I live in Massachusetts which, in homeschooling terms, is an “approval state”. This means that the calendar year your child turns six, you must send a “Letter of Intent to Homeschool” to your local school department. I then send my Lesson Plan for the year to the school district and, at the end of the year, send a Progress Report.
We now have a “new” way of doing things which has some people shook up a bit, while others are breathing a sigh of relief. It is a “Virtual Public School” and the first one just started up in this state this school year.
By joining this Virtual School, I would sign my kids up with the Greenfield (MA) School District which is actually more than two hours away on the other side of the state. My town would send this school a check for the amount in taxes they would use if he/she was in the town’s school system (I’ve read it’s about $3,000 per child, but don’t quote me).
In exchange, I would receive a computer (don’t get too excited; I’ve heard they are a bit old and creaky) and a complete curriculum from K-12. Oh and a teacher would be assigned to my child, and I would no longer call myself teacher but “Learning Coach” (oy, schoolspeak).
The other biggie is that my kids would be required to take the MCAS which is our mandatory standardized achievement tests.
Even with the evil MCAS, I have to admit my interest has been piqued. We now pay $20 a month for one of my children to do two subjects online. I have spent countless dollars on curriculum, some of it which I never use because I don’t understand it, don’t make time for it, or forget I have it (seriously).
But the initial reports I heard about the virtual public school were full of alarming details: Teachers will check your work daily! You can never miss a day! No flexibility! Six hours of busy work a day!!!!! (subtext: Your children will hate you, you will become a frumpy nervous mess and your house will start to smell!)
So, I’ve been asking around, reading the message boards, looking at the website. It’s not like Massachusetts is doing something totally new: My very good friend does a virtual school in California and one of my fave online homeschoolers does it in Canada.
And what I’m hearing right now is pretty interesting. There seems to be some flexibility in curriculum if the school agrees that what you are using meets their standards. You can tweak your schedule around a bit so that you can take a field trip one day, or just have a needed “sanity day”. The teachers are available but not hovering and checking every last thing.
The one thing that irks me is that there seems to be some quibbling over what to call these new Virtual School students. Are they homeschoolers? Public Schoolers? Traitors to the cause?
Really? Give me a break. I don’t care if you teach your kid math by counting the chicken eggs they collect in the morning, or if they run off every Friday night to a paid Russian Math class for two hours, or if they are enrolled in a public school curriculum two hours away: A kid who does most of their work at home, is a homeschooler.
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to discuss, but if you get nasty in the comments, I’m coming after you with my metal ruler. I am still the teacher after all.