Friday, October 30, 2009

Why I Won’t Use Virtual Schools

Yesterday, I had someone ask me an interesting question.  Why don’t more homeschoolers use state virtual schools?  It’s a very good question, actually.  Now that over 30 states offer them, you would think that homeschoolers would be flocking to this option for education that is free, home-based, and teacher directed…and sometimes the state even provides a computer, as well!

And some homeschoolers have opted in to the virtual school choice.  Each day in different homeschool forums I read about families who have decided to try out their state’s virtual school program and see how it works for their children.  Child actors and athletes have also made the program more well-known by talking about their experiences schooling with state-sponsored cyberschools.  Homeschoolers who have felt overwhelmed by the demands of educating their children at home have reached out to virtual schools for the guidance and oversight it promises.  There is comfort for some parents in knowing that someone besides themselves is in charge of the success or failure of their child’s education.

So that brings us back to the question…why don’t more homeschoolers use state virtual schools? 

The answer is probably somewhat complicated, but the main reason seems to lie in the word “homeschooler.”  When a student signs up with a state sponsored virtual school, he or she is technically not a homeschooler anymore.  They are actually enrolled as a public school student in their home state who is simply taking their courses at home. 

Is there really a difference?  Yes there is.  A family using a state virtual school has no actual control over their child’s curriculum.  They cannot modify or change a program that isn’t working.  Even if their state does not require standardized testing for homeschoolers, a virtual school system must follow the rules for public school students in relation to standardized testing.  The teacher assigned to your child is the ultimate authority on what, how, and when your child is educated.  These are all things that can never be said of a “homeschooler.”

This is why I won’t use a virtual school for my children.  I LOVE homeschooling.  I love the flexibility.  The ability to choose our own homeschool curriculum, our own schedules, our own way of learning.  To be able to customize a program based on each of my children’s different learning styles. For me, no free computer or certified teacher to lean on is worth even one day of the freedom and flexibility we have as independent homeschoolers.

What about you?  Would you ever consider using a state virtual school to educate your children?

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