Alaska is an interesting environment: culturally, geographically, and politically. Perhaps because I am still waiting for springtime to get here I am getting anxious and turning my attentions to home education. I can’t get out and garden or build a barn and chicken coup with my children, so here we sit longing for the snow to disappear, the ground to thaw, and the summer sun to shine. It’s cabin fever at its highest in a long, long time.
Until recently, Alaska was one of the only states that offered homeschool programs through enrollments in public school districts. These programs aren’t correspondence programs. Parents are free to use whatever curriculum best fits each child. Parents educate their children at home using whatever education method or methods that fit their family. Parents receive support from certified teachers and the programs arrange a variety of educational classes and clubs.
Alaska’s law about homeschooling can be found in the Compulsory Attendance statute, AS 14.30.010(b). Many parents are unaware that this law even exists. Parents that choose to educate their children according to this statute are free to use whatever curriculum best fits their child. Parents are free to educate their children using whatever educational method or philosophy best fits their family. Parents have the option of receiving support through several different networks of other independent homeschool families. Some of these groups also arrange a variety of classes or have clubs for their membership base. The families are considered “Independent” homeschool families.
So what’s the difference? Enrollment in programs provides funding for curriculum, supplies, and activities. Independent parents provide their own funding, usually through the family budget. This is always a big persuader because we are a very money driven society. I heard it explained by a family that moved here from California, “Alaska is the only state that PAYS YOU to homeschool!” While I don’t agree with that statement, many do indeed feel this way.
There is a trade off. Enrollment brings with it state and district regulations and requirements. There are required courses to teach, hours to track, work sample submissions, quarterly reports, monthly contacts, and mandatory testing, just to name a few. It can be stressful enough to homeschool, yet many choose to succumb to these extra rules, regulations, and requirements. In other states, homeschool parents have similar regulations; the amount depends upon the individual states. In Alaska, parents are choosing to have this regulation.
I have to pause here and give kudos to the public school district that first implemented a program of this type in Alaska: the Galena City School District. They had the vision and foresight to see the increase in popularity of homeschooling and devised a way to tap into it. We don’t see a lot of ingenuity coming from public school districts; yet their IDEA program was visionary and managed, as they intended, to capture a multitude of homeschool families.
Regulation aside, the further I step back and look at Alaska’s homeschool culture, the more realizations I am able to make. As the popularity of the IDEA program spread, other districts developed their own homeschool programs to compete with the IDEA program. We have, in essence, the “voucher” system where students are able to enroll in whichever school they feel will best benefit them to encourage competition. The only difference is that these students don’t receive a “voucher” to take to a rival school program. Enrollment is open to any family living anywhere in the state.
Parents that have enrolled their children in these programs do so because they ultimately believe that homeschool is the best option for their children’s education. These parents are actively involved in their children’s education; these parents are striving to turn their children into productive, upstanding citizens that will, one day, be influential people in our communities. These children are homeschooled in every sense of the word. Their transcripts, academic records, and test scores, however, reflect “public school students.” None of the statistics are included in homeschool statistics; rather, their scores and successes are reflected in the public school statistics.
I don’t know about you, but I get angry when someone else takes the credit for MY hard work. It’s not right! It’s unjust! And, as much as I don’t like to use this phrase, it is not fair! Wasn’t one of the reasons that you decided to homeschool because you believe it is far superior to the public school systems? It appears that Alaska public schools have found a way to “cash in” on homeschool success and take the credit for parents’ hard work.