Croll: Homeschooling and Private School Options

By Chris Croll

I would like to highlight some alternatives to public education for parents considering leaving Loudoun County Public Schools. I am a parent who has paid tuition at several area private schools, homeschooled my child and, through my volunteer work, collaborated with many of the private and homeschool groups in the area. 

While most K-12 public education alternatives are not free, they may be worth the investment for families who have religious, political, ideological, or other values that do not align with the direction in which our public schools are headed. Health may also be a factor in a parent’s decision to withdraw a child from public school. Some kids do better in less crowded environments or at home. Whether public, home, or private school is right for a family, parents need to feel good about where their children are being educated. 

Homeschooling has surged in popularity since the start of the pandemic. Census Bureau research shows that 5.4% of American families homeschooled their children in the spring of 2020. That number rose to 19.5% by May 2021 and is likely even higher today. There are several homeschool models from which parents can choose, including a parent-led homeschooling model, an eclectic homeschooling model and a student-led model. 

In the parent-led homeschool model, the parent becomes the primary teacher. This paradigm gives parents the greatest influence over what and how their children are being taught. Many resources are available to help non-credentialed parents teach their kids. Some materials, like those from Khan Academy, are free. Khan offers math, science, technology, economics, art, history, and test prep content that is delivered via You Tube video lessons. More formal curricula can be purchased online or at retail bookstores. The Home School Legal Defense Association estimates that the average parent spends $300 to $600 per year per child on courseware, games, books, and other enrichment materials when they homeschool their children. These expenses are usually not tax deductible.

In what is called the “eclectic” homeschooling model, parents determine the curriculum and focus of the education but the parents themselves are not the primary instructors. This was the model I chose when I homeschooled my son. I put together a curriculum that included language arts, social studies, and science classes from three separate online providers. My son attended his public middle school for math and foreign language classes because middle schoolers in Loudoun County who are taking high school level courses can enroll in LCPS on a part time basis. My son’s PE class was homespun; we lifted weights in the gym together. His music classes took place at Catoctin School of Music in Leesburg. I estimate that I spent about $1,000 for one year of eclectic homeschooling.

Student-led homeschooling, also called self-directed education, is where students study topics that align with their interests. This can be done at home in an “unschooling” model, where students follow their passions on their own, or in a more structured program such as the one offered at Embark Center for Self-Directed Education in downtown Leesburg. Embark provides a school-like atmosphere but customizable course work. Many Embark students develop such incredible portfolios, resumes and skill sets in their self-directed areas of study that they go on to attend competitive four-year colleges. Embark students have legal homeschool status, and they attend the Center on a schedule that is similar to that of a public school. Embark tuition is about $13,000 a year but the Center works with families if tuition is a challenge.

If neither public school nor homeschooling is right for your family, there are several private schools in and around Loudoun County that get high marks from parents. One of the largest independent K-8 schools, which is consistently recognized as a Loudoun County favorite, is Loudoun Country Day School (LCDS). The school’s ‘whole child approach’ emphasizes not only academics but also character-building, empathy, integrity, and community. LCDS tuition averages about $25,000 a year. 

A faith-based option is Providence Academy, a Christian K-8 private school located in Leesburg. Providence tuition is about $15,000 a year. 

The hefty price tag of private school does not seem to deter many Loudoun parents; both of these private schools, and others in the area, often have long waiting lists.

There are many reasons why parents might choose alternatives to Loudoun County Public Schools. Every family must make the decision that is right for them. We are fortunate to have a large homeschool community in our area, as well as a number of very good private schools.

Chris Croll is a writer, empathy activist and communications consultant. She is a member of the board of directors for the Ryan Bartel Foundation.

6 thoughts on “Croll: Homeschooling and Private School Options

  • 2021-10-22 at 9:12 am

    In a note of utter and complete irony, it is the policies Ms. Croll has pushed in public schools that is driving parents to seek options such as homeschooling. I predict many more families will abandon public schools in the next few years.

    The recent discovery of Mr. Ziegler’s email to the school board about the sexual assault in Stone Bridge on the same day it happened proved he and the school board knew of the assault. The email also proves Mr. Ziegler knowingly lied about this event in the June meeting where Mr. Smith tried to raise this issue.

    Mr. Ziegler and the rest of the school board should resign immediately. And parents ought to find alternative educational opportunities for their children.

  • 2021-10-22 at 9:52 am

    Yet another out-of-touch privileged comment by our LCPS apologist in chief.

    Most families don’t have $30k+ lying around to save their kids from LCPS. Over 75% of black families support full vouchers for their kids to CHOOSE the school that serves them best. LCPS is currently spending over $20k/yr per pupil in operating and capital costs. Give each parent $20/yr for each student and watch LCPS enrollment plummet by 90% as families seek out effective options.

    Lastly, I seem to recall this woman leaving a departing manifesto about how the real LCSB never lied, wasn’t controlled by attorneys, and was responsible. With this May 28 email alleging the reporting of a rape without student identities was “confidential” and couldn’t be released to the public, we see that every statement Croll ever made was a bald-faced lie to cover up the depravity, corruption and I competence of LCPS and it’s board.

  • 2021-10-22 at 10:25 am

    I suspect Ms Croll is perfectly ok with parents taking their children out of LCPS, as long as the budget remains full of fat and waste.

    School vouchers will force lazy and incompetent LCPS administrators to bring a little efficiency to the system. And it will shine a bright light on the failures of the system to provide an acceptable education to the children of Loudoun.

  • 2021-10-22 at 11:46 am

    Another great column by Chris Croll. How lucky Loudoun is to have her as a regular columnist. Personally, I think LCPS provides a marvelous education to 80,000+ children every year. But if parents have concerns, by all mean explore your options. I totally understand options may be less accessible to lower-income families. Regarding concerns of widespread sexual-assault coverups at LCPS, I’ve seen no competent evidence of that. Please don’t buy into the propaganda. Let’s have all hands on deck to ensure a quality education for EVERY Little Loudouner!

  • 2021-10-27 at 6:16 pm

    “Personally, I think LCPS provides a marvelous education to 80,000+ children every year.”

    Alternate universe with some people.

    The facts are very clear that Loudoun youth are not learning the basics. Scores are plummeting, enrollment is plummeting, elected officials are blocking parental input, criminal activities with a secret social media platform & lying about an assault in a girls high school bathroom are just some of the sorry facts. Clearly, private schools are the answer if our kids are going to have a chance.

  • 2021-12-03 at 8:05 am

    Competition makes for more responsive efforts by any organization. Allowing some of our property taxes to be allocated to private school choices will make the school board less monopolistic in action and thought. I remember how protectionist other school board members and the LCPS staff was when we decided to allow home schoolers “SOME” access to LCPS courses. Obviously there are no private schools offering to take the most difficult to teach students away from the public system so all property taxes for choice might be too drastic but some of it is quite appropriate in my opinion and experience. 🙂

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