Target: Homeschoolers

Target Homeschoolers

An Arizona ed-tech company and charter school, Colearn Academy, is targeting Indiana homeschoolers for recruitment to a new virtual public school charter.

Seeking a new virtual charter through Education One, the charter authorizer of Trine University, Colearn Academy Indiana (CAI) and its leaders began promoting themselves in the Indiana homeschool community as “a new homeschool option” in February of 2022. A quick look at the program revealed it does not conform to Indiana homeschooling Code. 

Colearn Academy Indiana’s application seeks approval for a public charter, accessing public funds, for private use… in the name of “homeschooling.” 

In spite of the fact that the first sentence of the Education One’s application instructions clearly defines charter schools as public schools, Colearn’s 85-page application uses the word “homeschool” 41 times, attempting to blur the line between public and private education and lure families into a program that makes grand promises without consideration for the exchange of freedom that comes with it.

Homeschools in the state of Indiana are functionally defined in Code as “non-public and non-accredited schools with less than one employee.” This proposed charter program, like all charter schools, will be publicly funded and its students will be public school students-not homeschoolers. Enrolled families trade the freedom afforded to them as homeschoolers in exchange for being held to state standards, participating in mandatory state standardized testing, curriculum approvals, and background checks.

While Colearn parents will receive three hundred dollars per semester to purchase what Colearn deems as “customized educational experiences,” the weight of the program rests with the parent or another designated adult that is hired to work for Colearn as a “program mentor.” Parents, or mentors, are then operating as public school teachers, in their own homes, as employees of Colearn. Due to this close contact with students, “program mentors” must pass a background check.

Parents participating in Colearn’s program will be forced to pass background checks to educate their own children… in their own homes.

Why the smoke and mirrors?

Despite clear definitions and intrusive and distinct program requirements that do not apply to Indiana’s homeschooled students, Colearn’s charter school application repeatedly refers to their students as “homeschoolers.” Why?

Colearn openly advocates for increased regulation of “homeschool” students:

“our target population of ‘curious, engaged families’ is often rather suspect of the utility of state-mandated testing. It is for this reason that many choose to homeschool instead. We know that our mixture of traditional and holistic assessment techniques will allay many of these families’ concerns while providing useful data necessary to ensure that all students are meeting content-area standards. This is good for families and students — they can be certain that their pupils are learning what they need to. It’s good for Indiana — we can be sure that our future citizens have the skills needed to form a strong society.” (pg. 27)

According to Colearn, your children belong to the state-for the “good” of Indiana.

In its application, Colearn Academy further degrades the homeschool community by stating “rural” homeschooling families:

  • have a lack of professional development opportunities for parents instructing their children.
  • have an increased need for resources that they’re unable to find.
  • have difficulty participating in field trips.
  • “have limited access to an abundance of opportunities to connect with peers”

Colearn claims that Marion (Indianapolis), Johnson (Greenwood, Franklin), Hamilton (Carmel), Boone (Zionsville, Whitestown), and Hendricks (Brownsburg, Avon, Plainfield) counties are “rural” communities lacking opportunities. The other counties on the list are Howard (Kokomo), Tippecanoe (West Lafayette), Hancock (Greenfield), Shelby (Shelbyville), Grant (Marion), and Madison (Anderson) Counties are all rural. 

While some of these counties have rural areas, they certainly are not devoid of ample educational resources. Several have access to local colleges such as Purdue University, Anderson University, Franklin College, IU Kokomo, Taylor University, Wabash College, and DePauw University, not to mention the numerous nearby universities located in Marion County. Marion County is the most populous county in the state.

Colearn’s application also highlights how they sought the support of homeschool leaders in Indiana this past summer. Amanda Owens, one of the leaders referenced in CAI’s application, shared the following statement with our IAHE Action team.

It is part of my purpose and scope of practice as a speech language  pathologist to provide education about areas of our field to the general community. Though I collaborated with Colearn Academy to produce a workshop to benefit public school at home parents in their understanding of underlying cognitive skills for the process of learning phonics which is noted in their application, I can no longer support or collaborate with Colearn Academy. Having spent many hours communicating with the team behind Colearn Academy and having read their application to be a charter school here in Indiana I can no longer support or collaborate with Colearn Academy.  Their application makes abundantly clear their view of home school families and the Indiana homeschool community.  As a homeschool graduate and homeschool mom of four, I have significant concerns regarding their intentions here in Indiana.

Amanda Owens, Owner and Speech Language Pathologist at Illuminate Communicate, LLC

Does Colearn understand homeschooling?

Colearn claims that it gives access to programs such as Duolingo, MiAcademy, and Dreambox that are unavailable to homeschoolers. However, each of these resources are available to Indiana homeschoolers without the additional regulation and oversight of a virtual charter school.

Colearn also falsely claims to know the number of homeschooled children in the state of Indiana. This claim comes from census data where families were able to self-identify as homeschoolers. The question in the census did not follow any set definition of state code, so anyone could claim to homeschool even if they were enrolled in online public schools. Indiana is a no-registration state. The fact remains that no one truly knows the number of homeschooled children in Indiana. 

Homeschooling is NOT a generic term. 

Homeschooling has a legal classification in Indiana. It comes with both responsibilities AND freedom. While public education in our country is in drastic need of change, that transformation should never be at the expense of private education and the usurpation of parental rights. Indiana homeschoolers have a vast variety of opportunities and experiences available to them without the loss of freedom. 

Our sister organization IAHE (Indiana Association of Home Educators) has been meeting the needs of Indiana homeschoolers since 1983. The IAHE offers a number of resources to Indiana families including:

And much more!

Will you defend homeschooling in Indiana? 

When the label of homeschooling is used fraudulently, homeschool freedom is in jeopardy. Let Education One and Trine University know that Colearn Academy Indiana’s application is misleading and that homeschooling is not a generic term to be used for corporate profit.

In-person, public testimony has been scheduled for Tuesday, September 20, 2022, 10:30am Eastern Time at the Indianapolis Public Library – Martindale-Brightwood Branch 2434 N. Sherman Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46218.

If you are unable to attend in person, fill out the online public comment form. It will be heard. Your name and contact information will not be shared with Colearn.

You are welcome to use any of the language below to write your own comment.

SAMPLE LANGUAGE FOR PUBLIC COMMENT

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to comment on the Colearn Academy charter application submitted to Education One. As a (current/veteran/retired) homeschooling parent in Indiana, the application misrepresents the homeschool community and available resources to homeschoolers. I appreciate the chance to discuss the homeschool community with whom my family (is/has been) actively engaged. 

For academic resources, we use…. [Share how you procure resources for your children’s academics. This can include online programs, field trips, co-ops, ]

While academics are important, we conscientiously provide our children with social and extracurricular activities through… [Please explain the social and extracurricular activities available to your family.]

Furthermore, my family enjoys the benefits of freedom from government regulation that comes with taking tax-payer funding. Homeschooling in Indiana Code is a non-public, non-accredited school with less than one employee. Colearn is blatant about its recruitment efforts within the homeschool community, preschools, and moms groups, but it is not a program that serves homeschool families. 

Colearn students will be enrolled in a publicly-funded charter and will be taught by a paid employee of Colearn Academy, who may or may not be the parent. The charter application makes clear they are proposing a publicly-funded education program that does not meet the functional definition of homeschooling in Indiana Code. Those participating will no longer operate under homeschool law, but under state regulations as set forth through the Colearn program. 

The list of inaccuracies and lies in the application is numerous. Its very language and model violate several laws including mandatory teacher or adjunct teacher instruction, hours and days of instruction, and incentive laws.

Public education in Indiana and beyond are undergoing significant changes. It’s clear that families need options beyond the traditional brick-and-mortar, but the needed transformation of public education should never be at the expense of private education and the usurpation of parental rights.

Homeschooling is NOT a generic term. Homeschooling has a legal classification in Indiana, and that comes with both responsibilities AND freedom. Homeschools in Indiana are defined as non-public and non-accredited. When out-of-state taxpayer-funded education companies and public charter schools speak for homeschoolers, they are neither non-public nor non-accredited, and homeschool freedom is on the line.

DONATE NOW to IAHE Action to support ongoing efforts to protect your homeschooling and parental rights.