As I have mentioned earlier, I homeschool my three children. I have been for the past 6 years...and I don't regret it at all! However, this past year, we enrolled our daughter in an online public school for 10th grade. I was very adamant about not enrolling my other two until they reached high school, if then. But this year has been so hectic that I caved..after attending information sessions and researching the school. I will say, though, I have been very pleased with the results and Hannah was even accepted into the National Honor Society! I just completed the enrollment process for the other two and will know by July 15 whether they are accepted or not.
You are probably wondering why this sudden change and if I have lost the momentum to homeschool. I am still a supporter of traditional homeschooling and have enjoyed teaching my children. But things change. I started a part-time job a few years ago and have managed teaching the kids just fine, until this past year. My stress level went from 0 to 100 in no time flat!!! My husband has been wonderful and we have been blessed for him to have been able to work from home on the days that I'm working. Unfortunately, his job requires him to deal with a lot of people and he's away from his office several days a week in meetings. It was time for us to try something different.
In the virtual school, there are several pluses and similarities to homeschooling. Students can set their own schedules and parents ("learning coaches," as we are called) are still involved in the day to day learning. However, teachers do all the grading. Flexibility comes in handy when students' schedules require them to prioritize. Classes are set up with individual students' abilities in mind and they have access to the teachers whenever help is needed. Another plus, I have not had to spend one dime on curriculum!! In cases of financial hardship, the school will provide computers to families in need. My children are very social and, contrary to popular belief, they are not lacking in this area because they are homeschooled However, we have seen such a remarkable change in Hannah and she has made new friends and joined clubs that she would not have been able to join if she continued homeschooling. The best part? My children are still at home with me!!
Now, there are always cons to the pros. First, state testing is required since this is online public school. I am not a big fan of these state tests and I feel they have no value in determining how much a child learns. (I have friends who are public school teachers and they feel the same way.) Second, the school picks out the curriculum that the students are taught and parents must comply. (We have not had a problem with anything, even with being Christians, so this may be a non-issue.) Third, there are mandatory hours that a child must get in learning each week and the school will notify the parents if they are not getting the "required" hours. I stress the word "required" because, in Indiana, if you homeschool, there are no actual hours determined, just the mandatory 180 days. (In defense of this, you can use any educational or physical activity outside of actual school (i.e., bike riding, reading, swimming, field trips, etc.) to put towards these hours.
In reality, I have to say the pros out weigh the cons by a large margin. The opportunities for growth and learning have been vast. Indiana Connections Academy (INCA) has been so popular that the school district board and superintendent have thought about putting a cap on enrollment.
I am in no way advocating everyone quit homeschooling their children and opt for public school, but I am saying that this has worked well for us, thus far. Parents have to know what their limits are and what they are capable of in determining how to educate their children. I have seen parents homeschool their children who should absolutely not be doing so and then there are parents who have left it up to the public school to educate and raise their children however they see fit. Bottom line in any choice: parent involvement.
If you want to know more about INCA, just go to the following website: