This article will discuss the pros and cons of joining a homeschool charter school for children with dyslexia.
Despite a growing awareness of dyslexia, the traditional school setting continues to fail to offer students with dyslexia the kind of individualized education that they need to succeed.
Many families choose to homeschool their children with dyslexia for this very reason. Several years ago, our family joined a public school charter school. So far we have been pleased with our experience. Here’s what you need to know.
What is a Charter School?
Charter schools began appearing in the 1990s and are independently operated public schools, started by parents, teachers, community organizers, and for-profit companies.
They operate under a charter granted to them by a public school district, a county board of education, or the state.
Two basic types of charter schools:
Site-based Charter Schools
Site-based charter schools are programs where children attend school daily. These types of charter school are diverse in their focus. From project-based, arts-intensive, immersion language, on-line learning, and technology-focused schools, the missions of charter schools vary widely.
Nonclassroom-based Independent Study Program
This is the homeschool option that is available to parents in most states. These can vary a lot. Some require use of an online school program. Others require attendance at a certain number of in-person classes. Still others do not have any required attendance other than some kind of regular meeting, usually monthly, with a credentialed teacher.
Benefits of a Charter School for Kids With Dyslexia
Some of the pros to joining a homeschool charter school for kids with dyslexia:
Funding: Without a doubt the money offered to families in charter schools is one of the greatest benefits. The amount of funding you will receive varies by state, school, and grade. In California, charter school students receive several thousand dollars per year. Funds can be used to pay for approved curriculum, supplies, and services.
Homeschooling With Dyslexia is an approved vendor for Golden Valley Charter School and Inspire Charter School. Members can purchase any books or courses from this site with funds if you’re a part of either of those groups. If you would like us to become vendor for your charter school, email marianne at homeschoolingwithdyslexia.com.
We use just about all of our charter school funds to pay for our kids’ dyslexia tutors. It has been a huge relief to hand this off to someone with the tools and training to teach my kids with dyslexia.
Teacher Support: As a long-time homeschooler, this wasn’t as important to me but for some homeschoolers who are just starting out, having the advice and support of a teacher can be very helpful.
Testing: Private dyslexia testing can be very expensive. As a homeschooler, it can be next to impossible to get that testing through the public school. As a charter school student, your children are entitled to these services as would any other public-schooled child. We requested testing for our 5th grade profoundly dyslexic son and were very pleased with the process.
The school understood the laws and followed them to a tee. All meetings were respectful and professional. He received a full battery of psycho-educational testing by a kind and knowledgeable tester. Schools are quick to point out that the purpose of their testing is not to diagnose. They are testing to determine if your child is eligible for specialized teaching and accommodations. However, in our case, the testing that was done was the same testing done by a private educational psychologist.
IEPs and 504s: Homeschooled kids don’t need the permission granted by an IEP or 504 plan to implement specialized teaching or accommodations. Having an IEP or 504 Plan can be helpful to document your child’s learning struggles if you want accommodations on college entrance exams at a later date.
What is an IEP? IEP is and acronym for Individualized Education Program/Plan. An IEP is a way for teachers and parents to work together to make sure a child’s unique educational needs are being met. Students must receive testing or evaluation that determines eligibility for an IEP. Once and IEP is in place, a student is eligible for special services or teaching that more accurately meets their educational needs.
What is a 504 Plan? A 504 Plan is a formal plan that schools create in order to give a child the types of classroom supports they need to be successful. The main difference between an IEP and 504 Plan are that 504 Plans do not provide specialized teaching or special services – only accommodations such as extra time on tests or the use of assistive technology in the classroom.
Special Services: Another potential benefit of joining a homeschool Charter School is having access to specialized teaching or special services paid for by the school. Special services are things like small group targeted teaching, tutoring, and Occupational or Speech Therapy.
Disadvantages of a Charter School for Kids With Dyslexia
Annual Testing: As a private homeschooler, I had the freedom to choose if and when to have my kids participate in yearly standardized testing. (Standardized testing is not required of homeschoolers in California where we live.) Charter schools require standardized testing in all grades. This was traumatic for my profoundly dyslexic and ADHD child. In fact, the testing was stopped due to his distress. We opted out the second year but the schools strongly encourage you to do the testing as it is a large part of how they are able to have and keep their charters.
Being Behind: With STAR testing (done at the beginning and end of the school year) and standardized testing, the fact that my kids were ‘behind’ their peers was a frequent topic of discussion. Please know that no one ever doubted my ability to homeschool or made any type of threat to take away my freedom to homeschool as I had feared before joining a charter school. However, there is simply an attitude of measuring and standardizing that cannot be escaped in that setting.
Special Services: I know this was listed in the benefits section above but I have to say that the special services that were offered were not the types of services that were going to make any difference for my profoundly dyslexic child. My son was offered weekly reading, writing, and math tutoring for 30 minutes each week. These classes were online, and in a group setting. While there is an attempt to group kids at the same level together in these group sessions, the sessions are not individualized enough or intense enough to result in any significant progress.
What to Expect From a Charter School
More rules: As a homeschooler used to enjoying the freedoms of homeschooling, learning to jump through public school hoops was a little inconvenient.
Nice support: My ‘teacher’ was amazing and a huge support to our family.
Inadequate services: Honestly, I could have pressed the charter school for more services (especially more frequent and in-person Occupational Therapy) but because my kids were getting the instruction they needed through their educational therapy, this wasn’t a major concern. My advice is to have your local dyslexia tutor or therapist sign up to be a vendor for your charter school and pay for their services with your funds.
More extras. Our kids have done dance, martial arts, art, tutoring, choir and purchased fun art supplies with their charter school funds. For many years, we were unable to afford these types of things.
How to Find a Charter School
National Charter School Resource Center: Check this database from the National Charter School Resource Center for charter school information for your state.
Department of Eduction: Your state’s department of education will have a list of charter schools. Find an independent study program near you making sure to search for a charter school with independent study as opposed to site-based instruction.
Other homeschoolers: Other homeschoolers in your area are an excellent way to find out about many types of opportunities including charter schools in your area.
Our Experience With a Homeschool Charter School and Dyslexia
We’re finishing our second year in a public school charter school. Because I had realistic expectations going in, we have been happy with our decision.
The downside to joining a charter school:
- Standardized testing: As I mentioned under the disadvantages, taking standardized tests when you’re not at ‘grade level’ is frustrating. I’ve always had my kids take standardized tests before being in a charter school. I just waited until middle or high school when they were ready.
- Lack of community: This may not be the case for all charter schools, but there were no local meet ups, park days, or field trips with our charter school. This is the primary reason we will be rejoining our local homeschool group next year.
The upside to joining a charter school:
- Being able to afford classes and tutors we were otherwise able to afford.
- Getting psycho-educational testing (and an IEP and 504 plan) at no cost.
I had heard that charter schools would limit my homeschool freedoms. That was not my experience. I had feared that the government would see my struggling learners and penalize me somehow. That was definitely not the case. We only participated in a charter school for 2 years but were treated kindly and fairly with generosity at every turn.
Choosing to join a public school charter school is a highly personal decision.