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Children thrived in cyber school setting

Published March 20. 2010 09:00AM

Dear Editor:

My husband and I decided to teach our children at home in 1992. At that time our oldest son was in kindergarten in Christian school. Because he was very inquisitive and very energetic, he did not fit the regular school mold and would often be in trouble. Working with him at home, I was able to accommodate his special learning style and energetic nature. Because I was home schooling him, our second son learned to read early and was quick to learn. In teaching our children at home, we were excited to be able to nurture each of them in the style of learning best suited for them.

Keeping our children home for school has given them a strong sense of family and a constant reminder of the Godly values our family espouses. Our family has been able to travel off season and field trips to educational sites were common schooling experiences when our children were in the elementary grades. The year our two older children were at the middle school level, we noticed a learning deficit in our younger son that we could find no way to help him overcome. It was that year that we explored other possibilities of school for our children. We attended an informational meeting for Commonwealth Connections Academy, a cyber charter school.

This cyber charter school offered our family flexibility, individualized education, educational field trips, special training for our - now diagnosed - dyslexic son, and consistent teacher support. Our family has been very satisfied with the opportunities that a cyber charter school like Connections Academy affords us. Over the past five years, I have seen all my children thrive in this educational atmosphere.

It was early in our home schooling years when a friend called and told me about what had happened at Columbine. As I turned on the news, I was shocked and stood in disbelief at the tragedy that those public high school students had to endure. That afternoon, as I drove to the store with my children in the car, and we passed the elementary school and saw the lights on in the school and the little children playing in groups on the playground, I wept for those children and couldn't conceive ever allowing my children onto a school bus, or into a public school.

Prior to enrolling our students in the cyber charter school, I followed the PA homeschooling laws which required that for each student each year I would submit a notorized affidavit along with my educational objectives for each student. That affidavit and those objectives were turned into our home school district for review. At the end of each year, I was required by that same law to submit a portfolio of representative work for each student along with a record of 180 days of school. These also had to be reviewed by the school district. During this time, our home school district received no state funding for any of my students because they were home schooled.

I have heard complaints about Cyber Charter School funding, and seen the misconceptions about that funding printed in different news articles and propagated by certain PA representatives. What I know and understand is that school districts get a certain amount per student from the state. That amount is dependant on the tax base in that area. Most districts in PA receive from $5,000 - $12,000 per non-special education students and more for those who have greater educational needs. When a child is enrolled in a charter school, part of that funding goes to the charter school, but part is retained by the home school district. According to our PA school laws, the part sent to the charter school is "minus the budgeted expenditures of the district of residence for nonpublic school programs; adult education programs; community/junior college programs; student transportation services; for special education programs; facilities acquisition, construction and improvement services; and other financing uses, including debt service and fund transfers as provided in the Manual of Accounting and Related Financial Procedures for Pennsylvania School Systems established by the department."( 24 PS 17-1725-A Funding for charter schools)

So, if I am understanding this law correctly, the home school district still gets funding for charter school students but does not have to spend any of that money to educate those students. If a home school district is losing students to charter schools, they could use that extra money they now have to better educate the students they still have enrolled.

Why are students leaving public, bricks and mortar, schools for public charter schools? There are probably as many reasons as there are students leaving. Some possibilities are that in a bricks and mortar school, a student is confined in his or her education to move with the masses. There is no individualization. If a student is in 5th grade, they are held to the 5th grade level in all subjects. What if a student is excelling at math or language arts? If a student fails one subject but passes all other subjects, they might be graduated to the next level with deficiencies in that subject that may never be resolved. These are just a few of the educational reasons. Other reasons a family might choose charter school for their student may have to do with social pressures and bullying. I can't imagine how hard it would be for a young student to try to concentrate on studies when they have been picked on, called names, or have found it hard to fit in. Allowing students who are over-active or very creative to learn in an environment where they are "free to roam" could nurture their spirit and keep them from the stigma of labels during their formative years.

A decision to home school children or enroll them in a cyber charter school can never be taken lightly and should never be a knee jerk reaction to conflict. Such a decision is one that involves a great deal of sacrifice on the part of the parents or caregivers. My days are spent managing goals, tutoring students, proctoring tests and quizzes and challenging my students to do their best. Our school day begins at 7:30 with family breakfast followed by Bible study and prayer. Lunch time follows three hours of concentrated studies. After lunch, it's back to the school work for 2 - 3 more hours. "

Thanks Much,

Kim Evans

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