When we started looking at our options, we were amazed at the variety. Not just in curricula (which was overwhelming), but in the legal options to homeschool. In California for example, you can register with a public charter school, sign up with a private PSP, pay for a private school that offers a homeschool option, or even register as your own private school. Each has benefits, and each has limitations.
Choosing one of them depends on your reason for homeschooling, so answering the following questions will help:
- Are you planning to put them back into public school at some point?
- Do you plan to homeschool all the way through high school?
- Do you prefer independence?
- Do you like the security of having teacher support?
- Do you care if anything is accredited?
- What does your budget look like?
Once you answer these questions, you'll have a better idea which direction to take regarding your options. We'll take the California examples, because those are the ones with which I'm most familiar:
Public charter school or public school Independent Study Programs (ISP):
Charters are an interesting bunch, they're publicly funded and so your kids are still technically public school students. But they have their own board of directors and own set of rules, by which you'll have to abide if you want to go this route. Many offer funding for curriculum purchases extra curricular activities, and in general, because they are publicly funded the curricula has to be secular in order for it to be approved. You're legally considered a teacher's aide and assigned a credentialed teacher for support. Most often you can request a change if you and the assigned teacher do not mesh well. Flexibility tends to be more limited, but it varies depending upon the school you choose.
More public schools are offering an ISP for people who want to educate their kids at home. This reduces your control a bit more. With this homeschool option you'll most likely be using the same curricula the school uses, and if this is the reason for leaving a public school it could be a problem.
If you are new to homeschooling and unsure in your ability to teach (please don't be!), or planning to put your kids back into the public school system, this may be a place to start. If however, you don't want to have the government involved in educating your children, this may not be the right choice.
Private School Satellite Program (PSP):
The PSP option is one that many families use because it is a private school, and therefore separate from the state's funding and other issues. They charge a fee which varies along with the services they provide. The nice part is that they will remind you when paperwork needs to be filed, and will keep it on file. Some offer help in selecting curricula, and some offer newsletters and group activities, including classes and sports. You are fully in control over what, when, and how much you spend on curricula and extra curricular activities.
This seems to be a nice balance between the PSA and Charter options that works for a lot of families, but sometimes the annual tuition may cut into a family's budget for curriculum.
Private School Affidavit (PSA):
This offers the most freedom to families - but with freedom comes responsibility. You'll have the responsibility to maintain all necessary school records, shot records, etc. But - you will have a huge amount of freedom to do exactly what you feel is right for your children, when you feel it's right to do so. You have full control over what curricula you use (or don't use for unschoolers), what your schedule will look like or when to educate your children. You'll also issue diplomas for high school graduation.
We ended up choosing this option, because it was right for us - and doesn't cost anything so we're more able to spend on curricula we love. Just because there isn't a teacher overseeing things or an administrator helping us out doesn't mean we can't find support. Far from it! Use the internet and do some searches, find others who also use this option for help. We're out there!
Distance or correspondence school: This is sort of a sub-item under the PSA. You can register for any number of online schools, courses, etc. Many of them are not set up as private schools in California so you would have to file the PSA in order to use them. Many parents love this because it gives them a chance to "outsource" for those subjects in which they are weak.
Parents with a teaching credential can teach their children under this option, but only for the grades their credential covers. Some families also choose to hire a private tutor, but this can become expensive.
More information about homeschooling in California can be found at: http://www.californiahomeschool.net/how-to-homeschool/legal-options/
How do you homeschool in your state? I would love to share something from each state on the site.