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National School Choice Week Pushes for Alternative Education Programs

Updated: Wednesday, January 29 2014, 10:57 AM CST

This week hundreds of events are being held across Illinois pushing for a parent's right to choose how their children will be educated. National School Choice Week is designed to raise awareness of non-traditional classrooms.

In Illinois, there is a constant ongoing battle to get funding for public schools. Parents who home school their kids save districts thousands of dollars per child each year. Despite that, the State Board of Education website says those parents get no financial assistance or tax breaks.

We talked to parents and their kids about why they choose to be educated at home, and they say it's still the best choice for their education.

"I like home school because you have more freed ability," 15 year-old Beau Crowder said.

The high school sophomore studies at home with his mom and six siblings. Beau tried a few years of public school, but ultimately decided that wasn't the best way for him to learn.

"We've been really open with the idea of them going back to school if that's what they choose," Jennifer Crowder, Beau's mother said.

She is home schooling her five school aged kids, and caring for the other two. In addition to textbooks and school supplies, Crowder pays $325 a year for each of her home schooled kids who go to a weekly course that supplements their at-home education.

"Classical Conversations is for home schoolers. We meet in communities once a week. The tutors of the classes, what they're doing is modeling for the parents who are the teachers, they're modelling the new grammar for the week, the new information for the week for each subject," Jacqueline Kneller with Classical Conversations said.

This program gives home school students the chance to interact with other kids their age, while parents learn new ways to help their kids learn. The weekly meetings also ensure that the homeschool students are keeping up with their coursework.

Despite the advantages for these students and families, and the savings for public schools, the home schoolers are not rewarded for saving the school district money.

"We don't take any price breaks or tax breaks as far as homeschooling goes. So we still pay taxes, good money, into Springfield West Side property tax, and we don't take advantage of that. So that's just a choice that we've made," Jennifer Crowder said.

Home schooling is a choice that's worked for more than a dozen other families who go to the same program as the Crowders.

"A traditional classroom setting does not work for every child. There's no greater way to learn than a one-on-one tutor situation," Kneller, who also has a son in Classical Conversations, said.

The state does have a form for parents who wish to home school their kids, but Illinois does not keep records of the number of kids who are home schooled.

While the state says these students must get at least the same level of education they would at a public school, students are not required to take any standardized test, or check in with their local school district.

National School Choice Week Pushes for Alternative Education Programs

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