A single word or phrase is not set for ‘free’ at-home programs such as K12 Inc., Connections or the ‘free’ versions of Calvert or Oak Meadow, that are provided at public expense, and this leaves the field open for a variety of descriptive labels.  Some people call these public-school-at-home (p.s.a.h.) programs ‘charter schooling’ although the phrase ‘charter school’ means a brick and mortar school in a specific place, not a school program delivered through a computer.  Other people call the p.s.a.h.-programs cyber-schooling, online charters, e-schools, virtual schools or virtual academies.

Whatever the p.s.a.h. is called, it is a ‘homeschool look-alike’ in which state systems enroll children in a distance education program, and those children usually stay home for school.  Some states with large rural areas use their p.s.a.h. program to deliver services to children and teens enrolled in public schools, and provide them with classes that the local school does not offer.  Sometimes the program delivers the classes at home, and sometimes through the computers at school. 

The success of homeschooled children and teens inspired public schools and state education departments to transfer children’s educational instruction sites back to the home[1], but leaving out the independence of homeschooling.  The rules are different when other peoples’ money is in the mix.[2]

The problem these programs cause for parents who homeschool their children is that the outward similarity of the p.s.a.h. programs to homeschooling — kids stay home to learn — leads to confusion when the companies that provide the programs to states bill themselves as ‘homeschooling.’[3], [4] 

The resemblance between homeschooling and p.s.a.h., whether accidental or with purposeful aforethought[5], has caused some members of the non-homeschool public to complain about the lack of ‘accountability’ by people they see as ‘homeschoolers’ who they think use taxpayer money to pay for their children’s at-home educations.[6]  Further confusion arises because companies that provide p.s.a.h. programs play both sides of the revenue stream and market their programs both privately to families, and to states as p.s.a.h. programs.[7], [8], [9]  

Advocates for all forms of educational choice disagree with homeschooling advocates that the confusion between homeschooling and p.s.a.h. is a problem for parents who homeschool. The way I read the position of the ‘all forms advocates’ is that if homeschool groups limit their support only to those people who completely fund their children’s education, that this restriction will alienate a significant block of sympathetic alternative educators.  The advocates of unrestricted inclusion in support groups of ‘anyone’ think that this position makes homeschoolers appear not to care about the good of all children[10] even though most parents who homeschool are supportive of the best education for each child.  The sticky point in the discussion is the use of the word, “homeschool.”[11]

Of course, all parents should have the choice of how they manage their children’s educations, but the popular meme of ‘school choice’ is misleading if what parents understand as ‘school choice’ is a taxpayer-funded education of the parents’ choice, which is a misunderstanding.[12]

The worry for parents who homeschool is that the growing popularity of ‘free’ at-home education as a guaranteed ‘choice’ will indeed, ‘change the way the world sees homeschooling,’ and that the shift in public perception to controlled school-at-home as the norm will overshadow their independence and academic freedom. [13]

If the root word ‘homeschool’ loses its connection to inherent freedom, not only will families who want to educate their children at home find it harder to put their plans into words, but much of what was written before the advent of the p.s.a.h. programs will be so much nonsense.  “… Don we now our gay apparel, fa la la, la la la, la la la. …”[14]

As for advice about the programs, it is difficult for an ‘outsider’ to give an opinion about the particulars of one program or another without any experience of the programs.  Parents who want specific information must either read the contract they have with the provider, or go to the providers themselves for specific information on how they currently administer the program.


[1] “How William Bennett’s Public E-Schools Affect Homeschooling.”  Home Education Magazine, November-December 2002
“Homeschoolers are a key to the K12 Inc. enterprise. Milken and Bennett are building on the success of homeschooling. … Without evidence provided by the success of the modern homeschooling movement, Milken, Bennett, and others would be having a much more difficult time launching their enterprise and recruiting investors and potential participants.”

[2] “IL: Parents ‘may engage only in non-teaching duties’.”  Home Education Magazine News and Commentary, 10 March 2009
“(6) The remote educational program is at all times under the direct supervision of a parent, guardian, or  other responsible adult identified in the approved remote educational plan. The parent, guardian, or other responsible adult may engage only in non-teaching duties not requiring instructional judgment or the evaluation of students. The parent, guardian, or other responsible adult shall be designated by the school district as non-teaching personnel or volunteer personnel.”

[3] “Home school program puts its curriculum on display.”  Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 29 April 2008
“The IDEA is a home school support program based in the Galena City School District. The program has 3,700 students statewide with 800 of those students from the Fairbanks area, IDEA Director Tim Cline said.”

[4] “Another On-Line Charter School Continues Threat to Homeschooling in Ohio.”  Ohio Home Education Coalition, Revised April 2002

[5] “Who Is Pat Lines and Why Is She Writing About Homeschooling?”  Home Education Magazine, November-December 2003
“Lines’ monograph encourages school districts to establish programs to draw homeschoolers into public schools. ‘Quite practically,” she writes, “districts are seeking to regain some of the students they have lost to homeschooling.’ (p. 7) She describes one district working to ‘recapture students lost to the district because of homeschooling.’ (p. 24)”

[6] “Senate candidates discuss education.”  Topix forum, April 2008  
“Do these two know how much Home Schooling costs our schools?  “This entire system is one hugh (sic) scam. These aren’t all kids sitting around the kitchen table while mommy tells them about addition. These are kids who sit at computers that we buy & using software that we pay for.”

[7] K12 Inc.  Online Public Schools, Online Private School (Worldwide)

[8] Calvert Partner Schools

[9] Schools that use Oak Meadow curriculum

[10] “Why I Will Not Sign the ‘We Stand for Homeschooling Statement and Resolution'”

[11] We Stand For Homeschooling

[12] U.S. Dept. of Education,  Choice and Supplemental Educational Services.
“Children are eligible for school choice when the Title I school they attend has not made adequate yearly progress in improving student achievement— as defined by the state–for two consecutive years or longer and is therefore identified as needing improvement, corrective action or restructuring. Any child attending such a school must be offered the option of transferring to a public school in the district–including a public charter school–not identified for school improvement, unless such an option is prohibited by state law.”

[13] “Home-school parents balk at state plan.”  Anchorage Daily News, 13 March 2008
“The proposed changes would also require individual school districts to exert greater control over the curriculum available to parents who educate their children at home.”

[14]Don We Now Our Gay Apparel: Gay Men’s Dress in the Twentieth Century


Copyright 2006, 2009  Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and freely distributed as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

%d bloggers like this: