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Helpful Questions for Families to Ask Charters They are Considering:

I have compiled this list for our homeschool community as a reference and to help families who are looking to join a charter because I want every family to find the program that best fits their homeschool values. (I will be the first to tell you that a charter may not be the right fit for your family)

If you have asked these questions of parents with children enrolled in the program, charter recruitment staff, office staff, or anyone else please make sure that you ask these same questions again to the teacher the school wants to assign your family to.

That assigned teacher is going to make or break your experience with that charter, it is my strong opinion that you should make sure that you are 110% happy with how that teacher answers these questions. Any answers to these questions you heard before that may not apply to your experience at that school.

First questions:

  • Who are you and what is your connection to the charter program?

  • Are you a parent or an employee of the school?

  • Are you getting any kind of a benefit from recruiting me?

Questions in regards to any instructional funds and program benefits:

  • What is your current student instructional funding?

  • Does this amount depreciate depending on my student’s enrollment date?

  • If so, can I please see the depreciation schedule?

  • What are the drop dates and amounts for the student instructional funds each school year?

  • Can I choose any curriculum I want, are there restrictions or do I have to choose from a pre-approved list?

  • If I am not using instructional funds to purchase our core subject curriculum do you need to know what curriculum I am using or can I use the curriculum of my choice and report topics covered to my teacher?

  • Are there any restrictions on what I can use my instructional funds on?

  • Does my teacher verify that my core subject curriculum is in place before I can use our instructional funds on enrichment products and services to customize my student’s education?

  • Can the instructional funds from one of my children be transferred or used by another one of my children if we need them to be?

  • If so, what is the process for requesting this?

  • What happens to any leftover instructional funds if my student leaves the school or graduates?

  • Can I use instructional funds to help educate myself to better support my homeschool children?

  • If so, What kinds of things may I order and what are the limits? (ie. Conferences, books, training, webinars, etc.)

  • Is there a deadline for placing order requests using my student’s instructional funds?

  • What is that deadline each year?

  • What does that deadline apply to, products and services?

  • What happens to any unused funds that are left in my child’s account?

  • What else besides access to instructional funds does your school offer to its enrolled families?

  • Do you offer any free online subscription programs?

  • Which programs are offered?

  • How does this offering for your families work?

  • Do you offer an opt-out of this program that would give us access to more instructional funds?

  • Do you have a field trip program?

  • What are the instructional fund’s limits on field trips?

  • Can my student’s instructional funds be used to pay for my chaperone ticket?

  • What about an additional adult chaperone?

  • Do you offer any options for in-person learning for my child?

  • Is there room for my child in this program?

  • Who teaches this program?

  • Where is this program?

  • Where can I view the details and offerings?

  • Does your school offer access to educational items for check-out?

  • Do you have a lending library?

  • If not where do non-consumable items go to when they are returned?

  • How can I access them to see if there is something my family wants to check-out?

  • Can I see the contents of your school's Master Agreement?

  • How many times per year do we have to sign the Master Agreement?

  • Do both my student and I have to sign our Master Agreement?

  • Is it signed online or in-person with my teacher?

  • Is my student considered enrolled before or after we sign the Master Agreement?

  • How is the Master Agreement stored and am I given a copy or do I have access to print it when needed?

  • Do we have to sign a new Master Agreement if we have a teacher change or course change?

  • Do we have to sign a new Master Agreement each school year?

Questions in regards to voluntary student withdrawal:

  • If I withdraw my children from your charter do you report my withdrawal to our home district?

  • What happens to any upcoming vendor service classes I may have ordered before withdrawing?

  • What do I have to do to withdraw my children from the program? Can I see the withdrawal process and any required withdrawal paperwork I will be required to fill out?

  • Do I have to meet my teacher in person if I decide to withdraw my children?

  • How do I return any non-consumable items to the school upon our withdrawal? How long do I have to get the items back to the school?

Questions in regards to non-compliancy :

  • What is non-compliancy?

  • Can you please share with me the school's non-compliancy policy?

  • Is there a limit to how many meetings or assignments we can miss before the school contacts us about being out of compliance?

  • How many non-compliancy warnings are we given before the school will withdraw us?

Questions in regards to consumable vs. non-consumable products?

  • How does your school define these two terms? Where is this definition posted? Is there a posted list of how specific product groups are broken down into consumable or non-consumable categories?

  • How are these items differentiated on my child’s account so I know what items will need to be returned?

  • How and when are consumable items considered consumed by my family? Upon receipt of the item, after a period of time, after our teacher confirms the item is consumed, or other?

  • If my family places orders for consumable products right before withdrawing from the school will those items have to be returned?

  • At what point in time are we required to return non-consumable items? If we are continuing at the school next year do we have to bring our items to be checked by our teacher at the end of this school year?

  • How do we return non-consumables when we are done with them or when we withdraw?

Questions in regards to vendors:

  • Do product vendors need to be pre-approved or can I order from any product vendor?

  • What are the vendor approval requirements at your school?

  • Can I see a vendor approval packet?

  • Are vendors who offer live virtual classes to students background checked?

  • Can I see your approved vendor list?

  • Where can it be viewed and do I need a password to view it?

  • Can you explain to me how your vendor approval process works?

  • Can a vendor request to be added on their own or does my teacher or my family have to request that they are added?

  • Where is the vendor request form or application found online?

Questions in regards to parent’s rights and testing:

  • What are the school’s testing and opt-out policy?

  • Do they require State testing, PFT, and Benchmark Testing?

  • Is my child required to go to a large test site or can our teacher test my child privately or in a small group?

  • What Benchmark testing platform do you use?

  • Is there a paper and pencil or non-adaptive version that I may request?

  • Does your school require report cards be given to families?

  • Do we have an option to opt out of report cards if we want to?

  • Who assigns the grades to my children?

If your children speak multiple languages, before submitting an enrollment packet ask:

  • Please tell me about the CELDT and new ELPAC requirements?

Questions in regards to student assignments and progress tracking?

  • How does your program match our academic progress to the California State Standards?

  • How does your program or program teacher assign the body of work for my children?

  • Is there an assignment sheet I must check off?

  • Is it assigned per year, per learning period or both?

  • How does our program teacher track and review the progress we made in completing the assignments?

  • How does our program teacher track and grade my student’s academic progress?

  • Does this progress track my child based solely on state standards or whole child development?

Questions in regards to learning period meetings with your school’s teacher of record:

  • Does your program offer virtual learning period meetings?

  • What kind and how many learning samples are required for TK-8 (or High School) students each learning period?

  • Can I turn in one subject a learning period or do I have to turn in something for each subject?

  • What is a common learning sample for students?

  • Can you give some examples?

  • Can I turn in photo work samples?

  • What are the required components of a photo work sample?

Questions in regards to teacher matching:

  • Does the school support personal teacher matching?

  • Can I meet or interview my teacher before committing to the program?

  • If I’m not happy with my teacher can I request and receive a new teacher?

  • Who do I speak to at your school if I need to request a new teacher match?

Questions in regards to the program organization:

  • Does your program have its own charter authorization(s)?

  • If so from what districts?

  • When was your school authorized in that district?

  • If not what umbrella school is your program run under?

  • Do they have a website I can view?

  • Is the program accredited (WASC)?

  • If not are you in the process?

  • What subjects are written into your charter?

  • Do you require PE and VAPA?

Questions in regards to SPED:

If your child has an IEP or 504 ask:

  • Dos the school offers in-person or virtual services?

  • If only virtual, what happens if virtual services are not working for my child?

I am sorry, I am not an expert in regards to SPED. I will tell you that my first charter wanted to test my oldest son for some disabilities based on the lack of progress they felt he was making. I asked a lot of questions about the testing and assessment process, the IEP process and the process that would follow each year and go with us from school to school after such a plan was put into place. Based on their answers and my strong belief that I did not want another whole team of people (on-top of my assigned teacher) tracking our progress and that I, as his mom could better accommodate for his special needs at home, I decided to decline that testing.

In our case, I feel that we have done just fine without SPED services using unschool methods to engage him and tap into his natural desire to learn. That does not mean that I think everyone should decline services, there are many families I know that have made great strides and have truly been happy with their SPED experience. Some of which have gone on and had their IEP serve them very well, even in college.

If this topic is going to come into play for you and your children. Please find a SPED Parent Facebook Group so you can ask questions of other parents. Then please make sure you ask all the questions you can think of before agreeing to anything.

I believe that SPED is just like charter programs, they may or may not work for you, and every family has to decide what is best for their homeschool style. I am grateful that we as homeschool families are always willing to offer our experience to help another family.

I’ve been homeschooling too long in the charter system... LOL!!

If you want more ideas for important questions based on your specific needs please text me 714-310-2213 or PM me.

All of our charter programs have wonderfully unique things to offer so you have to find which things work best for you and have them help you find the best teacher at their school for your family.

Thank you,

Windi Eklund

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