Inconsistencies in State Policies towards Homeschooling and Online Learning
by Bruce Friend

Earlier this month I was contacted by a parent who was exploring online school options for her daughter.  The daughter is not currently capable of attending a traditional “brick and mortar” school due to health issues.  The parent will be officially registering her daughter as a home school student and then plans to enroll her in online courses. 
My effort to assist this family provided an example of how inconsistent policies that states have towards homeschool families and virtual learning creates confusion and even a financial burden on families based upon where they live.

Many states have state-wide online learning programs. Indeed the vast majority of states currently fund some form of virtual school program that provides students with the opportunity to take courses either on a supplemental or full-time basis.  The challenge is that the majority of these publically funded programs are not willing to enroll, or are expressly prohibited to, homeschool and/or private schooled students.  Such was the case with the family that contacted me.  In their state of residence, the publically funded state-run online program will only register homeschool students if the local public school district will sponsor the homeschool student’s request; not something that districts are apt to do for students that they deem to be outside of their responsibility.  In this state too there is no statewide virtual charter school option.  Ironically, had this same family been living in the state that borders them to the south or the north, they could have enrolled as a full-time student in one of the statewide virtual charter school options, at no cost.

Fortunately for this family, they have the financial means to find a quality online school that they can enroll their daughter in until the time that she can return to her traditional school environment.  Knowing that the goal for this student is ultimately to have her return to a traditional school, the selection of an online program that is appropriately accredited is also of the utmost importance so that there will be no question about the transferring in of credits earned in online courses.

This situation struck me as a reminder that I share with you.  As you seek online learning options for your students, do your homework and shopping.  Depending on where you live there could be a high quality online option that is free to you.  If it is not, then perhaps that should begin another campaign which is to convince state lawmakers to open up access to publically funding educational options to all students.
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Bruce Friend is the Director of
SAS® Curriculum Pathways®, an award-winning education resource that provides online lessons, engaging tools and activities at no cost to U.S. educators.  Bruce has spent the past decade working in the field of online learning.  He is a national pioneer in helping to establish the country’s first statewide online program and has been the chief administrator of two state virtual schools.  He has been honored with the “Most Outstanding Achievement in Distance Education” award by the US Distance Learning Association and is a two-time recipient of the Florida Principal Achievement Award.  Prior to joining SAS, Bruce was the Vice President of the International Association for K12 Online Learning; a non-profit organization that provides support to students, parents, and online learning programs.