Rockford Homeschooled Gymnast

Annalie Roecker in the Rockford Register Star:

Who is she? Annalie Roecker, 10, was born in China and adopted when she was a baby. She is a gymnast who lives in Rockford and is home-schooled.

Do you belong to any clubs or groups? I train 27 hours a week at Gymnastics Academy of Rockford.

What inspires you? I like being an athlete; it makes me feel good.

What is up next for you? TOPs, the Talent Opportunity Program, is a talent search and educational program for female gymnasts ages 7 to 11 and their coaches. I just made the National TOPs team in October. Because of this, I get to go to a camp in December in Texas at the U.S. Women’s Training Center and train with Mata Karolyi and the U.S. team coaches. I am excited because this is the second year I get to do this.

What do you do for fun? Train in the gym, watch movies, eat and play computer games.

Election Day Civic Lesson – Plainfield Homeschooling

An Election Day Civics Lesson: Vote with Your Head, Not Your Heart

As large numbers of folks head to the polls today, Rosemary Fontaine home-schooled her kids on the “right” to cast a ballot.

Nearby, in Precinct 39, 108 had filed through to wield their Constitutional right to vote.
That was the lesson Rosemary Fontaine was teaching as she showed her three sons how to feed her vote into the ballot box.  Owen, 8, Jarrod, 10, and Austin, 11, were devoting their day of homeschooling to campaign issues.
“Is voting a right or a privilege?” Fontaine quizzed.
“A right,” Austin piped up.
“And we should all appreciate and exercise this right because in some other countries, they don’t have the right to vote,” Fontaine coached.
During election season, Fontaine gives her boys pointers on how to be wise voters. Take what politicians say at this time of year with a grain of salt. The important thing is what they do the rest of the time they’re in office, she tells them.
“Vote with your head and not your heart,” Fontaine said.
Her flock was headed home to read passages of the Constitution; most of the other voters were on their way to work.

Kudos to Government Officials Doing Their Job

One constant complaint heard from numerous public school communities contends too many parents are not involved in their child’s education.  Apathy creates discipline and learning problems within the public schools.  It’s a dilemma that is reflected in the dropout rate, as the graduation rate reflects the least success with minorities.  There are many public school employees that are trying to resolve those issues within the schools, and it’s often a fearsome challenge.  Unfortunately, there are many public school authorities who are stepping outside their governmental responsibility boundaries and they are attempting to control Illinois private schools, as well.

One of our Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch members checked through the 56 Regional Offices of Education websites to fact-check any information regarding homeschooling rights and responsibilities.  Regional Offices of Education are offshoots of the Illinois State Board of Education – a public school organization.

There are many Regional Office sites that had little or no information about homeschooling.  Under the circumstances, we don’t mind that.  The best place to find good homeschooling or private school information would be from private school resources, not public schools. The Regional Offices of Education in the following counties: Adams-Pike, Alexander-Johnson-Massac-Pulaski-Union, North Cook, West Cook, South Cook, Christian-Montgomery, Whiteside, Vermilion, Tazewell, Rock Island, Brown-Cass-Morgan-Scott, Monroe-Randolph, McHenry, Madison, Calhoun-Greene-Jersey-Macoupin, Lasalle, Knox,  Iroquois-Kankakee, Jackson-Perry,  Hendersen-Mercer-Warren, Hancock-McDonough, Hamilton-Jefferson,  and Grundy-Kendall displayed websites that reflected their public school role.  They weren’t requiring homeschoolers to print out a registration form to send to their office and the Illinois State Board of Education Data Analysis & Progress Reporting Department in Springfield.  They weren’t requesting that information because it’s not their statutory responsibility to file private school paperwork in that manner.  Bond-Effingham-Fayette countiesRegional Office of Education Superintendent Mark Drone removed a letter with references to homeschool registration at our request.

The Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch would like to extend kudos to our government officials who are doing their job.  Particular thanks to Mr. Drone, who removed over-compliant requests regarding homeschoolers from his ROE website, despite the Illinois State Board of Education pursuit of homeschool registrations.

Kane County School District Seeking to Form Statewide Illinois Online Charter School

Northern Kane group wants charter for online high schoolCourier News Emilie McFarlan and Katie Anderson

“… Northern Kane also is asking for the board’s support to form the Illinois Online Charter School. If granted, this would expand access to the virtual learning programs used at Cambridge Lakes, making them available to students not just in District 300, but also across the state. A $1 million facility addition, completed this summer, has made physical space for the expansion, according to Fuhrer. And as many as 22,000 families statewide have expressed interest in the program, he said. But Stevens said he’s not sure how a statewide program would fit into Northern Kane’s current charter — or into the original concept it had shared for the Cambridge Lakes Charter School. And the school board pressed Fuhrer for details last month about the corporations it would be getting involved with, including the Illinois Online Charter School and Virginia-based K¹², its current partner for its virtual program.”

Learn more on this blog about the problems created regarding homeschooling and public virtual school perceptions.

Regarding Learning Time

Our family has many unrestrained chunks of learning time during our days and evenings.  We have a huge, old tree in our yard that attracts monarchs for an overnight roost every year in the early fall.  We’ve enjoyed the Journey North website for many years, and appreciate that we can follow other butterfly discoveries and migrations around the country, while being able to document ours.  Noticing those amazing beauties and following up by learning more about them just happens with a walk past that tree to close up the chicken house or grab an apple off our trees.

Learning time for homeschoolers is not on the same playing (or financial) field as Average Daily Attendance that is computed in public schools.  The Galesburg article noted the family had ‘official studies’ from nine to noon.   Some people aren’t envisioning the one on one interactions between parent and child regarding their home education studies. They assume homeschoolers are ‘getting away with something’. But that time tends to be direct and efficient. Illinois homeschoolers do not need to follow a public school calendar or school day, and we’re not mandated to do so.  Good public school teachers crave the time and attention we can reserve for our kids, and I’m always amazed at the incredible job some teachers accomplish despite the limitations they endure in classroom management.

But,  further east from Galesburg in DeWitt, McLean and Livingston counties, Regional Office of Education #17 Superintendent Mark Jontry professes that homeschoolers must receive their education “the entire time the public school is in session during a regular school term” .  This claim is incorrect, and can’t be supported by law.

Bond-Effingham-Fayette County Regional Office of Education Superintendent Mark Drone states this in an online letter to homeschoolers:   “your private school is required to provide 880 hours of grade-appropriate instruction during the school year”.   These requirements are not defined in Illinois Compiled Statutes.  105 ILCS 5/26‑1 is a compulsory school age exemption for private and parochial schools and we are not restricted to a public school calendar.

**Update and good news:  Mr. Drone responded in a written response to our concerns.  He has confirmed  removal of an on-line letter to homeschoolers requiring tracking of instruction hours.  We are most appreciative of his prompt response.

Boone-Winnebago County Regional Office of Education Superintendent Fairgrieves states in the lengthy and often incorrect notions on home education that we must follow an “academic term of 176 days with 5 hours of instruction daily or 880 clock hours”.  Most homeschoolers use a much longer learning time, but the ROE does not need notification of such.  For that matter, public schools often have 4 hours of daily instruction time, and still receive tax money compensation

Will County Regional Office of Education Superintendent Bertino-Tarrant also signed off on the claim that homeschoolers must “create a school calendar of 176 attendance days and a daily schedule of 5 hours or more”.  There is no legal requirement for private schools to follow public school attendance rules.  Homeschoolers are exempt from those regulations as we meet our individual family’s needs in education. Our legal responsibility is to ensure that our children are taught the branches of education that correspond to the public schools and that instruction is in the English Language. (Illinois School Code 105 ILCS 5/26‑1: Compulsory school age Exemptions).

ROE 13’s Superintendent Keri Garrett pushes for daytime curfew throughout that area.  In the Centralia Sentinel earlier this year, she stated the following as one of her reasons to pursue homeschoolers:

“We ask that they fill out a registration form, because people do call and ask about children they see out during the day, and the state board is asking for more information.”

Children “out during the day” might be walking to the library, running errands or taking a break from their studies by playing in their yard or playground.  Homeschoolers do not need to register with her office to be out and about during the day.

Even the IL State Board of Education states that “IL law does not set any minimum number of hours per day, or days of instruction per year, for students in private schools”.  Illinois homeschoolers are not restricted to the public school schedule or calendar.

Are those same demands made of other private schools in Illinois? I suspect the answer would be no.  Why do Regional Offices of Education make these over-compliance demands of parents who home educate?  Three hours is plenty of time to cover subjects at home.  It doesn’t include the many hours that are used as learning time outside the home in libraries, museums, field trips or just on a shopping trip with a math task of determining a 20% discount.  It would be a dreadful chore that only a bureaucrat could love in trying to document those hours into a record.  It would certainly take the joy out of spontaneous learning and teaching.  Surely that is not what these education authorities want to accomplish.

Illinois homeschool

writing music

ROE Solutions Project – Letters Sent Out to Regional Offices of Education

Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch is in action.  A long time homeschooler compiled a Regional Office of Education (ROE) database recording over-compliance demands ROE offices have posted online.  Using that database, a committee (or Gaggle, as we like to call ourselves in non-school terms) put together letters and mailed them out last month.  Just to give an idea of the tone and content, below is a sample letter.  Each of these letters were personalized to the particular Regional Office’s of Education problems that need to be resolved.

Dear ….,

We have observed an increasing number of over-compliance demands against homeschoolers from Illinois Regional Offices of Education and would like to bring specifics to your attention for correction.

It has come to our attention that your office is disseminating incorrect information regarding the rights and responsibilities of homeschoolers in your area.  Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch was formed in 2006 to help homeschool families navigate and understand legal and legislative issues that concern them.

Our legal responsibility is to ensure that our children are taught the branches of education that correspond to the public schools and that instruction is in the English Language. (Illinois School Code 105 ILCS 5/26‑1: Compulsory school age Exemptions).

Illinois homeschoolers tend to be close-knit, well-networked support communities that also work together to maintain our families’ educational autonomy.  We are now aware of some concerns regarding your Regional Office’s activities and correspondence relating to homeschooling.

  • In the ISBE Legal Memorandum you’ve posted, there are erroneous assumptions.  Homeschools do not need to be monitored any more than any other private school.  There must be just cause to monitor a parent or guardian for not fulfilling the responsibilities laid out in 105 ILCS 5/26-1 exemption requirements. Homeschooling is not educational neglect and does not make one truant.
  • Registration – You ask parents to fill out a registration form.  The actual form does state that the form is voluntary, even though the inference throughout is that the form is mandatory, including a September registration.  There is no need for a Home School Registration Form from ROEs, as there is not mandated homeschool registration.  Again, homeschoolers do not need to be monitored.

We will keep our group members informed about your progress.  We are maintaining a website and blog that reports problems that homeschoolers have in various areas around Illinois.  Please be aware that we check the accuracy of Regional Offices’ of Education information, both on-line and off.

As your Regional Office does not have a favorable rating at this time, please be aware that we are motivated to help improve your ratings.  We look forward to hearing from you by October 15st, 2010, so we can report this to our members.

Very truly yours,

Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch

Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch letters were sent to 18 Regional Offices of Education around the state.  Those Regional Offices are: Bond-Effingham-Fayette, Boone-Winnebago, Carroll-JoDaviess-Stephenson, Champaign-Ford, Chicago Public School, Clinton-Marion-Washington, DeKalb, DeWitt-Livingston, McLean, Edwards-Gallatin-Hardin-Pope-Saline-Wabash-Wayne-White, Fulton-Schuyler, Kane, Lake, Lee-Ogle, Marshall-Putnam-Woodford, and Peoria, Sangamon and Will County.  There are 56 Illinois Regional Offices of Education.  Their job responsibilities do not require chasing down homeschoolers to register them in attempt to oversee their private school, which also happens to be their home.  Even the IL State Board of Education acknowledges that ROE “cooperation management” is to “assist the ISBE in the evaluation and recognition of public schools, and private schools who ask to be recognized”.  A government official handing a registration form to homeschoolers telling them they need to fill it out on an annual basis is quite the opposite of asking to be recognized.

Over one third of the ROE offices in 38 counties are requesting intrusive information from Illinois homeschoolers, and it appears that many Regional Offices of Education are systematically attempting to apply their unwarranted policy regarding homeschoolers.  There are more problem Regional Offices of Education, but these are the ones posting on-line demands.  Much of the problem heads straight back to the IL State Board of Education created Illinois Home-School Registration Form that is sent to the Springfield ISBE Data Analysis and Progress Reporting Department.  Homeschoolers do not have to report progress or be analyzed and these forms are not required in Illinois statutes.

There has been no written response from the Regional Offices thus far.  We will continue to follow this issue, track the offices’ information and take action after October 15th if there are no positive results.

If any homeschoolers know of any other problems with Regional Offices of Education besides these addressed here, please contact us and we’ll address it.

Letting ‘kids be kids’

The Register-Mail had an an article about local Knox County homeschoolers this past weekend.

Cramer taught kindergarten in Galesburg for a few years before she began home-schooling her kids fulltime, so she has educational experience. But she said the amount of resources available to home-school families gives all parents the opportunity to home-school, even if they have no educational background.
“You’ve just got to have that desire to want to be with your kids all day long,” Cramer said.
The family didn’t plan to home-school before Cramer and her husband had kids, but once she tried it, she kept at it.
“It’s such a nice, flexible schedule,” she said. The day starts at 9 and ends around noon, and each child works either on his or her own in a workbook, or as a group.

It appears that nine to noon works well for this homeschool family.  It’s often hard for public school administrators to understand that our flexible schedule not only works, but we’re not mandated to be on a public school schedule.  We’re addressing this problem with public school officials, even as the Cramer family provided a nice example of their working schedule in this article.  Each homeschooling family has the luxury of finding a schedule that works for them, and running with it.

The journalist, Lauren Rees, wrote this concerning Illinois homeschooling legalities:

Illinois home-schooling laws are few. The State Board of Education requires students to get an education equivalent to public schooling, including learning language arts, mathematics, biological and physical sciences, social sciences, fine arts, physical development and health. Other than that, parents are free to decide “the manner, time and materials which best suit the learning needs” of their kids, according to the SBE.

There is a private school exemption to the Illinois compulsory attendance statute, and  Illinois homeschoolers are considered private schools per a 1950 IL Supreme Court ruling.  Homeschooling is not a specific reference in that statute exemption, but “private or parochial” schools are referenced.

This was also in the article:

Cramer said the home-school population in the area is active. Only eight home-school students are registered with the Knox County Regional Office of Education, but between 10 and 15 home-school teens show up at Galesburg Public Library-sponsored events. Since state laws are lax, it’s possible that not every home-schooled child is registered.

Illinois state laws regarding private schools are not lax. The minimal law documentation offers great freedoms for families choosing a private school alternative to public schools.  Illinois statutes do not require registration with the Regional Offices of Education or the IL School Board of Education, despite their efforts to register all homeschoolers.  We have better things to do and places to go (field trips), rather than filling out intrusive forms every year to satisfy a public school bureaucrat.  Surely the public school officials have more useful tasks than chasing down private school families.

The reasons given for homeschooling in Galesburg describes many homeschool families’ reasons:

The Cramers home-school because they like letting the “kids to be kids.”

“They have time to explore what interests them. They have time for creative play,” Cramer said. “They don’t have to stress about a hard test coming up or peer pressure. They don’t have to spend hours on homework after they’ve spent hours in school.”

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