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Public School Alternatives That Almost All Parents Can Afford

Updated on June 5, 2014

Many children struggle both academically and socially in traditional public school environments. Unfortunately, parents of these children often feel unable to help due to the expenses associated with alternative sources of education. While expensive private schooling may appear to be the most accessible alternative to public school, there are several affordable public school alternatives that are just as accessible.


Online Public Schools and Affordable Online Private Schools

Online schooling can seem similar to homeschooling, but it only requires minimal parental involvement. This requirement for parental involvement varies depending on the age of the online student. Students at the elementary level naturally require more guidance than high school students. Ultimately though, an online school's lesson plans and curricula are designed so students can learn under the direction of online teachers, with prepared lesson plans, and in self-directed manners. Online schools often prove to be more conducive to learners who have had trouble with traditional, non-flexible learning. Material is presented in multiple forms at these schools. Recorded and live lectures, text formats, diagrams and graphs, and interactive learning materials are some examples of ways that material can be presented at an online school .

One must remember that even though online schooling does not require as much parental involvement as homeschooling, there will still have to be someone available to be with a child studying at home if he or she is too young to be there alone. After taking childcare arrangements into consideration, there are several online K-12 schools across North America that are affordable or even free that parents should check out. Connections Academy and K12's websites are both great places to search for online schools. Both provide listings of online public schools -- schools that are tuition-free, state-based, and employ state-certified teachers -- as well as listings of online private schools. While online private schools are tuition-based, they may still be more affordable than local, private bricks and mortar schools. These online private schools usually have few or no costs associated with books, uniforms, driving, and other materials because they are online. There are options for hybrid schooling (combined classroom and online instruction) listed on these websites as well. From my experience, these websites and schools seem to be the most reputable and preferred places for online learning and information related to it, but there are other options. Penn Foster College, for example, offers a tuition-based high school diploma program online.

Religious Schools That Offer Free or Discounted Tuition Rates to Church Members

Conducting research on the larger churches in a local area may provide parents with some options for affordable alternatives to public school. Many churches with private Christian schools will allow the children of church members to attend their schools at discounted or even free tuition rates. Religious families that are okay with changing their church memberships should consider this option. Parents do need to take into consideration that not all of these schools teach through the 12th grade level though. It is also important to note that these types of schools, like all private schools, may not employ state-certified teachers.

Charter Schools and Alternative Schools

Charter schools and alternative schools are also affordable alternatives to public school that parents can consider. Both school types are usually tuition free. Charter schools are funded publicly and are technically part of the public school system, but they are independently-operated. Alternative schools are sometimes publicly funded, but are also funded by private and religious organizations, fundraisers, and donations. Alternative schools can be beneficial to students with learning or behavioral problems. Alternative schools sometimes have strict requirements for entry however. An example of these requirements could be a student having to have been expelled or suspended before he or she can attend an alternative school. Consequently, parents of children without serious behavioral problems need to take into consideration that at an alternative school their children will be studying amongst pupils who have documented behavioral issues, adverse home lives, and are or have been on probation.

Homeschooling and/or Entering the Workforce or a Technical/Vocational Program with a GED

Children that have had trouble in public schools often find new academic strengths and skills upon beginning a homeschooling routine. Homeschooling is generally affordable and can significantly benefit a child that has had academic, behavioral, or social problems. Homeschooling's affordability for parents is affected by childcare situations however, like with online schooling. Also, unlike online schooling, homeschooling requires a significant amount of parental involvement. Parents must not only coach their children academically, but also create lesson plans, purchase books and materials, grade homework, and stay up to date on educational standards for science, math, language arts, and other subjects. However, self-directed learning is possible for older children. The parents of an older child should consider whether the child interested in being home schooled would benefit more from learning academically as an autodidact (a teenager wishing to attend university or college would be an example of a child that would benefit from learning this way) or getting a GED and entering the workforce or a technical/vocational program.

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