Did you know you could homeschool using public school curriculum and with support from your public school district? I did not, know about this until recently so I brought in a guest blogger to share about this unique way of homeschooling using HSAP.
This is just a brief overview of the program, and not every school district offers HSAP. I think we are very fortunate to be in a district that has a strong program that really supports homeschoolers, and wants them to succeed.
This method of homeschooling might be a good option for:
• New homeschoolers who need structure and support
• Homeschoolers on a restrictive budget who cannot afford curriculum
• Families whose children are in a lot of extracurricular activities
• Families who don’t require sole control over curriculum
This is not going to be a good option for those who are concerned with Common Core (some of our books are CC, some are not), or do not want involvement with the public school. We have encountered some very outspoken opinions since we started homeschooling and participating in HSAP. We have been excluded by many in the local homeschool group because of our participation with the public school. But people who aren’t familiar with homeschooling don’t seem to think we have enough supervision. At the end of the day its each parent’s decision how they choose to educate their child, and HSAP has been a definite positive for us.
Here is our story –
If you would have asked me a year ago if I would be homeschooling right now, I would have given you a resounding “NO!” My husband and I were both homeschooled from kindergarten through graduation, and both had very different experiences. Mine was very isolated, and rigorous. I had excellent grades, but hated school. My husband’s experience was very laid back, without many academic standards. As a result he had difficulty getting into college and was fortunate to graduate with a bachelors degree.
As it turns out with many well-planned lives, God had a different path in mind for us. We had always been very happy with my daughter’s public school experience. Our neighborhood elementary school was ranked one of the top 10 in the state, and she was blessed with kind, caring, and gifted teachers. Then she entered middle school. Once middle school started my daughter went from a sweet, caring child, to a grouchy teenager. We have a local Christian school that is great, but it carried a yearly price tag of roughly $6,000 excluding any extracurriculars. Even with potential financial aid, this would be a serious strain on our budget. We decided to let our daughter finish out the school year, save as much money as we could, and reassess then.
About a month before the school year ended we became aware of some ongoing sexual harassment/assault occurring with some girls (not my daughter). I contacted the administration and was told, “Well, boys will be boys.” I immediately asked what steps we needed to take to withdraw her from school, and was astonished that there was an office specifically dedicated to homeschoolers right in the public school.
The principal put me in touch with that office, and we were able to pull my daughter out within the week. Homeschooling laws vary from state to state, but in the state of Iowa (where I live) there are 4 different options to choose from as far as how you want to structure your homeschool and report to the state. The option that we chose is under the umbrella of Competent Private Instruction, meaning that we have chosen to have a licensed teacher involved. There are two options under this umbrella: either hiring a licensed teacher privately, or taking advantage of the Homeschool Assistance program (HSAP). This option will vary somewhat by school district, but let me break down for you how it works for us.
We file our intent to homeschool with the local district. When we initially contacted the HSAP office in our school I was surprised at how encouraging they were in our decision to homeschool. They not only provided this form to us, but walked us through filling it out. At least 4 times per quarter a licensed teacher visits our home. I’m sure this experience would vary depending on the teacher you were assigned, but this step was not nearly as scary or invasive as I was expecting. We haveworked with the same teacher throughout the time we have homeschooled.
She explained to us that her role is not to tell us what to do, or check up on us, but to serve as a support resource. She answers any questions we have, brings us the provided curriculum, and swaps out any curriculum we aren’t happy with. She has never asked to see any records, and has never been critical or tried to change anything we were doing.
The HSAP program provides curriculum to us free of charge. When we pulled our daughter out of public school our issue was not with the curriculum, it was with the administration, so this was a definite plus. Homeschool curriculum can be cost prohibitive and confusing for someone just starting out, so this was a great way to ease into homeschooling without the stress of trying to put a curriculum together. Some of the books we use are the same ones she would be using in public school, and some are not. If there is a book I don’t like, I just let the teacher know and she brings me alternatives. This year I swapped out my daughter’s literature book because it was as interesting as watching paint dry. Our HSAP teacher brought us two alternatives, and now we also supplement with free reading.
Using the HSAP program and Dual Enrolling entitles my daughter access to any extracurricular activities or public school classes we wish for her to take. My daughter has been involved in orchestra since the fourth grade, and I didn’t want that to end when we started homeschooling. Now we just drop her off for her orchestra class, and pick her up when it is done. We could also enroll her in any classes we wanted at the public school. For instance, if math became too difficult for me to teach at home, I could enroll her in math only at the public school, just like we do orchestra. This safety-net was also attractive to me when we were first beginning because I had no idea what to expect. We will also have access to driver’s ed from the public school when the time comes.
Our HSAP has its own homeschool group that gets together once or twice a month for field trips. They also offer standardized testing for free. Our district does not require use to participate, that is at the parents’ discretion.
Next year my daughter will be in high school, and in order for her to graduate with an “official” diploma we will need to use an accredited curriculum. HSAP does not provide curriculum in high school, so we will reassess if we want to continue with the program, since we will be purchasing our own curriculum anyway.
Bio: Melissa Haag is a wife, mom, and entrepreneur. She lives in a small city in Iowa that is equal parts cornfield and city skyline. She is a self-employed hairstylist, blogger, photographer, and owns her own direct sales business. She spends plenty of time in her home office, but is easily lured out by her daughter, step-sons, and two fuzzy dogs. You can read some of her ramblings on life at her blog The World According to Plaidfuzz (www.plaidfuzz.com).
How do you handle school? Homeschool? Public or a combination of the two?