Eye on Education

Homeschooling Association Advises Parents to Avoid Online Charter Schools

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The Home School Legal Defense Association is telling Ohio parents to think twice before enrolling their children in online charter schools. HSLDA says in a recent message to members:

Although there may appear to be some similarities, particularly as to where the instruction takes place, i.e. in the home, HSLDA sees homeschooling as a distinct educational approach in contrast to enrolling in an online public school. Homeschooling enables parents to have much more influence on their children’s education.

Publicly funded virtual charter schools are really just “schools at home” and parents are simply “monitors or learning coaches.” In these schools the government is in the driver’s seat—parents are just along for the ride. HSLDA encourages parents to count the cost before enrolling in “free” publicly funded virtual charter schools.

In fact, the homeschooling association “strongly cautions” all homeschoolers from enrolling in online charter schools. But the message is especially relevant in Ohio, which has more students enrolled in full-time online schools than all other states except Arizona.

The HSLDA and other homeschooling advocates say there’s a difference between children learning at home (through, say, an online school) and “real” homeschooling. Often, the lines between the two options are blurry.

For example, former Pennsylvania Senator (and former GOP presidential candidate) Rick Santorum often discussed how he and his wife homeschooled their children. Yet his children were enrolled in a Pennsylvania online charter school for a time.

Ohio currently has 26 online charter schools that enroll more than 30,000 students in grades K-12. The vast majority of those students are enrolled in Ohio’s seven statewide online charter schools. Those statewide online charter schools accept students regardless of where in Ohio they live.

Last year’s state budget lifted a 2005 moratorium on establishing new online charter schools. It allows up to five more online charter schools to open in 2013.


  • Terrie Lynn Bittner

    We have to remember they have a vested interest in this. If you use an public school program, you don’t need the organization’s very expensive services. Online schooling serves a valuable purpose. It allows a new homeschooling parent to build confidence before moving on to independent homeschooling and also makes it easier for children who are temporary homeschoolers or whose parents have limited time. The important thing is that the parents are right there so if the children are learning something inappropriate, the parents can handle it on the spot. They know exactly what their children are learning and can better support it. I started with government schooling before going independent. It has its purpose.

    • Ptignor

      Im a traditional homeschool parent and I am also a HSLDA member. I do not think that $10.00 per month for a legal team at your call is expensive at all. I wonder how much the public schools pay their 5 or 6 law firms?

      • Tracy

        If you “wonder” what the public schools 5 or 6 law firms cost, why not do the research before discounting them? The online public schools fulfill a very important need for (Ohio’s) school children. The parents are at home monitoring and supporting their children’s education and are in control. The curriculum must adhere to state standards, as the state supports (yes, with state funding=taxes) the public education system. Off the clock, the parent is available to guide the student and express their own personal beliefs. Online public schools are great for families that have special needs, and/or want to protect children from undesirable peer-pressure, and sometimes even bullying.

        Although I was not given the gift of teaching, nor did I invest several years into college to become a teacher, I’m grateful we are given the ability to have great teachers through public education. I am a parent who strongly supports my children and their education.

  • karen

    I would’ve disagreed in the past, but after looking into it for many hours I have to agree with HSLDA. If you want to talk about expensive, let’s talk about the more than $5,000 in our tax money these public online schools are receiving PER STUDENT. Now that’s expensive. I dislike k12 and other such schools because you truly are not in control of what your children learn. You have to be accountable to a teacher all the time and basically babysat. You are not allowed to teach religious subjects for credit of any kind. A lot of them also teach to the state mandated tests, so it really doesn’t give the children much freedom and ends up having many of the same problems as public schools. And as for materials, you have to pay to send them back at the end of year, so they aren’t truly free. That’s something else to think about, not that they were ever free to begin with. I’m sure some people are getting very rich of this idea, but it hasn’t shown huge success academically. Plus, I’m not even going to go into all of the comments I have read from former students and parents of former students that talk about how poorly planned out the lessons are, how bad the communication between teacher and parent was, and how many technical failures there were to prevent them from progressing in assignments due to broken links, etc. In reality your child can’t work at their own pace. If you are educated, intelligent people, then I think you can do better teaching your own children, and they will be happier for it. In my personal opinion, any education that leaves out God, isn’t a complete one.

  • Sandra Ciminero

    There is a great store “Use It Again Educational Materials” located in the North Lima Business Complex (old School) in North Lima. Website: http://www.useitagaineducationalmaterials.com The address is 11836 South Ave. phone number 330423-3862.
    It is a great place for a group field trip. I am an art teacher and have become a friend of Linda Smith, the owner, and want to get the word out. It is such a great resource

  • Brooke Lorren

    Online charter schools are not homeschools…

    I would think that these charter schools have their place though. Not with parents that want to homeschool, but with public school parents who for one reason or another don’t want to send their kids to their particular local public school.

    My husband’s boss was trying to convince me the other day that that was the way to go. Maybe it’s right for you, but it’s not really right for us. I like having control over my children’s education.

    • Tracy

      You are correct: Online charter schools are not homeschools. However, aside from education time, parents have the ability to share their beliefs, and instill character into their children/students. I do not believe parents need to pay HSLDA to accomplish this goal. I like most things about our public education system, I do not like children NOT being able to pray, and my kids can do that at home. Church and state are separate, but my home is a sanctuary where we can study together and I am there to guide my children, not the peers of the schools, not the negative influence of others.

      Online public schools are a great choice for many, as enrollment in these programs is significant (Ohio has more students enrolled in full-time online schools than all other states except Arizona).
      Parents that elect to enroll their children in online pubic schools opt for this alternative for a multitude of reasons (peer-pressure, bullying, special and gifted needs). HSLDA and those against public education seek to diminish the value of such educational systems, with little more than personal commentary. $5,000 per student is not unreasonable for state funding. My community college education per year was near the same figure.

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