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

Advertisements

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.”

Will County Regional Office of Education

A long time homeschool advocate spotted problems on the Will County Regional Office of Education website and posted it in comments here:

I see the Will County ROE is attempting to require more than is necessary out of homeschoolers. I was doing research for somebody else, and found it:

http://www.will.k12.il.us/HomeSchooling.html

Her web page basically infers that one is obligated to create an entire academic calendar FOR THE YEAR and share it with the ROE.

Will County ROE posts this directly below on their website, and much of it is inaccurate.  We hope that the Regional Superintendent, Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, will be persuaded to fix the misleading statements on her ROE site:

The Regional Office of Education must ascertain that all children in the Will County region have the opportunity to attend school.  If you choose to create a Home School education, you are required by law to perform the following:

  1. Create a school calendar of 176 attendance days and a daily schedule of 5 hours or more.
  1. Create and maintain an educational program that is comparable to that of the public schools.  Subjects which must be taught in an Illinois home school are language arts, mathematics, biological/physical sciences, social science, fine arts, physical development and health.

Registration of your home school with the school district, the Regional Superintendent, or the State of Illinois is voluntary.  However, you may wish to notify your local school district and your Regional Superintendent of your intention to home school by filling in this form and providing one copy to your Regional Office of Education and one copy to the State of Illinois.  Otherwise, they may think that your child is truant.

Lori is right.  There is no requirement to fulfill 176 days with a plus 5 hour daily schedule.  Most homeschoolers spend much more time learning, but they are not mandated to track their time nor report it to anyone.

Registration is not required either, as the Will County ROE site notes.  It makes no sense that the school authorities created a form requiring over-compliance, unless they still want control of your children.  If your children have not ever attended public school, public school notification is not required.  If your children are leaving the public school to homeschool, a simple letter stating transfer from the public school to your private school/homeschool is completely adequate notification to prevent any truancy question.

This below is also on the Will County Regional Office site, and the quote mis-states the actual statute:

2. It is the responsibility of the Will County Regional Office of Education to help maintain school attendance.  The compulsory attendance laws of the State of Illinois hold the parent/guardian responsible for their child’s attendance in school.  The law states:  “Whoever has custody or control of any child between the ages of 7 and 17 years shall cause such child to attend school the entire time it is in session.”  (122/26-2).

Below is the true statute language, as posted on the IL General Assembly site.  The 122/26-2 [cited above] statute language does not pertain to the private school compulsory attendance exemption that Illinois homeschoolers have.  This is the relevant private school statute documentation:

(105 ILCS 5/26-1) (from Ch. 122, par. 26-1) Sec. 26-1. Compulsory school age-Exemptions. Whoever has custody or control of any child between the ages of 7 and 17 years (unless the child has already graduated from high school) shall cause such child to attend some public school in the district wherein the child resides the entire time it is in session during the regular school term, except as provided in Section 10-19.1, and during a required summer school program established under Section 10-22.33B; provided, that the following children shall not be required to attend the public schools:

1. Any child attending a private or a parochial school where children are taught the branches of education taught to children of corresponding age and grade in the public schools, and where the instruction of the child in the branches of education is in the English language;

The statute documentation directly above is what Illinois homeschoolers’ legal responsibility is to homeschool.

Today’s Primary- Regarding Illinois Homeschooling

Illinois Home Education Network

In case you’ve missed it, here’s a reminder about candidates’ views on home education that are displayed on the IL Home Education Network forum.

Five Republican candidates for our Illinois Governor position have responded: Dan Proft, Adam Andrzejewski, Kirk Dillard, Andy McKenna and Bill Brady.

One Democrat Party Lt. Governor candidate, Mike Boland, responded.  Two Republican Lt. Governor candidates have responded: Randy White and Brad Cole.

One Constitution Party Attorney General candidate Joseph Bell responded.

Four Republican Senatorial candidates responded: Andy Martin, Patrick Hughes, Kathleen Thomas and John Arrington.

Homeschooling would not and should not be a one issue campaign.  But it does help to hear what a candidate thinks about a couple of incredibly important issues called family and education.  I’m appreciative, and a bit surprised of the time each of these candidates took to focus on homeschooling. It’s more information than we had before these questions were sent out.

If you’d like to pass along any of the candidate information, please reference the Illinois Home Education Network along with its link:  http://ilhomeschool.ning.com

Visit Illinois Home Education Network

“Taking Away the Youth”- Perspective of an Illini Graduate Student (homeschooler)

A former homeschooler – now University of Illinois graduate student – wrote an insightful perspective.

In comparison, the education hours expended per Japanese child was mentioned:
By increasing the amount of hours spent in school, something will have to be cut. Students in public school today have school to attend, homework to do, extracurricular activities to do at school, extracurricular activities outside of school, a job, and family/friend time. The first thing to go, if students are like me, is sleep. In order to do “everything” as normal, hours must be added to the day. Students will be more likely to fall asleep in classrooms, and what can they learn when they are sleeping? Should we instead cut the extracurricular activities? Let’s take all the fun out of being a child. Many Japanese students spend extra hours outside the classroom attending private tutor lessons. How long will students have to focus on school before we deem it too long?
Unfortunately, there is a heavy price to pay for that pressure on Japanese kids to perform, as evidenced in this particular post from IRDIAL:
The nail that sticks out is hammered down
Kyoko Aizawa of Otherwise Japan (a homeschool support organization) sent out word last summer of a new Japanese law.   Kyoko states this new law authorizes arbitrary governmental visits of any child’s home.
Zero to five is a popular catch phrase in the United States now.   It describes a plan to get children “school ready”, from the time they are first born until they walk in the kindergarten door.  That oversight (including home visits) is suggested far and wide, from the right to the left. Universal screening for mental health is often part of that package.
Comparing notes from various countries (read the comments to Colleen’s column for an interesting perspective of Chinese education)  makes one see a systematic parallel of educational philosophies. If the Obama administration (and his predecessors) spent more quality time (and quality funding) on the current school time frames and their end results, then maybe progress would be seen.  As long as remedial college and adult education programs continue to grow as a new educational market, what happens to the students in the current institutional learning environment regarding their educational success and their future happiness?
This email was cleaned by emailStripper, available for free from http://www.papercut.biz/emailStripper.htmA former homeschooler – now University of Illinois graduate student – wrote an insightful perspective.

Taking away the youth of students Daily Illini Colleen Lindsay

We have already started educating children earlier. Kindergarten went from being a fun-filled day to strict guidelines and drills. Now, we have introduced Pre-K. If you dare go into Kindergarten without having been to Pre-K you will be at a disadvantage and “behind” other students. When mothers start comparing about the knowledge and understanding of 3 and 4-year-olds then you know there are problems. Not that I don’t think that 4-year-olds are smart. I know one who is, arguably, the smartest little boy I know. But, it is not because he spends his days undergoing number and letter drills. What are we willing to sacrifice to improve our national image? We have already sacrificed our small children. And what has this gotten us? Well, the scores have not improved, but our children’s lifestyles have been compromised. Now, we want to take the happiness and fun away from school-age children and teens.

Quality education beats the quantity every day. Instead of having our students sit under the same learning environment for longer and expect them to improve, maybe we need to change that learning environment. Maybe the problem is not with the students. Perhaps it is in the curriculum, or the teachers, or the learning environment, or the class size.

She goes on with her own homeschooling experience that could be used as a successful model. More one on one, less of what John Gatto describes as social management, and decidely shorter ’school day’ hours for most of us homeschoolers.  That ’school day’ not negating the motto that we’re always learning, while our eyes are open.

Being raised in a homeschool learning environment, I can speak first-hand about the positives. I watched my peers and siblings achieve lofty goals. One such homeschool graduate graduated junior college at age 16 and is a college senior at age 18. This is not atypical of the homeschool community.

In comparison, the education hours expended per Japanese child was mentioned:

By increasing the amount of hours spent in school, something will have to be cut. Students in public school today have school to attend, homework to do, extracurricular activities to do at school, extracurricular activities outside of school, a job, and family/friend time. The first thing to go, if students are like me, is sleep. In order to do “everything” as normal, hours must be added to the day. Students will be more likely to fall asleep in classrooms, and what can they learn when they are sleeping? Should we instead cut the extracurricular activities? Let’s take all the fun out of being a child. Many Japanese students spend extra hours outside the classroom attending private tutor lessons. How long will students have to focus on school before we deem it too long?