Monday, August 04, 2008

Not Back To School Paperwork

This week, I will file my first little bit of homeschool paperwork with the state, notifying them of our intent to homeschool. (A copy of the Declaration of Intent to homeschool (aka DOI) can be found here.)

And I'm really grumpy about it. :o)

Now there is a part of me that is filled with nostalgic pride that my little boy is big enough to move on to this next stage of his life. But that has less to do with him reaching the official age of formal schooling than it does with the fact that he is maturing and changing right before my very eyes. His interests are those of a Big Kid now--his skills are more Big Kid, too. He is leaving his babyhood and toddlerhood behind. And in a hurry, too. The kid already wants a job and his own house! (No need for us to worry that this one will never leave the nest!)

I also have nearly identical reminders of Ryan's babyhood, too. I look at Sean, and Morgan, and I see Ryan at their ages. All of those people (even my mom!) are right--the time really does fly by. I know that in the next heartbeat, Morgan will be changing into a Big Kid, and then Sean. Although it seems impossible!

I see that I have digressed somewhat. Blame it on postpartum hormones. My baby's all growns up! Ouch! Being a parent is terrific fun, but it's a painful thing, too.

But my point is that I am all excited that Ryan is moving onward and upward. And if we were sending him to school, that first day would of course be a logical occasion by which we could mark his progress toward adulthood.

But we aren't sending him to school. And I can't seem to make myself complete the form and send it in. Not because I want to postpone Ryan's growing up, but because I don't see why on earth I need to tell anybody in my state government about it. And so I grump.

Georgia's reporting requirements are relatively painless, compared with the laws in some states. What I have to do is file this DOI once a year, to declare us as homeschooling. This is our insurance against truancy officers. I recently learned that private schools are also required to report the names and ages of their students to the state as well. That just doesn't sit well with my inner paranoia. Why on earth does the government need the names and ages of all the kids who aren't in the government education system? I'll let you pick your favorite theory.

And you know, I really resent having to carry papers in case I have to prove to someone in the government that I'm following the law. (Never mind the fact that the education of my kids is not a valid interest of the state.) I am not a criminal or negligent parent. There should be a presumption of innocence, yes? Why am I reporting up to the government? Don't they work for me? Why, yes! Yes they do.

In fact, I vehemently oppose ANY law that requires innocent citizens to have to prove anything to the state "just in case." Homeschooling paperwork, the Real ID, etc. Heck, it even irked me when I received Sean's freshly minted Social Security Card and birth certificate. The fact that there are formal records in the state and federal governments of the existence of my kids--and me, and Brendan--irks me. Hmph hmph hmph. (That'll show 'em!)

The other reporting requirement is that I will have to file monthly "attendance" reports with our local school board until we reach our 180 days of school as mandated by the state. All that is necessary is that we mark the days as "yes we did school" and "no we didn't do school." No reporting as to what or what does not constitute said "school" is necessary--it's all up to us. Which is something--I think if I lived in a state that required oversight of curriculum choices or educational progress (as defined by the state) I would go nuts. I know people do it and still manage and more power to them. I don't envy them, though.

There are other requirements in Georgia's law, but nothing else that requires any oversight by officials from the government. So really, it's not too bad. I know that. But I'm irritated that I even have to do anything! And this is not like the American Community Survey, for which non-compliance with the law has few (if any) consequences. I must do this, since not to comply invites all kinds of other trouble for us and our kids.

Now I feel better, having gotten that off my chest! I suppose I can go fill that form out now. Thanks for listening!


Deb said...

I'm in a very similar position to you, except that New York state's requirements are far more onerous than Georgia's: Along with a Notice of Intent (which I think is due July 15 but I haven't filed yet), we have to give a comprehensive curriculum plan. We have to file quarterly subject-by-subject reports of progress. We must complete at least 900 hours per year (mostly definable as you like, fortunately). There are particular subjects we must include (fire safety, citizenship, drug & alcohol awareness). We must provide either a narrative or a standardized test at the end of the year. It's a lot of words about your kid's progress. Fortunately, the administrators just seem to smile and nod and slip it into each kid's folder, and not even read it.

I have a good relationship with the people in my district, thank goodness. My husband is a mathematician and I publish (which the administrator herself uses regularly), plus my curriculum plan always starts with a brainy little essay on what I believe is essential to a good education -- all of these are elements which virtually shout out YOU DON'T WANT TO MESS WITH US.

That gives me leeway to be late with all my paperwork, which I am regularly, just as my personal way of asserting that I will not be subject to the whim of the state. This only works because I have a good relationship with the district, and they are smart enough to leave homeschoolers generally alone -- they just need the correct forms in our file to dot their i's and cross their t's.

But I hate it. My soul rebels.

I'd better go write that NOI. The administrator is on vacation, due back on the 6th. Should have it to her before that.

Kelly said...

I hate to hear about NY state's requirements. My husband and I live in NY and I want to homeschool (once we actually have kids). It really really grates on me to know that I'll have to file all that BS with the state. I plan on homeschooling my kids to protect them from so much of the scary things they teach in state schools. What are the going to insist on next, diversity awareness? *shiver*

My soul rebels and I'm not even a parent yet! I'm with you, Jenn. Even dealing with social security irks me. Can't they just leave us alone?

Ok, rant over. Congrats on your little kiddle growing up even if it is scary! I'd love to know how homeschooling progresses if you decide to post about it!

Susan Ryan said...

Thanks for expressing your feelings about your family's rite of passage (of sorts). I was starting to wonder if I might be a bit crazed thinking it would be extremely annoying to fill out that yearly paperwork.

I'm in IL and we've never filled out paperwork for our 2 youngest (never schooled) to send in to any bureaucracy. We don't have to notify or report to schools or agencies (even if we're asked by schoolie people). Except to respond that we are home educating at the same 'equivalency' as ps kids.

I'm not braggin', because I wish all homeschooling families across the country could do that. I'm thrilled to see the 'rebelling souls' about this reporting business. :-)

ps (and speaking of none of their business)...recently my counter history showed a google search of "rational jenn american community survey" landing at my blog. Sometimes I wonder what some people really do for a living.

suchlovelyfreckles said...

We have to register and then take the standardized tests after 3rd, 5th, 8th and 10th grade. I suppose that's pretty good, although I'm extremely opposed to registering them.
Lots of people I know fly below the radar. But I think I'm too scared to do that.

Jessica Lee, Adam Ross, and Evan Ross Cooke said...

Interesting, for some reason I thought you were on the west coast. We're in FL now with the possibility of moving to Gainesville, GA next year.

I sympathise with your frustration. I just recently applied for a position as a 911 dispatcher for a nearby city. You should have seen how thick the background check paperwork was (not to mention I'm going to have to through a polygraph and psych eval). I've always hated filling out that kind of crap, and ironically have had to do at least 6 times for different government related things. I have yet to get over the juvenile urge to throw down my pen and pout.

Just out of curiosity, what's to stop you from just making up everything you have to report, and if there's nothing to stop you from fabricating it, what's the point (if you buy into the argument that the State must check to make sure you're actually educating your own kids in the first place)?

LB said...

I agree with Deb: if you give the administration reason to think that you are on top of things and armed to do battle if need be, they tend to leave you alone. On top of that, I’m always sure to include an invitation for a personal violin recital as our “method of evaluation to be submitted to the superintendent”. What educational bureaucrat can resist the thought of sitting captive in the living room of a homeschool family while they showcase their children’s musical talents?

Not that I don’t bristle with each section of the forms I fill out and hand deliver by June 30th every year! I do. I just try to use the bitterness-inducing form-filling exercise to my best advantage - as a way to force myself to make preliminary plans for next year. Then, Letter of Approval in hand, I promptly forget about it until the following June.

Admittedly, I feel a little bad about just going along with this infringement on our individual rights, but I'm just not ready to turn our homeschooling experience into a test case on the proper role of government. Maybe someday when my child is no longer at home...

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

In New Mexico, we also have to file an Intent to Homeschool. However, we only have to give the adult's name, our school district (no address), and the ages of the children to be homeschooling. Even then, people whose children have never been to school often don't comply. I did because I was removing N. and I didn't want nosy bureaucrats bothering me.

And I still feel put upon. Especially because a) the state department of education website is so out of date that they often don't have the form online before the actual deadline and b) they have no money or personnel to enforce the rule. That's a good thing, but I feel just a bit the coward when I comply anyway. It's none of their 'beeswax' as N. says.