What's wrong with "substantially similar"Quick recap, for those not familiar with me: I have been home educating my kids- 9th grade, 7th grade, and 4th grade- since day one, embracing the neo-classical schooling style. 5 years ago, when the youngest was in Kindergarten, I signed up with what is referred to as an ALE- Alternate Learning Environment; in our case, Columbia Virtual Academy . We've been with them since, and I have had a great relationship them. I have always felt supported in my educational choices and they have facilitated ME doing what I know works with MY kids, rather then telling me what to do.
Here's how it has worked; parents are connected to an advisory teacher, who works with parents to set educational goals that meet the family's needs while meeting state standards. parents can order curriculum that applies to those goals and is secular. They can also arrange payment for outside classes, usually in the areas of fine arts and PE. It's a great set up for the parent who is doing a schooly, non religious homeschooling experience, especially if they would like a break on karate or ballet.
Like many ALE parents I know, I signed up not so much to get books paid for, but classes (not paying for books IS great). Over the past couple of years, as the state has worked to balance the budget on the backs of our state's schoolchildren, the benefits to ALE parents have been cut. I'm really not at all worried about being able to keep ordering the curriculum I have been ordering all along. I teach in an academically rigorous, secular (except for Greek) fashion. The phrase that is going to hurt children in the end is "substantially similar".
This will mainly apply to outside classes; fine arts, PE, enrichment. Parents cannot apply to the ALE for payment of classes that are not substantially similar to those offered in public schools. This may sound great on the surface to those who envision ALE parents as free wheeling radical unschoolers who want the state to pay for their kids horseback riding lessons. This is an inaccurate stereotype, as unschoolers *generally* find ALE programmes are not compatible with their style, and most parents use more mundane classes. But what I want to address, and this is only my opinion, is the idea that ALE students should have classes substantially similar to those in public schools.
They've got it backwards.
The state seems completely oblivious to the fact that in ALE s, they have a perfect opportunity to conduct research into improving education, not with models and predictions, but with real students. They can see what works small scale before trying it large scale. They can do it without paying analysts exorbitant amounts of money that should be going to the classrooms.
Do students who take piano lessons get higher math scores?
Do children who take ballet classes have better attention spans?
What about the test scores of students who have art classes?
What we really need is for public school students to start getting experiences substantially similar to the one independent homeschooling and ALE families provide their children.
I'd like to point out that this also applies to academics. It boggles my mind that our school district seems to spend thousands of dollars every few years trying to figure out why the test scores are so low, and what they can do to fix it. Do they ever think to look at what the children who are not in public schools are taught? Just as an example: many homeschools and private schools use Saxon math. They tend to have higher test scores. Why don't more public schools use Saxon?
Some people think ALE parents want special privileges for their kids; staying home while expecting the state to pay for whatever fun they want their kids to be able to do. For me, that couldn't be further from the truth. I believe every kid deserves access to the arts, dance, physical education that enriches their lives, and proven academics.