School district offers home study option
100 students are in homeschooling program
California courts are cracking down on parents who homeschool without teaching credentials - but San Ramon Valley's Venture School families need not worry.
Venture students who are in the Home Independent Study Program work with a certificated teacher every other week, must use state curriculum and textbooks, and take statewide exams like STAR.
"That legitimizes it," said Joan Diamond, principal at Venture. She said the ruling won't affect Venture students.
By and large, the ruling is more likely to impact parents who teach from home and aren't registered with a district or private charter schools.
The ruling requires parents to have the same teacher training and certification as K-12 public educators in the state.
That includes a bachelor's degree, a passing mark on a California Basic Education Skills Test, and completion of educational training, which tends to focus on teaching methods and classroom organization.
"We're talking at least five years of college," said Terry Koehne, spokesman for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District.
Parents who homeschool are outraged. They say nobody's more in touch with a child's learning style than a parent.
The court case was an appeal, based originally on a child welfare conflict in Los Angeles. Defendant Mary Long, who taught her eight children without certification, was challenged by the Department of Child and Family Services.
In Alamo, Caroline Rover homeschools her seven children and has no official teaching credential either. When she heard about the court decision, she was worried.
"My ears perked up," she said.
But she teaches through a private county-approved charter school and said the ruling won't apply to her family either. Still, she said, it bothers her that the state makes a negative association with family homeschooling.
"It's a shame," she said. "Just because you homeschool doesn't mean you abuse your kids."
At first, Rover planned to just teach her children for kindergarten, but as the years went by, she moved on to teaching the primary grades and then to the middle school level.
She had heard stories about bullying and preteens with knifes at public schools and decided that for her kids, it was too much of a risk.
"It was nerve-racking to me," she said.
She feels her home environment is the best place for her children to learn.
"I know where they are. I know who they are associating with," she said.
At Venture, parents homeschool for a lot of other reasons, Diamond said. Some kids have health problems. Others are gifted. Some have social challenges. Others want more time to focus on creative subjects.
Every once in awhile families just don't like the amount of homework assigned at elementary school level - so they choose to teach their own way, Diamond said. In general, students do the Home Independent Study Program at the elementary and middle school levels.
Venture School has 560 students total; 100 of them participate in the home study program, others attend because they work better in a non-conventional school setting. Services begin with an assessment of the student's school history and an analysis of his or her learning style.
District staff members haven't had any official discussion on whether they agree with the ruling - or feel parental certification is necessary.
"There are two sides to it certainly," Koehne said. "On one hand: Who knows their child better than their parents? On the other: The state requires all other teachers be credentialed."