Common Core: Friend or Foe?

December 19, 2013
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Dear Reader:

There is an ongoing controversy over whether the Common Core is good or bad for teachers, for students, and for parents. There are convincing arguments on both sides. Which side is right? What should you, as a homeschool parent, do?

First of all, let’s clarify exactly what we are talking about. Wikipedia states, “The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an education initiative in the United States that details what K-12 students should know in English and math at the end of each grade. The initiative is sponsored by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and seeks to establish consistent education standards across the states as well as ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter two or four year college programs or enter the workforce.”

On its face, that seems pretty simple. They want to make sure that students are ready for college or the workforce, and that students who move across state lines will receive comparable education no matter where they live. How the Common Core State Standards Initiative is implemented is where the controversy intensifies.

Education in the United States has always been controlled by parents, either directly or through their elected school board members. In the early days of our country, most children learned at home, either from their parents or from private tutors. Communities sometimes hired a teacher to teach all of the children in a town, in the iconic one room school house. As the Industrial Revolution brought more and more families into the cities to find work, city planners began to offer a free public education to all students in the city. This was the beginning of the modern public school system. As the twentieth century progressed, day to day control of education gradually shifted from the parents to the teachers and other experts in the public school system. Since parents elect the members of the public school board, they remain able to influence its decisions at a local level.

Common Core, however, is a top-down approach to education. Though the standards themselves do not tell teachers exactly how to teach, individual states and school systems often do. For example, the standards indicate that a student should be able to read and comprehend non-fiction text such as a biography, but it does not suggest specific biographies. Curriculum publishers, states, and school systems often make these choices for parents and teachers. This circumvents the parental control which has been a hallmark of education in the United States since its founding. It also prevents teachers from providing the content they feel is best for their students, based on their needs and abilities. Many parents are also concerned about the ability to track a student from school to school and even state to state, monitored by the federal government.

All controversy aside, what does this mean for you as a homeschool parent? If your state is one of the 45 who have fully adopted the English and math standards of the Common Core, it is likely that any state mandated testing will also be based on the Common Core, placing students not exposed to that content at a disadvantage. If your state requires annual testing for homeschool students, research which tests are acceptable, and whether or not they have been updated to reflect the Common Core Standards.

What about your homeschool curriculum? If you purchase books or other curriculum from publishers who also serve school systems, you will likely see changes in the textbooks due to Common Core. You as a parent have the choice to

  • purchase this curriculum and follow the Core
  • use the Common Core as a starting point, and supplement as you see fit
  • choose curriculum that does not reflect the Common Core

Here at eLearningK12, we believe that high standards are important! We also strongly believe in parental control and customizing curriculum to meet the needs of the students, not the other way around! Parents of our students are free to modify, add to, or eliminate any lesson at any time, based on their personal beliefs and the needs of their children. Parents are given full control over their children’s education. Our education consultants are able to offer assistance if needed, but parents are free to choose a level of service that does not include a consultant if desired.

eLearningK12 offers a full complement of curriculum for grades K-12, including language arts, math, science, and social studies. Our primary level science and history courses for grades K-2 are our pride and joy, created exclusively for eLearningK12 students. We offer over 40 high school electives in subjects as varied as veterinary medicine, international business, forensics, early childhood education, archaeology, and more! We bring together the best of web-based learning from a variety of providers, including Compass Learning Odyssey, Discovery Education, Math-U-See, Reading Horizons, Total Reader, eDynamic Courses, and additional providers. Visit for more information on courses, prices, and services available for your family today.

Nancy Toups