Homeschool: Public and Private Independent Study Programs
Some homeschooling families choose enrollment in Independent Study Programs (ISPs) at public, charter, or private schools. These programs vary widely in what they offer and what they require of their students.
Every ISP is unique, so if you're going the ISP route, you need to find a program that works for your family. Each program has its own rules and requirements and benefits. Some are rigid and carefully structured, and others offer more flexibility. Requirements may include: use of specific curriculum, face-to-face meetings with teachers and participation in school events.
In exchange for satisfying the requirements, ISPs usually offer homeschooling families something in return. These benefits might include: reimbursement for extra-curricular education, social opportunities and enrichment classes. You need to decide which benefits are important to you, and whether dealing with the rules and regulations is a reasonable trade-off.
You'll get more out of an ISP arrangement if the staff is truly supportive of homeschooling. Do they homeschool their own children? How flexible are they about what constitutes a "work sample"? Will they accept photos of Lego creations, or do they expect worksheets for their files? Are they genuinely interested in talking to your child and learning about your family? They should be, if they are going to help and support you throughout the year.
Ideally, you should talk to administrators, teachers and parents involved in a program before deciding if it's a good fit for your child. Consider your child's learning style and your approach to homeschooling. An ISP that works beautifully for a structured homeschooler might not be the place for an unschooler. Get specific answers to your questions and beware of anyone who won't tell you how much paperwork or participation will be required. You're entitled to know just what you're getting into.
But with new ISPs springing up all the time, it's not always possible to know what you're getting into. Some new programs live up to their promises and some do not. If you're considering getting in on the first year of an ISP, keep in mind that the program may not be implemented the way you imagine it.
A good ISP can offer support and guidance on your homeschooling adventure. But all ISPs are not created equal, and they're not for every family. Only you can decide whether an ISP is a worthwhile investment of your family's time and energy.
Reprinted with the permission of the HomeSchool Association of California. © 2007–2008 by HomeSchool Association of California. All rights reserved.
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