These days, parents who are considering homeschooling are faced with hundreds of options in terms of logistics, curriculum, methods, etc. Often this can lead to some confusion. One of those issues particularly significant in recent years is whether parents should bring their children home for a private / independent homeschooling experience or enroll them in an at-home charter school.
For both options, the parents become more involved in their child’s education, spend more time with them, and remove them from the typical public school classroom experience. But this is where the similarities end.
Issues to Consider About Charter Schools in Oregon
Charter schools and private / independent homeschooling are very different. While OCEANetwork firmly believes in (and fights for) every parent’s right to choose an educational model as they see fit, there are significant differences between the two models worth considering.
- Charter schools in Oregon are defined by the state as public schools and are therefore not under homeschool laws. This is essential to understand in terms of testing, notification requirements, etc. OCEANetwork works year-round to protect and expand homeschool freedoms in Oregon and help parents clearly understand what options and requirements they have.
- Charter schools often come with excessive busy work, testing, time online, and hoops to jump through. Parents who desire to use religious materials for core subjects as a part of their charter school education are not able to use their charter school funds for those materials. This is because the Oregon Constitution requires that government-funded education must be secular, and while some charter programs allow parents to use public funds for their Christian materials, it is actually illegal to do so. At best, parents must tack those faith-based resources on themselves. While experiences vary based on the charter school and the family, many who start out enjoying their charter school become more frustrated over time with these kinds of issues and end up switching to independent homeschooling.
- Independent homeschooling is the best model for giving parents the most control over their child’s education. Of the four kinds of education available in Oregon, homeschooling parents have the most control and freedom. While requirements vary depending on the charter school, they all require things of the families in exchange for the money given. Government funds open the door to government control.
- The reasons often cited for choosing to use the charter school model can be solved in other ways. There are so many resources and options available to homeschoolers, including online private homeschool resources, co-ops, support groups, free and frugal curriculum choices, etc. In addition, the advantages of private homeschooling are clear, including statistics that demonstrate better academic results.
- The Lord can be trusted to provide all we need to train up and educate our children well. We do not need outside money in order to educate our children with excellence for all their academic, spiritual, social, and experiential needs. The discipleship and education of our children, as well as our relationship with them, is what matters most. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
OCEANetwork cares deeply about families in Oregon and has been working to protect and expand homeschool freedoms since 1986. Our Freedom Watch Team monitors the Oregon capitol year-round for bad bills that are frequently introduced and that can infringe upon parental and homeschooling freedoms. In all these years, we continue to see evidence that independent homeschooling remains the most effective model for home education and family discipleship.
The Bottom Line
We are all parents of good will who are trying to do the best by our children. There is no doubt about that. Regardless of our evaluation of the charter school system, we also strongly support every parent’s right to choose the educational model they prefer.
Not everyone will agree with our assessment of charter schools, but we can and must agree on preserving educational options for families. We must hold the line when it comes to the definitions and legal differences between private homeschooling and charter schools. To blur the lines on these distinctions invites increasing government oversight of the private homeschooling community. Restricting private homeschool freedoms would limit educational options for families and would be a disservice to us all.
We must protect it for all, or we will all lose it.
Protecting Private Homeschooling Law
OCEANetwork can’t do this without you. The freedom to homeschool with as little government intrusion as possible depends on freedom-loving homeschoolers becoming involved.
Pray for OCEANetwork. Put OCEANetwork on your regular prayer list. Pray for wisdom, for strength, for help, and for favor with the legislature. OCEANetwork has been equipping homeschool families and protecting home education freedoms since 1986. With your help, we can continue to guard your freedom to homeschool. If you like, you can join the OCEANetwork prayer team for bi-weekly emails with prayer requests.
Join OCEANetwork’s email list to be informed of important legislative action that needs your help. Legislators want to hear from families in their districts.
Act when you are notified that the Legislature needs to hear from homeschoolers.
Come to Apple Pie Day, which happens every other year during long legislative sessions, to show your support for traditional homeschooling.
Support OCEANetwork with your financial contributions. While OCEANetwork is an all-volunteer organization, there are still many expenses – website and email services, publications, insurance, and much more in order to keep the corporation viable and you informed. Consider becoming an OCEANetwork Supporting Family by making a donation today.
We understand this topic can bring a fair amount of debate. If you have questions about independent homeschooling or homeschool laws in Oregon, please contact us here so that we can address your questions and concerns.
I’m curious about your comment that “many who start out enjoying their charter school become more frustrated over time with these kinds of issues and end up switching to independent homeschooling?” Where are the statistics on this? I thought it was the opposite that you were concerned with: that many are switching from independent to charter?
Who is the author of this article?
And what is the reason for stating that independent home school gives a parent the most control? Our experience in the charter has been that we can choose any curricula we like and that we have the added freedom of being able to opt out of testing, which independent home schoolers cannot do. Not being able to have the charter school pay for faith-based materials is not a concern. I would be paying for all of it without them anyway.
Additionally, there is something charters can offer that no one else can. For free, ours has one day a week of class time. I cannot find that anywhere else. I don’t have to be there. I don’t have to pay for it. I don’t have to teach a class to earn my spot. I don’t have to clean a bathroom. My kids can go have a day of learning activities and classtime with a trusted teacher while I can have rest and time to pursue some other activities. Home educating parents NEED a break. This gives me a genuine break. I think you vastly underestimate the power of rest time for a home educating parent. If I signed up for a group like Classical Conversations, I would have to pay a lot of money to be there, have controlled curriculum choices, and also have to remain on campus the entire time. That’s VERY low freedom. If I sign up for a local co-op (which are great, and I have, and I have taught and I love teaching) … I have to contribute in some way. I get tired and worn out and still have to cook dinner. I need a break. And all my home educating friends who aren’t natural teachers get far more tired than I do.
And additionally you link to some pretty suspect numbers on test results for charter vs home schooler. Perhaps those two groups took the same TYPE of tests, but probably did not take the SAME tests. I’ve seen the state tests the home schoolers take (that are allowed) and they are very short and very simple. Additionally, many who entered into charter schools may have come directly from homeschooling (where they were struggling) and now their test results at a charter school that they just entered are supposed to count against homeschoolers? That’s some pretty bad research.
I feel like we can all discuss this in a reasonable way. But it needs to be accurate. If we base our discussions on accuracy, then we can discuss the other points of whether not charters are a bad idea. We might have different opinions, but a real discussion could be had based upon accurate facts. Home educators often pride themselves on wanting to teach their children to be logical … and then print articles like this.
These articles keep being posted on our own local group. And they are usually accompanied by a slightly snarky tone and a feeling of communicating that those who use charters are not “real.” It’s demeaning and filled with attitude. And extremely unappreciated by most people in the group, judging from the response. This is probably far from your best method of reaching people.
Thank you for your comment. We’ve responded below and added excerpts from your comment to make it easier for folks to follow along with our response to each concern you raised.
“…I thought it was the opposite that you were concerned with: that many are switching from independent to charter?”
>>> We’re not stating that many people switch from independent to charter. Nor did we state a concern that this might be the case. We’re saying that many parents who start out with charter schooling have told us that their reasons for switching to independent homeschooling are because they become more frustrated over time with the issues we shared this article.
“Who is the author of this article?”
>>> This article was a collaborative effort of the OCEANetwork leadership team.
“And what is the reason for stating that independent home school gives a parent the most control? …we have the added freedom of being able to opt out of testing, which independent home schoolers cannot do.”
>>> OCEANetwork supports an opt-out for state testing. In fact, we support state testing being removed for homeschoolers permanently. However, while charter school parents may currently be able to opt out of state testing, their children’s academic performance is monitored, tested, and recorded throughout the year by the school district, gathering data about their education and evaluating their performance. Many independent homeschoolers would prefer not to have that kind of year-round close involvement from government schools.
Independent homeschooling gives parents the most control over the course of study, what materials are being taught, and when they are being taught. As there are no homeschool laws in Oregon that specify what subjects or materials need to be taught or what year they need to be introduced, and there are no requirements for things such as logged hours or days for school, parents have the freedom to craft their homeschool completely independent of government specifications.
“Not being able to have the charter school pay for faith-based materials is not a concern. I would be paying for all of it without them anyway.”
>>> It is a concern for some parents, especially those who prefer that most all of their materials are faith based. How this is handled and what is allowed varies depending on the charter school.
“Additionally, there is something charters can offer that no one else can. For free, ours has one day a week of class time… Home educating parents NEED a break…”
>>> It is true that any time parents are delegating a part of our children’s education to someone else (whether it be a support group co-op, paid program like CC, or other options available out there) there will be trade offs. Those trade-offs can be money, time, energy, oversight, control, etc. We support parents’ rights to choose the method that best fits their family. Choosing not to rely on public funding as a means to educate our children (it’s never free – someone is paying for it) avoids the added trade-offs of government oversight and control. Parents who choose to forego additional government involvement often use other means of finding time for a break or easing the financial burden instead. Again, we acknowledge that everyone’s experience is different. We just maintain that there are options available and which ones you choose come down to a matter of priorities.
“And additionally you link to some pretty suspect numbers on test results for charter vs home schooler…”
>>> There are obviously many variables to take into consideration. However, the research we referenced is accurate. You can find information on the test version issue you mentioned in the research article. The poor academic achievement of online charters is a national issue that is supported by several sources. (Brick and mortar charters appear to do better than traditional public schools, while virtual charter schools do worse. Homeschoolers outperform them all.) We suggest that if parents still have questions on this issue, they get the academic statistics for the specific charter school they’re using or considering using and look at how that compares.
“These articles keep being posted on our own local group. And they are usually accompanied by a slightly snarky tone and a feeling of communicating that those who use charters are not “real.” …”
>>> The distinction we make between charter schooling and homeschooling is a legal one defined by the state of Oregon, not by us. Of course, we are all real parents who are concerned about our children’s wellbeing and have chosen to remove them from the traditional public school classroom setting. But the educational models we choose after that do have legal distinctions and ramifications.
The topic can evoke a lot of debate and emotions among local groups. Our goal in this article wasn’t to detail all the pros and cons of each educational method available. Rather, it was to answer direct questions we’ve received about the legal distinctions, share why OCEANetwork focuses our mission on equipping independent homeschoolers, and share some reasons why we believe independent homeschooling is a better choice in terms of the homeschool freedoms we work hard to protect.
We welcome questions and feedback, so we appreciate you taking the time to raise your concerns. OCEANetwork is committed to communicating accurate information and being respectful of the differing opinions and choices parents may make about which educational models to use with their family.
This probably deserves a post in and of itself, but student data mining is a big problem. Studentprivacymatters.org rates Oregon as a C– when it comes to protecting student privacy. I was just getting ready to enroll my son in a charter school when I learned about this, now I’m leaning towards not, no matter how much the charter school IT guy tries to convince me that federal acts like FERPA protect our kids’ data, those acts have loopholes and it’s too risky to let who knows what third parties have access to our children’s information.
Thank you for this article! I have become increasingly more frustrated with our charter school and I am pulling my daughter out. They initially act very supportive of homeschoolers but as time has gone on it is very obvious they favor public education. I even had a teacher push for in person classes in case I want to put her in public school. They also got pushier about what curriculum I use and I really got the impression they had no confidence in parents ability to teach their own children.
We’re glad it was helpful! Please reach out to us anytime if you have questions about independent homeschooling or how to get connected. We’re happy to help!