Seems like 50% of the posts on my statewide homeschooling list are about how much folks want to/should avoid the state home study office as much as possible. Maybe this comes from my history as a public school teacher, but I just don’t find the requirements of the state to be all that onerous. Sure, I was surprised to find out that I have only two more weeks to get my girls’ enrollment done, but the paperwork just isn’t that bad, and I don’t anticipate any problems in getting it done by the end of the month.
The state requires a family to submit a planned curriculum (called a Minimum Course of Study document here in Vermont) for two successful years, but then you get a pass until each child turns 12, when you must do it again for a year. Each year each child must have some kind of assessment done, be it a teacher evaluation, a standardized test, or a portfolio review. This really seems pretty darned reasonable to me, honestly. The state wants to know that homeschooled kids are actually learning things that they will very likely need to know to be successful employees and good citizens, but recognizes that once a family has proven that it has a clue about what kinds of skills need to be worked on, that they can (and should) just get on with it, instead of being buried in paperwork every year.
To hear some of my fellow Vermonters speak on it though, you’d think that this was all the Worst Thing Ever. Not even talking about all the tertiary and tangental parents’ rights issues that come up on the list, many folks are so determined to go underground with their homeschooling, or to do the barest minimum requirement of the home study office that they are spiting their kids’ educations (and social lives) to do it. I’m not saying that there aren’t things worth fighting for, because certainly there are, but really, is it such a hassle to take a GED, or to continue to enroll with the home study office from ages 16-18, if one wants to go to college?
One place where I’m *delighted* to be working with the system is for Big D’s speech therapy, which is being provided by our local school district via a service plan, which is Vermont’s homeschool version of an IEP. The district is NOT mandated to provide services for us, but they are happy to do so, and in the district offices no less. We even have a tentative green light to continue next year, which is wonderful; D has been making enormous progress, and seeing her therapist is one of the highlights of her week.
I also asked the director today if she might be able to help us arrange the disability screening required for all new enrollees with the home study office. I *can* get the paperwork signed by our pediatrician, but since the point of the screening is to catch disabilities (including learning disabilities) that I as the parent teacher may have missed, I figured it made more sense to ask if it might be possible to have a special educator trained to do such screenings take a look at our kids. Fortunately, the same director who has green-lighted D’s speech therapy agrees with me, and is going to help me get that screening done through her office. If it uncovers something, we’ll be able to get advice on how to best work with it in our homeschool setting, and might even receive further support through the district.
I can well imagine the looks of horror some of these other parents would give me if they learned of this plan. Voluntarily asking the district to screen my children!?!? Letting THE MAN into our family’s educational plans?!?! I figure it this way – I’m basically the only teacher with eyes on my kids, and I’m not trained to identify or diagnose learning disabilities. If I, in wanting to avoid ‘government interference’, got our pediatrician to sign off on something, then it turned out one of my kids DID have a learning disability, when the heck would that get noticed, and how many opportunities would have been lost in the meantime? How would my child get the help he or she needed? Not getting the screenings wouldn’t mean that problems didn’t exist, it would just mean that my desire to avoid The Man was greater than my desire to help my children get the most out of their educations.
The system is there for numerous reasons, some of them valid in the 21st century, and some of them less so, but throwing the baby out with the bathwater just to avoid the whole thing may be just that. Our children deserve our making rational, fact-based decisions about our involvement with the system on a case by case basis, not broadly slamming the door on all system-based resources due to parental ideology.
Parenting and homeschooling are both moving targets – we never know what we or our kids are most going to need, or whom is going to best be able to provide it. The more help, the more options available, the better.