A Special Reminder and Calming Vibes

If this is your first year homeschooling as a private school, you may be feeling pretty excited and a bit nervous for the coming year. It’s exciting to take that first step into independence. You’ve read all the rules. You’ve organized your files. You’ve created all the documents. Everything is in place. And then you get a letter, a phone call, or a visit from your child’s old school! Yikes! All your confidence comes crashing down. Did I do something wrong? Am I in trouble? No. Take a deep breath! You’re fine. Here’s what you should do.

For public charter folks, you have a far smaller chance of dealing with school district officials because your school takes care of that for you. For private schools, we have to be the administrator as well as the teacher so we get the calls and letters directly.

If you get a letter from the school district, calmly read it over.

If you get a phone call, put on your school admin hat and take a message. Get their name, phone number, and what they are specifically calling about, get the child’s name they are trying to verify as well. Tell them you will call them back after school hours. Most likely the school official is trying to clean up their paperwork. They are looking to verify your student’s enrollment.

If you get a visit from an official at your home, keep your children inside and talk to the official through the door. You do not let them into your home to inspect your school. Be polite and calm while you ask them what they need. If they want to know what school your kids attend, give them the name and phone number of your school. If they want more information than that, politely tell them that you are busy with your kids right now and that they can call the school for an appointment if they need more information, then give them a piece of paper with the school name and phone number on it. They will most likely leave on that note.

After any of these situations, get online and contact one of the statewide groups like CHN or HSC, or the national group HSLDA. Find their contact info and either call or email them. Don’t go to a Facebook group and post. You’ll get a quicker and more precise answer instead of having to wade through all the comments from everyone else in that group. You don’t need to panic and hurry. The school officials are dealing with lots of other things and aren’t sitting by the phone waiting for you. But that doesn’t mean not to take this seriously and wait weeks before answering. Give this your utmost attention. The sooner it’s taken care of, the less problems will be created.

The statewide groups all have legal teams waiting to answer your questions and are happy to help free of charge. They may make a phone call or write a letter on your behalf. They all want to know how school districts are reacting to homeschoolers, so you are helping them advocate for our rights and make things easier for others in the future.

Homeschool Advocate Groups

This is just a short post to remind you that becoming a member of statewide and national homeschool advocacy groups is important, not because you personally get something by being a member like you would if you subscribed to a magazine, but because your money helps support groups that keep their eyes on what legislation is being put out there that may have an effect on your ability to legally homeschool.

Homeschooling has not always been legal, accepted, or as easy to do as it is now. As with any right, we all need to pay attention to what’s happening in our government and statewide groups help us do just that!

Home School Legal Defense Association

Private & Home Educators of California

Christian Home Educators of California

California Homeschool Network

Homeschoolers Association of California

 

Calling All Charter School Vendors

I like to be completely candid on this blog. I hope many of you can appreciate that. And while this page generally promotes home education through private means, that doesn’t mean I’m unsympathetic to folks that choose the public school options. I have recently talked to a few small business owners that had concerns about being paid as vendors through public charter schools that cater to homeschooling families and decided to take my concerns to social media for answers.

At first, you’re probably thinking, “You’re not a charter school parent. Why do you care?” What business is it of mine what the charter schools are doing? I have several reasons.

First off, I’m a taxpayer and that means that part of my family’s income pays for those public schools even if I don’t utilize them. That makes it important to me and that’s what causes problems with this type of system. That is a whole other topic and blog post, not one I’m going to get into here. Let’s just say that even if you don’t have children or use the public school system at all, you are paying for them and you should be concerned with how they spend your money.

Second, I’m a member of my community and it’s small businesses and those small business owners are generally friends in a small town. The businesses that are becoming vendors aren’t necessarily “school” connected. Many of them don’t really understand what a charter school is or how they work. I’m connected to the homeschool community, so I decided to try and find some answers for them.

For small businesses, if a parent asks you about becoming a vendor for a charter school because there is “free money” involved, I’d suggest doing a search for that school and read up on them. They usually have a public list of current vendors. You could try contacting a random sample of them and asking how it’s going. I’ve also learned that there is a lot of bureaucracy in these schools, paperwork needs to be done a certain way at a certain time. Be proactive about finding out exactly what you need to do to get paid by the charter for your services to the school.

Here are a few articles that might help you understand what a charter school is and how it works.

HSC’s page on Charter Schools – There are links within this article with more information.

Also, there is now a Facebook group especially for vendors of charter schools called Charter Vendor Only Discussion. It was created so that businesses can post their concerns and how they’ve made things easier for their company. It’s brand new so it will take some time to gather members, but once it gets rolling I’m sure it will be a valuable resource.

For parents that utilize these schools, be sure you are getting all the information from your school and holding up your end of the bargain for the company’s that have decided to become vendors for that school. As customers using funds other than our own, we need to be extra vigilant about this. Small businesses typically have a very small profit margin and can’t afford to continue to put out services and not get paid in a timely manner.

There are many groups out there that can help you navigate the waters of charter school rules. The one I’ve found most useful lately is a Facebook group called So Cal Charter School Info. Unfortunately, I haven’t found anything helpful outside of Facebook groups. If you are connected to Yahoo Groups, there may be one there. Do a search there for “California charter school support.” The best thing you can do if you are considering using a charter is to talk to other parents about the school they are using, ask a lot of questions, find out what they really require. You should also set up an interview with a person from the charter you are considering and ask a lot of questions about it to see if it is a right fit for your family. You can take the answers to some message boards or groups, even your local park day, and see if other families are experiencing what the charter representative is claiming. Enrolling in a charter school should get the same scrutiny as buying a new car. And just because that car is right for one family, doesn’t mean it will be right for yours. That’s my advice!

I hope you found this information helpful. I’ll keep an eye out for more and pass it along as I find it.

Nearby Homeschool Groups

A local homeschool group is a wonderful resource and thanks to the internet and especially Facebook, getting in touch with other homeschoolers is easier than ever! But what about groups in adjacent areas? Where we live there are a limited amount of field trips available just because there isn’t much out here unless you like rock climbing, hiking, and off road riding. So I belong to some other groups outside my immediate neighborhood that are specifically set up to create field trips and let people know about events that might be of interest to homeschoolers.

A two hour drive is about all I’ll do for a day trip (not for weekly or daily thing), so I set my radius at about 120 miles. For something really special though, I’ll drive three hours! I looked at the map and started searching for homeschool groups in cities and counties inside my circle. I have been able to tag along on lots of field trips that I would never had known about if I hadn’t been a part of that group.

Here is a list of some that I’ve found for our area. Of course, your driving tolerances will be different than mine, so think about that and create your own circle of influence!

San Diego Homeschool Field Trips
This may sound far, but going the back way down the 15 freeway really has very little traffic and it takes about two and a half hours to get from the desert to downtown San Diego.

Inland Empire Homeschoolers
Great stuff is posted here and usually with an hour an a half from home.

SoCal Field Trips
All kinds of events posted from all over the southland, just be sure to look at the start times for events! You don’t want to say you’ll be there on time at 8am for an event that is three hours away. Traffic in Riverside and going into LA can be a bear!
They can also be found on the web at the SoCal Field Trips Website.

There is a Meetup group called Riverside Area Homeschoolers. This one has a small membership fee but they plan wonderful group trips.

Last but not least is SoCal Roving. It is also a Meetup group but has no fees unless you sign up for an event. I have found them well organized and easy to contact.

Once last thing I wanted to mention. When I first started signing up for homeschool field trips online, I was worried about sending money to a stranger. Most of the events are paid through PayPal accounts and you are emailing a stranger money. The beauty of the Meetup and Facebook groups is that there may be a scammer among us once in awhile but people catch on to them pretty quick and spread the word. Look at how many members are in the group or how long the group has been around for reassurance. You can also google the name of the poster or group organizing and see if there is any negative feedback floating around the web. Anyone that jumps on a group, posts a field trip, asks for money, and then flakes on everyone usually gets talked about and won’t be able to do it again. Personally, I find this an amazing advancement!

Field trips are one of the BEST parts about home education! There is nothing like living in the world to learn about it. Zoos, aquariums, amusement parks, shows, etc. It’s all there! Go have some fun!