Saturday, February 9, 2013

An open letter in defense of homeschooling freedom


Note:  If you are unfamiliar with South Carolina's homeschool laws and would like to know more, there's a summary here at homeschoolacademy.com.  I would have linked to scstatehouse.gov, but the website is down today.  Hopefully it will be back up soon.

To South Carolina's General Assembly and all concerned citizens:

The 2012-2013 school year has been a special one for our family.  This year our firstborn daughter turned five and we began our official first year as a homeschool family.  We’ve known since she was a baby that we would homeschool.  Our reasons for choosing this path are many and deep, and we take it seriously.  Our journey to this first homeschool year has been filled with research, networking, and preparation.  We’ve spent hundreds of dollars on curricula, books, and manipulatives.  Last summer we drove out of state for a wonderful homeschool conference.  We are active members of a homeschool enrichment cooperative.  We pour our time, money, and energy into this for our children’s sakes.  Knowing this, can you imagine how I felt upon learning that lawmakers in our state were devising a plan to have us jump through extra hoops and pay more money?  The passing of House Bill 3478 would mean less time and money for diligent, responsible homeschoolers to spend actually homeschooling.

While there may be a few parents who do not fulfill their responsibilities, the majority do.  All of the homeschool parents I know go above and beyond.  Likewise, most third option accountability associations do an excellent job of ensuring that parents know what is required and seeing that they fulfill it.  Palmetto Homeschool Association, which our family uses, certainly does.  It has always been clear to me that failing to submit the documents certifying that we have completed the required work is unacceptable and could result in termination of our membership.  No, it is not required that we submit details of what we do every day; more specific records are maintained privately at home.  But why would I lie?  A school bus passes our house every day.  If I were a lazy, uncaring parent, all I’d need to do to be within the law is nudge my daughter out the door to get on the bus every morning.  Of course, most of the parents of public school children I know are also passionate about their children's education.  They spend hours helping with homework, chaperoning field trips, and volunteering at the school, but none of that is required by law.  If I really didn’t care, I could put my kids on that bus once they reach kindergarten age and have six hours to myself every day.  We could become a dual-income family and enjoy more luxuries.  Instead, I choose to stay home with my children and homeschool.  A large portion of our spending money goes into buying educational items or to pay for family field trips.  As I think of a few of my homeschooling friends, I know I am not the only one.  We are passionate about helping our children learn and grow.  If this bill were to become law, it would take money we could put towards our children’s education away from us.  The sponsors of this bill have apparently seen some poor examples of homeschooling parents, but this is no reason to hurt all the good ones with expensive and invasive measures.

This proposed legislation would create financial hardship for many homeschooling families.  Membership in our third option accountability group, Palmetto Homeschool Association, tops out at $65 per year for an entire family of homeschoolers.  It's quite affordable and has fulfilled our needs perfectly, but the sponsors of this this bill want to kill it.  Membership in SCAIHS, the second legal option, costs upwards of $400 per year depending on several factors.  What’s more, the president of SCAIHS has said the organization “adamantly opposes” the legislation, according to this article on wyff4.comIs it really wise to place thousands of extra protesting families under the auspices of this organization without their permission?  Also, if this bill becomes law, we will be having tests administered in our home so that our daughter will be in her own learning environment, particularly while she is still very young.  Public school children get this for free.  I have no idea how much in-home testing would cost us, but we could make some budget cuts if necessary to afford it.  Many families wouldn’t be able to pay that extra money. 

The proposed new requirements could create more than just financial stress for families.  Forced testing of homeschoolers is unfair.  First of all, public school children are taught from the same curriculum and learn the material that will be on the test in the same environment in which they will test.  They would be much more comfortable testing than children who were accustomed to learning at home.  I took standardized tests when I was a public school child, and I remember my teacher telling us not to worry and to do our best.  For a public school child, the test is no big deal.  For a homeschooled child, however, there's a chance it could be.  The law states that if a child performs below the appropriate grade level on a standardized test, as one of several invasive remedies, the child may be forced to attend public school.  Some children, despite a teacher’s best efforts, do not test well.  Some of them might have debilitating anxiety.  Some of them might naturally be a grade level or two behind on one subject, while ahead in another.  This happens in public school classrooms all the time!  Would it be fair to fire these students’ teachers?  Is it fair to cause me and my children anxiety all year long because if, for whatever reason, they perform poorly on the test I could be fired as their teacher?  This probably would not happen to us, but it could happen to some families and it would completely change a homeschooling family's way of life.

The government has no business reaching into our lives in the way this bill proposes.  It is not the will of the people, and it's certainly not what the freedom-loving people of South Carolina want and expect from their legislators.  We parents raised these children.  We’ve changed diapers, fed them, taken them to the dentist, washed their clothes, and read “Goodnight Moon” fifteen times in a row.  We’ve done everything for them and have poured our very lives into helping them grow.  Now that our children are school-aged, there are some who would suggest that we are not qualified or don’t care enough to offer our children a decent education.  That is simply uncalled for.  The vast majority of those who homeschool strive to offer the very best education to their children—and in the United States of America, and especially in our state which values freedom so highly, they should always have the right to do it as they see fit.  Lawmakers, please abandon this and any future efforts to restrict the freedom of homeschooling families.  It’s a waste of our time and tax dollars, and propositions of increased government control certainly won’t win you any popularity in our state.

Sincerely,

Jenny, a hardworking homeschooling mother

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Long overdue family update

A typical weekend breakfast


I didn't mean to neglect my blog for this long!  It's so hard to find time for writing, and especially for posting pictures.  Sometimes I think about it, and then when I see how messy the house is and how rowdy the kids are, I think, oh, never mind.  

But I do want to update on what my kids are doing, if for no other reason than so I can remember later.  Here's what's going on with each of my kids, and me and Jordan too while I'm at it.


Suzi:


The older she gets, the more fun we have.  If it weren't for Ivey and Robert (well, mostly Robert) I could sit and read to her for hours on end.  She is also starting to read on her own now!  We are going through our collection of First Start Easy Readers and, increasingly, she can read through them with little to no help from me.  It's usually just help with a tricky word here and there.  She continues to enjoy art, singing, and acting.  We got the Les Mis soundtrack and she sings along with several of the songs in the car.  Her favorite is "Castle on a Cloud," but she also enjoys "Master of the House," which is funny to hear from her.  I love to take her rollerskating.  When we first took the girls over the summer, she was so nervous and didn't want to leave the carpet.  Now she takes off on her little black and blue skates with the light-up wheels, pops up on her toe stops, and scoots around at homeschool skate socializing with her friends.  I am bursting with pride and have given her the roller derby name R.L.  Bustya.  She says she wants to join the team when she's 18.  I hope she doesn't change her mind because with those long skinny legs and 13 years of skating experience, she would be so fast and awesome!  Below, Suzi is directing a doll choir.

video


Ivey:

Cuddler supreme and big sister extraordinaire.  She plays with her little brother, who adores her and always wants to know where Iyee is.  She works at her desk we have set up for her at the end of the counter, and enjoys drawing with markers and using tape.  As for homeschooling, she's mostly been joining in with me and Suzi when she feels like it in between playing.  She has attended the Tri-Art shows with us this year and she and Suzi are taking a drama class together again this winter.  I am helping her learn to write her name.  Increasingly, though, I am realizing that I need to start having more special Ivey time.  She loves to sit and have stories read to her.  I think I'm going to use the Oak Meadow Kindergarten curriculum for her when we start school next year.  She'll be four in August.  Like Suzi, she can dress herself now.  Her style is more practical and a lot less snazzy than her big sister's.  Her current favorite activities include playing dress-up as a princess, fixing her own hair, and working at her McDonald's cash register.  Oh, and jumping on the couch.  She hates taking a nap, and it's sometimes incredibly hard to get decent food into her.

She is quickly getting taller!  Time to buy her longer pants!






Robert:

Robert's big news:  The other day he decided he was ready to start using the potty!  We'd tried it out a few times before, just sitting him on it first thing in the morning or right after a diaper change, with mixed results.  Usually he just sat on it for a second, then got up and said "done!" and the potty was still empty.  But this time he said "nee potty, Mom," and sat on it and peed!  Then today, for the first time, he sat on it and pooped, too!  I can't tell you how happy I am.  He is now wearing the cloth training pants, and has only been wet once since this morning.  I know we are still far from being done, but that's okay, we've begun.  Yay.

He has his own little bed now, but he rarely sleeps in it.  Robert loves to cuddle.


Other than that, Robert sings loud, nonsensical songs and is talking up a storm.  Cute little sentences.  Here's a bit of Robert-to-English for you.

Nee yight on! -->  I need the light on!
Yight off!  -->  Now let's turn it off!  (again and again and again)
Wah dow, Mom. -->  I want down, Mom (from the highchair).
I wah dee daw!  -->  Hold me up so I can ring the doorbell before you shut the door!
Nee booboo side!  -->  I need to nurse!  or  This side is empty, now I need the other one!
Is yock, Mom.  -->  It (the drawer to the McD's cash register) is locked, Mom.  Open it?

There's so much more, but I can't think of it all right now.  There's this hilarious song we heard at homeschool skate and he and Ivey both sing and dance to it.  Robert's favorite place to play is in the toy kitchen, or at the Cinderella hair care vanity that Ivey got for Christmas.  He even enjoys pretending to put makeup on Ivey's Rapunzel styling head.  He seems to have a love for shoes, always wanting to put his own on, and mine on me.  When I get a fancy new pair, he likes to look at them, and the other day he stole (borrowed?) a little board book about shoes from church.  He still enjoys babbies and other classic toys such as the little wooden pound-and-roll.  Also, balls of all sorts.  We went bowling in January and he was fascinated with those big heavy balls he couldn't lift.  I loved him right away, of course, but Robert is developing this awesome personality and, despite making me very tired, is more and more fun to be around.



Jordan:
Recently learned how to tie a bowtie!  I think he looks so cute.


He is working and taking one class towards his degree, and the other day he got his motorcycle permit!  We are going to buy him a motorcycle soon to replace the car he's been driving, which is the 13-year-old Corolla I got when I was in high school.  It's badly sun-damaged, and to get out he has to roll down the window and open the door from the outside.  The interior is shot.  He is always the one in the family to say "it's okay, I can wait and get my (whatever he needs) later," and he definitely deserves a motorcycle!  We will be buying one soon, shortly after he takes the three-day motorcycle safety class at the beginning of March.  I'm excited for him.  Other than that, he is working on a couple of projects such as putting a fire pit in the back of our yard.  Because he is an amazing dad and spends so much time with the kids when he is home, he doesn't have much time for himself.  I'm trying to work on that.  At least now that my parents can keep Robert more often, we have a bit more time for dates and things we can do together!


Me:
At Jordan's cousin's wedding in January


Still doing roller derby, now with a renewed determination because there is an invitational bout coming up next month that I'm hoping to skate in, and to do that I need to pass assessments.  I'm getting close!  Sometimes I get so stressed out, but overall I love staying home with my kids.  I love homeschooling/unschooling and am so glad we chose this path.  Sewing and making crafts for profit is currently off my radar, as I've just been too busy, but I have enjoyed some volunteer crafting.  I'm doing a lot of the decorating for my high school reunion that's coming up in July!  I'm also becoming more involved with our church, and looking for ways I can craft to help others.  I hope to someday do craft fairs and make custom items, but right now I'd have to give up something else I love to fit that in.  I'm trying to find the time for running again, because I'd like to stay in shape and it also helps with my skating.  Life is busy!

They are wonderful.  I love it when they all play together!


That's all for now.  Hopefully it won't be over a month before I get to blog again!