Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Requirements Compared

With the advent of a new Commissioner of Education here in Connecticut, a commissioner who is from Massachusetts, I thought it prudent to compare the homeschooling requirements in each state. All information is from the Home School Legal Defense Association.
Compulsory school age: Five years of age and over and under eighteen years of age. Five and six-year-olds can opt out when the parent goes to the school district and signs an opt-out form.

Legal Option: Establish and operate a home school.

Attendance: Generally, 180 days per year.

Qualifications: None.

Notice: None, but parents may voluntarily comply with State Department of Education guidelines by filing a “Notice of Intent” form with the local superintendent within 10 days of the start of home school.

Recordkeeping: The guidelines require that parents maintain a portfolio indicating that instruction has been given.

Testing: None.

Subjects: Reading, writing, spelling, English, grammar, geography, arithmetic, United States history and citizenship (including a study of the town, state, & federal governments).
Practically speaking, this means that homeschoolers in Connecticut with children ages 5-18 can file a Notice of Intent form and attend a portfolio review at the end of the academic year. However, this procedure is completely voluntary. Of course, some school districts in the state view these two actions as “required” so, in an effort to foster goodwill between homeschoolers and public school officials, HSLDA recommends that Connecticut home educators file Notices of Intent and attend portfolio reviews. Pretty simple and straightforward, with little or no impact on my freedom to make educational decisions for my child.
Compulsory school age: Six to sixteen years of age. Child must be six by December 31st of that school year.

Legal Option: Establish and operate a home school as approved in advance by the local school committee or superintendent.

Attendance: None specified, though 900 hours at elementary level & 990 hours at secondary level are expected.

Qualifications: None.

Notice: A de facto part of the approval process.

Recordkeeping: None.

Testing: Not required by state law but may be a negotiated condition for approval.

Subjects: Reading, writing, English language and grammar, geography, arithmetic, drawing, music, history and constitution of United States, duties of citizenship, health (including CPR), physical education, and good behavior.
Having never homeschooled in Massachusetts, I can only speculate as to how these “requirements” impact home educators in that state. However, based on some of the language given above, I can probably hazard a good guess as to what my life would be like as a Massachusetts home educator.

First, I wouldn’t need worry about complying with any homeschool-related statutes until my child was six years of age. This stipulation is actually an improvement over Connecticut. Here, I need to begin paying attention to possible legalities when my child is five years of age.

Second, I would need to ask permission to homeschool my children. Such a request would need to be approved by a local school committee or a local school superintendent before any instruction ever occurs. More importantly, and not specifically stated, my request to establish a home school could be denied. What recourse do I have if the state interferes with my freedom to make educational decisions for my child?

Third, I would need to log the days of attendance and the hours of school my child completed each day. While the law states that no attendance requirement exists, notice the word “expected” in the sentence that enumerates the number of hours children should attend school. State education officials could interpret that to be a strict requirement, rather than a mere expectation. Translation: I need to be able to verify how many days and hours my child received instruction. Pretty specific for a state that has “no specific attendance requirement.”

Fourth, I would probably need to test my children annually. Again, the law does not set forth a specific testing requirement, but notice the phrase, “… may be a negotiated condition for approval.” The Massachusetts education officials who wrote this part of the law made sure that they retained the power to approve or deny a request to homeschool unless a home educator agreed to test their children on, what I imagine, is the same schedule and in the same manner as the public school. What if I desire to test my children once every four years instead of once per year? What recourse do I have if the state interferes with my freedom to make educational decisions for my child?

So much for comparisons. All in all, if I have a choice (and if the legal requirements remain the same in each state), I will continue homeschool in Connecticut. Hopefully, the new Commissioner won’t feel compelled to transform my state into the one next door. After all, variety is the spice of life … and the foundation of innovation.

No comments: