Until the 1980s, there were extremely few alternatives to public school for any family who could not afford to pay the tuition at a private school for their children. The laws governing non-traditional forms of education have changed drastically over the past several decades to give parents a lot more control and flexibility when making academic choices for their children.
Technological advances have played a significant role in the development of educational options in America. Now, even families living in rural areas can choose to remove their children from a public school and offer them a quality education from home or near home without the added pressure of either developing a curriculum on their own or being their child’s teacher.
Parents now have the capability to educate their children in the safety of their own home by assuming all the responsibility themselves or by taking advantage of the myriad of other on-site or online public school alternative options now available in all 50 states.
Non-traditional education laws, academic guidelines, and reporting options vary widely by state. Parents should always check with the state board of education and the local school district before embarking on an alternative education path or removing their children from a traditional school to avoid potential legal problems.
Top 5 Public School Alternatives
- Homeschooling – Teaching children at home offers parents the opportunity to be completely in charge of what, how, and where the children learn. Some states make the homeschooling process a quick and simple one, but others still require parents to jump through a series of regulation based hoops before issuing mandatory approval of the non-traditional learning experience. Homeschool networks and associations offer both resources and legal guidance to parents interested in opting out of public school. They provide support and advice from a child’s very first day of school until their high school graduation, as well as assisting with enrollment and issues relating to state regulations. In most states, homeschool students can still participate in extra-curricular activities at their local district.
- eSchools – Many school districts offer an electronic school option via a state-approved provider. Children learn at home under the supervision of an adult, but the parent does not serve as a teacher. The same curriculum which is taught in the classroom is taught via the online courses. Typically, schools provide a computer, printer, and internet service for children who do not already have online access and the necessary equipment. The child still remains listed as a student in the local district and may still participate in extra-curricular activities.
- Unschooling – This new trend is often referred to as “extreme homeschooling.” This public school alternative is an interest led learning based module. The children are given the freedom to learn via play, experimenting, and by pondering what they have read or experienced and asking questions about the material or project. Many unschooling parents believe individuals do not necessarily need to be taught to learn and encourage a child’s natural inquisitiveness to foster the educational process, the Natural Child Project notes.
- Charter Schools – Charter schools were once few and far between and were rarely found in the suburbs or rural areas. Beginning in the early 2000s, charter schools, both brick-and-mortar and online campuses, grew substantially in both number and location. Small class sizes and an interactive learning style are typical aspects of a charter school education. Some charter schools focus on a particular topic, such as the arts, nature, technology, or vocational careers.
- Democratic Schools – This public school alternative is run like a pure and direct democracy where students and staff are treated as equals. The Sudbury school is one of the first and most renowned of these schools. The educational model at democratic schools loosely follows the Sudbury model. Each week the school has a meeting where everyone can cast an equal vote on topics such as school rules of behavior, how money is spent, how facilities are used, the daily routine, and even on staff hiring. There are not typically designated classrooms or dedicated teachers at democratic schools, Education Revolution notes. Both staff members and students serve as educational leaders and work together to run the facility from the bottom to the top. The staff is voted upon annually in the spring, and there are no tenured employees.
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