"Before we even had kids, we decided that we wanted to look for education alternatives for our children. My wife grew up in the Arkansas public school system and knew she wanted something different for our kids. I knew that there were certain values and approaches that weren’t always represented in a traditional public school setting, so I was also eager to look at education alternatives.
For us, we initially found that with homeschooling. We started homeschooling our kids early on and were a part of a great homeschooling community in our home town. We participated in homeschooling advocacy at the state capitol and worked to get more funding and recognition for homeschooling. We want it to be seen as a viable and legitimate alternative to public schools.
Since we were fairly driven, we didn’t struggle with any of the paperwork and finding the kind of resources we needed to succeed. But it did take drive, and for the most part it was all self funded. This is still one of the big challenges. We were fortunate enough to be in a place where we could afford it, but that’s not the case for everyone. Funding does not follow the child to the same degree it does in a public school. The cost of homeschooling is big enough to be limiting for certain families who want the choice, but can’t afford it.
When Arkansas expanded online public charter schools, we switched from homeschooling and enrolled them in one that really worked with our values and long term education goals for our kids.
There has been a lot of progress regarding school choice and resourcing alternative education in Arkansas over the last fifteen years. We’re grateful for that. But there is still more work to be done, particularly when it comes to being included in some of the extracurricular activities in the public schools. It’s not as simple as it is in other states, and the inclusiveness can vary from school to school. We even found that taking things like the PSAT was a challenge.
My oldest is currently a National Merit Finalist. She has traditionally scored in the 98th to 99th percentile according to state exams. But when it came time to physically take the PSAT, she struggled to find a school to administer it. If it wasn’t for the company sending a representative down to do it after we reached out, I don’t know if she would have been able to take it.
Looking back on our education choices, we have no regrets in how we chose to educate our kids. Our children are thriving and ready to launch into the world. But we accomplished this, for the most part, on our own. And I know there are other children who would love a different education path, but can’t afford it or just aren’t aware of it. I hope that in another fifteen years, choices like homeschooling, online charters, and other alternative education routes are seen with equal legitimacy and funded in a way that sets parents up for success."
Arkansas parent, Senior Data Engineer, and school choice advocate