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.

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.

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.

Update to the new IL Home Education Network

Are you curious about our candidates’ views on home education?  Go check out what some have to say about homeschooling on our Illinois Home Education Network.  Our tiny minority would not be on most campaigners’ radar, except we do vote.  We also have a pretty tight lobbying unit if push comes to shove in Springfield.

Letters were sent out in the last few days to our gubernatorial candidates, as well as those vying for Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and US senatorial positions.  Their views on Illinois home education and family concerns were requested.

So far, we’ve received 5 responses back, with promises of a couple more.  That was 5 more than we would have had, if this hadn’t been attempted.  Not only that, the responses have been interesting.  One has a homeschooling campaign manager.  Another candidate, with a job description of educator, has supported all forms of educational choice while serving as an IL legislator. That apparently got him in hot water with a powerful lobbying group.

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.

Curious about our Illinois candidates?  Join the Illinois Home Education Network, and jump into the social network that also functions as an advocacy network.

Peoria County Regional Office of Education-Homeschool Report

Illinois homeschoolers do not have to report or register with the Illinois public school system.

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

Our only contact should be when a family is leaving the public school to transfer into a private school as a homeschooler.  Illinois homeschools are considered private schools via a 1950 Illinois Supreme Court ruling.

But yet, the Peoria County Regional Office of Education reports 20 homeschooled children in their 2008 Fiscal Report.

STUDENTS ENROLLED
Public    29,217
Non Public    4,553
Home School Students    20

Since Illinois homeschoolers are non-public students, it’s unfortunate that homeschoolers are separated out from private schools in this report.  Let alone homeschoolers filling out an invasive IL State Board of Education over-compliance demand.

This form is filed in ISBE’s Data Analysis & Progress Reporting Department.  The expectation being that family would file a registration form annually.  It’s an unnecessary form.

Further information is provided in the ROE’s 2008 Fiscal Report:

HOME SCHOOLS MONITORED

Families        17
Students        20
Phone Inquiries        35

Homeschools should not be monitored unless there is proof of educational neglect.  It appears that these Peoria County homeschools are monitored because the 17 families chose to fill out an Illinois State Board of Education Home School Registration Form.

Don’t Write These Laws on Our Children

I read and reviewed Indian University Associate Education Professor, Robert Kunzman‘s book: Write These Laws On Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling. This book was published by Beacon Press and released August 20, 2009.  I’m including some excerpts from my review here, along with some pertinent Illinois homeschooling concerns.

In one of Robert Kunzman’s interviews with six “strongly conservative” Christian homeschooling families, a California homeschooling mom related her kids “get a lot of life, real life that goes on, that they don’t understand when they are separated for several hours a day.”  She went on to explain that their family of nine children was able to spend valuable time lovingly caring for their grandparents as they reached the end of their lives. Whatever different views, philosophies and lifestyles any homeschooling family has, the incredibly diverse homeschool community can appreciate that, as Mr. Kunzman points out, “homeschooling is…woven into the fabric of everyday family life.”

Often, Mr. Kunzman’s feedback was requested regarding an imagined homeschool growth trend.  The National Center for Education Statistics data is reported on his site with their supposed 74% homeschooling increase since 1999.  He has developed an impressive Indiana University website called: Homeschooling Research and Scholarship. It gave a start to see that on a university link. (The University of Illinois has a homeschooling applicant section in order to study at the University, but not to be studied.)

On this blog, I’d like to refute some specific concerns that Professor Kunzman (and others) have with Illinois homeschooling freedoms.

The concern about “serious Christians” is  a theme throughout this book. Kunzman requested each of the six families fill out a General Social Survey to confirm their social, political and religious conservatism.  There must be a survey or study sought out for almost every curiosity, while most homeschoolers seem to be holding out as the last bastion.  Robert Kunzman reported that nearly a fourth of our homeschooled population don’t need to notify or verify educating their children.

Illinois homeschoolers are part of the American homeschooling community that don’t notify or report our children’s private educational choice to school authorities. (Unless we’re transferring from the public school to homeschool.)   Mr. Kunzman asked HSLDA founder Michael Smith, about homeschooling’s future potential:

“So would the ultimate goal of HSLDA, regulation-wise, be a place like Illinois,” I ask, “where parents don’t have to report, register, anything?”

Smith nods. “ultimately, yes. But we also tend to be realistic. I mean, there are organizations that stand for the proposition of no compulsory attendance. Do I think that would be good?  Probably, but it’s not gonna happen.  I mean, that’s unrealistic. So we operate within what’s realistic, incrementally making changes, but ultimately to get to the point where we have as few regulations as possible.”

Professor Kunzman appeared to understand homeschool advocates’ fierce protections of our freedoms.  He was also disturbed at some homeschool self-congratulations regarding HSLDA commissioned studies.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading HSLDA materials, considering their arguments, and observing their strategies to promote homeschooling and reduce regulations.  I understand why they keep careful track of legislative development, and I recognize that their role as an advocacy organization is to put homeschooling’s best foot forward.  While I find their tone overly combative, I realize that some of this is in response to uninformed criticism and even antagonism on the part of some public education officials and other outsiders.

But there’s no good excuse for their ongoing distortion of research.

Many in the  community acknowledge that our children are just like public schooled children.  They are part of the diverse U.S. multitude of youth; with various gifts and weaknesses.

Some would suggest that Department of Education studies (used by Kunzman and others to express their dismay that they can’t count us) is pointless.  Why is the inability to use our children as a data point a “big problem?” From the IU press release:

The fact that many families don’t report that their children are schooled at home is also a big problem in making definitive statements about this group of students. “Representations about the average home schooler performing at this or that level are simply incorrect, because we don’t even know who all the home schoolers are,” Kunzman said.

His proposed supposition throughout the book was to apply universal reading and math tests mandates on all homeschoolers.  Kunzman describes it as a “very low level of regulation that is not highly intrusive that could be agreed upon by the vast majority of homeschool parents.”  Unless he has  insider knowledge that I can’t envision, it’s hard to imagine he’ll have a good sell of that with the vast majority of homeschool parents.  When we want to assess knowledge levels- we don’t need an imperfect skills test- and we certainly don’t need to show it to an official. Homeschoolers have learned that giving in to any governmental level of regulation or intrusiveness does not serve us well.  We like our privacy, and feel we have nothing to prove to a bureaucrat just because we chose to educate our children at home.

His universal testing would take care of that “big problem” of finding and analyzing our children.  He suggested that free homeschooling states (such as Illinois) “runs the greatest risk of neglecting the interests of children and the state.” His unease seems to be baseless and cynical, as he didn’t provide proof of such neglect. An unconvincing crisis,  that school bureaucrats need to oversee already established parental accountability, will kill what we live – and what we love about homeschooling.  The former Social Studies and English high school teacher, coach and administrator describes a “triad of interests” (children, parents, society) as a concern of “advocates of regulation.”  (‘Anti-homeschoolers’ is the term I use for homeschooling regulation advocates.)  Even after hundreds of hours observing homeschoolers, Robert Kunzman either doesn’t understand the homeschooling way of life, or worse yet, he does.

~Susan Ryan

Related posts:

The full review is located at Home Education Magazine.

Three Smart Rules for Home School Regulation written by Washington Post Education Columnist: Jay Mathews.  Please read the comments, as several homeschoolers explain our good cause for learning freedoms.

Suburban Cook County-Excessive Requirements

Despite the demands from ROE Supt Flowers’ letter and their ‘homeschool packet’, no Statements of Assurance, no Home School Registration Forms, no “instructional services” hours need be recorded (for school authorities), no “course materials” need be attached, no birth dates, annual reports or other such invasions of homeschoolers’ time and rights are mandated by law.  From the Suburban Cook County ROE in their “Home School Information” link:

SUBURBAN COOK COUNTY REGIONAL OFFICE OF EDUCATION
10110 Gladstone •
Westchester, IL 60154
Office: 708-865-9330 •
Fax: 708-865-9338
http://www.cook.k12.il.us

Dr. Charles A. Flowers,

Regional Superintendent

Dear Parent or Guardian:

The purpose of this letter is to provide a follow-up to your recent inquiry in regard to home
schooling.

With this letter you will find a form to register as a home school, some suggestions from the
State Board of Education on home schooling. Also enclosed is a position paper prepared by the
legal department of The Illinois State Board of Education concerning the legality of home
schooling and further indicating the role of the Regional Superintendent in home school issues.

When a child is not attending school and the non-attendance of the child is reported to the
Regional Superintendent’s office, the truant officer initiates a truancy investigation. In order to
avoid the truancy investigation and the possibility of court action we ask that you fill out and
have notarized the enclosed statement of assurance.

Please remember that you, as the parent/guardian are responsible for researching home
schooling, acquiring the curriculum and study materials, testing ad keeping all school records for
your child.

Although not required, your local school district may assist in providing curriculum and study
materials. They may charge a fee for this service and the rental of books.

Home-schooled children are eligible for enrollment as part-time students in the public school
district in which they live. In such cases the home-schooled child could be enrolled in for
instruction in a particular class or classes. The school district must be notified by May 1st of the
prior school year. If the school is notified after May 1st it is up to the district to determine if they
have room for the student at that time.

Please return the registration form to the address on top of the form. If you have any
questions you may contact Predonna Roberts, Ed.D. at (708) 865-9330.

Sincerely,

Charles A. Flowers, Ed.D.
Regional Superintendent

If the registration form is completed, it will be in the ROE files and forwarded on to the ISBE Data Analysis and Progress Reporting Department in Springfield.  It will likely be requested annually.

It is not necessary or legally required to fill out such forms.