Are Seattle online schools and alternative programs homeschool?

“There’s more than one way to learn at home, but not all of it is home school,” said Rachel Schleif in her The Wenatchee World article, “Home-school definition, identity blurs with new programs,” in which she outlined the ongoing controversy over homeschooling terminology and regulations.

In Helen Hegener’s June 25, 2010 HEM commentary, “Outlived Our Usefulness?,” she noted the recent name change of The Edmonds Homeschool Resource Center to Edmonds Heights K-12 to reflect their partnership with the public school system. The same announcement contained the following.

“…in Washington State, the growth rate for homeschooling, which had consistently been 15-20% per year, has dropped to zero in the past two years, in large part because of the growth of alternative public school programs.”

Are Washington State Alternative Learning Experience students 1) homeschoolers who participate part-time in public options or 2) public school students who do school at home through distance or online programs?

“Homeschoolers” in this case refer to “home-based instruction” students (HBI) as defined by Washington State law. Washington generally regards ALE participants as alternative public school students, because ALE programs receive public funds.

However, part-time ALE students, depending upon hours of enrollment and adherence to home-based instruction requirements, might continue to qualify as home-based instruction students.

In Washington, virtual schools are regulated as ALEs The Washington Homeschool Organization provides a comparison between homeschool and virtual school and other ALE programs, as well as a detailed account of homeschoolers’ issues with ALEs.

Alternatives to Alternative Learning Experiences

So far, my kids have avoided opportunities associated with the public school system. Instead, they ensure their homeschool freedom by participating in community classes and homeschool group activities. See Seattle field trip club, Eastside TPA, or your local art center, dance studio, children’s theater, museum, farm, zoo or aquarium, nature center, etc., for a variety of local learning opportunities.

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