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.

Advertisements

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.”

Public School Withdrawal Audits

Texas homeschooling rights are similar to Illinois home education legalities.  Per a Texas Supreme Court ruling, homeschoolers in Texas are considered private schools the same as any brick and mortar private school building in the state.  The 1950 Board vs Levisen IL Supreme Court ruling determined our Illinois private school status as homeschoolers.  There have been other similarities with Texas along the way.  But the IL State Board of Education hasn’t called for an audit as the Texas Education Agency has.

The Texas Education Agency audited more than 22,000 public school withdrawal records to determine whether the transfers were intending to homeschool -as the records indicated, or whether public school officials had jimmied the records in a manner to keep the dropout rate down in their school districts.

In an attempt to ensure that public school districts aren’t disguising high school dropouts, the Texas Education Agency is conducting an audit of students who withdrew under the auspice of home schooling. …… More than 22,620 Texas secondary students were listed as withdrawing to home-school in 2008 — raising a red flag among some experts and educators who worry that Texas’ lax regulations are encouraging abuse in the hands-off home-schooling category. The 2008 figures reflect a 24 percent jump from the prior year and roughly triple the number of high school home-schooling withdrawals from a decade ago.

The Houston Chronicle published the article quoted above earlier this month [High number of home-schooled students leads to state audit JENNIFER RADCLIFFE Sept. 2, 2010].  The quote calls the Texas homeschooling rights “lax regulations”, but that is an unfortunate description.  Our rights aren’t lax, they’re free of bureaucracy.  And homeschoolers are not responsible for the lax accountability of public school officials. Other than the tax monies expended.  Tim Lambert has it right.

The Texas Home School Coalition applauds the state’s efforts to crack down on public school districts who are “dumping” dropouts in the home-schooling category. Although the group strongly opposes government involvement in home schooling, it acknowledges that this audit is not being conducted to reproach families who are educating their children at home. “School administrators are violating the policy and causing these problems,” coalition president Tim Lambert said. “The solution is, in our view, to put in place some sort of penalties for school officials who are abusing this process.”

Firing tax paid officials doing this doesn’t seem out of the question.  I’ve seen this process used  in at least two different Illinois school districts, and the brush off of those students and families was not intended to be in the kids’ best interests.

In Illinois, school authorities have contorted the issue into a “no-school” problem,  trying to draw homeschoolers into their net.  It’s odd and disturbing.  Clinton-Marion-Washington County Regional Office of Education Supt. Keri Garrett seems to have gone a different direction and invented a truancy problem, suggesting she must have daytime curfew ordinances because : “Instead of figuring out the problem, they’ll [parents] yank the child out because they’re not old enough to drop out and tell me they’re going to homeschool”.    She wrote up daytime curfew ordinances for various towns in her area that call for town authorities to report any homeschoolers to her office, if they are stopped and questioned while out and about during ‘school hours’.  As private schools, Illinois homeschoolers are not restricted by the public school schedule or calendar.  They are also not required to report to bureaucrats.)   She attempted pushing this ordinance in Salem and Salem homeschoolers fought back. The ordinance was dropped.  I should mention that in 2009, Salem had a .2 % chronic truancy rate.  That’s just one example emanating from one Regional Office of Education.

Some similar questions about artful public school dodging have arisen from some of our neighbors to the east. Richmond, Indiana’s high school received the Lugar Education Patriot Award from their Senator Lugar heralding the school’s apparent change in status from a 2007 “dropout factory”.  In 3 years, their graduation rate has increased from 56% to 80%, and I’m sure all schools officials want to know their secret.

The leap in the school’s reported graduation rates has not come without some heightened scrutiny and concern, including from one school board member.
Longtime board member David Stidham, who is serving in his final term, questioned during a board meeting last November how a reported increase in home-schooled students has impacted dropout rates.
Students who transfer from one school to another, as with those who choose home schooling, do not count against graduation rates but dropouts do.

Seems to be a pattern.

Homeschool advocate, Ben Bennett (Indiana Home Education Network), asks on his blog:

The question is: will the attacks on the homeschooling community come before the facts about the tactics of Government Schools are known?

The attacks on the Illinois homeschooling community are here.  Looks like Texas is trying to deal with the issue, the Indiana Education Agency seems to be ignoring it, and Illinois school authorities are trying to restrict homeschooling rights because of some public school system twists and turns.  The time is now to fight back.  Stay tuned…

Ralph Nader on Homeschooling

About 2 hours and 3 minutes into an In Depth C-Span interview with Ralph Nader; Nader explains why The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is one of his favorite books.  Nader responds that it’s the demonstration of the power of self-education.

Nader advises that: “Anyone who wants to teach their children should learn from the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.”  He then went on to explain his concerns about overscheduling kids, along with the current role models like Lady Gaga, drugged up sports ‘heroes’, et al.

Inevitably,  the C-Span interviewer, Peter Slen, asks Nader …”So…What about homeschooling?

Homeschooling should allow more solitude, more contemplation, more connection with nature around, you know, in the hills and the valleys and the rivers, so you know the geography in the area where you live.  Homeschooling is a great option.

It is indeed.

Not all homeschool methods use curricula

Oregon’s Statemans Journal had an article about homeschooling, and included some information from a Bloomington support group leader.
Not all home school methods use curricula
Choices abound for parents who teach kids themselves

“We support one another,” said Shelly Nelson of the Crossroads Areas Home School Association of Bloomington, Ill. When people inquire about curriculum, Nelson said, she asks about their teaching style and their child’s learning style. “There are different ways to educate your children,” she said. “When you get to the junior high and high school level, I believe there is a great need for some books.”That doesn’t necessarily mean going to one curriculum company for all subjects, she said. “You choose the best curricula for each subject level.” But buying curricula and textbooks can be costly, especially if it means purchasing several until you find one you like. To help parents, the association’s National Home-School

Holding a Madagascar CockroachHonor Society chapter created a curriculum closet filled with material collected from publishers and home-school families. Some of the 400 or so volumes are religion-based; others are secular.

There were other suggestions about finding the best educational opportunities
for your child that keeps their interest and joy in learning.

Janice Hedin’s son was into model rockets, so she used that as a starting point for his home-school curriculum. Her daughter loved horses, and that became a focal point for her education.
“She owned it,” said Hedin, of Maple Valley, Wash. “It was hers. I didn’t have to force anything because she loved every minute of it.” Some home-school parents create their own curriculum for their kids. “There should never be a set curriculum,” Hedin said. “Every child is so unique. Our goal as parents is to custom design the education that fits our children.”

Follow the child’s passion, and there are endless opportunities to fill up the brain.  Helen Hegener provides more details about unit studies:

One popular form of home schooling is unit studies.
“Basically, take something like trains, say, and it’s amazing what you can learn,” Hegener said.

From an Illinois homeschool advocacy aspect, the reason why we need to keep pushing back against the IL State Board of Education and the Regional Offices of Education is to keep them from limiting us with Registration Forms asking to “provide the name of the curriculum to be used”. We are not required to provide the name of our curriculum -if we use curriculum – let alone fill out a Registration Form.  (The ISBE website link where the form is posted will not be linked here.   There is concern that ISBE gets  far too many hits and moves up a google search page with their “Home School” site as is. )

ISBE’s over-compliance requests for registration forms attempts to limit our autonomy and freedoms with too many questions about our children. The joys of homeschooling are that we can move at our children’s pace keeping track of their educational needs without worrying about filling out forms, or changing information on those forms.  Worse yet, we don’t need or want to be answering questions from a bureaucrat who knows nothing about our child. Some of us use curriculum.  Some of us mix up various curriculums.  Some of us don’t use curriculum.  (Our family got by fine without any science textbooks.) Homeschoolers have better ways to spend our time than filling out invasive, confusing forms.

IL Association of School Boards Releases Homeschool Article

“With no one actually counting and only voluntary testing, no one knows whether the success stories offered by the Lanes, the Nicols, the Bluedorns and the Vanden Bosches are typical of the home schooling experience. And with no accurate numbers, the complete story of home schooling may never be written.” – IASB site – Ginger Wheeler

The IL Association of School Boards released an article focusing on homeschoolers in their July/August 2010 Journal.  Homeschoolers are not under public school jurisdiction, unless there is a reasonable question about a child’s educational neglect.  The conclusion is quoted above, and the mantra throughout seems to focus on the lack of homeschool counts in Illinois.  Illinois homeschoolers do not report to or notify public school authorities, unless they are leaving the public school to homeschool.

Rising home schooling: Who really knows?

Illinois is known in the home schooling community as a friendly place: there are practically zero restrictions or regulations on homeschooling families here if learning occurs in English.

Home-schoolers revel in this freedom, and it may attract them to move to and settle in Illinois. But the Illinois Regional Offices of Education find the light regulations troubling, and some ROE superintendents say some families are illegally using home schooling as a way to mask truancy. Their hands are tied to do much about it.

As the posts here on the IL Homeschool Freedom Watch blog note, various ROEs under the IL State Board of Education guidance make frequent attempts to snare homeschoolers, even with their “hands tied”.   It’s quite amazing that some homeschool groups choose to work with the Illinois State Board of Education, when the ISBE is blatantly demanding over-compliance from homeschoolers on their website with their creation of a non-mandated registration form.  Some, as with Keri Garrett in the ROE #13, have successfully attempted to inflict daytime curfews on homeschoolers because of this ‘concern’ cited in the Centralia Sentinel:

“We ask that they [homeschoolers] 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.”

Fortunately Salem homeschoolers in her ROE defeated this infringement on their rights.

Continuing from the IASB article regarding our Illinois homeschool freedoms:

And that’s just fine for home-schoolers. One home school mom, and now a grandmother, Laurie Bluedorn, of New Boston, said her family moved to Illinois from Iowa so they could home school unfettered by pesky government intrusion. Bluedorn’s family moved across the Mississippi when her oldest son, Nathaniel, was 6 in 1982, a time when the practice was illegal in Iowa. She home- schooled all five of her now-grown children, and now her daughter Johannah, plans to continue the tradition with Bluedorn’s grandchild.

Bluedorns moving to Illinois became a gift to us regarding their homeschool advocacy.  Harvey Bluedorn wrote this article years ago reminding homeschoolers why we should stay vigilant about ISBE and ROE attempts to regulate us:

Illinois Homeschoolers –  Eight Reasons Not to Register

By Harvey Bluedorn, New Boston, Illinois

1. Because there is no requirement to register in Illinois. Period. Administrators attempt to impose their will upon individuals through intimidation, harassment and coercion. They invent requirements which have no foundation in law. When our freedoms are infringed upon by government bureaucrats, they become emboldened to take the matter another step. Continued at Trivium Pursuit site

Ms. Wheeler says this in her article: In effect, any child who is home-schooled, is actually attending a private school, according to the state.

That statement seems unclear, and vague.  Any Illinois child who is homeschooled is actually attending a private school because of the 1950 Illinois Supreme Court case ruling.  We should all understand that the Illinois government sites are not always accurate, or blatantly misleading.  Use of the term, “the state”, does not explicitly pinpoint the judicial branch determination that Illinois homeschools are private schools, along with the legislative branch generally leaving homeschoolers alone since.   That is the set precedent.

PEOPLE VS. LEVISEN

There was also acknowledgement of virtual school potentials into the homeschool community.  We can assume the excitement is regarding more funding for public schools and more homeschool accountability to school bureaucracies.  Neither has been proven to increase educational success for children.

With the passage of last fall’s remote education programming legislation, which allows school districts to claim state aid for virtual coursework, the state may make learning even more accessible for home-schoolers, and help schools find new ways to get into the game and pay for it.

The K12 company has been incessantly lobbying for access to Illinois public school funds.  They provide curriculum for the Chicago Virtual School, which appears to be successful for many Chicago public school students.  I don’t believe there was a concerted lobbying effort from Illinois homeschoolers to gain access to this virtual program.  But the Chicago Teachers Union lawsuit side show revealed a great deal about some school authority opinions regarding home educators.  Stewart was the Chicago Teacher Union President at the time of the CTU lawsuit against ISBE, the Chicago Public School, et al.  From the Chi-Town Daily News:

“For them to think they can address the social and emotional issues of a child without being in the same room as that child is ludicrous,” Stewart said. “You can only adequately address these issues in a classroom where you have necessary peer support and peer interaction.”

Ms. Wheeler acknowledged the intense focus on school socialization, and provided homeschoolers’ feedback in the IASB article Socialization section.  It’s fascinating that there is almost always a socialization section pertaining to the education of homeschoolers.  The young adult homeschoolers addressed the issue well in the article,  including pointing out a ‘home-grown’ spoof play: Home-schoolers with Social Skills: Live!

Long time Champaign County homeschooler Elizabeth Nicol revised her style of homeschooling as the years have passed.  From the IASB Journal:

Nichol said her teaching style has changed over the years. “There’s a lot of flexibility about what can be taught, but through elementary school, it doesn’t really matter which year you learn about the American Revolution or about the solar system,” she said. “There’s so much to learn about and so you just sort of choose. We have an opportunity to go to Scotland, so we are learning about castles.

“My plans have changed. We do a lot of exploring. We take advantage of a lot of opportunities. We read a lot of books. (With the youngest son) it’s much more disorganized, but I’m comfortable with that, because I have experience. People who are just starting out, are a little more uptight about (the curriculum),” she said.

Many homeschoolers have discovered what Elizabeth knows.  That’s why we are grateful to not be tied into the testing regimen of the public schools, along with the school schedule.  This is despite the Regional Offices of Education attempts to limit us to 176 days a year, as just noted in the recent Will County ROE post, for instance.  Homeschoolers appreciate learning day in and day out, without the time waste of documenting that time.  That bureaucracy is not conducive to learning.

Illinois homeschoolers would like to protect their families from what didn’t or wouldn’t work for their families in the public schools.  There is increased attention by organizations like the Illinois Association of School Boards, along with the powerful teacher union disdain for home education.  Worst of all, the Illinois school authorities from the IL State Board of Education and Regional Offices of Education – who know better – along with the bullying principal or teacher telling families they need to put up and shut up; should give homeschoolers a heads up.  We need to fight all those little and big fires to waylay the institutional trend against homeschoolers, including watching out for the legislator and legislation that is not homeschool friendly.  The Illinois Association of School Boards has backed off from infringing on homeschool rights in the past.  I hope they continue that precedent.

Non-Public School Policy Developing for Extra-Curriculars

D301 board member clarifies position on home-school athletes

This Kane County school district is developing non-public school participation policy in extra-curriculars.

“I do not consider them an outsider. It is a difficult situation. They made the choice to home-school their kids, and now they want to go to the district to participate in sports,” he said.
“I don’t believe there is a harm in it, but if they were to try out and take the spot on the roster of someone who is taking classes at the school every day …,” Roberts said as he cited the reasons he and at least two other board members are struggling with the measure.

While Section 4.010 of the Illinois High School Association bylaws permits home-schooled student eligibility if the student either takes 20 hours of study at the member school or is in a program approved by the member school, Roberts cited IHSA regulations that require in-district students to maintain a certain grade point average as an out for closing the door on home-school participation.