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Education Hybrids: Is this homeschooling?

In some states, there are various hybrid education models due to families combining some elements of homeschooling with classes and programs offered by public schools, private schools, charter schools, colleges, and online schools. Often called “homeschool hybrids,” these education hybrids may take the form of:

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  • Part-time enrollment at a traditional local public school for a class or two while homeschooling
  • Participation in extracurricular activities and/or sports at a local school while homeschooling
  • University model schools (usually private) that students attend two or three days a week while learning at home the rest of the time
  • Public charter schools that provide tax money for parents to use for resources they choose, often in exchange for more reporting and supervision than is typical for independent homeschoolers
  • Online school funded by public schools, with public school policies and curriculum delivered at home via internet with parent supervision
  • Online school provided by private institutions and paid for by parents
  • Online classes and services paid for by parents (who in some states may submit expenses to a charter school to pay, if approved)
  • Dual or “concurrent” enrollment in community colleges (and some four-year institutions) while teens homeschool during their high school years
  • Self-directed learning centers where kids choose what and how they’ll learn; some non-profit and some for-profit

"Homeschooling" Hybrids - Are education hybrids really homeschooling?

Hybrid Education Varies by State

New hybrid education opportunities are developing all the time. Not all of them are legal in all states. Some may truly be “homeschool hybrids,” while other education hybrids are more accurately categorized as public schooling.

Some hybrid models are only options for students in a certain age or grade.

New hybrid education opportunities are developing all the time. Not all of them are legal in all states. When homeschoolers move from one state to another within the United States, they may find that an option that was common in their previous state is not legal or available in their new state.

Some forms of hybrid education are well-accepted while others are still emerging.

Defining Homeschooling

Many homeschoolers object to applying the term “homeschooling” to some of these hybrid models of education, since some of them may require more government oversight than independent homeschooling.

In fact, the history of homeschooling includes a controversial movement called We Stand for Homeschooling, which attempted to define “homeschooling” as a term that should only be applied to independent homeschoolers who do not receive government funding. In some states, this remains a sensitive issue and even a legal one, since public education laws may apply to some hybrid education.

Homeschoolers who do not use those programs don’t want to be caught up in the expectations that come with the laws governing public schools. They have a lot more freedom and don’t want to lose it. That said, some homeschoolers may be among those who are glad parents have more educational choice, while of course others worry about the impact on traditional public schools.

In practice, people whose children are using a hybrid approach to education and not attending a “brick and mortar school” may have some things in common with typical homeschoolers. They may have a more flexible schedule and be available during the daytime for some cooperative learning, social time, or extracurricular activities. To receive the best welcome, parents using hybrid approaches often try to be sensitive to homeschoolers’ concerns about what is labeled homeschooling in their state.

Online schools that are offered free by school divisions are often referred to as public school at home rather than as homeschooling.

Legalities Matter

In many states, it’s important to be clear whether parents are educating their children under homeschooling statutes or public education statutes. For example, where I live, children who are learning entirely at home but using online curricula provided free by schools are not homeschoolers. They are attending an online public school. If they submit “homeschooling paperwork,” or if they don’t comply with public school testing and procedures, they will run into legal problems.

Another complication can be how people think of homebound instruction. Homebound instruction is sometimes provided by school divisions to children who are unable to attend school because of a health problem. Because the children are at home, some people begin to think of this as “homeschooling.” However, public school rules and testing continue to apply to children who are receiving homebound instruction. A public school teacher is providing all the direction for the child’s education. It’s not the same thing as homeschooling. That said,  each year, some parents choose to begin homeschooling independently after a period of having the school provide homebound instruction. They decide to homeschool as a way to meet their child’s current needs. In many states, those transitioning from homebound instruction provided by a public school to homeschooling must submit official paperwork to homeschool independently, and their child could be considered truant if they do not.

Tax Concerns

Homeschoolers are of two minds about the tax implications of some hybrid models of education. Some think that as taxpayers whose money goes toward education, they should receive some benefit when they choose to educate their children at home. They reason that their choice is less expensive for the public, since their child is not taking up a seat and instructional resources at a local public school. They want to receive money for resources to educate their kids using a hybrid model.

Other homeschoolers worry that the hybrids introduce more regulation to learning at home, which could stifle the very flexibility and innovation that make homeschooling work. Since tax-supported entities can be accused of wasting tax-payer dollars, the accountability factor means there can be regulations about what is an acceptable educational expenditure. This can shape expectations around what “ideal” homeschool resources “should” look like.

And of course, there are rebuttals to both of these positions on tax policy. These range from, “My grandfather pays taxes for school too, but he doesn’t get any taxpayer-funded educational resources” to “We’ve been doing this for years in our state with no increase in regulations.”

You can learn more about the social and policy implications of hybrid models of education by reading about school choice.

Jeanne Faulconer

A popular speaker at homeschooling conferences, business groups, and parents’ groups, Jeanne Potts Faulconer homeschooled her three sons in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia for twenty years. Jeanne is director of Brave Writer's Homeschool Alliance, which provides homeschool coaching, community, and "grad school for homeschool" for parents. She is the contributing editor for TheHomeSchoolMom newsletter and writes the popular Ask Jeanne column, addressing homeschool parents' questions here at TheHomeSchoolMom. She is a former college faculty member, former editor and book reviewer for Home Education Magazine, a long-time editor for VaHomeschoolers Voice, and a news correspondent for WCVE, an NPR-member station. Holding her Master of Arts degree in Communication, Jeanne has conducted portfolio evaluations for Virginia homeschoolers for evidence of progress for many years.

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