Google The Unplanned Homeschooler: Why virtual public school is not legally considered homeschooling

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why virtual public school is not legally considered homeschooling

It's amazing how far the homeschooling community has come in understanding this issue in the couple of years since I first published this article on Yahoo! Back then, homeschoolers who dared to insist that virtual public school was not homeschooling were shouted down in online forums, and I was actually threatened for spreading the message that the term "homeschool" should be guarded and reserved only for true homeschoolers.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/emmandevin/6089369669

Today, when someone in an online homeschool group posts that they are using K12, Connections, Epic or other virtual public school programs, they are immediately reminded, usually by several people, that what they are doing is not really homeschool, and that they have other options.

I am thrilled to see the homeschooling community defending the term "homeschool" for use only as applicable to legal homeschooling, and not to public school at home. For those new to either homeschooling or virtual public school, here's why the proper terminology is so important.


Isn’t “homeschool” any kind of school at home?


Defining homeschool is not simply a matter of semantics. In most states, the term “homeschool” has been defined by the state legislature and it decidedly does not include public school students of any sort. 

Even though both virtual public school students and homeschool students are learning at home, vastly different rules apply to the two groups under state statutes. So, legally speaking, homeschool is not just any kind of school done at home.

If I teach my kids at home, why can’t I call myself a homeschooler?


Both the K12 program and the Connections Academy make it clear on their websites in almost every state that their virtual public school programs are not homeschool. 

True homeschoolers are independently responsible for providing their children’s curriculum and teaching them the material they need to learn. They are legally recognized as their child’s primary teacher. Homeschoolers are free from many forms of government regulation imposed on public school students, but by the same token, they are often restricted from participating in public school offerings.

Parents who use virtual public school programs willingly agree to a high level of state regulation in exchange for free curriculum, access to certified teachers, and other benefits. But under these programs, they are not allowed to define themselves as their child’s teacher. Virtual public schools use state certified teachers, just like any other public school, as the primary instructors and define a parent’s role as auxiliary. 

Why does it matter?


I’ve had other parents ask me why I care if another mom calls herself a homeschooler. Honestly, I wouldn’t care at all if the term weren’t a legal designation which guarantees true homeschoolers certain rights and freedoms under state laws. But as such, it should be protected.
 
The Home School Legal Defense Association, or HSLDA, emphasizes the need to make a distinction between homeschooling and virtual public schools. Their position states that a lack of distinction between virtual public schools and homeschools could negatively impact homeschoolers by confusing lawmakers and causing an erosion of the legal protections homeschoolers have fought for over the past decades.

It's not a matter of exclusion 


The loose application of the term “homeschool” is something many informed homeschoolers oppose, not because we’re mean and want to exclude our virtual schooling counterparts, but because we fought hard for our rights as homeschoolers and we intend to keep them. Those specific rights and freedoms from government regulation are not important to parents who choose a virtual public school program, but they are vitally important to true homeschoolers.

As a homeschool group leader who works hard to get along with other parents regardless of their educational choices, I don’t like to see virtual schoolers offended or feeling left out. Online public school is a great option for many families, but it is important, especially for parents who are leaving conventional public school for the first time, to know all you can about your educational options, and to know where you stand in the eyes of the law.