I know I was right -- it would make me subconsciously change how I do things. I wish I got $1800 per student for it. :P An extra $3600 would really help out about now!

If I had it to do all over again... I wouldn't use OG. Still. Freedom means too much to me. Here in MD, I don't avoid the difficult reviewers. Too many people do everything they ask (and more) to avoid trouble, and each semester, the reviewers ask for more and more and more.

I'm not going to change how I do things for them when I know we're doing great. Except I am. Subconsciously. *sigh*