School Choice – A Parent’s Guide to Choosing the Best Learning Environment for Their Children
Good news for parents! Did you know that every state in the USA allows parents the freedom to choose the learning environment that best suits their child? It is called School Choice.
More good news for parents! According to edchoice.org, many allow parents to choose the school that best fits their child’s learning needs, and receive public school funding to pay for it. This includes Virtual Schools, Homeschools, Charter Schools, and Private and Public Schools. Click here to learn more about your state’s School Choice Funding options.
Have you been asking yourself, “What if….?
my child feels uncomfortable with the social drama in school?”
I am uncomfortable with the subjects that are being taught?”
my child has medical issues that make attending school on a Monday – Friday schedule impossible?”
my child is bored in school because the pace for completing the course is set by the school district, and my child learns at an accelerated pace?”
my child has fallen behind because they need more time to learn the material?”
my child needs more time to pursue their passion for music, (dance, athletics, family travel…)?”
If your child has unique circumstances or is just not thriving in a traditional school, this guide is for you.
Tuition-Free School Choice Options
Charter schools are public schools of choice. Unlike traditional schools where students are assigned based on where they live, parents can choose to apply for admission to a charter school. Plan well ahead of the beginning of the school year. Many charter schools fill to capacity. In this case, the charter school is required to establish a waiting list for admission and hold a lottery to determine which students will gain admission.
Charter schools are authorized by the local or statewide school district, or in some states, by colleges and universities. They must satisfy public school state regulations such as compulsory attendance, mandated state testing, and state curriculum standards. All public schools are funded through federal and state tax dollars (with the exception of the Barney Charter School Initiative, which is authorized and funded by Hillsdale College. Hillsdale College does not accept government funding).
Many charter schools have a unique focus. For example:
Green Charter Schools in South Carolina, specialize in engineering and energy education. Their mission: “Global Renewable Energy Education Network (GREEN) will prepare students in STEM to creatively and responsibly impact our complex world in renewable energy, sustainability, and conservation efforts.”
Voice Charter School in New York specializes in the arts. “We combine rigorous academics with daily instruction in choral singing, encouraging creative and critical thinking while improving academic performance.”
Compass Charter Schools in California serve all student “scholars” including gifted and talented students who thrive in a flexible personalized learning experience.
Tuition-Based School Choice Options
Good news for parents! Every state in the USA has a homeschool law giving parents the freedom to customize the learning environment to meet the needs of their children. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, there are over 2 million children being homeschooled in America.
With homeschooling, the parent is the teacher and facilitator of their child’s education. Your child’s educational path is up to you, but you must comply with your state’s homeschool law. For example, some states require you to become a member of an approved Homeschool Association and purchase an approved homeschool curriculum that meets your state’s standards. You may also be required to have your child participate in your state’s mandatory testing. It is imperative that you understand your responsibilities as a homeschooler. To learn more about your state’s homeschool law, click here. HSLDA Homeschool Laws by State.
Homeschooling may not be the best option for your children if both parents work, or you don’t feel qualified to teach subjects such as Algebra or Chemistry, or you are a single parent and don’t have the time to be your child’s teacher. Fortunately, there are many private school options that may be right for your child.
The reality of learning and understanding concepts is that every child learns at their own pace. Parents understand this.
One child learns to tie their sneakers in a few minutes, another takes longer. (My son wore Velcro sneakers until he was 9!) Each child is unique. Some children are skilled in math and pick it up quickly. Some children are skilled in language arts and devour every book they can find.
Many students are challenged by the traditional school’s 180-day school year calendar where every child is expected to learn at the same pace and on a set schedule.
So, what if your child doesn’t fit this mold and needs a flexible school schedule?
What if there were schools that taught at the child’s pace? The good news is that there are! This allows you to make your own school schedule to fit your lifestyle and commitments. Below are a few private online schools that offer self-paced learning:
Whitmore School is an online private high school, accredited by Cognia, (formerly AdvancED) that emphasizes self-paced mastery-based learning. Teachers, certified in online learning, work one-to-one on every lesson to lead students to achieve mastery of the subject. Clint, our Social Studies Department Chair put it simply, “We teach students how to think – not what to think.”
Laurel Springs School is another accredited online private school that offers a flexible schedule and a rigorous college preparatory curriculum.
Khan Academy Lab School offers a mastery-based curriculum through collaborative projects with a focus on college readiness.
What if you are concerned about the required subjects being taught?
Many parents have become increasingly concerned about subjects that are being taught in public schools. One option is for parents to attend their local school board meetings and voice their concerns. This can be a long process, but as a tax-paying citizen, you have the right to attend meetings and ask questions. Contact your local school board to learn when meetings are being held and the procedure for asking questions.
Another option is to research your homeschooling or private school options. If you are considering a private online high school, you can contact the school and request a course catalog and review the syllabus of each course. You can also be frank about your concerns about the subject matter being taught to make sure the school meets your expectations and is a good fit for your child.
Whitmore School, accredited by Cognia, (formerly AdvancED), offers four Diploma Programs for students wishing to enroll full-time to earn their high school diploma. Additionally, students looking to get back on track to graduate on time can enroll in individual courses. Students enroll and begin any day of the year, work at their own pace, and may take up to 12 months to complete their courses.
And, as an online school, your child will be able to attend school in a physically and emotionally safe learning environment – Your Home with your guidance on safe Internet use. Whitmore School has earned the Safest School ranking from Niche. Read student reviews on Niche.
Written by: Ellen Ray, Principal, and parent of Alina, a 2009 Whitmore School graduateSee all blog posts