In our current uncertain economy, the decision to enroll in a virtual charter school is motivated at least in part by presumed cost savings. After all, the schools typically provide the student with a computer and curricular materials. But parents should ask both of these important questions:
1. How much are we really saving?
2. What is expected of us in return?
Obviously, many parents of students enrolled in virtual charter schools spend relatively few dollars on their children’s education. Almost everything is paid for by the public school district with which their children are enrolled except where the parents opt to spend their own funds to supplement with materials consistent with their faith.
Private home schoolers, on the other hand, pay for everything. So the question should be asked, how much does that really cost those parents? How inexpensively can a child be taught at home.
The truth is that some parents are doing an excellent job with little more than pencils, paper, and a public library card. For families with more than one child, curriculum and other materials can be “recycled” for use by the younger children as they get older. On average, parents who teach their children at home spend just $600 per year on the education of each child.
So the “savings” that parents enjoy in exchange for enrolling their child in a virtual charter school are really only $600 per year.
In exchange for that sum, the parents are required to spend a significant amount of time in efforts that are only marginally educational. The time keeping requirements, alone, are substantial. Grading workbooks and other non-instructional efforts are added on top of that. A parent whose child is enrolled in such a program can easily spend 200 to 300 hours per year on these class monitor activities.
In the final analysis, the parents are saving $2 to $3 per hour for their busywork less than minimum wage.
More importantly, they are losing the great joy of being their child’s full-time teacher, that responsibility now being shared with the computer, texts, and workbooks supplied by the program.