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January 23, 2009

Family Decides Price of Charter School’s Free Education Is Too High

The Smith family (name changed to protect privacy) in Minnesota decided to try out the virtual charter school Connections Academy this school year. As all charter schools are, Connections Academy is a public school. However, the financial advantages of a free education, reduced recordkeeping, and the accountability and assistance of a certified teacher persuaded the Smiths to enroll their two children.

During the first semester, the Smiths discovered that Connections Academy was not quite as wonderful as it had first seemed. The curriculum required memorization of obscure information and writing assignments that were too long for young children. As a result of the one-size-fits-all curriculum and the standardized benchmarks, the children were not able to work at their own pace.

“Keeping up with the course work was beyond any curriculum I have ever used,” said Mrs. Smith.

The children were not permitted to work ahead in subjects they found easy or to move at a slower pace through a subject they had difficulty with. Mr. and Mrs. Smith had no input as to what curriculum their children were being taught. For example, the Connections Academy science curriculum taught that evolution and Darwinism are proven facts, as opposed to theories, and did not include alternate theories about the origins of the universe, such as intelligent design or biblical creation.

After one semester, the Smiths decided they had no choice but to withdraw their children from Connections Academy and return to homeschooling.

There are many benefits to homeschooling. You can choose a curriculum tailored to your children’s learning style, encouraging children to learn at their own pace and to master material, rather than stick to a strict schedule. Children may explore areas of interest more deeply. Work assignments are flexible, allowing for other important co-curricular and extra-curricular activities such as field trips and sports programs. And you can include a broad variety of subject matter and information beyond the textbooks that reflect—or at least respect—the beliefs and values of your family.

The Smiths, now members of HSLDA, realized that school at home is not the same thing as homeschool. With this experience under their belt, the Smiths are back on the road to enjoying the liberty and flexibility that comes from a truly free homeschooling program. HSLDA is pleased to assist them, and any others similarly situated, with the problems that sometimes arise when parents withdraw children from a government school program, like the Connections Academy virtual charter school.