It is no secret that the quality of a homeschool education varies widely depending on the abilities of the parents and the tools they have at their disposal. At the same time, more and more students are being pulled from traditional schools for a homeschool education. This presents a serious problem for many educators and state officials. But now, one school has a solution.
The Twin Falls school district in Idaho has unveiled plans to offer free online classes for homeschooled students. Classes will be offered for students from kindergarten through eighth grade and will cover a wide range of subjects. The idea is to allow families the flexibility to plan a curriculum that suits both the family and the student’s needs.
These classes are part of a new partnership being launched with Harmony Educational Services, a Utah-based company that offers a customized curriculum with the guidance of a special mentor.
School programs like this, which seek to move traditional education and learning to a digital platform, are only the tip of a much larger industry in the United States. Videoconference and streaming technology has opened up new possibilities in both the classroom and the corporate world. In fact, the virtual event market as a whole is projected to grow to $14 billion in 2018 before climbing to $18 billion by 2023.
In an educational setting, digital classes offer a much-needed way for homeschool parents in Idaho to structure their child’s education. In Idaho, there is no regulation or monitoring of homeschool education, which can exacerbate the inequality of education homeschoolers can sometimes receive.
However, critics warn that Harmony Education Services has had a spotted history. In 2014, two Utah charter schools abandoned the program in a high profile manner.
“It’s a predatory company and we are the victims,” President of the Board at one of the charter schools, Richard Wolfgramm, said to the state charter board, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “I’m fully aware this is taxpayer money we’re dealing with. It hasn’t been used wisely.”
Still, other Idaho schools who have partnered with Harmony have had positive experiences.
Terri Sorensen, who is the principal of one such school, the Idaho Home Learning Academy, said to Magic Valley, “I do feel it’s beneficial for those homeschooled parents to get some good curriculum aligned to standards.”