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.

Lobbying to Be Left Alone

Most Illinois homeschoolers are the rare breed of people who feel a duty to lobby in Springfield for nothing more than to be left alone.

The Virginia based K12 corporation has been lobbying hard in IL ($$) to create a state-wide virtual school. K12 already provides curriculum to the Chicago Virtual School, which appears to be satisfying many public school parents. Even as the Chicago Teachers Union fought its initiation in an ugly manner with a lawsuit they lost. CTU contended the Chicago Virtual School shouldn’t be publicly funded as it was a home-based homeschool.

Homeschoolers can appreciate the public Chicago Virtual School parents’ satisfaction with their children’s education.  But K12’s business ambitions have compelled many homeschool groups to keep K12 out of their homeschool conference vendor halls.  The reasons were exemplified by a high profile K12 spokesperson and former federal Department of Education Secretary, Bill Bennett.   He refused to understand the homeschooling way – as it got in his way.

From Home Education Magazine’s Larry and Susan Kaseman:

The major differences between Bennett’s goals and those of most homeschoolers can be seen clearly in Bennett’s comments during an interview by Mark Standriff on WSPD radio in Toledo, Ohio, August 16, 2002.

Standriff: What kind of opposition have you folks found?

Bennett: We found opposition from both sides of the political spectrum. Some of the homeschooling people have opposed us.

Standriff: Oh really, I would think this would be right in line with their thinking.

Bennett: Well it should be. Frankly, I’m disappointed. I’ve been defending homeschoolers for twenty years. But the principle I’m defending, Mark, is school choice, parental choice. The objection they have is that it shouldn’t be involved in public funding, at all. It shouldn’t be involved with government schools, as they say. But, I’m not prepared to relinquish $400 billion and just say, well never mind, this is not money that I’m entitled to. Parents are paying that money in taxes, they should have an option within the public school system that gives them a chance to educate their children at home, but be publicly accountable as all public schools should be.

Bennett’s entitlement project has caused huge headaches for homeschooling advocates, along with some homeschoolers who found the ‘free’ curriculum and computer took away their free time for educational enrichment.

A Virtual School Act sponsored by Representative Chapa-LaVia is sitting in the Illinois House Rules Committee. A similar bill (HB 3743) sponsored by Representative Chapa-LaVia came up just about a year ago, and it was a bit shocking to see homeschoolers referenced in this public virtual school bill again.

When I called Representative Chapa-LaVia’s office last year, I was told by an aide that she hadn’t discussed this bill with homeschoolers- before inserting mention of us. And here it is again, and here is the “home school” reference again.

One major concern is any “home school” reference in Illinois statutes. We have private school status via a 1950 IL Supreme Court ruling. Private schools in the non-home based buildings help protect our tinier minority of homeschoolers via coalitions and such. We could lose that umbrella protection with “home school” separation from other private schools by precedent setting statutes like this one. I know that was explained to Representative Chapa-LaVia’s office.

The Northwest Herald also had a guest column late last month –Trends point to bright future ahead – written by the Asst. Regional Supt of Education for McHenry County:

“Perhaps most interesting is the increased interest in virtual education. Currently Illinois has a virtual high school, and Chicago has a virtual charter school. While the Illinois General Assembly has entertained a statewide program of virtual instruction, the states of Kansas and Florida already have them. The flexibility of virtual public school is interesting a surprising number of parents. Parents become the primary facilitators for their child’s instruction as they work through lessons delivered online. The state would be funding a system that would facilitate the education of a child but be delivered by the parent with instructional software.”

This school official had kind words for homeschoolers and other private schools, but the combination of a powerful legislator and a ROE official pushing virtual education with a “home school” legislative twist can give a homeschool advocate an unsettling feeling. Representative Chapa-LaVia is the chair of the Appropriations-Elementary & Secondary Education Committee. Handling the IL school funding and appropriations is a powerful job, even if our Illinois government won’t balance our budget or pay bills on time as private citizens do.   Words via legal documentation do count and those words can take away freedoms.  Whether there is funding or not.

This was also posted on the Illinois Review and IL Home Education Network.

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

Oak Brook Borders requires Homeschool Certification and Licenses

Educator Appreciation Week runs through Oct. 7 at Oak Brook Borders, 1500 16th St. Borders will honor current and retired teachers, librarians, licensed homeschoolers, school administrators and daycare facilitators with 30 percent off the list price of nearly everything in stores, including books, music, movies, toys and games, gifts and stationery and Seattle’s Best Coffee cafe products. Educators will need to present proof of educator status, which can be a pay stub or an identification card with a current date. Homeschoolers must present their homeschool certification.

Any homeschooler can create a nice looking educator ID card.

The license and certification might be a bit of a problem per this Borders’ behest. Certainly not a bad problem.  Illinois homeschoolers don’t need, or have licenses/certification.

Surely other Borders stores aren’t requiring this?  The tone seems antagonistic, in singling out homeschoolers who “must present….”.

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.