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

DeWitt-Livingston-McLean Regional Office of Education

Since my address is within this Regional Office of Education area, I’ve checked it periodically. I don’t believe I’ve heard of problems stemming from this ROE, and the last I checked a year or so ago, they didn’t have much of an online presence.  But unfortunately, now this ROE  has a sidebar listing “Home School Information“.  Illinois homeschools are private schools, not public schools.  The trend of  IL State Board of Education/Regional Offices of Education on-line contortions throughout the state mis-representing Illinois homeschool rights and responsibilities is distressing.  One wonders what they say to new homeschoolers in face to face discussions, or via the telephone.
When you click that link, it takes you to this page: http://www.roe17.org/district_statistics.php
The quote below is their synopsis, followed by a link to a letter (pdf) signed off by the current ROE Superintendent, Mark Jontry, along with a linked IL State Board of Education Home School Registration Form.
Parents who choose to home school their child are encouraged to register their home school with the Regional Office of Education.  More information about Home Schooling is available in the documents below or by contacting Mary Orff.
Homeschool families should be not a standard piece of public school “statistics”  any more than other private school families.  That protection was preserved in the 1950 Illinois Supreme Court  Levisen ruling.  But, with the encouragement to register homeschoolers – attempting to place private schools under public school jurisdiction, rather than parental oversight –  the IL State Board of Education and the Regional Offices of Education are striving to destroy our autonomy.  Homeschoolers are not required to register, and should not register with the Regional Office of Education, or ISBE.  Those forms go to the ISBE Data Analysis & Progress Reporting Department, whose role is this:   “Analyzes data for policy and planning; coordinates annual reporting on progress related to Board goals and legislative requirements”.  Legislative requirements for homeschoolers do not include registration.  Since schools are suffering from financial losses, these public servants might be planning to bring in more private schoolers to gain more funding from federal and state governmental sources.  Is that what public service should entail?
Private schools have more important and worthy ongoing family and educational projects than delivering forms to bureaucrats intent on limiting their freedoms.  The ROE letter signed off by Superintendent Jontry appears to be a typical form seen in various Regional Offices of Education.  It begins with this:
Parents who choose to educate their children at home are under a legal obligation to meet the minimum requirements stated in the Illinois’ Compulsory Attendance Law (Section 26-1 of the Illinois School Code).  Children should be taught “…the branches of education taught to children of corresponding age and grade in the public schools” and are further obligated to be offered instruction in these core courses in the English language.  The “branches of education” include language arts, mathematics, biological and physical sciences, social sciences, fine arts, and physical development and health.
The *exemption* to the IL Compulsory attendance statute is located in Sec. 26-1 :Compulsory school age-Exemptions. One would have to question the public school branches of education listed in the quote above.  For example, many fine arts public school programs have been dropped, and so public schools do not include all of the “branches of education” listed above.
Here is the next paragraph in the letter:
Please complete the enclosed “Home School Registration” form for the 2009-2010 school year provided by the Illinois State Board of Education regarding the instruction you are providing for your child/children, and return it to the above address.  We will forward a copy to the Illinois State Board of Education.
There is nothing in that paragraph that states their registration form is not required.  This is deceptive, and a typical bullying practice by school authorities.  That form will indeed be sent to the Data Analysis and Progress Reporting Department of the IL State Board of Education.
Further in the letter, this below is stated in an intimidating and unnecessary manner.  Homeschoolers are taking on the education of their children, and are obviously engaged in their children’s lives.  Including truancy as a threat in this letter is unfortunate:
3. Truancy under 105 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/26 of The School Code states that the Regional Superintendent is responsible for determining which children should be referred to the State’s Attorney as truants for failure to attend a public school in the district of  residence or a private or parochial school.  The children receiving home-schooling  must receive an education corresponding to the age and grade of those children attending a public school the entire time the public school is in session during a regular school term.
If public school children are not attending the schools, they are truant.  There are no time factors or schedules included in the compulsory attendance age exemption statute for private schools/homeschools.  As a matter of fact, many homeschoolers have learning projects and educational schedules throughout the entire year, and various times of day and night, and are not limited by public school schedules.
If, in the judgment of the public school of residence and the Regional Office of Education, the home instructions given by the parent are not “commensurate with the standards prescribed for the public schools”, then the case will be referred for truancy proceedings.  Thereafter, the determination of whether the home instruction is a satisfactory equivalent to a public education can be made by a judge in a truancy hearing.
Oddly, public school instruction is often notcommensurate with the standards prescribed for the public schools“.  But that’s not homeschoolers’ problem.  However, per the Illinois compulsory attendance age exemption: “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”.
Homeschoolers should teach the branches of education taught for the same age(s) and grade in the public school, and teach it in English.  It seems that public schools have enough problems, without seeking out and bullying homeschoolers.
Illinois homeschoolers are not part of the public school system.  Let’s keep it that way.