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#1 of 28 Old 03-14-2003, 06:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This might sound like a dumb question, but what exactly is a charter school? Is it just some kind of smaller school that is otherwise like public school?

Does anyone have experiences, positive or negative, they can share? Has anyone been a student in a charter school?
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#2 of 28 Old 03-15-2003, 01:01 AM
 
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Charter Schools are public schools that are started and run by parents and educators. In CA for example there is a state law for the formation of a certain number of charter schools. The people who start the school decide how it is run by writing a charter. See for example Novato Charter School this is a Waldorf charter school, but there are charter schools with other philosophies, or without any particular philosophy.
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#3 of 28 Old 03-15-2003, 01:54 AM
 
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we checked out charter schools last year for my daughter. she was having some issues in public school (was in 6th grade). She didn't want me to homeschool at that point so we checked otu charter schools.

we ended up pulling her out and she's back in public school now. I found the curriculum at the school we chose was geared toward the kids on the slower end, kwim? they moved slowly to make sure the kids who were struggling "got it" so some of the kids who really needed to be challenged were not. there was a work study program, but i found it was more that my kid was working (not enough staff?) but not studying. lol. No homework...she was making honor roll but actually told me she felt bad cuz she din't earn it...school was too easy.

they had no funding for band or art (two of my dd's favorites) but did have a large animal lab for science programs. she learned to care for the animals, but spent a lot more time mopping floors and cleaning cages then she'd like.

we liked the uniform idea..the great equalizer so that the kids wouldn't have the "i have these clothes so i'm cooler" issues, but they still did that. it was just about shoes instead, or makeup, backpacks or whatever. and there was no transportation at all so i ended up driving 45 minutes round trip twice a day.

in the end i found the director to be a freak. and when i tried to confront her on some issues i was summarily dismissed .

anyway, our experience was not terrific. but i do hear that some charter schools are really kid centered and terrific. we're still looking for one. right now she's really happy in public school so i'm leaving her be
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#4 of 28 Old 03-15-2003, 07:50 AM
 
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Hey Greaseball- my older son is going to a charter school down here in Eugene- it's (llike mama lori said) a school started by parents and educators but funded by the school district. basically, you have to come up with a charter; a statement that explains your goals and philosophy for the school and how you'll achieve them, as well as all the hoops teh state expects you to jump through. Then if the district is supportive, they'll grant your charter. If the charter doesn't get granted you can appeal at the state level (I think there was recently a charter in oregon that won on teh appeal). The bummer is that these schools are only funded at 80% of what the mainstream schools are- but there are grants available for startup costs.

I LOVE the school ds is going to- it's waldorf based but includes other philosophies as well. They have two language programs- the kids switch off from year to year between spanish and mandarin, with the attendant multi-cultural ed. stuff- there's a music program too. The teaching and administrative staff are really dedicated- amazingly so. There's a pretty cooperative spirit to the school as well which I find appealing.
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#5 of 28 Old 03-15-2003, 03:52 PM
 
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LaLaLuna I'm glad you posted because we have friends in Eugene whose older daughter is 4 and they are starting to look at schools. The school you describe sounds like something they would love. and be affordable. Do you mind sharing the name of the school and I will pass it along to her?
thanks,
Lori
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#6 of 28 Old 03-15-2003, 09:03 PM
 
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I PM'd you.
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#7 of 28 Old 03-16-2003, 01:19 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Is it common for there to be school uniforms? And are the schools usually free, or not? Does it just depend on the school?

It's too bad they are still required to take those standardized tests, though.
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#8 of 28 Old 03-16-2003, 02:09 AM
 
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Charter schools are, by definition, free. They're funded with tax dollars and are public schools that operate within the local school district.

And yes- it sucks that they have to meet the standardized test criteria even when those very tests are in conflict with the philosophy of a school.

As for uniforms- i don't know how common they are. My son's school just makes the request that commercial images aren't displayed. it could be worse- there's a quasi-military charter school here too, and the kids all have to wear army greens.


Miles, my 5 year old, would like to contribute some smilies:



Hm- I wonder if he's trying to tell me something?:LOL
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#9 of 28 Old 03-16-2003, 09:50 PM
 
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Hi Greaseball
My dd is in K. in a charter school here in Michigan. I think our state has the most charters in the nation. It is a state funded school and thus, free, but there is a lot of fundraising going on all the time. I agree w/ the poster who wrote that the charter they checked out catered to the slower paced learners, there are some like that, but ours is on the opposite end of the spectrum and boasts a rigorous college prep curric. This is what my dd has in a full week: Folder work (math, lang. arts, journal), PE, music, Spanish, computers and art once or twice a month. They also have two yearly music concerts they sing in and do alot of feild trips. There is a strong parent/school spirit. The only thing I've found I don't agree with is the amount of worksheets they do in K. Emily missed one day b/c she was sick and she got a stack of 10 dittos to do! 7 were math! :{ I don't like all the dittos, I just think they aren't very developmental and wish there was more child led learning going on. I think she is going to fall behind in math too, she is already saying it's hard and her teacher goes to fast. We are moving in August about 10 miles farther out and I'm keeping our options open for another school.
Kelli

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#10 of 28 Old 03-17-2003, 04:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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It seems like a lot of schools other than the traditional ones are geared either toward kids who aren't as smart, or who have behavior problems, or who are really really really smart and take college-level classes. What about schools for kids who just want something different to try?

So charters still give as much homework as regular schools? I read that the AAP says kids should get no more homework than 10 minutes per year of grade - like, 10 minutes a night for a 1st grader, a half hour for a third grader, an hour for 6th grade, and 2 hours a night for a high school senior. That sounds about right to me.
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#11 of 28 Old 03-17-2003, 04:39 AM
 
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http://www.uscharterschools.org/pub/sp/3

here's site that tells you everything you wanted to know plus more about oregon charter schools.
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#12 of 28 Old 03-17-2003, 04:40 AM
 
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drat- I just went looking through that website and noticed it's not even up to date. Oh well- it's somewhere to start.
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#13 of 28 Old 03-17-2003, 02:31 PM
 
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I don't think you can really generalize about charter schools. My sister's kids attend one in a different state. She loves it--I'd hate it. It's one of the Core Knowledge schools. They do have uniforms.

We have a charter school in our town that's had abysmal performance, by far worse than any of the public schools. Their model encourgages very high teacher turn over and things are generally very chaotic. It's pretty interesting to see some of the parents interviewed on TV. They often think that the school must be better than a public school solely by virtue of it being a charter school, even though they'll acknowledge that they think their kids are getting a rotten education there.

Personally, I have a problem with big corporations running schools on public money.
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#14 of 28 Old 03-19-2003, 10:48 AM
 
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.

Personally, I have a problem with big corporations running schools on public money.


EF,
What are some of the issues you have with this? I'm just curious. Our charter school is sponsored by a major university here and so far, because they hold the school accountable for their success (or lack of) they have pulled up the state MEAP scores and won an elite award for it. I know they probably teach the MEAP (stand. test.) too. Just wanted to know your thoughts, since I'm new too all of this.
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#15 of 28 Old 03-19-2003, 01:00 PM
 
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I find it troubling on many levels. The fundamental mission of any corporation is to maximize shareholder wealth. Personally, I could see many conflicts between that basic motivator of a for-profit corporation and the educational needs of children. The charter my sister sends her kids to is a corporate one. Because the corporation wants to maximize it's wealth, the kids get the short end of the stick on everything from toilet paper (bring your own) to teachers who are expected to do all sorts of non-teaching stuff and who consequently transfer to real public schools as soon as possible.

Charter schools are exempt from most of the regulation and oversight that public schools must deal with. I think it's ludicrous then, to pretend that charter schools will improve public education by providing competition with public schools. If you want competition, should you not have a level playing field?

There is also the notion that all this "competition" will result in increased innovation and creativity in the private sector. If this alleged innovation is to benefit the educational system, it must be freely shared. On the other hand, if I run a for-profit corporation, the last thing I want to do is to freely share my trade secrets with my competion.

I believe that education should be locally controlled. If it is the hands of a corporate executive, how much input do parents and voters really have in the process? Obviously this varies, but many charter school proponents think that for chartes to be effective they should have little or no local oversight. This is not how I want my tax dollars managed--I would vastly prefer a school board accountable to the electorate.
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#16 of 28 Old 03-28-2003, 08:47 PM
 
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.

.

I believe that education should be locally controlled.-I would vastly prefer a school board accountable to the electorate. [/B][/QUOTE]

Ef Mom:
I think so too. Our charter school is not a corporation but alot of them are and I can see the problem with that. Our school board is totally accountable to the electorate. It's very much a public school still, not exempt from the other things public schools go through.
One of the differences I think that attracts most parents is that the charter is accoutable to the chartering university for it's academics, with much higher standards than a regular state public school.
~K.

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#17 of 28 Old 04-29-2003, 01:08 AM
 
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Each charter school is unique based on how the charter was written. My sons school is more like a traditional public school, but more project based learning happens in the classrooms. There is almost always more parent involvement.
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#18 of 28 Old 05-07-2003, 10:30 AM
 
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As Kinder comes to an end I'm considering not sending dd back to the charter school for 1st grade. Overall, I'm just not very impressed with this so-called "school of excellence". I've read over all the Standard and Poors reports on the school and it's interesting that as the grades go UP the test scores go down, and there is about a 10 point discrepancy between boys and girls scores on the MEAP (the 'big' stand. tests in our state) with boys being higher. The director had no explanation for this when I asked.:
I have an appt. to see the regular public school next week. I'll get to see the curriculum, the kids in class, the teachers. I'm bring dd too.
Here are some of the things that are lacking in the charter that are influencing my decision:

No art curriculum
No band/instrumental instruction (in higher grades)
No transportation (this is important to me esp. for feild trips! Kids are taken by parent drivers. Ft's are mandatory starting in 1st grade.)
No hot lunch program, no cafeteria. (not that I would let dd buy hot lunch all the time but hot soup in the winter would be nice sometimes)
Lack of a proper library (it's a joke)
Lack of state funds. The school doesn't get as much per pupil as the regular ps's. Therefore, we are constantly asked to fundraise and donate items.
The parking is horrendous, a HUGE problem as there is no bussing and the school is letting out 550 kids at the same time. I've almost been in two accidents just in the parking lot and cut off several times from other parent drivers! weekly!
Lack of sports. There are some sports but it's very limited and the school is so small they only get to play against a few other schools. Overall lack of extracurricular activities.

This is a fairly new charter school, only 4 years running. I do not like my dd's teacher, it's her first year teaching and while I understand she must start somewhere I'm just disappointed my dd got her, she has NO personality, hardly smiles, yells at the class, and my biggest problem with her is she blatantly dismissed my offers to volunteer in the class on several occaisions, telling me, "this is my first year teaching and I'm still trying to firure out what I am doing" and told me if I wanted to take some of these things home to cut and seperate I could help that way! WHAT!? This schools boasts parent involvement but I felt very unwelcomed to help in my dd's K class as have other parents I've spoke with about this. I question the director for hiring a teacher to teach K and not take the personality into consideration. My dd likes the assistant better, who is warm and 'motherly'. I feel so bad my dd got a cold fish for her K year Esp. after coming from two years of a warm loving Montessori teacher she adored.
Thanks for listening. I'm planning to write the director a letter today.

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#19 of 28 Old 05-07-2003, 12:12 PM
 
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sneezykids...me again...
many of the concerns you listed happen at my school, too. but they are not big issues with me. i understand where you are coming from though. when i started looking at schools, years ago, i was also looking for a large sports program, hot lunches, cafeterias, etc. my current montessori charter lacks much of that. but i have come to realize, that those things are not very important for me.

my children have been at this school for 5 years. it started as a private montessori. my oldest son had to go to a different montessori for 1st and 2nd grade, while my younger son was able to stay at our current montessori charter....(long story). but now they are both back at the original school. anyway, at our 'other school', there were none of the things you listed, and we were paying tuition. so, yes, 'traditional' ps do offer many things that charter schools cannot or do not. but, my children LOVE their school, and the education they are getting is superior. our experiences have led me to understand that what is really important in a school is the level of education and support they get from the school and the staff.

i really understand you delima with your 'cold' teacher. we had that experience last year at our 'other' school. it was the worst year my son ever had. when our school hires a teacher, it is based on her montessori credentials AND her personality. what a huge difference that makes for my kids.

yes, there is fundraising. i am on the pto at our school, and we handle fundraising by having 2-3 large events each year. we don't nickle and dime the parents to death with wraping paper and cookie dough. we have only 49 students in our charter program, and raised about $25,000 this year on just 2 large events and some 'free money' fundraisers. we have a parent volunteers for art, pe, and music. we are welcome in the classroom at any time. some of the children got to know me so well this year that they actually asked me sign their yearbook.

as far as sports, not only do we have leagues through the county, but as a charter school, the kids are allowed to be on teams through our traditional public schools. my kids aren't really into sports, so this is not a huge problem for us at this time. when they do join a league, it's through the county. it works for us because that is where all their other friends play in there organized sports.

as a charter school, we are also entitled to the use of school buses for transportation. we have opted not to do this. we want the parents to be responsible for transportation. it's a good way to make contact, daily, with the parents, when needed.

field trips, i agree, can be a mess. we only had one this year but this time we rented a bus. it only cost $10.00 per student, and they loved it. it was one of those really nice busses with bathroom, tv, etc. but last year we did it through the parents. i hated that, too.

we are building our library. we got most of our books this year through our scholastic book fair, also run by a parent volunteer.

it can be harder to attend a charter school, due to the lack of funds, eca, space, etc. but i feel that the education and security my kids get at this school are well worth a little inconvenience and volunteer time on my part.

i mostly like that my kids are not bullied at school, i don't have to worry about what the kids are wearing like short shorts or really baggy clothes. we all wear uniforms. i can't say enough about the montessori curriculem(sp) in and of itself. i think my kids would be a complete mess if they had to go to a tradional public school. that's why i work my butt off to insure that we are able to remain a charter school.

i'll be very interested to know your feelings about your visit to your 'tradional' ps. really, you do have to look at not only the education, but just as important, the environment.

let me know how things go, and good luck to you!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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#20 of 28 Old 05-07-2003, 08:27 PM
 
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I agree that Montessori is a great education tool. Dd went to a great Mont. preschool for two years.
Our charter school, however, is sort of the opposite of the Montessori method. It's not at all child directed, even in K. or hands on. This K. program that dd is in is very academic. They started spelling TESTS in January and reading groups then too. They are doing 1st grade Saxon math. She's had quizzes in science, homework in PE (!), homework in math and the reading book is sent home nightly.
Probably the biggest thing I have against their curriculum is how paper heavy they are. For instance the math. She missed one day and the next day 10 pages of missed work came home, 7 were in math alone. I met with the director after this. He even suggested she might be having an adjustment problem due to attending Montessori:
No, I disagree, I just don't think K's learn best by worksheets! So maybe it has been an adjustment problem and I as I told the director, she is bored to tears doing ditto after ditto, she is just slopping anything down just to be done with them.
I'm just not sure it's the right school for dd. I wish we had a montessori charter here! This school is also very big for a charter, 550 kids in K-8th. There are 25 kids to a class. That is pretty big. Boy, I do remember paying that Mont. tuition though..and that is one nice thing about the charter is that it's free.
::hoping to find the right school for dd::

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#21 of 28 Old 05-07-2003, 11:51 PM
 
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Sneezykids- you've been struggling with this issue for a few months now, it seems. I'd say listen to your gut- it really sounds as though this school isn't a good fit for your family.

I hope you find something that will work for you and dd!
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#22 of 28 Old 05-15-2003, 08:26 PM
 
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Laluna
It has been a huge stress for me. One thing I keep thinking about is middle school. The things middle schoolers are doing now scares the heck out me. Even if dd isn't into that stuff she'll still be exposed to it from just being in the school.
This is a compelling reason to keep her in the charter school. It goes to 8th grade and there are only about 45 kids in the whole grade. The kids wear uniforms there too.
I know I probably sound over protective. I just think middle school is the worst grades for peer pressure.

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#23 of 28 Old 06-04-2003, 11:24 PM
 
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My ds was just "slotted" in our local charter school. I had wanted him to go there since he was 2 years old and the school opened. I know that each charter school is different, and I am happy to have a wonderful one right around the corner (we actually bought our house in this particular district so we had a better chance of getting in). I don't think they have any formal philosophy. The best way to explain it is project based and individualized. The class size is 16-18 kids, w/ a teacher and an aide, as opposed to the local public school which is 1:26-28. The kids are encouraged to be independant and there is a strong emphasis on behaving socially responsible. They do not receive report cards, thus won't be labled (A student, F student), instead we will be monitoring their progress w/ a checklist, more or less and the focus will be on their own personal learning cirriculum. (Because they are emphasising the child as an individual, there are no uniforms.) They are generally not assigned homework. There are ELA's (extended learning activities), however. Any work they did not complete in the time alotted during the school day can be brought home to finish, as well as some reading or interactive activities w/ parents. They also keep a portfolio, much like one a homeschooling family would have in PA. Plus, there is an open door policy, parents can come and go as they please. And are encouraged to do so! One big plus for me is they stress healthy eating. The children have access to a fridge and a microwave, so that really opens up some possibilities for lunch! The actual building is maintained by student, parent and staff volunteers and donations. I love the community feel the school has made! I know it will be a comfort to me when my children are in higher grades and they are spending more time with their friends; I will have a relationship w/ not only the child but their parents as well since there is a monthly work day for each home base where the child and parents come to the school to do any maintenance or improvements on the building, as well as monthly meetings. This is truly the only school I felt comfortable having my children attend. If they didn't get in, I was going to homeschool.
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#24 of 28 Old 06-05-2003, 01:16 AM
 
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Jill- how wonderful!
Congratulations- it sounds like a great school.

(Miles wants to add some smilies...)



........and there's your typical six year old...
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#25 of 28 Old 07-23-2005, 05:44 PM
 
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It is interesting to hear of experiences in a variety of charter schools. However, it is important to recognize that there is a huge variety of charter schools, and that they vary according to the particular state's legislation governing charter schools, and according to the individual charter.

Nationwide, charter school legislation has evolved primarily to accomplish the following purposes: to provide greater breadth of educational options for families, to motivate improvement in public schools by creating greater competition, and last, but not least, to provide states with a way of avoiding the rising costs of building and maintaining school buildings and facilities (Most charter schools provide their own buildings and facilities).

I am a teacher in a charter school in Arizona that happens to be a Montessori school. Arizona has some of the most liberal charter legislation in the country, and is one of the states with the most charter schools. Here, as everywhere else, parents must do their homework in choosing the right school for their child. There are both "bad" and "good" charter schools. Parents need to review the charter, visit the school, interview the staff, read the handbook, observe classes, talk to other parents, and determine the fit for their child. There are definitely tradeoffs. Sometimes they're worth it, and sometimes they're not. It depends on the individual family and child. It pays to educate yourself. "The price of freedom is responsibity."

The only absolutely common characteristics among charter schools are:

1) They are publicly funded. In other words, they do not charge tuition. (Some states allow charter schools to supplement their funding with school fund raising and special fees).

2) They have had their charter application reviewed, approved, and on file with the state in which the school is located. Requirements and governance vary from state to state.

3) They are legally bound to abide by their state approved charter. (These may be reviewed by contacting the state agency that oversees charter schools.)

4) Since most states accept federal funds to aid in education funding, and therefore charter schools are also funded in part by federal funds, they are required to abide by all federal mandates such as antidiscrimination policies, No Child Left Behind requirements, special education policies, and state testing guidelines. (Utah recently withdrew from accepting federal funds in order to opt out of the No Child Left Behind requirements.)


Beyond the above, very little is uniform in charter schools. Mission, goals, philosophy of education, teacher requirements and methods, admission policies, administrative procedures and polices, discipline policies, governing structures, as well as everything else varies greatly from one charter school to another.

Charter school legislation is providing families with many more educaitonal options for their children than was available even twenty years ago. But, as I said, in order to benefit optimally from the huge increase in choice, parents should act as educated consumers and do their homework.
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#26 of 28 Old 07-23-2005, 07:38 PM
 
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Sneezykids: I don't know exactly where in the midwest you live, but here in Ohio we have access to a really great charter school called Ohio Virtual Academy. It is part of a broader selection of nationwide charters under a program called K-12 (http://www.k12.com/). It isn't available as a tuition-free charter in all states, just a handful, but it is awesome. Right now it goes up through 8th grade, and plans are in the works to keep expanding all the way through 12th. It is a homeschool, but with a fantastic boxed curriculum, field trips with other kids, and state testing, so you don't have as much paperwork. Kids all work at their own pace in all subjects.

Good luck with school matters, mama!
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#27 of 28 Old 07-24-2005, 02:23 PM
 
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We're in AZ, and ds is starting K at a "Waldorf Inspired" charter school next month. We have lots of friends whose kids go there, and they all seem to love it and have only positive comments. We also considered a charter Montessori, but decided the Waldorf-based school would better suit ds' s personaliity. They do take state standardized test, and students excell overall on them, without the "teaching to the test" that occurs in a lot of schools. The curriculum includes an abundance of art and music, Spanish, lots of outdoor time, cooking, etc, along with very sound academics. We feel very fortunate to have this school in our community and are really hoping it works out. They just expanded to 8th grade and are working on adding 9-12 grades in the future.

Heather, Mama to DS(10) DD(7.5),DD(6)
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#28 of 28 Old 10-09-2005, 02:02 PM
 
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[QUOTE=Greaseball]It seems like a lot of schools other than the traditional ones are geared either toward kids who aren't as smart, or who have behavior problems, or who are really really really smart and take college-level classes. What about schools for kids who just want something different to try?
QUOTE]


My child doesn't go to a charter school, but we are looking into one. The one we are looking at is a Waldorf charter. I have no clue how they would meet the requirements set by CA and be a Waldorf school. I need to find that out. Here in CA, there is a required math curriculum and they are expected to begin reading in K. There is also a charter with an emphasis on Science and Technology, but I think that may be a high school. There is jr. high/high school with a focus on the arts. Here most of the charters do have themes and are for families with a different philosophy on education than the traditional public school or whose kids have special interests, not for kids with learning problems.
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