Private Home Schooling: The gold standard
Two decades ago, home education was either illegal or highly suspicious in most of the United States. Since then, a quantum shift has occurred. Today, the practice is legal in every state. And in the minds of many Americans, it is the educational choice that produces (1) the highest academic achievement, (2) the lowest rate of peer dependence, and (3) the highest rate of spiritual faithfulness that endures into adulthood.
Decades of research data demonstrates that, regardless of the method of education used, the single most important factor in a child’s academic success is the degree of parental involvement in that child’s education. It is, therefore, not surprising that privately teaching one’s children at home yields remarkable academic achievement. On the Iowa Tests administered each year by the Idaho Coalition of Home Educators, the median score among home schooled students is typically between the 80th and 85th percentile.
Students who have been taught at home have also been demonstrated to be significantly less peer-dependent or peer-dominated than students who attend public schools. Likewise, they are more socially well-adjusted and come to spiritual commitments that tend to survive into adulthood.
Although it is still practiced by less than 2% of families in this country, home schooling has come to be generally recognized as the gold standard among educational options.
Virtual Charter Schools: Origin and History in Idaho
In 1998, the laws of Idaho were modified to permit the advent of charter schools. The new statutes which opened this door included a little-noticed reference to “virtual” or “on-line” charter schools.
The Idaho Virtual Academy (IDVA), utilizing the K12 curriculum developed by Bill Bennett, was the first such school in Idaho, beginning in 2002. This was followed shortly by the Idaho Distance Education Academy (IDEA), a spin-off of the very first virtual charter school which was established in Alaska.
Currently there are six virtual charter schools operating in Idaho. More recently, the Bonneville School District in eastern Idaho has added a hybrid on-line program for students who reside in that district. This program also uses the K12 curriculum developed by Bill Bennett’s company.
As one looks through the web sites for, and the on-line discussions of, the virtual charter schools, a prevalent blurring of the lines between private home education and the virtual charter schools becomes apparent. There is widespread confusion between the two.
There is also a widespread assumption that the students enrolled in the virtual charter schools will enjoy the same academic, social, and spiritual successes and benefits currently enjoyed by students who are being privately taught at home. But a careful look at these public school programs and the students that are enrolled in them reveals a dramatically different picture.