In Alaska, homeschoolers do not have to report or seek approval to homeschool their children. As a matter of fact, the state has zero requirements for these households: no subject requirements, no credit requirements, no graduation requirements, no reporting or testing. There is no state oversight of homeschooling families. Nadda. Zilch. Zero. Parents are free to choose what course of action best fits their children, what curriculum to use and not use, what outside activities to participate in, what they deem appropriate and desire to require to graduate those children. Unfortunately, while the law is friendly, the state and local communities aren’t so receptive to these families because the state has muddied the waters when it comes to who is defined as a homeschooler. Desiring control, the law for homeschoolers to participate in local school sports and other extra-curricular activities at the high school level requires these unregulated homeschooling families to use an accredited program–and that accreditation is only recognized if the accrediting agency is AdvancEd. Families must consider what the trade-offs are if they wish to have their children participate in state-sanctioned school activities.
Is Alaska really homeschool friendly? Homeschooling is legalized with several options in Alaska Statute 14.30.010. For the high school level, under the statute for “equal access”, it is further defined,
‘alternative education program’ means a public secondary school that provides a nontraditional education program, including the Alaska Military Youth Academy; a public vocational, remedial, or theme-based program; a home school program that is accredited by a recognized accrediting body; a charter school authorized under AS 14.03.250 – 14.03.290; and a statewide correspondence school that enrolls students who reside outside of the district in which the student resides and provides less than three hours a week of scheduled face-to-face student interactions in the same location with a teacher who is certified under AS 14.20.020 [AS14.30.365(c)(1)]
Only one of the alternative education program definitions is not affiliated with state-controlled education. The definition of home school is further blurred by those statewide correspondence schools that tout “homeschooling” in their names even though enrollment equates to public school students. Although homeschooling may be an alternative educational choice, homeschooling as defined in AS 14.30.010 is not when a high school student wishes to participate in interscholastic and extracurricular activities at a local, traditional, brick & mortar school. Subsidizing the homeschooling movement through those statewide correspondence schools, costs of classes and other activities not affiliated with traditional schools continues to increase and is directly driven by the influx of state funds into the homeschooling arena. If you choose to follow the law as legalized in 1994 with AS14.30.010(b)(12), prepare to defend your position against the masses of correspondence homeschoolers and expect to pay a premium for educational opportunities outside of your home classroom.
While alternative education programs are defined for the high school student wishing to participate in extracurricular activities at a local school, using an accredited program to legally homeschool is completely optional unless you are seeking that “equal access.” What is wrong with this requirement? Firstly, the state does not require it under the statute that has legalized homeschooling. Why do they then require it for high school? Control! Homeschoolers are not required to report to any state entity whatsoever. Seeking approval and reporting and proving parents are educating their children are not among the law. How, then, shall the state hold their GPA requirements to someone who is not in the system? While parents can issue GPAs and grades, the state, who does not invest any funding into these families, needs a way to track them and make certain that these families are really educating their children. The answer is to require these legal homeschool families to use an accredited program because (1) they can now be tracked by the state, (2) the state can affirm an education is taking place without subsequent reporting, and (3) the state can confirm that the child is being educated to the state’s standards, which apply to public education as a whole. Accredited programs often equate to school at home and can not be individualized to exploit a student’s talent and strengths. All too often, these accredited programs flaunt and highlight a student’s weakness with little or no thought to how to help the student improve to succeed in those areas. At the high school level, for “equal access”, homeschoolers are required to fit the mold–that very mold that pioneer homeschooling families bucked and turned away from.
So why else has the state required a home school program be accredited for participation in high school sports and activities? Because high school sports and interscholastic activities are a big deal! Colleges like to see lots of activities and sports since it shows them that an individual has had a well-rounded high school career and knows how to interact with people outside of his or her own age-group. Yet homeschoolers have been providing these experiences to colleges long before they were even allowed to participate, legally, in these school-specific activities. So is it really a big deal? For traditional students and their parents, it is. Attending any budget discussion at a local school district meeting where the district intends to cut the activities for their schools, you will find many a parent who is avidly against these such cuts. Story after story reflect the same theme: “Little Johnny would have never finished school if it weren’t for (insert sport or activity here),” and “My Joey would have dropped out if it hadn’t been for (insert sport or activity here).” Clearly, many parents view these additional activities as cornerstones to keeping their children in a place that they rather not be–the public school classroom. Why, then, would homeschoolers want to be a part of a series of crutches that keep kids in school? Can a homeschooler actually “drop out” of home education? Who cares more about that child’s education: parents or the state and coach? Upon further reflection, many of those sports and activities provide a disservice to the homeschool student. Watching game film, bonding with team members, sitting through organizational meetings usually all occur at the school and during the normal school hours of which the homeschooled child is usually absent. Important information is missed and the facade of being a team player is all but destroyed when the homeschooler becomes the team outcast. For this reason, sports and other activities at a school should not be desired by the homeschooling community. It stands to foster discontent with the home while encouraging integration in the traditional school. Obviously, “equal access” is not intended to provide equal access, rather equal integration and submission.
In some legal terms, Alaska is homeschooling friendly. The state and local communities, however, are only friendly if you choose to be regulated and classified as a public school student in an alternative education program. “Equal access” isn’t so equal if a homeschooler wants to participate in an interscholastic activity, at the high school level, at a local public or private school. As homeschoolers, do we succumb to such a sly, sneaky, state tactic for control? Or do we rise up and say no, we won’t play your games and we won’t be controlled? Most importantly, do we stand together and find or make legal ways to allow homeschooled children to have these opportunities? Homeschooling Pioneers did just that. They fought, and fought hard, against the state who hunted them down to imprison them. They fought, and fought hard, to make the paradigm shift of homeschooling a legal and viable educational option. They fought, and fought hard, to gain college acceptance and recognition. In this day and age of subsidized “homeschooling,” or publicly funded “homeschooling”, do we continue to let the state discriminate against what the state has already deemed legal? Or do we fight, and fight hard, by making similar opportunities available without the state oversight of these activities? Which bandwagon do we jump on: public education or private education?