Homeschooling With A Charter: California Style...

February 13, 2018

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For those of you in California, you've probably heard of charter schools being an option when it comes to homeschooling. Sure, you can always choose to go independent and submit a PSA (Private School Affidavit) -- giving you COMPLETE freedom to do as you wish with your homeschool. However, for many, going with a charter can be a huge blessing -- whether it be for financial reasons or support, etc. Being a former military family, we've lived in several different states and this is the first that we've been in that offers such things. I LOVE that we can choose what works best for our family and go that route confidently, knowing that we can change things up if we don't feel it's working out. For our family, going with a charter has been a huge blessing and I can't imagine homeschooling any other way. In fact, I hope we can stay put for a little while so that we can enjoy the opportunities homeschoolers have here!

Before I get into the many reasons why we love it, I will say...there a couple downsides. These include things that you wouldn't have to deal with if you filed a PSA...

  • State Tests - When going with a charter, state tests are required. I'm not a huge fan of this. In fact, I had originally planned on going independent for this reason alone. However, for now, it's not an issue. My son is only in 1st grade and these state tests aren't required until 3rd grade, so we'll cross that bridge when it comes.
Okay, well, the state tests are really the only downside in my opinion. I will mention the other aspects that some parents complain about, but none of them really bother me...
  • Attendance - If you homeschool through a charter, you have to submit attendance after each learning period. The way in which this is done varies with each charter -- ours just requires us to literally check a box for each day that we do schoolwork. Easy peasy. I don't have personal experience with the other charters, but I've heard from friends what all they're required to do with that and let's just say, I'm glad we don't have to, ha! 
  • Samples - Our charter requires us to submit 4 samples every other learning period. This again appears to be easier with our charter than others I'm familiar with. All I have to do is snap a shot of work with my phone from each of the four subjects (language arts, math, history, and science), convert them into pdf's and email them to my ES (Educational Specialist aka certified teacher that oversees my son's progress). This takes just a couple minutes of my time once every other learning period. I know some charters require that you turn in hard copy samples, some require more than 4, etc. It really varies with each one -- ours seems pretty low-key. 
Aside from what was mentioned above, I can't think of any possible downsides. I realize many don't want the state to have any part in their homeschool -- I completely respect that. At one time, I felt the same way. As I've said before, I'm still not fond of the state testing, but I feel like it's a small price to pay for the benefits that we receive by being a part of the charter. I suppose you've got to decide if the good outweighs the bad in situations like this. For us, it most certainly does!

Now to get to the perks...

  • Funding - First and foremost, the funding. Oh, the funding. If I'm being honest, that's what sold me. I was going to go independent until my current ES (who also happens to be a neighbor) told me all about the opportunities, the flexibility and the funding. With this funding, we have been able to do things that we probably wouldn't have otherwise done. Those who know me, know that I'm cheap. I'm all about the clearance rack. If it's not on sale, I won't buy it! When it comes to curriculum and enrichment activities with our homeschool, the funding we have received has allowed me to be a lot more lax with what we choose and what my son gets to do. I don't stress over finding the lowest price on a used math book and if he wants to take an art class that I'd normally think is ridiculously overpriced, sure...why not?! Even better, if I don't feel like a certain curriculum is working, I don't feel as guilty ditching it and going with something else since I'm not technically out any money. 
    With that said, we have complete freedom to teach what we want and use whatever curriculum we want. They will pay for whichever curriculum we choose under one condition -- they will not pay for anything religious. I have no problem with that, though. While I'd like to incorporate a few things that happen to be from Christian publishers, I have no problem paying for those out of pocket. They don't care if we teach those -- they just won't pay for them and will not accept anything from them for our work samples. 
    Other than the obvious curriculum purchases, we have also used the funding we receive towards school supplies (like printer ink), martial arts, homeschool PE classes, basketball, hockey, art classes, fun monthly kits like Spangler Science Club and Little Passports, and the coolest of them all...Disneyland tickets(!). Yes, that's right. Tickets to museums, theme parks, zoos, etc. -- they all qualify. After all, there is SO much you can learn while on a field trip! We took our Disneyland tickets and converted them into annual passes (paying the difference out of pocket), so we try to go at least once a month. There is SO much to learn there and thanks to groups like Disneyschooling, you can easily make the day an educational one. In fact, I've submitted some of the things my son has learned while at DL for our work samples with the charter. The opportunities provided by the funding have truly been a blessing... 
  • Enrichment Classes - We no longer attend the one offered with our charter, but I know many that do and love it! Unfortunately, the one closest to us is on the same day at the same time as a class we're already a part of (that I already paid for out of pocket due to it being Christian). I still list this as a perk, though. Offering a free morning of classes once a week is a great benefit! I love that (at no charge to you) the kids can get together in a classroom setting and have fun while learning! If we weren't already in a class that we love, I'd definitely consider joining the one through our charter!
  • Support - Being with a charter requires that you meet with an Educational Specialist once every learning period. While I listed this as a downside earlier, I personally feel like it's a perk. I have a certified teacher (with former brick and mortar experience) that I can call on if I ever have questions. When I was debating on what to use for language arts -- if it was too much or not enough -- I could ask her. She's been there. She's taught 1st grade. She has excellent insight into this dilemma. When I wasn't sure what to use to teach writing, she gave me some ideas of things she used and what other families like. I love that I can shoot her a text if I ever need help with anything...
  • Accountability - This is another one of those things that kind of goes along with a possible downside, but I actually like it. With being attached to a charter and having to report to them, it keeps me accountable. I sometimes feel like I need that. In a way, it's comforting to me to know that we're on the right track and they have verified such things as they keep an overall eye on my son's education. They're not in my face -- in fact, things are pretty hands off -- but knowing they're there is nice. To me, this kind of fits in with the support aspect. On those days when we have no motivation to do anything, knowing that I have to report back to the charter -- it can give me that nudge to get moving...
  • Field Trips - With our charter, they offer planned field trips and park days. I love that they try to get families together so that we can get to know one another! We already have a separate park group that we're part of (and my boys LOVE it!!!), but when they set up a charter park day, you better believe we'll be there! In the past, we've joined the charter for field trips to the paleontology museum, state park, nature center, etc. I'm sad to say we can't join them on an upcoming field trip to Legoland! Scheduling just won't work, but I think it's awesome that they're offering such a fun trip!

Speaking of field trips, here's a sweet picture of my little guy and his buddy during one of our most recent field trips with our charter...

With that said, I'm sure there's more, but this is the general gist of what it's like homeschooling through a charter -- at least with mine. If you live in California, I highly recommend considering this when you look at your options. It's not for everyone, but for many, it provides amazing opportunities that otherwise wouldn't happen!

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  1. Great post! So glad you told us about CEA Totally weird question, but how do you change a picture to a pdf? It's always a pain using my scanner! Haha!

    1. Thanks! I'm so glad you're enjoying CEA. :) In regards to the picture, are you referring to the work samples? I always use Tiny Scanner. It's a free app on your phone. It works perfectly for the work samples!