After spending two miserable years in the public school system and watching our son’s personality start to change in addition to his enthusiasm for learning grind to a halt, it hadn’t taken a lot for us to realize that something needed to change. We thought about private school, of course, and while budgetary concerns were on the list, I had come to realize that “this kind” of education- sitting at a desk, being forced to do everything on someone else’s time-table, etc- was just not going to mesh. Not only was it not meshing with our son, it wasn’t meshing with *us* and our philosophy about life in general. (Side note: While my husband’s feeling on the school situation was in complete agreement with mine, we weren’t completely on the same page with homeschooling philosophy. We’ll talk about communicating and coming to a place of agreement with partners in a later post.)
As parents, we had spent the early years basically Attachment Parenting. We were not directly involved with the organization, but nonetheless, our philosophy and theirs was agreeable. Without going down that rabbit trail, in a nutshell, attachment parenting in its most basic form is about understanding and responding to the needs of your child. All you API folks know there is more to it, but at its most basic, this about sums it up.
We spent all those early years responding to cues, and nurturing accordingly. We spent those early years encouraging and supporting interests. Now we’re in school, and everything is done not based on the child, but based on the adults there and what they deem “important.” You, the parent, who to this point knew your child best, suddenly doesn’t know spit. And you have to shut up and obey, too, because after all, the professionals know what is best.
Obviously, I could rant on this for a really long time. I will say that even today, I know good people who are good teachers, siblings included. I am friends with a good number of very good teachers.
I am, however, glad to live in a country where we have options.
Those of you who have been reading along (or know me) know that I research things. Some would say I research obsessively. I say I research until I get to the point where I feel that I know enough to make an educated, informed decision. I admire all those folks I know that have gone before me on the homeschooling quest without the benefit of computers. I don’t know that I would have had enough courage otherwise.
When we started kicking around the idea of homeschooling, I heard all kinds of things. One of those things was “If you aren’t a licensed teacher, you aren’t allowed to homeschool.” This didn’t ring true, and off I went to gather information.
One thing I learned on this particular quest was that laws pertaining to homeschooling are different in every state. Since I had been on a large homeschooling email list, I knew that people were doing all kinds of things for homeschooling- some had portfolios to submit; some had to meet with the school district to get their curriculum approved, etc.
This got me wondering- if you are having to do all the same things as the school does, what is the benefit of homeschooling? I mean, why bother? I’ll address that in another post later, because it is a valid question in its own right.
On my quest for knowledge (and yes, I’m thinking a Monty Python type of quest here), I learned that in addition to every state having its own laws on homeschooling, not all homeschooling is the same. That’s right. Let me say it again: Not all homeschooling is the same.
Before I go into the details on some homeschooling terminology in my next post, let’s talk about the homeschooling laws. Because each state has its own laws and requirements regarding homeschooling, these laws do (and probably should) affect your approach to home-based learning.
For example, in Pennsylvania, some of the regulations read like this:
“3. Parent/supervisor must annually maintain and provide the superintendent with “certain documentation. This is due by June 30th:”
a. A portfolio of records and materials. This includes a “log, made contemporaneously with the instruction, which designates by title the reading materials used, samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks or creative materials used or developed by the student.” § 13-1327.1(e)(1);
b. “An annual written evaluation of the student’s educational progress” by (1) a licensed psychologist, (2) or a teacher certified by the state (with two years of teaching experience), (3) or a nonpublic school teacher or administrator (who must have at least two years teaching experience in the last ten years in public or nonpublic schools). At the request of the supervisor, persons with other qualifications may conduct the evaluation with the prior consent of the local superintendent. The evaluation shall be based on an interview and review of the portfolio and it “shall certify whether or not an appropriate education is occurring.” § 13-1327.1(e)(2); “
And that’s one of the ways to homeschool in Pennsylvania. There are 5 options for homeschooling in Pa, each with their own set of rules and regulations. In New York, parents have to submit an Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) for each child. In addition, there are rules for mandatory testing, annual assessments and quarterly reports. These states are considered “high regulation” states, and for good reason.
I’m glad I don’t live in Pa or NY!
In Texas, for example, “homeschools do not have to initiate contact with a school district, submit to home visits, have curriculum approved or have any specific teacher certification.”
In Oklahoma, along with no notice required to homeschool, “it is the only state with a constitutional provision guaranteeing the right to home school.“
I happen to live in a state where homeschooling regulations are low. We have to notify the state each year, but there is no mandatory testing or submission of anything to anyone.
Knowing your homeschooling laws is important. Knowing what you have to do or don’t have to do can have a huge impact on the approach you take to homeschooling your kids. Early on, I stumbled across the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) website. Hands down, this site has the best overview of state laws I have found anywhere. One of the things I appreciate most is that non-members (like me) can still access most of the information.
Thanks to Google and other search engines, you will be amazed at the resources you can find to connect to people who are or are interested in homeschooling. Finding and connecting with people in your state/area who are homeschooling can be a really important part of taking the homeschooling plunge, because, let’s face it, sometimes wading through the information on the state website can be daunting, overwhelming, and downright discouraging.
Do schools want you homeschooling? My feeling is “Of course not!” Schools get money based on attendance. If you homeschool your children, your school district doesn’t get federal or state funding for your child. Another issue is about control and losing the ability to have sovereignty where your kids are concerned. Some people would rather not have to be responsible for their children, and while I could write a book on my feelings about that, I’ll spare you for now.
One example of confusing or discouraging information comes from the California Department of Education (CDE) website’s section on homeschooling. It says,“Is schooling at home recognized in California as exempting a student from public school attendance?
California statutes do not explicitly authorize home schooling. Whether a home schooled child is attending a private school, and therefore is exempt from public school attendance, is a decision made by local school districts and law enforcement authorities.”
Well gee. I guess that solves that question, doesn’t it? If California doesn’t authorize homeschooling, and I can’t afford private school, I guess that means I can’t homeschool in California. Right?
Not so fast. In reality, what this means is that those wanting to homeschool who aren’t otherwise affiliated with a home education program would have to register as a “private school.” As someone who was considering homeschooling and looking at options, without having a good support system in place, this might have been a deal-breaker for me. I don’t have the inclination to start a business and find the regulations to start a school. I really just want my kids home and learning.
But what does it really mean? It means that you register as a private school. While it sounds overwhelming, once you do the research, you learn that it’s actually not very hard. A look through the Private School Affidavit will show you that it’s really more bark than bite. A good guide to starting homeschooling in Ca can be found here.
So, know your state laws. Find support. Connect with others who are homeschooling in your state/area and can help walk you through your options if you want to learn from those who are doing it. Research is critical to understanding options, but there is no replacing the support you can get from those who have been there and are doing (or have done) it. Once you understand what homeschooling options are available to you, you can start to sort through and work out a plan for what you’d like to start with.
Next in this series, we’re going to take a look at homeschooling terminology/jargon. It can be hard not to get overwhelmed with the language. When we first started, I had in mind that everyone was using curriculum and that “homeschooling was homeschooling was homeschooling.” You may be surprised at what I’ve learned!
Stay tuned….tomorrow we are going to Wade Through the Jargon!