If you are interested in homeschooling with a charter school, hopefully this post can give you a bit of insight into the process. There are quite a few charter schools in California that have homeschool programs. We are currently enrolled with Compass Charter, so this post will be about our experience with them. Compass Charter’s homeschool program, called Options, is completely virtual although they will host field trips, graduations, and random get togethers.
Enrollment is completely online. First you create a login, then fill out an application. If your child was previously enrolled in other schools, you will need to provide their transcripts. You will have to upload two proofs-of-address (utility bill, government mail, etc) and your child’s birth certificate. You can opt out of immunizations, but you have to sign a waiver. I took a screenshot of my son’s medical record online and the school accepted that. They also want proof of a kindergarten wellness check and dentist visit, but you can also opt out of these as well. Once your application is submitted with the necessary files, you get to sit back and wait until they e-mail you a “Master Agreement.” This usually occurs two weeks before school starts.
When you are enrolled with a charter school, you are assigned a credentialed Educational Facilitator (EF). Your EF is there to answer your questions, advise you with curriculum, process orders, collect work samples from your child, etc. Your interactions with your EF depend a lot on your own needs and the preferences of your EF. Once a month, we are required to do a virtual meeting with our EF where we discuss my son’s progress and show her some of his work samples. These calls usually last 30 minutes. I rarely e-mail our EF. Other parents are in constant communication with theirs.
At the end of every month (aka Learning Period), we have to upload two work samples per child to an app called Seesaw. The type of sample alternates every month. One month the school asks for a language arts and a math sample. The next month, social studies and science. For kindergarten, I upload at least one worksheet from each subject. I usually “overachieve” and will upload 2-3 samples and occasionally a video of my son reading to give our EF a look at his reading progress.
At the end of the week, our EF e-mails us a link to an attendance form on the site ParentSquare. We check off which subjects we covered each day (you have to do something related to math and language arts every day). You also must log how many minutes were spent doing physical activity and the specific activity your child was doing. I hate this part because my son’s entire life (aside from sleep) is physical activity. (Side note: ParentSquare is also where the school posts news, updates, field trips, etc. This information is usually sent via e-mail on Mondays).
Each student has access to $2,800 in funds to be used towards curriculum, supplies, field trips, etc. Funding cannot be used towards religious-based curriculum or supplies. 25% of our funds with Compass must be used towards core subjects (language arts, math, science, and social studies). There are also quantity and cost limits for certain materials. For example, you are only allowed (I think) 25 books per semester. Certain supplies, like pencil sharpeners, must be under a certain dollar amount. The school provides A LINK to these guidelines. Also, your EF will keep a spreadsheet of your spending.
Compass has a lengthy list of approved vendors from which you can buy materials or go to for services (e.g. gymnastics, tutoring, classes). We have not used a service vendor yet so I am not familiar with that process. If you want a vendor added to the list, you can make a request with the school. I haven’t done this before, but new vendors are approved every month. For a list of Compass’ approved vendors CLICK HERE.
It’s a tedious process, but to get your curriculum and other supplies, you have to manually enter the product name, number, price, etc, into an online form. This form is first approved by your EF (if something on your list is not acceptable, your EF will contact you) then it’s sent to the vendor department who then sends it to the vendor. Once you receive your materials, you have to make sure everything is there, sign the packing slip, and send a photo of the packing slip to your EF as soon as possible. In the image, you’ll notice a column “Cons?” This stands for Consumable. If a material is consumable (e.g. crayons, paper, certain books, clay), you keep it. If it’s non-consumable, like a tablet or an instrument, the item must be returned to Compass when you un-enroll from the school.
For kindergarten through second grade, there is optional testing with a program called Istation. The results of this test are not reported to the state and are only used to give your EF an idea of where your child stands and if he or she is progressing. While it is optional to do the Istation tests, the school has a tendency to nag you if you decline. I had my son do it because I figured, “What’s the big deal?” Istation is garbage. It takes forever. The animations interrupt you. It’s awful. Anyway, as far as grades, I have to grade my son on a 1-5 rubric for all subjects. His EF confirms whether she agrees with the grading or not. Report cards happen at the end of every semester.
Benchmarks/”I Can” Statements
Part of what you will grade your child on is whether he or she is reaching and/or excelling in the benchmarks for his or her grade. Your EF will send you a link to the school’s “I Can” statements. I personally find these helpful (although some of them seem arbitrary). I print them out and check them off as we go. For Compass Charter’s benchmarks or “I Can” Statements CLICK HERE.
Anyway, I think that covers most of the basics when it comes to the technical side of homeschooling with a charter school. These standards and methods vary from school to school. For example, some charter schools require in-person meetings with EFs or the amount of funding may be more or less. I wrote this in the hopes that it would ease someone’s mind about using a charter school to homeschool. It can be overwhelming jumping into a process like this without knowing what to expect. There’s a lot to get the hang of, but once you do, it’s well worth the initial hassle.
My next homeschool post will be on how I determined which curriculum to use.