- SCHEA’s Position on Virtual Charter Schools
- Trojan Horse DVD
- Overview of the various virtual charter schools available in South Carolina
- Legislative Timeline for Virtual Charter Schools in South Carolina
- Questions & Answers
- Academic Alternatives to Virtual Charter School Programs for High School Level
SCHEA’s Position on Virtual Charter Schools
SCHEA’s position is that home education is parent-directed, privately-funded education of one’s own children. The state of South Carolina recognizes homeschooling through three options: (1) registration through the public school district where the parent is providing all of the teaching of their own children (2) registration through South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools (SCAIHS) (3) registration through one of many 3rd option accountability associations. The South Carolina Department of Education (SDE) states that virtual charter schools do not fall under any of the above homeschool statutes, but in fact, are under the direction of the public school district. Virtual charter schools are funded through public taxpayer monies and are directed by public school officials. For this reason, virtual charter schools are not homeschools, and those parents who choose virtual charter schools as their educational choice have chosen public school. It is public school at home, but it is still public school.
Alternatives to Virtual Charter School Programs for High School Level
If you are considering virtual charter schools for high school because you are intimidated at the thought of some challenging high school courses, read this section first!
High School Courses Taught by Private Sources Available to Homeschoolers
The following abbreviated list of high school courses are available to homeschoolers through online sources, DVD programs, satellite programs, or other programs and have been recommended by many homeschoolers as good private sources of home-based, professionally-produced programs. This list is not exhaustive, nor is it intended to be. There are many other programs available as well, but this list is designed to give homeschooling parents a start in looking for alternative sources of teaching difficult subjects to their homeschooled high school students. Many parents of high school students desire to provide their children with the best preparation for college, career, and beyond, but many parents find that teaching all of the high school subjects is intimidating to them. We offer this list as an encouragement to parents as a way to challenge their students in subjects in which they might not feel comfortable teaching themselves (even though many parents have done an excellent doing so themselves!) while being able to continue homeschooling through high school. The programs are grouped by subject area, except for those programs that offer a comprehensive array of high school coursework. Courses are named the same as what would appear on the high school transcript. All of these options are private sources of home education where the parent retains control and choice of the student’s curriculum and grading (as opposed to virtual charter schools where the government is in control of the student’s curriculum/grading). Core subjects include English, math, science, social studies, and foreign language.
Disclaimer: SCHEA does not necessarily endorse all of these, nor does an omission of a particular program indicate a lack of endorsement by SCHEA. It is the sole responsibility of the parents to choose the appropriate materials for their own children.
Comprehensive High School Programs
Note: These comprehensive programs offer all of the subjects required for each grade level through high school. Most of them, however, allow students to take just one subject rather than the whole program, if they desire, so if you are interested in just one subject online, consider these as well as those mentioned under each subject heading.
Complete Christian, Bible-based curriculum offered through 3 options:
- A Beka Academy DVD option – compatible for computer or TV access using teachers from Pensacola Christian Academy in Christian classroom setting. Includes DVDs, as well as textbooks/workbooks. Accredited. The DVDs are leased and have to be returned to A Beka upon completion of the course. Textbooks remain property of purchaser.
- Accredited version – A Beka maintains grades and does transcript.
- Non-accredited version – parent does grading and transcript.
- A Beka Academy Parent-Directed Option – includes textbooks/workbooks, assignments, tests. Work is sent in for grading. A Beka maintains grades and does transcript. Accredited.
- A Beka Book – You choose which textbooks/workbooks, test booklets, teacher books you wish to purchase. Parent does teaching, grading, transcript. No diploma given. Non-accredited.
CONTACT: Academy: 1-800-874-3592. Orders: 1-877-ABEKABOOK (1-877-223-5226).
Alpha Omega Academy
Complete Christian, Bible-based curriculum offered through either print version LifePacs worktexts or Switched-On-Schoolhouse CD-ROMs. Five core high school subjects plus variety of electives. Can opt to just get the program or purchase additional services including transcript service. Weaver unit study program for those who like integrated studies. PowerGlide foreign language program. You may order separate courses, such as just South Carolina History or just Government – you don’t have to order the whole AOP program. Students can get up to 60 minutes free telephone support from teacher for every course they take. Full-time students (taking 5 subjects) get free annual testing. Note that AOP considers high school completion at 21 credits, while South Carolina considers high school completion at 24 credits. CONTACT: www.aop.com General Information and Orders 1-800-622-3070. The Academy (transcript service, curriculum counseling): 1-800-682-7396 or 1-712-472-6610.
Bob Jones University Press
Complete Christian, Bible-based curriculum offered through 2 options:
- Parent-directed book version: Purchase the textbooks, teacher’s manuals, student workbooks, tests and answer keys. Parents do teaching and grading.
- DVD: Can purchase subjects separately or purchase as whole program for particular grade level. Books and materials included w/ DVD.
The Potter’s School
Their foundational mission is to turn the hearts of children to their parents, the hearts of parents to their children, and the hearts of both to the Lord, that families may be strengthened for sacrificial service in excellence. As such, this is an independent study program overseen by parents guided and evaluated by the teacher, supervised by parents. Live, online, academically-rigorous courses from Biblical worldview highlight significant material and help student through challenging subject matter. Online teachers provide timely feedback. Interactive class session, for 90-minutes a week, allows students to talk with one another, with the teacher, see slide show presentations, and meet students from across the world. The program partners with Apologia Science for their science courses; Jay Wile oversees the teachers and sometimes is guest teacher for those classes. Offers Jericho International Honor Society emphasizing Biblical leadership and godly character through service. School E-Zine newspaper staffed by students. Comparable to top Christian preparatory academy but cheaper. College-prep level. Can purchase just one course. Amazing array of courses, including computer science (basic level to robotics and web design); courses using Classical approach; specialty English courses such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien studies; specialty history studies centering on particular time periods such as Roman Empire, Christ in the Camp (Civil War), and Christian Rescuers during the Holocaust; 3rd-, 4th , and 5th level foreign language courses which can be difficult to find; electives such as chess, music, and photography; as well as all of the basic required high school courses. CONTACT: www.pottersschool.org. Non-profit organization. General information about courses email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Academic counseling by appointment to registered families, contact email@example.com. Phone: 703-690-3516.
Individual School Subjects
Programs to complete the requirements for isolated high school subjects.
English(literature, vocabulary, grammar, composition)
Critical Thinking Press and Software
- Editor-in-Chief CD-ROM and workbook teaches students grammar, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and attention to detail while they analyze and edit stories that contain errors in mechanics.
- Word Roots CD-ROM and workbook teaches students Latin and Greek roots, prefixes and suffixes commonly used in English. Adds hundreds of words to student’s vocabulary.
- Critical Thinking Activities to Improve Writing Skills teaches students to think, choose their words carefully, and produce clear, concise, detailed and sometimes persuasive writing. Uses real-life dilemmas to engage students in making clear, logical arguments in writing.
- Dr. Funster’s Word Benders CD-ROM and workbook teach students to analyze words and their meanings.
CONTACT: 1-800-458-4849, Order FAX: 831-393-3288, www.criticalthinking.com .
Chalk Dust Company
DVD college-prep courses for Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, Calculus I, and College Algebra. Math assessment test available through Algebra I. DVDs become property of purchaser. 6 DVDs and textbook, detailed step-by-step solution guide, tech support. Appealing color textbook with approximately 100 problems/lesson (don’t have to do them all but plenty there for adequate instruction/review). Real-life applications incorporated into lessons. Sample lessons online to review before purchasing. CONTACT: 1-800-588-7564 or 281-265-2495, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org , web site: www.chalkdust.com.
The Saxon Teacher
Designed to be used with Saxon math textbooks. Available for Algebra I, Algebra 2, Advanced Math (trigonometry), and Calculus. Saxon incorporates geometry into these other math courses. CD-ROM program is presented by trained Saxon teacher using whiteboard to explain lesson and walk student through sample problems. Student views lesson while following along in textbook and pauses to do problem before viewing solution. Last CD in set gives solutions to test questions. Works on computer (Macs and PCs) but not on TVs. CONTACT: 1-800-284-7019, email: email@example.com, web site: saxonpublishers.harcourtachieve.com.
For Algebra I, Algebra 2, and Geometry. Set includes textbook with student-friendly explanations requiring that parent has no math background. 129 lessons, multimedia explanations to the 650 practice problems, as well as for every one of the 3500 problems in the text. Additional CD with step-by-step solutions to test problems. 40 hrs of lecture on 8 CDs. $185. CONTACT: Timberdoodle, 1-800-478-0672, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, web site: www.timberdoodle.com.
(World History, U.S. History, Geography, etc)
(1) American Heritage Series on DVD. Twenty-six 30-minute presentations on ten DVDs, covering topics such as Why History Matters: Uncovering America’s Christian Foundation; The Faith of our Founding Fathers; Our Biblical Constitution; Evidence of America’s Spiritual Heritage; The Church, State, and Real First Amendment; The Civil Rights Movement; When Religion Was Culture; Faith in Our Early Courts; Four Centuries of American Education; and more. Presented by noted historian David Barton.
(2) Can also purchase many separate DVDs including Spiritual Heritage Tour of the Nation’s Capitol which combined with book by same title makes a perfect accompaniment for trip to the Capitol in Washington, DC. Many books, pamphlets available on America’s Christian heritage. The Influence of the Bible on America MP3 and DVD. Science, the Bible, and Global Warming CD and MP3. Spiritual and Historical Perspective on America’s War on Terror MP3 and CD.
(3) Drive Thru History America with Dave Stotts: Foundations in Character by David Barton and Nita Thomason. History of America from Christian worldview. Fast-paced book and DVD. Features values-based lessons on character. Excellent thought questions for family/group discussion, writing activities, crossword and you-solve-it puzzles. CONTACT: Wallbuilders, 1-800-873-2845, www.wallbuilders.com
History of the World Mega-Conference DVD collection. Ten powerful messages by internationally-recognized speakers covering 6000 years of earth history spanning events of people and cultures. Key themes in the rise and fall of civilizations, providence of God and direction over every facet of history. Over 11 hours of viewing. Speakers include Doug Phillips, Paul Jehle, George Grant, John Eidsmoe, and Marshall Foster. Or purchase the entire conference with 50 messages on 40 CDs plus the 10 DVDs. CONTACT: Vision Forum, 1-800-440-0022, web site: www.visionforum.com
(L=lab science component offered)
Apologia Science (L)
Parent- and student-friendly, Biblically-based, creationist science. College-prep level. Does not require a teachers’ manual or a teachers’ background in science. Available for Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Advanced Biology, Advanced Chemistry, Advanced Physics, and Marine Biology. Advanced courses assume student has successfully passed first-year course as pre-req; Marine Biology requires Biology as pre-req. Several options:
- Parent-directed, book version: Buy the book. Text is student-friendly and many students can use the text to teach themselves. Many resources for labs can be found at local stores and kits available from Apologia for the rest.
- CD-ROM version: Textbook formatted as website. Does not read book to student but provides the complete course on the website, along with pronunciation for difficult words, videos, animations, and lab experiment demonstrations.
- MP3 version: Reads the textbook aloud to the student. For those auditory learners who find it difficult to pay attention to written text.
- Online course taught by an instructor: Through Potter’s School. See description above under Comprehensive Programs. You can purchase just this one Apologia science course.
CONTACT: Apologia Educational Ministries, 888-524-4724, web site: www.apologia.com
Digital Frog International
Digital Frog 2.5. Frog dissection via DVD. It is highly recommended that students participate in hands-on labs. However, this program provides a viable alternative for those who are especially squeamish about doing frog dissections and other hands-on “wet” labs and will not do a hands-on dissection. Home version considerably cheaper. Teacher and student workbook included in electronic format.
Digital Field Trip Series (to the wetlands, to the desert, to the rainforest) via DVD. Electronic versions of teacher/student workbooks are on the DVDs.
Science Matrix: Cell Structure and Function DVD. Stunning graphics and activities aid student to learn by doing. Student can construct own virtual plant, animal, and prokaryotic cell. Interactive quizzes.
CONTACT: 1-800-621-FROG or www.digitalfrog.com
Bob Jones University Press
Biology 10 Dissection Kit and DVD. Covers dissection of four specimens (crayfish, perch, earthworm, frog) in great detail. Suitable for student to be doing own dissection in front of TV or computer while presentation is being given. Close-up images, great instructions, detailed explanations, best dissection DVD on the homeschooling market. Specimens sold separately with dissecting tools. CONTACT: 1-800-845-5731 or 864-242-5100 ext 3300. www.bjupress.com
Artes Latinae Level I on DVD-ROM version 2.0, acclaimed Latin program. CONTACT: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. 1-800-892-6453. email: email@example.com. Orders only: firstname.lastname@example.org web site: www.bolchazy.com
Latina Christiana DVD series Levels I and II. Covers recitation, review, grammar lessons, vocabulary practice, and explanation of derivatives. Inspires love of learning Latin. 12 hrs instruction on 4 disks. CONTACT: The Book Peddler, 440-284-6654, email@example.com, web site: www.bookpeddler.us
Constitutional Law Online
Taught by Michael Farris, J.D. , Chairman of Home School Legal Defense Association and Chancellor of Patrick Henry College. Class begins in September and ends in February. 18-week Internet-based government course. Includes history and background of the American legal system from a Biblical perspective, excellent to satisfy high school government credit (0.5 unit credit). Based on Mike Farris’ textbook Constitutional Law for Enlightened Citizens, uses computer-based audio CD-ROM for classroom lectures, syllabus has reading/listening assignments for each week and offers flexible schedule for homework. Every 2 weeks, students can participate in live chat-room discussion hosted by Mike Farris to pose questions and discuss material. Twice during course, students submit essay exams for grading. Certificate of participation awarded to students at end of course. CONTACT: http://conlaw.hslda.org
Math-U-See Stewardship Christian approach to personal finance and consumer math. Book plus instructional DVD. 30 lessons on managing a checking account, interest and credit cards, comparison shopping, cost of operating a car and maintaining a home, the gift of giving, and financial principles based on God’s Word. CONTACT: www.mathusee.com or 1-888-854-6284
Biblical Principles of Finance: Financial Freedom DVD Seminar by Jim Sammons
Ten hours of instruction on 9 DVD’s covering topics such as what it means to be financially secure, choosing to serve God rather than money, learning to live within your income, purposing to get and keep out of debt, committing to an effective accounting system, avoid business partnerships, identifying and conquering slothfulness. CONTACT: Vision Forum, 1-800-440-0022, www.visionforum.com.
Adam to Abraham: A multilevel (Kindergarten through 12th grade), Bible-focused unit study that uses the Charlotte Mason approach and the Internet. You will want to do the most difficult assignments of this program to make this a high school Bible elective course. The first eleven chapters describe Creation, the Fall, the Flood, and the origin of nations. Focus on Genesis 1-12, revealing Jesus Christ in Genesis. Study includes overview, timeline, vocabulary, book list, Internet sites, videos, software, and fourteen 4-step lessons. CONTACT: www.birchcourtbooks.com, 1-800-655-1811.
Answers Education Online: Foundations in Creation Apologetics APO 111: This self-paced online course covers Genesis 1 and how current evolutionary thinking is inconsistent with the teachings of the Bible. Students have six months to complete the course. The organization Answers in Genesis, founded by Ken Ham, has many more DVD’s and CDs on the topic of creationism and refutation of evolution, crucial material to know for Christian young people before they enter secular colleges or workplaces. CONTACT: www.answersingenesis.org.
Bible Studies: Into Thy Word. Inductive Bible Studies Online. This free website provides a study of God’s Word broken down by book or topic into daily study with thought-provoking questions, themes to note, and application questions. Read the How to Study Your Bible Inductively and the Cheat Sheet to Inductive Bible Study – and print them for future reference – before starting the study, as they explain how the inductive method works to immerse one’s self in God’s Word. Studies include: Matthew, Romans, Hebrews, James, Peter, Revelation, Character, Disciplines of the Faith. Resources needed: Bible, Strong’s Concordance. Definitions online. If you use this program and find it helpful to your spiritual growth and increased understanding of God’s Word, consider contributing to the website as a means to continue the blessing for others. CONTACT: www.intothyword.org.
Traditional Logic I on DVD
SAT Test Prep for SAT I, PSAT, and ACT College Entrance Exams,
Barrons Educational Books. Questions, test-taking strategies, study tips, vocabulary lists, sample tests. CONTACT: www.barronstestprep.com, 1-800-645-3476.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
How is virtual charter school any different from homeschooling when, in both cases, the children are doing school around the kitchen table?
Homeschooling is parent-directed, privately-funded education of one’s own children. The parents choose the curriculum, pay for it, decide what methods will be used to teach it (this might include private tutors, co-op classes, satellite programs, DVDs or other resources of the parent’s choice), decide the school schedule, and assess the results. Therefore, homeschooling might take place in the car enroute to swim meet, as easily as around the kitchen table, but it’s still homeschooling, because the parent is in charge of the education. If parents find that the program is “not working” to provide what their children need, they are free to make changes the very next day and adopt a new curriculum, new methods, new assessment, or new schedule. They can freely adopt whatever materials and methods best suit the child’s learning style, and adapt the schedule to best suit the family’s preference.
Virtual charter school is government-directed, taxpayer-funded education of the children. Public school officials choose the curriculum and provide oversight and assessment of the teaching, taxpayers pay for it, and the computer program provides the methodology of teaching. Students might do their work around the kitchen table, but it’s still public school – called public-school-at-home, or virtual charter school. If parents find that the program is “not working” to provide what their children need, they must adhere to the tenets of their contract with the public school and continue with the VCS program or go through whatever means the school district has dictated to withdraw their children formally from “attendance” with the virtual charter school. To do otherwise risks charges of truancy. Parents have no say-so in materials or methods used, which, because they are intended for public classroom use, do not take into consideration unique learning styles of individual students. All material also adheres to public school schedules that may or may not fit the family’s personal schedule.
How is K-12 curriculum different from K-12 virtual charter school?
K-12 is a secular curriculum inspired by William Bennett. It is available for sale to parents to use as a means of private homeschooling (i.e. parents purchase K-12 curriculum from the website or bookstores and teach the material themselves to their own children). Parents are still in charge of the home education of their children using this means. This choice is no different from using any other secular private curriculum. Another version of this program offers online teacher support but is a private option because parents pay for it. This program can be used internationally as well. Parents who choose this means register as homeschoolers under one of the three homeschooling statutes of South Carolina.
K-12 South Carolina Virtual Charter School is funded by public taxpayer monies and offered to parents (selected 2008-2009 through a lottery system) as the means of public-school-at- home program overseen by public school officials. The government, not the parents, is in charge of the education of the child. Parents who choose this means of education for their children register them for public school under the jurisdiction of the local public school district.
Is there only one virtual charter school option in South Carolina?
No. There are four programs in operation as of October 2008:
- South Carolina Virtual Charter School – Only for high school. Does not offer free computer for homeschoolers opting for this program. Limit of 3 credits/year, 12 credits for entire high school program. No more than 75% of the core instruction is offered online; the remaining 25% (or more) is gotten through field trips, outings, meetings with teachers, and other things that meet the objectives.
What would I be missing from the homeschooling experience if I chose virtual charter school?
The key benefits of home education are faith and freedom. Homeschooling parents have the freedom to pass on their faith to their children without government interference. Curriculum does matter. Curriculum is the prime vehicle by which education takes place. Christian parents have the freedom to choose godly books and materials that are based on God’s Word. They can talk about biblical things all day long, applying God’s Word to every aspect of daily life in such a way that God’s Word becomes enmeshed into a child’s way of thinking and living. Christian homeschooling in this manner “makes sense” to the child as “school” life and home life flow consistently together. In addition to the above, homeschoolers enjoy unmatched flexibility in curriculum, methodology, scheduling, extracurricular activities, travel and work opportunities, and family togetherness, all of which enhance learning opportunities (and invaluable life lessons) for the child.
Parents who enroll their children in virtual charter schools are bound by the contract they sign with the public schools that they will teach the curriculum just as it is written, in the order that it is presented, tested as intended, during the hours that are required. Their children receive public school curriculum void of God’s Word and ways. Because they have to “check in” on computer for attendance purposes, and because that teaching takes place during regular school hours, the prime hours of a child’s attention are consumed with secular, sometimes anti-God teaching. This can not be countered by any number of hours “after school” of Christian teaching “pasted on” at the end of the school day. In fact, parents who offer conflicting views to their children risk creating spiritual confusion and contempt of authority over parental hypocrisy from their children. Parents lack the flexibility of homeschooling, because the virtual charter school program dictates all of the above and parents have very little input into the program. The most flexibility the parent has is to maximize teaching on Monday through Thursday, so that the child only has to “check in” for a couple hours on Friday, making that a “short school day” if the parent wishes to take a longer weekend. However, they cannot “take off” for a couple weeks for the family to travel with Dad as he goes out of state on a business trip, learning along the way.
What will I get if I enroll my children in virtual charter school? Isn’t homeschooling expensive?
There are multiple virtual charter school programs in South Carolina, and each of them provides different things, among them computers, instructional books, reading books and more. Advertisement circulars promised extracurricular activities, including field trips, events, and boxes of goodies.
Some programs, such as K-12, offer a free computer with enrollment into the program. However, if a family has multiple children enrolled in the program, they usually will receive only one computer for children K-8 and another one if they have any children in high school level. This means that multiple children must juggle use of one computer throughout every school day in order to get their needed hours for attendance and to complete their required assignments. This potentially can cut into afternoon activities the family might want to do and create a scheduling problem for Mom who has to manage the children who are not doing school at the time and to ensure that everyone has adequate computer time.
Local teachers oversee the virtual charter school program, and thus, offer oversight and guidance, as well as an optional monthly field trip. Students who want to take part in activities through the local public school, such as band and sports programs, must go through the local district or State Department of Education in order to gain access to these programs (access is at the discretion of these public school entities).
Homeschooling costs money, the amount depending on curriculum choice, methodology choice, and other factors. If Mom quits her well-paying job to stay home to homeschool, there is the loss of that one income, which could be substantial. Some curricula is relatively inexpensive (but costs something), while other curricula costs quite a bit. It usually costs the most for phonics programs (kindergarten-first grade) and for high school programs. If you use the public library quite a bit for your reading-history-science books, that will be cheaper than purchasing books for those subjects, but you might sacrifice Christian content depending on what is available through your local library. You can access quite a bit by interlibrary loan, although some librarians are more cooperative about this than others. Used curriculum sales, library book sales, borrowed books, and sharing of resources can save quite a bit of cost. Outside activities range in cost from “nothing” to “expensive.” Co-op classes can be relatively inexpensive or free if a few parents get together and share in the workload of a class for their combined children, or these co-op classes can be expensive if done through larger co-ops.
The bottom-line is that the education of children costs something. It isn’t free, despite the ads. Someone pays for it. With virtual charter schools, the taxpayer pays for the program. But, there are other “costs” to consider than financial costs. True education involves the passing of worldview, philosophy, morals, values, and the ability to think and reason, all those intangibles that determine the future course and direction of that child’s life. Therefore, many parents choose to do the work, bearing the costs and making the sacrifices necessary to homeschool their children, so that they can be the ones to pass on their worldview, philosophy, morals, and values to their children, rather than having the government pass on its secular, often anti-God worldview and values. The actions of the next generation will come out of their beliefs, and those beliefs are shaped by the education the children receive. The education of today’s children will determine the fate of tomorrow’s generation. Parents have the challenge to determine how much that education is worth.
How does the level of parental involvement differ between homeschooling and virtual charter schooling?
Parents are totally responsible for the education of their children under a homeschooling program. The parents make all of the decisions, pay for the materials and curriculum, control the testing of their children, and make all of the arrangements for the actual teaching of their children. Parents can choose from a wide variety of materials and methods to accomplish this purpose, but they are the ones choosing and funding these options.
When parents choose virtual charter schools, the government makes all of the decisions, pays for all of the materials used in the schooling of the children, and administers the annual tests. The parents are still required to make sure the children do the work prescribed by the government program and to keep records documenting the progress of the children. The amount of parental oversight needed varies by grade level of the child – parents of K-3rd graders will do approximately 60% of the teaching and all of the documentation of work to show progress. Parents of 4th-8th graders will do approximately 40% of the teaching and all of the documentation. Parents of high schoolers will do only a small amount of the teaching and all of the documentation.
How does virtual charter school compare with other forms of education academically?
According to the 1991 study by Dr. Brian Ray of National Home Education Research Institute, homeschoolers ranked at the 80th-87th percentile (depending on grade level and subject area) on nationally-normed tests, well above their public school counterparts that were ranked at the 50th percentile nationally in the same year. This success occurred regardless of homeschooling parents’ educational background and how much money they invested in their programs (average $546/student), compared with the norm of required teacher certification for public school teachers and average $5,325 per student spent per year for public school. The 2003 study showed an increase in the overall number of homeschoolers nationwide – an estimated 2 million, with test scores still outshining those of students in public schools (65th-80th percentile compared with 50th percentile). Refer to NHERI’s website for more specific details: www.nheri.org.
Not all states have virtual charter schools, or public school at home programs as they are termed nationally. In Idaho, where virtual charter schools have been in operation for years, students in virtual charter schools ranked the lowest of all students, even below public school students; homeschooled students ranked the highest.
What has happened in other states that have had virtual charter school programs?
The virtual charter school programs were academic failures. In Idaho, many homeschoolers who initially embraced virtual charter school enthusiastically are returning to traditional homeschooling, citing disappointment in the program for not meeting their expectations in academics and social activities and lamenting the loss of family bonding and spiritual growth of their children. In Iowa, the huge increase in public-school-at-home programs resulted in a large decrease in the number of homeschoolers in local support groups. The activities of local support groups are run by volunteer moms and dads on small budgets (what they can afford out of pocket to provide) and cannot compete with state-run, taxpayer-funded enrichment programs provided by the public-school-at-home programs. The mega-programs provided everything from field trips and special classes to impressive websites and large staffs of specialists, and this competition virtually decimated independent homeschooling in that state. A similar situation happened in Washington State due to public-school-at-home programs.
Local homeschooling support groups experienced disruption. At first, when those doing public-school-at-home programs were denied membership into groups intended to offer support for homeschoolers. Then, over the long haul as the increase in virtual charter schoolers undermined the strength of the homeschooling community and decreased its ability to fight negative legislation.
Many parents who embraced virtual charter schools found themselves in a dilemma of moral integrity when they were asked to document an hour of instruction for a particular subject that only took 15 minutes to teach. Or when they prayed over lunch or mentioned a Bible verse in conjunction with a reading lesson after they had agreed in their contract to not include religious instruction of any kind during their school day. Others found themselves faced with the actions and words of their older children who challenged them with the message, “Why isn’t it all right for me to be inconsistent in my faith and beliefs when you (the parent) compartmentalize Jesus and Christianity by mentioning him only in the evening or on weekends but not during the school day just for the sake of your virtual charter school contract?”
State homeschooling groups have suffered as local groups fell apart, and there is the concern that, if and when dangerous legislation arises, the state organization will not be functionally in a position to fight it in an organized fashion as has been the case in the past. In Alaska, the vast majority of homeschoolers chose public-school-at-home programs when they appeared in that state, such that only a small remnant of true homeschoolers remain in that state.
If I enroll my children in virtual charter schools, can I still belong to the local homeschooling support group?
The leaders of local support groups have been forced to make difficult decisions with regard to membership of those enrolling in virtual charter schools. A few have decided to ignore the issue and welcome into membership anyone who wishes to join, and some are already regretting that decision. Many, however, have decided to maintain their membership open to homeschoolers only, and therefore, those who enroll their children in public-school-at-home programs (such as virtual charter schools) cannot join. Many of these groups have ByLaws and Articles of Association that states that their groups were founded for the sole purpose of providing support and activities for homeschoolers. Therefore, the leaders of such groups would be irresponsible in their role as leaders to open membership to those who are attending public school (regardless of where that education actually takes place) since those in public school are not homeschoolers. Most of the public-school-at-home programs advertised that they offered extracurricular activities and support to those parents/families who enrolled in their programs. Therefore, it would be very appropriate for those enrolled in virtual charter schools to go to the local public school district and inquire there about activities and any support that is needed from those officials overseeing the virtual charter school program.
What if I already belonged to the homeschool group and want to maintain close ties with our friends there?
We hope that relationships between friends would remain despite the school choice of the parents. Obviously, when one family is attending public school (even if it is public-school-at-home) and the other family is homeschooling, the overlap of activities and interaction with one another is more limited. Friends in these families may see one another less often than they might if both were homeschooling or both were in public school. However, families can get together as often as they like and time allows.
Will having my children in virtual charter school be less work and easier for Mom to do?
The virtual charter school programs still require quite a bit of work and commitment on the part of the teaching parent, more so at the younger school years than at the high school years. Not only is Mom required to teach over half of the program for the kindergarten through 3rd grade years, but must also make sure that the rest of the program is completed, and keep records on all of the program to ensure adequate progress. Many moms, especially those who have enjoyed the flexibility of homeschooling for many years, have found this process to be too rigid and demanding for their families. Also, Mom has to implement the public school program regardless if it is the best content or teaching style for that child, and she does not have the flexibility that homeschooling has to change methods or materials midstream when they don’t work.
Because they are public-school-at-home programs, the virtual charter school programs necessarily have rigid attendance policies, in that they require children to “check in” on computer 4-5 days every week to do at least part of the required workload. Since the work is primarily on computer, the children are in front of the computer for hours every school day. Those families who were formerly homeschoolers only had to document 180 days of attendance anytime during the school year. Thus, they had the flexibility to travel together as a family or take a day off for a field trip or group activity. For those families, this new schedule is too rigid to fit their needs.
What about high school? What if Mom is too overwhelmed with the idea of teaching high school herself and looks at virtual charter school as a means to keep the teens at home through high school but not have the load of teaching them herself?
Many, many families who formerly were homeschooling and now have chosen virtual charter school cite the reason of “because I don’t want to teach high school” as the main reason that prompted them to consider virtual charter school. Some parents are overwhelmed at the thought of teaching biology lab or algebra class. Others want their children to be able to play on sports teams or have the “real” high school experience that includes proms, dances, dating, clubs, classes, lockers, and school rings. Some parents enjoy and feel their children benefited from the homeschooling experience but want their high school children to have access to AP classes and band programs.
For those families who wish to continue with genuine homeschooling through high school, there are several choices other than virtual charter schools. There are private satellite programs, DVD programs, online programs, co-op classes, dual credit courses at local community colleges, and other programs available where instruction is offered by another teacher but the student does most of the work at home. Parents pay for these programs, and thus, they are parent-directed, parent-funded programs. Students doing these programs could still register as homeschoolers*, since the parent is still overseeing/directing the program and responsible for the education of the child, and thus, could still participate in activities of the local support group. A list of these options is given below on this webpage – it is not intended to be a comprehensive list of options, but rather a “starting point” of options for you to consider for private teaching tools for your children. (* Some groups stipulate that greater than 50% of the instruction must be done by the parent in order to be labeled as homeschooling.)
Sports teams are available to homeschoolers, although they are not yet at the level offered by public schools. A list of sports options for homeschoolers is given elsewhere on this website. Many homeschool support groups offer a wide variety of activities for high school students, including dances, band and chorus, debate and public speaking, Journalism and Key clubs, travel experiences, Student Council leadership opportunities, group community service projects, and co-op classes. Community theater groups welcome homeschooled actors, actresses, and stagehands. Local and state groups welcome homeschoolers into their service opportunities here and abroad. In fact, the opportunities for students who are homeschooled far surpass the opportunities for students in public school (even public-school-at-home) because of the rigid attendance policies for this latter group compared with the flexible schedules of homeschoolers.
What if I don’t like virtual charter school after I’ve already enrolled in the program? Can’t I just start homeschooling at that time?
Once your children are enrolled in virtual charter school, they are in the public school system. To disenroll them from the public school system requires following a procedure laid out by the school system. In some states, parents who withdraw their children from the public-school-at-home programs must return all equipment (i.e. computers, materials, books) to the public schools, and in some cases, pay a fee for the “tuition” that is lost by the child being withdrawn. Since the virtual charter schools are fairly new to South Carolina, only time will tell how easy it is to withdraw from the program once you have enrolled in it. The K-12 representative stated that to disenroll a child from that virtual charter school program, the parent only had to contact the K-12 administrative office to remove the child from the program.
You can begin homeschooling anytime during the school year, but some accountability associations limit their application process to the beginning of the school year and do not accept new members mid-year. SCHEA notes those associations that accept members year-round and those that limit membership – see the website under “Accountability Associations” for more information. You need to register to homeschool through one of the three homeschool statute options in order to homeschool legally in South Carolina. If you do not register through one of the three homeschool statutes, your children are truant and you as the parent are subject to prosecution for this.
If virtual charter schools are not viewed positively by homeschool leadership, then why do political conservative leaders in the state favor such programs?
Sadly, South Carolina has some of the lowest academic scores in the nation as seen through annual standardized testing, and one of the highest high school dropout rates in the nation. Conservative political leaders hope that virtual charter schools will help prospective high school dropouts stay enrolled in school long enough to graduate so that they can become productive, self-supporting citizens who will not end up on government handout programs. Thus, they view these programs as part of an effort to improve educational options for those who are falling through the cracks of the public school system, as well as a means to be fiscally responsible with taxpayers’ money.
However, marketing for virtual charter schools is aimed squarely at homeschoolers. Homeschooling families pay the same taxes as everyone else, but receive nothing from the public schools. The school district receives $0 for homeschooled children. On the other hand, for very little outlay of funds for virtual charter school students, the school district receives approximately 60% of the normal funding it would receive for students attending a brick-and-mortar public school. Depending on the particular school district in the state, this ranges from $5,400 to $11,000 for every child enrolled in virtual charter school. Thus, the school district stands to gain much more by enrolling previously-homeschooled children into its ranks via virtual charter schools, than it would by “losing” students migrating out of brick-and-mortar public schools (where they receive 100% funding) to virtual charter schools (where they receive 60% funding).
South Carolina Department of Education Code of Laws Legislative Timeline for Virtual Charter Schools
Section 59-65-40 Home Schooling Program (Option 1)
The parent or legal guardian must be the primary instructor and must have a minimum of a GED. The parent/legal guardian must provide all instructional material, which must be approved by the local school board.
The parent/legal guardian is responsible for all instruction.
South Carolina established a “Brick and Mortar” charter school program in 2006.
A “charter school” means a public, nonreligious, nonhome-based, nonprofit corporation forming a school that operates within a public school district or the South Carolina Public Charter School District, but is accountable to the school board of trustees of that district which grants its charter. Nothing in this chapter prohibits charter schools from offering virtual services pursuant to state law and subsequent regulations defining virtual schools. A charter school is considered a public school and part of the South Carolina Public Charter School District or local school district in which it is located for the purposes of state law and the state constitution
In that program, the single sentence that reads, “Nothing in this chapter prohibits charter schools from offering virtual services pursuant to state law and subsequent regulations defining virtual schools.” opened the doors for companies like K-12, Connections, and Insight to apply for a virtual charter in the state of South Carolina. Then we got the actual Virtual School Program, along with it’s own department, under the Department of Education.
Section 59-16-15 South Carolina Virtual School Program
South Carolina Virtual Charter School (SCVCS) is a state-approved, public school program. The State Board of Education is authorized to establish the South Carolina Virtual School Program to provide South Carolina students access to distance, online, or virtual learning courses offered for an initial unit of credit. The South Carolina Virtual School Program shall not award a South Carolina High School diploma. A public, private, or homeschool student residing in South Carolina who is twenty-one years of age or younger shall be eligible to enroll in the South Carolina Virtual School Program. A private school or home school student enrolled in the South Carolina Virtual School Program must not be entitled to any rights, privileges, courses, activities, or services available to a public school student other than receiving an appropriate unit of credit for a completed course. Students may be awarded a maximum of three online initial credits in a school year, and no more than twelve online initial credits throughout high school. Home school students and private school students shall receive a certified grade report indicating date, course, and final numeric grade from the South Carolina Virtual School Program or an entity approved by the State Board of Education.
This program allows any student to take up to three classes per year, with a maximum of 12 classes for high school. In cases where students come from small schools with limited options, or home schoolers who want to take (for instance) AP classes, the Virtual School Program is a solution. Home schoolers still need to pay for all their material, since they cannot receive material at taxpayer expense. The South Carolina Virtual Charter School (SCVCS) was approved March 6, 2008, by the South Carolina Public Charter School District, South Carolina’s statewide charter school authorizing agency. Three companies have applied for, and received, a charter to teach virtual classes in SC. Two of them (K-12 and Connections Academy) will each be accepting 1000 students, the third (Insights) will only be doing 9th-12th grade so will only have 500 students. This is the first year, so those numbers are expected to increase significantly by next year. For those companies there is another section.
Online or computer instruction; requirements; enrollment in South Carolina Virtual School The program must provide each student enrolled in the program with a course or courses of online or computer instruction approved by the State Department of Education that must meet or exceed the South Carolina content and grade specific standards. It must adopt a plan by which it will provide: (a) frequent, ongoing monitoring to ensure and verify that each student is participating in the program, including proctored assessment(s) per semester in core subjects graded or evaluated by the teacher, and at least bi-weekly parent-teacher conferences in person or by telephone; (b) administer to all students in a proctored setting all applicable assessments as required by the South Carolina Education Accountability Act. (B) Nothing in this section shall prohibit a charter school that provides a program of online or computer instruction from reimbursing families of enrolled students for costs associated with their Internet connection for use in the program. Private or homeschool students choosing to take courses from a virtual charter school may not be provided instructional materials, or any other materials associated with receiving instruction through a program of online or computer instruction at the state’s expense.
Again, home schooled student who enroll in one of the three virtual schools, are no longer considered “home schooled” since “homeschool students can not receive instructional material at the state’s expense.” They are now public school students, receiving instructional materials from tax money. If parents sign up with any of these three companies and pay for the material themselves, then they would be considered “homeschooled.” If they are getting the material “free” (i.e. taxpayer money), through the school district, then they are “public school at home” students.
Each of the three companies is very clear that they are “public school in the home.” The parents are not called teachers, but “learning coaches.” There are specific regulations families must abide by if they are participating in the VCS program. Families lose their flexibility in choosing curriculum, since they must use the material provided by the VCS. They lose flexibility in time, since there are required sessions with the teacher and with other “classmates.” They lose the ability to teach from a Christian perspective, since by law religion CANNOT be taught in school, and since public school at home is still public school and still funded by taxpayer money. Students must take statewide tests in a “proctored” setting (i.e. in the local public schools). Finally, it needs to be noted that for students taking virtual classes,
(C) A charter school shall provide no more than seventy-five percent of a student’s core academic instruction in kindergarten through twelfth grade via an online or computer instruction program. The twenty-five percent of the student’s core academic instruction may be met through the regular instructional opportunities outlined in subitem (A)(5)(b).
There is still work to be done by the on-line instructor in a one-on-one setting.
For some families, who have no problem with the public school philosophy, VCS may be a good option. At the very least the students will be home and with the parents. However, in weighing the pros and cons of VCS, SCHEA recommends you watch the DVD “Exposing the Trojan Horse.” To read the full code of law, go to www.scstatehouse.net/code/statmast.htm Title 59, chapters 16 and 40.
Overview of the Various Virtual Charter Schools Available in South Carolina
A “charter school” means a public, nonreligious, nonhome-based, nonprofit corporation forming a school that operates within a public school district or the South Carolina Public Charter School District, but is accountable to the school board of trustees of that district which grants its charter. There are both brick-and-mortar charter schools (accountable to the local school district), and virtual charter schools, (under the jurisdiction of the South Carolina Public Charter School District).
In spring 2007, the South Carolina Legislature passed H3097, a bill that allowed virtual charter schools in the state. Parents and educators who came together from around the state to support that legislation formed a Charter Committee to develop the South Carolina Connections Academy charter school application, which was approved unanimously by the board of the South Carolina Public Charter School District on February 7, 2008. This is South Carolina’s very first statewide virtual charter school. Shortly thereafter, a second virtual charter school, The South Carolina Insights School was approved. Over the summer of 2008 K-12 was also given approval to begin a virtual charter school. As of fall 2008, those were the three approved full time virtual charter schools.
In addition, the South Carolina Virtual Charter School (SCVCS) is a state-approved, public school program. The State Board of Education established the South Carolina Virtual School Program to provide South Carolina students access to distance, online, or virtual learning courses offered for an initial unit of credit. The South Carolina Virtual School Program does not award a South Carolina High School diploma. A public, private, or homeschool student residing in South Carolina who is twenty-one years of age or younger can enroll in the South Carolina Virtual School Program. Students may take a maximum of three online credits in a school year, and no more than twelve online credits throughout high school.
That means there are now 6 ways to educate children in South Carolina.
- Public brick and mortar schools, funded by tax payer money
- Private schools, funded by parents
- Home schools, through the school district, through SCAIHS or through a Third Option Accountability group, funded by parents
- Home schools with students taking up to three courses per high school year through the SCVCS funded by parents for home school classes and tax payer money for the SCVCS classes
- Public brick and mortar charter schools, funded by tax payer money
- Public school at home virtual charter schools (Insights, Connections Academy or K-12), funded by tax payer money
Virtual Charter Schools DVD “The Trojan Horse”
SCHEA is part of a national group, the National Alliance of Home Educators, that has put together a DVD on the topic of Virtual Charter Schools, entitled “The Trojan Horse.” We encourage each support group and accountability association, as well as individuals, to purchase a copy and pass it around among their group members or show it at a group support meeting. Along with providing up-to-date information on virtual charter schools, and their impact on home schooling in states and the nation, the DVD also encourages parents to think through their reasons for homeschooling so that they might be purposeful in the decisions they make regarding the home education of their children. To order your copy, send $10.00 per copy (plus $5.00 for postage) to SCHEA at PO Box 2707 Irmo, SC 29063.