While trying to keep afloat in the stagnant waters of our economy, I've been looking for ways to make every penny count--even in home education!
For the past several years, we have enrolled at Connecting Waters Charter School, which serves Alameda, Calaveras, Mariposa, Merced, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne counties to maximize our educational investment. I've also noted that under the same IEM umbrella there is another, Ocean Grove Charter School that serves Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties (see http://www.ieminc.org/links_to_charters.html).
Connecting Waters (http://www.connectingwaters.org/) provides at least $1800 per year of voucher funds per student. These funds can be redeemed for curriculum, educational products/supplies, computers/peripherals, and enrichment classes from a list of approved vendors. Even better, if your student(s) are already taking classes in Lego robotics, art, music, science, martial arts, horseback riding, etc. from a venue that has a business license, they can be added to the vendor list so that the classes come at no cost to you!
Of course, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Being that the charter schools receive funding from the State of California, they must answer to standards and testing. So, even though you still get to select your own curriculum or even take an unschooling approach, your children will be tested annually and must meet with a credentialed Education Specialist every 20 school days to verify attendance and provide work samples. Seems like a small price to pay if finances are tight and you still want to provide the best for your kids...
Just wanted to let you know about this option--it works for us and may be a blessing to other Bay Area home educators as well!
Check it out: http://www.connectingwaters.org/