Public-Assisted Homeschooling: What's the Cost?
- Monday, September 28, 2009
The flyer arrived one day in the mail. It was from a school district in Colorado announcing their introduction of a Home School Academy. Someone had meticulously filed it with the other junk mail, and I had to grab it off the top of the trash. I had heard about colleges offering credit courses for homeschoolers, but this was different. It was a grade school option offered by the public school district. This was a new twist, I thought. Why were they offering this? What would they demand in return? What could they bring my children that I couldn't?
What Does It Offer to Homeschoolers?
The public school-assisted homeschool model essentially offers public school facilities, such as teachers and classes, for homeschooling children for a portion of the school week. During this time, the children sit in class and learn one or more subjects taught by a public school teacher. Each child spends the rest of the week in homeschool, taught by his or her parent. The instruction provided by the public school can be core curricula, such as reading or arithmetic, but more often it is intended to complement core instruction provided by the homeschool. The courses can range from art to robotics to sports and physical education.
It sounds generous, doesn't it? Art supplies, spare mechanical parts, and soccer balls all cost money, to say nothing of the buildings and teachers. If schools are as under-funded as the public is led to believe, how could they afford this offer? Wouldn't homeschoolers add to the financial burden schools are facing? In reality, schools opening their doors to homeschoolers would lose even more money if it weren't for the ability of these schools to claim the children as part-time or even full-time students. Depending on how the district is funded, schools can claim additional funds for these students because of their enrollment and use the funds however they see fit.
What's the Catch?
This ability to claim the child is important. For those school districts, during those hours each week a child is in the care of the school with all the legal implications and pitfalls of a public school student. For Kimberly Cunningham of Durango, Colorado, it had serious implications. She found this out one day when she walked into the school to pick up her kids early from their class.
"They weren't in the homeschoolers' classroom" Kimberly states, "so I wandered around the school looking for them. I ended up at the office and was told there was a special assembly, and I'd find them in the gym. Sure enough, the whole school was in there watching a visiting theater troupe perform. The first story I saw was a Hindu theatrical dramatization of Shiva coming to life. Next up was a dramatization from the southwest United States of the beginnings of time. They didn't explain that early Native Americans believed this. They just said, ‘This is how our part of the country came in to being and why it exists.' "
What troubled Kimberly was the worldview the theater troupe presented. "They were great actors and very convincing, but from a Biblical worldview, this was totally unacceptable," she said. There was no explanation of what is right or wrong about it or any encouragement to critical analysis. What's even more troubling, however, was the fact that her children were taken to the assembly with no notice given about the assembly or its content.
"I went to the principal, and I expressed my distress in not knowing this assembly was taking place and asked why I wasn't informed," Kimberly continues. "I told him my disappointment that they would assume this would be okay, and I wouldn't care." Instead of taking her concerns seriously, Kimberly was rebuffed. "I was told that since they were the ‘experts' and I was ‘just a mom,' I should leave the education . . . to the experts." Taking her concerns to the homeschool liaison, she was told the same things, but a bit stronger. Kimberly came away from that meeting with a very distinct impression. "The response was like ‘Listen, lady, once you drop the kids off at our door, they're ours, and you need to just trust us to take good care of them.' " Although it was only their first semester in public school-assisted homeschooling, both Kimberly and her husband agreed it would be their last.
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