Service? Or money and control?
In June, home schooling parents in Santa Clara County received a mailing from the county office of education. The cover letter explained that a proposal for a new charter school was under consideration and asked the parents to complete the enclosed survey to assist the department in determining what services families might be interested in receiving.
The survey, which could be completed anonymously, asked routine questions that Home School Legal Defense Association has seen on similar questionnaires: Why are you home schooling? What kind of support do you need? What are your child's academic strengths and weaknesses? Would you allow home visits? Can your child use e-mail to communicate and complete assignments? Can your child do research on the Internet? What grade levels would you need served?
None of these questions are required by law, and HSLDA advised our members they were under no obligation to complete the survey.
Charter schools in California have been in the news quite a bit during the last several months. While HSLDA does not represent students enrolled in charter schools, a number of our member families have forwarded us newspaper articles discussing charter school funding issues. The school district or charter school administration receives average daily attendance funding for each home school student while incurring very little expense to run the program. These articles support HSLDA's long-standing belief that money is a significant part of the motivation behind charter schools for home schoolers and public school independent study programs.
This focus on money is usually combined with a perceived need for control-whether the education establishment is blatantly opposing home education or trying to lure home educators back into the "system." The letter from the Santa Clara County Office of Education makes this abundantly clear:
The vision of this charter school includes providing information, coaching and support to have all students reach or exceed the California Grade Level Standards, thus preparing them for re-entry into the public school system successfully, or preparing them well for a world of work or higher education.
Providing support to the home school parent is often not the main motivation behind such offers of assistance. Rather, local schools or departments of education are interested in controlling the education program, and ultimately wooing home schooled students back into public school. If they thought home schooling parents were doing a good job, there would be no reason for the public schools to have home school programs, other than the fact that they are losing a tremendous amount of money because thousands of children are being home schooled in the state of California. But home schoolers have repeatedly proven that they do not need help from the public school-they can do, and are doing, a better job.
Don't buy into the myth that you need a charter school or independent study program through the public school to be successful.
Our staff recently spoke with a California home school mother who had had a very rough year: a death in the family and an emotionally trying year in every way. She was worried that she had not been giving her children what they needed academically and was on the verge of giving up home schooling because she thought she was failing. We did our best to reassure and encourage her that she was doing the best thing for her children by home schooling and that her life would be far more stressful if she were trying to undo the effects of public school. A week later, she called back to enthusiastically report her 8th grader's achievement test results: post high school in most subjects.
Even the "little" that we think we are giving our children produces results that far exceed the California Grade Level Standards.
- J. Michael Smith