Thursday, January 21, 2010

Homeschooling: legal stuff

Suzi will be three in May--getting closer and closer to school-age! It's time for me to get cracking on a plan to homeschool her. Right now I am reading The Homeschooling Handbook, loaned to me by a friend. It goes through all the different options for homeschooling, reasons for doing it, what to tell skeptical family members, and a lot more. Right now I'm leaning more toward a child-led approach, and this book doesn't focus on that; however, it is good for just figuring out the logistics and legalities of homeschooling, which is something I need.

Last night I read about what we will be responsible for legally. I looked online and found that there are three options for South Carolina homeschoolers. You can read about them here. The first option, which involves independent accountability to the school district, is unappealing to me because it would require my children to participate in statewide testing. I believe these tests prompt many educators to "teach to the test," which is one of the things I am trying to avoid by homeschooling. I don't want to stifle my children's natural love of learning with paranoid preparation for a standardized test. If homeschooled children do not meet grade-level requirements on these tests, they may be placed in public school, given "special handicapped services," or have instructional support at the discretion of the school district and the expense of the parents. I'm sure it doesn't happen often, but I don't want the possibility of it to impact my children's learning negatively.

We will probably be going with option 3, which involves joining a homeschool association. The one I found for our area costs $40 a year per family. They support statewide testing but do not require it. Academic transcripts are provided and a graduation ceremony is held for seniors each May. We would still be required to keep records and samples of the children's work and activities, but obviously I enjoy keeping records of things (see this blog). I can't imagine anyone not keeping a portfolio of their kids' work.

I am probably getting concerned about this prematurely, anyway. Suzi wouldn't be starting kindergarten until 2012, and all it takes is a signed document to forgo that. Until fall of 2013, we can homeschool her without answering to anyone. I'd imagine by that time Suzi and I will be accustomed to homeschooling and taking care of any legal stuff will be a small addition to our routine.

What I'm still concerned about: I'm not sure what to do about grades. Specifically, I don't know how it will affect my children's chances at college acceptance and scholarships if we decide not to do grading in the traditional sense. I haven't seen any info on how homeschooled children are evaluated for these things, and I imagine I will, but I have really just started reading. Anyone have any insight on this?

I am excited to do this. As Suzi gets older, I am enjoying spending time with her more and more and I honestly can't imagine handing her over to someone else to teach all day. As I collect information and my intentions evolve, I am going to keep posting on this. I'm sorry if it bores you, but it'll help me keep track of things!

If you homeschool, what are you responsible for legally where you live? Has the legal aspect been as trying as you thought? Does your school district follow the letter of the law and check up on things to the full extent they are allowed, or is it reserved more for situations in which they have reason to be concerned?


Kristin said...

I am no expert on the topic, but I can speak from a bit of experience. I was homeschooled myself and we didn't "do" grades. However, when it was time for my mom to record on an official transcript, she would assign a grade based on our overall performance. Did we strive to do our best in a subject? A! Did we struggle with something and not really get it? Maybe a B. Did we blow it off? How about a C?

As far as the legal standards, in our state we have 2 options. You can answer to the county board of ed. We are not required to do any testing, but a rep from the board evaluates your portfolio each year. We've chosed the second option which is to go under an umbrella school. In our umbrella school, another family evaluates your portfolio. So easy and non threatening!

Anonymous said...

I am so not an expert, but I wonder how much weight would be given to grades that are assigned by parents, anyway. It seems like it would be difficult to evaluate that objectively, especially when you're following your childrens' lead.

What I do know about university admissions is from a friend who used to work at a local university. She said that often, homeschoolers would do a semester or two at a community college. The university would often not accept direct admissions, so this was a way around that. Again, it came down to having no objective way to 'evaluate' the homsechoolers, especially without standardized test scores. (In Canada, we don't have anything like the SATs so colleges depend on schools to rank and grade their own pupils.)

Anonymous said...

I've been homeschooling in New York for about 15 years. I have to fill out an IHIP and send in quarterly reports,for each child. During certain years we can write up an evaluation and certain years we have to do testing. Each school district handles it differently. Some let you test with them,some homeschool groups test together,I order my test from Christian Liberty Press . I give the test and send it in for scoring.

I have always assigned a E,S or U for their grades I did have to do a little changing with that and turn them into point scores when it was time to write up the High School transcript(forms online) for my oldest to apply for college.He also had to take the ACTs.As well as get his GED.

Look up the LEAH group for your area and go to one of their conferences and you will find lots of info.Try to narrow down to one curriculumn and use it as a base so you know you are covering the scope of what is needed for the year and then let your child lead away with the guidance of a boundary. Have fun!!

Kristin said...

Oh, I forgot to mention college. Though colleges used to be hesitant to accept homeschooler, that is a thing of the past!! A lot of colleges actually seek out homeschool students because of their excellent track record. Many students take the SAT and homeschoolers on average do better than public school students. The SAT is just one factor, though. Most universities and even community colleges have their own entrance or placement exam. If the student scores well, the college rarely cares what about the grade on the transcript.

Rebecca said...

I am not a fan of grading. I think it is subjective and shouldn't carry much weight. For example -- if I give a student a test with 10 questions and he misses 2 -- he has a C. If I give him a test with those same 10 questions and 40 fluff questions, he misses the same 2 and makes an A. I like tests because they evaluate mastery of a subject. My child makes all A's in school. To me, that says she needs more challenge, not that she's brilliant. In the cognitive psych class I took, they stated that testing, even without receiving feedback, improved learning. I think the lack of grades would promote intrinsic learning and exploration of subjects. I think grades pressure a student to memorize the material rather than master the concept. Children today are tested too much with too much emphasis placed on numbers. If you can do it without grades, I strongly urge you to!

Don't forget, too, that Jordan has access to all the books at the library here on campus and online access to articles and journals that you may find useful. You can use his info and request books be delivered to his office and he can just bring them home with him so you don't have to send him into the library searching for them.