It’s been a rough year already for schools here in Tennessee. It’s been a rough few years for the country as a whole. There are tons of reasons why one might be ready to explore options other than public school for their kids. Let me preface this by saying, this post isn’t intended to knock public schools as a whole, or (more importantly) say anything against the amazing teachers that despite everything going against them, do their best every single day for their classes. I sure couldn’t do it, and I thank them for their time, dedication, and skill. Public school is not for every kid, or every family. We found out early on in my kiddos life (In the middle of her 5th grade year, to be exact) that it wasn’t for us. My now teen never liked school. And I don’t mean in the “normal” way that kids don’t like going to school. She always made good grades, was a “pleasure to have in class” and caused no problems. But she would come home physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. In her 5th grade year she had to have an unexpected spinal surgery in the middle of the year due to a chronic condition she had. She was on homebound studies for 6 weeks while she recovered from her surgery. Those 6 weeks, even though she was in pain, she was the happiest she had been in awhile. She was sleeping better, eating better, getting her work done quickly, and just generally in a better mood.
When she went back to school, her exhaustion had gotten even worse. She had asked since she was small to be homeschooled. I never even considered that to be an option because well, I’m going to be honest, I am no teacher. I wish I would have known that their are so many more options for alternatives for public school options in Tennessee than there was when I was a kid. Little did I know that my daughter had been doing research on those options herself. She presented a slide show presentation on an online school option she could attend for the next year. I had to admit I was impressed at her dedication and told her that her father and I would talk it over, and get back to her. A few weeks later she brought home an “invitation” to an after school carnival that was being put on by her school. Apparently only certain kids got an invite. She was a very advanced reader at the time, so we thought it might have something to do with that…we were wrong. It was a “carnival” that was set up for children who had a high number of absences. The kids were sent to the gym to hear a presentation on how the “absent kids to prison pipeline” (I wish I was joking). Remember when I told you my child was out for 6 weeks for a SURGERY? That’s why she was invited. Apparently, someone messed up her paperwork and it looked like she was just absent that whole time, and not on homebound instruction. Which the school apologized for, heavily. But what they didn’t understand is that I wasn’t mad for my kid, I was mad for ALL the kids that were lured into that meeting with a promise of fun, and leaving with a bag of popcorn and a lecture. I went home that day and told my child she would never have to set foot back into a public school ever again if she didn’t want to. And she hasn’t since that day. We signed her up for online school and never looked back.
Long story short(ish), I know there are other parents like me out there that are thinking that public school just might not be the right fit for their children. Whether it be for medical reasons, mental health reasons, or safety reasons. So I thought I would make a post showing you the different options out there. There are so many more than I thought, and I hope this post helps some of you out there looking for a better way!
Alternatives for Public School Options in Tennessee
1. Free Online Public School Options- This is the option we personally went with (Rachelle). There are several options for free online public school options for the districts of Tennessee. There are the 3 “big ones” that are state wide which are Tennessee Virtual Academy, Tennessee Online Public School, and Connections Academy. All of these options are completely free and are set up exactly like a a traditional school, only at home. We went with Tennessee Virtual Academy from 6-8 grade and switched over to Tennessee Online Public School for high school because TNVA stopped at 8th grade. (I have heard they now offer up to 10th grade). TNVA is set up with live classes Mon-Fri with offline work assignments as well. We found it to be an easy transition, because we could keep the structure of a traditional school day, but like regular school, it’s not super flexible. When we made the switch over to TOPS we found that for high school there are NO live classes, just assignments that were to be done throughout the week. But you still had teachers that were there to assist when needed. It was nice being able to work when it worked best for us. My daughter does better when she can wake up naturally and work on things when she feels best! I think these are a great option for those that need an easy transition, and still want teachers around to help.
2. Private Online School Options- If you want a little more flexibility and you have the money to spend on it, a private online school option is a great choice. Some of the most popular in Tennessee are the k12 Private school, Sora Schools, Power Homeschool, and PennFoster online school. My daughter (Dina’s) did PennFoster for her last year of high school. We felt at the time that she didn’t need to be in high school. We were dealing with the pandemic and that had a different level of stress than we’ve ever dealt with before. As a parent I loved Penn Foster. It solved a lot of our problems. She could work on it when she felt like it. She didn’t have to be up and at the computer all day. She felt best at night doing her schooling and that was ok. Now when I asked my daughter about it she said she didn’t really prefer it. She did it but didn’t like all the reading required of her. But honestly whatever you choose there will be reading involved. You either have to sit in class online and do reading or do it at home. Overall I’m content with her schooling and PennFoster. I’m glad we had the option and were able to take advantage of it during 2020.
3. Traditional Homeschool Options- For the ultimate form of freedom of time and subject, traditional homeschool might be for you. The state of Tennessee allows for homeschooling for all grades k-12. There are a few different options for this. You can go through an umbrella programs such as Time4Learning or The Farm School, which offer support and curriculum. Or you can go completely independent and make your own curriculum and schedule. There are tons of homeschool groups online and in person to help other parents and kids navigate this option. Check out there rules and regulations on Homeschooling in Tennessee at the Tennessee.gov website.
4. Charter Schools- If you are not willing or able to have your kids stay home to do their schooling but you still want to move away from public schools, Charter schools might be a good choice for you. Charter schools are public schools operated by independent, non-profit governing bodies. In Tennessee, public charter school students are measured against the same academic standards as students in other public schools. You’ll have to search what charter school options are local to you.
5.Private schools- In line with charter schools, a private school would be another in person option as an alternative to public schools. Private schools can be costly, but boost smaller class sizes, more individual attention, and other things that might be of interest to you. There are usually several private school options in each district.
There you have it, I have rounded up the alternatives for public school options in Tennessee. I hope you are able to go through the options and find the perfect thing that works for your family. All of our kids deserve the option that works best for them.
Looking for more great posts? Check these out:
- 3 time saving tips for back to school mornings
- 5 ways to help your teen succeed in highschool
- How to set a schedule for the new school year