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March 21, 2007

Charter Schools: One Mom’s Experience

NOTE: Home School Legal Defense Association received the following email from a family who was in the process of joining HSLDA. HSLDA is not able to accept for membership families who are enrolled in public school charter schools.


I am currently in the process of pulling out of a charter school in California. I have been reading your criticisms of charter schools and couldn’t agree with you more. All of the reasons you cite for not being involved in a charter school are the very reasons that I am pulling out of the one we’re enrolled in.

Charter schools are incredibly enticing with everything they provide. Although they do state up front that they cannot purchase any religious content, it is not clear what that actually means.

When I turned in the Scripture verses my daughter copied for handwriting practice, they were not accepted. After a while, I realized that my file at the charter school headquarters could not possibly represent who we truly were and what I was actually teaching my daughter. It was a sanitized version, free of all religion. That didn’t seem right to me. At the time, I did not know that the law said “no religious instruction being done during school time” or with “school resources” (paper and pencils included).

In the beginning, the charter school seemed very relaxed and allowed me to choose my own curriculum. Testing was optional. But each year they became more controlling, and now testing is mandatory.

Parents are still allowed to choose their own curriculum, but the charter school has begun to push them more and more towards curriculum that is aligned with state standards, standardized tests, and incidentally, the public schools.

This fall we received two mandatory writing assignments that were benchmark assessments. Since I was able to choose my own curriculum and course of study, I had elected to not teach writing composition yet. I saw no reason to participate in these benchmark writing exercises to assess skills that I hadn’t even taught. When I inquired about it, I was told we had to participate because the state required it, and that the state wanted to assess other skills in addition to writing composition. Because I had the opportunity to choose my own curriculum and course of study, I had felt like I was totally in control and ultimately responsible for my child’s education. But I wasn’t, the state was.

And that is when the truth began to dawn on me. When you sign up for a charter school, you are signing up for everything, even those things with which you disagree or that you don’t think are necessary. And whether you think something is necessary or not, you have signed away control and responsibility to the state. I began to see that everything that bothered me about charter schools was in areas over which I, as the parent, should have had control, but in which I was constantly reminded that I didn’t have control because I had to defer to the state. Even in areas where deference to public school policies was not required, there was still an emphasis on doing things their way and a push towards educating my child through their paradigm. To me, this goes against the whole premise of homeschooling: parents know what is best for their children, the state does not.

There is nothing wrong with being in a charter school as long as you don’t mind the state public school system being ultimately responsible for and in control of your child’s education. But having been there, I now believe that that is not really homeschooling in its purest form.

We began using the charter school when my daughter was in kindergarten and she is now in the middle of 2nd grade—and we are done. We are done having the public schools in our home through the Trojan horse of charter schools.

I now have more free time to do what I have been called to do: mother and educate my children while running my home. No more meetings, order lists, preparation for meetings, required assignments, or testing! Hurrah!

Thanks for all you have done and are continuing to do. I will now join the ranks of the real homeschoolers.

—Sandi Verfurth, Modesto, CA

 Other Resources

The Problem with Home-based Charter Schools: HSLDA’s Position in the Charter School Debate

Letter No Reason to Consider Charter Schools