Virtual schooling

“Virtual schools” — online curricula supplied to teach-at-home parents — are doubling enrollment in Wisconsin, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Virtual schools are anathema to teachers unions, many members of home schooling associations, and people who oppose the privatization of education (most are run by out-of-state companies).

But the support fits the needs of some parents, who don’t trust traditional schools or their own ability to teach at home without help.

“The way Heather is right now, I just don’t feel as though she is going to fit in a traditional setting,” (grandmother Carole) Swiertz said. “But I was floundering at home-schooling her even in the first grade. Heather’s psychologist said virtual schooling would probably be as good an idea for me as for her.”

Connections, which is technically a public school, sends materials and curriculum to the Drakes, who live in Milwaukee. Swiertz works with Heather on a daily basis, using the books and technology as a guide, and the two consult with a Connections teacher once every couple of weeks on the phone and over e-mail.

“We always worried about finding a curriculum to do the home schooling ourselves,” said Holly Drake, Heather’s mother. “We were shocked and pleased when a box showed up and all the books were there. Everything.”

Home-schoolers seem to think virtual schoolers are wimps.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. They’re wimps in the same way that people who don’t slaughter their own animals are wimps. I’ll get my meat pre-butchered, and can understand why others want their curiculams already set. For some people, reinventing the wheel is pointless. More power to those people are write their own, but nothing against those who don’t.

  2. Mike James says:

    It’s not the most profound statement to say that schools as we now know them are going to change radically, and it is due to the rise of technology which we can even now observe in use, making this pretty much inevitable.

    The technology arose in the 16th century to make possible the mass production of books, and coupled with the mass production of paper, made inexpensive textbooks and thus modern mass education, i.e. the gathering each day of students into a central location to instruct them, possible.

    Now we have the technology which makes possible education of children without sending them to the actual physical plant which hitherto characterized mass education. Daily attendance, for most students, is going to wither away.

    I think there will still be schools and teachers and school districts and the like, but information technology will enable a lot more flexibility in the system, will allow more use to be gotten from any given school. In the near future students will be scheduled to show up at the school only two or three, perhaps just one day a week. Daily attendance at school will be for those kids who need extra attention, or who must be kept off the streets to make neighborhoods safer. Schools in the rougher parts of town will have much more of a correctional aspect about them, and this will be explicitly acknowledged.

  3. Alas, system flexibility only assists those who can afford to have a parent at home to home-school.

  4. Homeschoolers do not think virtual schoolers are wimps. We think virtual schoolers that claim to be homeschoolers are wimps. If the govt is dictating curriculum you are not homeschooling.

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Please don’t fight.
    Sometimes home schooling may be making a statement, other times it just may be the best solution to the ed biz.

  6. The main problem that home educators have with virtual charters (not with distance learning) is that the general public often confuses these with homeschooling. Charter students (virtual or brick-and-mortar) are enrolled in the public schools and are subject to all of the same curriculum/testing requirements as the rest of the government-school students. Homeschooling is a completely private endeavor. We choose the curriculum. We pay for it. We teach it.

    What happens, though, when the majority of the public (assisted by the media and egged on by the NEA) thinks that it’s not fair that some “homeschoolers” (i.e., the charter students) have to take all of these tests while the others don’t? Where’s the accountability?

    No, most home educators have no problem with whatever alternatives the g-schools wish to offer. We don’t want any of them so it really doesn’t matter to us. What we do care about, is the co-opting of the word “homeschool.”

  7. Daryl Cobranchi wrote:

    The main problem that home educators have with virtual charters…

    So you’ve got an education problem. Do your best to make sure the easily-confused public understands the difference. In the mean time the dismissive “girlie man” attitude of home schoolers portrayed in the article doesn’t do credit to the home schooling movement.

    But more then that, it should be obvious that any choice strengthens all choices. The virtual public school parent is much more likely to be supportive of home schooling because both choices are outside the “one size fits all” district-based public education system. Besides, the same motivation drives both groups to make their choices: the public education system doesn’t meet their children’s needs.

  8. Eric Holcombe says:

    On the other hand, the “girly man” actions by the quoted charter schoolers do not credit the charter school movement. If anything, they are an attempt to discredit homeschooling – portraying the ‘unsupervised’, ‘unqualified’ efforts of non-professsional educators.

    There are so many resources available to homeschoolers it can be overwhelming to choose from so much, but to say they could find no direction or gauge for their children’s performance…I find hard to believe.

    Or to use Geoff’s analogy, these people not only buy their meat at the butcher (gov’t), but they have to eat a bite of the government steak to make sure their’s tastes ‘right’.

  9. What we do care about, is the co-opting of the word “homeschool.”

    An education campaign is probably needed to distinguish between Homeschool™ and ‘home school’.

  10. Mark Odell says:

    An education campaign is probably needed to distinguish between Homeschool™ and ‘home school’.

    Better say, between “private homeschool” and “government-camel’s-nose-in-the-tent homeschool”.

  11. So virtual charters are bad because:

    A) “The public” might confuse them with home schooling and,

    B) Because it’s an attempt to discredit home schooling.

    If that summation is correct, how do we balance off those concerns against the needs of parents who are just trying to get their kids educated?

    Geoff, who’s analogy has been coopted, seems to be of the “live and let live” school. Me too. A) and B) look much more like the objections of idealogical purists (or trolls, of course) and would cut off one “choice” option. The only way a reduction of choices serves freedom of choice is if people stubbornly refuse to make the right choices.

    And just so Geoff’s analogy isn’t misappropriated, here’s the last line from his only post in this thread:

    More power to those people are write their own, but nothing against those who don’t.

  12. Eric Holcombe says:

    Allen, it’s this simple: when the Democrats cry “budget cuts” is that the same as budget reduction? When a budget increase is reduced, they cry budget cut, when it is a net increase in the budget. All the public hears is budget cut. It is intentionally misleading at best.

    The virtual school concept is used by school systems to court actual homeschooling families via voucher dollars and entice those public schoolers who contemplate leaving to stay in the public system. They use the term homeschool because the student remains at home for the bulk of the instructional period. The curriculum is mandated by the state, among other things. They get their tax dollars for enrolling your kid and don’t have to provide any facilities/transportation. If it uses public funds, it is public school and falls under the requirements thereof.

    If you don’t homeschool or haven’t looked into the ever-present battle with NEA-lobbied democrat legislation targeting homeschool freedoms, I wouldn’t expect you to understand the argument. It’s not about pride in a trademarked term, it’s more about legal precedent.

  13. Eric Holcombe wrote:

    The virtual school concept is used by school systems to court actual homeschooling families via voucher dollars and entice those public schoolers…

    The key word is “entice”.

    Whenever a monopoly has to entice, they’re on the skids. Monopolys don’t entice, they don’t convince, they don’t suggest. Monopolies may have advertising budgets but no one takes them too seriously. After all, it a monopoly and they Command.

    If a public school district decides that they have to descend to subterfuge, which is what I think you’re suggesting virtual charters are, then they’ve lost even as they congratulate themselves for being clever. The educrats may set the curriculum but they aren’t setting where the child who is the object of that curriculum is sitting. The system is now responding to the parent, at least to some degree, and that’s a trend that, if continued for any length of time, can’t help but erode other unquestioned assumptions about how education is done. Virtual charters add one more variation on the theme of parental choice and it’ll make rejection of parental choice just that much more difficult.

    If you don’t homeschool or haven’t looked into the ever-present battle with NEA-lobbied democrat legislation targeting homeschool freedoms, I wouldn’t expect you to understand the argument.

    Uh, maybe I have looked into the ever-present battle. I may, in fact, have been looking into the ever-present battle since the mid-80s when the home-schooling movement was dismissed as a bizarre phenomenon peculiar to religious nutballs. So I think maybe I do understand the argument which is why I’m taking the position I’m taking.

    What “legal precedent”?

  14. Eric Holcombe says:

    If the government school keeps you in their system, they get your tax dollars. If you are at home not eating a reduced price lunch, flushing the toilet, enjoying the air conditioning, vandalizing the walls, that is a bonus to the monopoly. They get the same dollar amount for your kid at home as the one they have to bus to the brick and mortar school. You say they concede to the parent. They dictate the schedule, the curriculum, the achievement tests, the attendance, the grading system, the home inspections, counseling sessions, etc. Doesn’t sound like the parent has much control to me.

    They are not a true monopoly as long as independent homeschooling exists. The teacher’s unions and their representatives want a monopoly. They have stated goals to eliminate parent choice and parent directed education.

    The legal precedent involves the way homeschooling is defined. Since you’ve been following this for 20 years now, I’m sure you understand the legal definition of homeschool varies from state to state. If the waters get muddied further with a public school program conducted with public funding at a private residence (which is already completely state controlled), do you think it will take the NEA democrats long to extend big brother’s arm into all the educational programs instituted at a private residence? After all, the virtual charters homeschool and they relent to all the state’s demands. But this is exactly what Daryl explained earlier…

  15. Doesn’t sound like the parent has much control to me.

    The parent has the degree of control they desire. The option of home schooling was open to the mother referred to in the article but she felt overwhelmed by the requirements of organizing that education. An option – and that’s the key word – was open to her and she took it. She took the option of the virtual charter. Her decision.

    If at some point she’s uphappy with education being delivered via the virtual charter she can decide to go with home schooling. Or, she can decide to run to the waiting arms of the conventional education system. Her decision.

    The teacher’s unions and their representatives want a monopoly.

    Why is what they want such a crucial issue? I’m much more interested in how much they’ve accomplished, or failed to accomplish, in pursuit of that goal and which direction the trend is heading.

    Since I have been observing this issue for the past twenty years (cripes, is it really that long?) I’ve noticed that the overwhelming number of fights between the home schooling movement and the education establishment have been won by the home schoolers. I’m beginning to think that in the NEA Command Bunker the paladins of education are terrified about the Next Big Thing from their enemies in the home school movement.

    If the waters get muddied further…

    OK, you’re not talking about legal precedent in the strict sense, i.e. a judge’s/jury’s decision.

    The thing to keep in mind is that the door swings both ways. You’re assuming that any time a school district asserts some arbitrary standard of performance or control they’ll get their way without protest or, if there is a legal protest, the case will be decided in favor of the school district. That certainly hasn’t been true with regard to home schooling and, other then the fact that it’s a public entity that’s doing the education delivery, why should that change?

    In every state that I know of the judiciary is governed by what’s best for the child. That puts the g-school (took me a couple of minutes to figure that out but it is shorter then “public education establishment”) in the position of proving that a particular parent is unfit to make education decisions for their child, which nets the g-school nothing in terms of precedent, or they’re trying to prove that all parents are unfit to make educational decisions for their children. You want to venture a guess what the public response would be to a decision like that, even among public school parents?

  16. Eric Holcombe says:

    I think we agree in a lot of areas –

    Homeschoolers must protest encroachment (or whatever we want to call it) of the definition of homeschooling (independent and free of public funds) by charter schooling (virtual or otherwise). Homeschoolers have won most of these battles because we are on the right side of the Constitution.

    The choice of virtual charter was made by those parents. Not a wise one in my opinion, but a choice none the less. The statements by them in the article may have been out of context, but you can easily find/purchase entire curricula arranged by grade level in the homeschool arena. I guess my point here (as with the budget cut example) is that the paper targets arguably some lesser informed homeschoolers and presents them as typical. It presents a “homeschool is just too tough for you – if you want change, here, join our public homeschool system” image. That may not be intentional, because I believe many journalists don’t have a clue about homeschooling other than the “nutball” connotation you mentioned before. The same ignorance exists in legislature to some extent and as has been mentioned here, it is an education issue. However, the Democrats (at least in my state) seem to have all the answers and propose legislation on an annual basis to limit parental choice and home instruction.

    “Why is what they want such a crucial issue?”

    Because I am a target. Why are they even concerned with 2% of the K-12 student population when they aren’t doing an effective job with the other 98%? Why is the lobbying power of the NEA and local school administrations being used to single out such a small group?

    “That puts the g-school…in the position of proving that a particular parent is unfit to make education decisions for their child, which nets the g-school nothing in terms of precedent”

    Not true. The NEA wants no parents instructing their children. They lobby democrats to propose legislation requiring a state teacher certification to instruct your child, or a B.S. degree to instruct your child. A parent is unfit because they aren’t a certified state teacher (oh, and union member).

    “or they’re trying to prove that all parents are unfit to make educational decisions for their children.”

    Exactly what the NEA states in their literature.

    “You want to venture a guess what the public response would be to a decision like that, even among public school parents?”

    They would turn into me. :o) Unless of course it meant lost money, time or that new bass boat. I don’t think a majority of folks would ever homeschool, but you could bet the private sector would get some business.