Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Official State Homeschooling Packet

Today I received a rather thick packet of information from my county's School Superintendent. It's interesting and I think I'll take a minute to explore the packet and tell you what I think about it.

Why? Well, apart from the fact that I just know everyone is interested in my views on pretty much everything, this is a good use of my time because not everything they sent me is written into our state's homeschooling laws.

It is SO important to know this stuff for yourself, because some of what I've been sent appears to be perfectly reasonable and were I not informed, I might be providing information to the state that I am not legally required to, that the county has no right to even ask me for.

Page 1: A receipt, so to speak, for last homeschool year, showing that they did receive my documentation that Ryan was homeschooled last year for the state-required minimum 180 days. It's nice of them to send this, though they are also not required to send this by law. I have my own attendance records and keep copies of what I send to the county, so if they didn't send me this receipt, I would still be covered should anyone ever decide to investigate our records.

Page 2: A summarization of the Home Study law for Georgia. Nice of them to send, though not legally required (in fact, the county is not legally required to communicate with me in any way, unless they are following up on missing paperwork). Let's see....looking over this, the information summarized here mostly matches my understanding of the law. I just double-checked on LexisNexis (searched "home study" GA) and the law states (as I recalled) that attendance reports must be sent to the school superintendent, not "school superintendent or designee" as stated in the form. A quibble, perhaps, and I have no problem sending our reports to the designee, but they ought not to represent that as the law I think.

Page 3: A copy of a Declaration of Intent to Utilize a Home Study Program (aka DOI). Everything checks out according to the law. Yay.

Page 4: Cobb County Public Schools Information Sheet 2010-2011 School Year. Not required, and indeed, this is noted as an "optional" form at the bottom of the page. I will not be submitting this, as it asks for information my public school system, quite frankly, has no right to know, including all of our phone numbers, the kids' DOBs and grade levels, and the name of the school(s) they last attended. While I am glad the county has marked this optional, I'm concerned that they would even try to obtain this information, and even more concerned that other parents would provide it.

Pages 5-9: A list of homeschooling resources. Not required for them to give me. This section begins "There is no provision in the law that requires public school systems to participate in or contribute to home study programs; neither does it prohibit a school system from assisting on a voluntary basis." It's nice of them to provide, I guess, and I'm sure some parents may find value in it. Let's just say I'm suspicious of their motives. Many of the resources on the list are great.

They also provide a list of accredited online/correspondence high schools with the caveat "Many distance learning education programs are not accredited by an approved agency which may affect college admissions and HOPE Scholarship." This is so very true. Also, it begs the question of "approved by whom?" and exposes the biased-against-homeschoolers HOPE Scholarship rules (homeschoolers have more hurdles to jump through to receive this, and must get it retroactively only, because you know, the quality of high school student churned out by the public school system is necessarily higher than those unaccredited homeschoolers. Sorry. Couldn't resist that one.)

Hmmm....lots of serious words about what will happen if a homeschooled high school student tries to transfer back into the public school system, and all of the stringent standards/probationary periods that might affect them. Beware!!!

Later on, after a list of testing services (GA homeschooled kids are required to have a standardized test every three years beginning at the end of third grade), this amusing sentence (emphasis included) "Cobb County Public Schools provide Standardized Testing only for students enrolled in Cobb County Public Schools. The CRCT [our state NCLB test] is given only to a student enrolled fulltime in a Cobb County Public School." Oh darn! My poor kid is denied the privilege of CRCT. Dude--one of the many reasons I haven't enrolled him in the first place.

Oh, pleased to see our homeschool co-op listed among the resources. Yay!

And then, Driver's License Information (emphasis included): "Home schooled students under 18 years cannot obtain a Georgia Driver's License if they are not registered with the county and file attendance on a regular monthly basis." Actually, this law applies to all students, not just homeschooled ones. The state legislature effectively raised the age of compulsory attendance from 16 to 18 (this was a few years ago) by not allowing <18 year olds to get a driver's license unless they were in school. Utterly ridiculous and you probably shouldn't get me started.

Pages 10-11: Cobb County IKA & IHBG District Administrative Rules Regarding Entering a Student in a Local School from Home Study. Their policies for letting homeschooled students back in indicate that they will assess the students according to "State Board of Education policy and District Administrative Rule requirements relating to entrance into kindergarten or first grade." (What does that mean?), "Chronological age," "performance on standardized/placement tests" and "age, physical size, social and emotional maturity levels." As well as lots and lots of extra rules for high school aged students. Good to know.

Page 12: TRANSCRIPT OF COURSE WORK COMPLETED IN HOME STUDY PROGRAM: HIGH SCHOOL. (All caps in original.) Wow, they really seem to expect me to send them my kids at some point, huh?

Page 13: Change of Address/Status Form. This form is to tell the office of a change of address or a change of status--that is, if we stop homeschooling. NOT REQUIRED BY LAW. Just sayin'.

Next, they provided 10 copies of the Monthly Attendance Form. Everything is in order on the form.

Finally, Page 24: Withdrawal Notification (on pink paper!). This is just like the Change of Address/Status Form only without a "change of address" section. Again, NOT REQUIRED BY LAW.

Interesting packet. Overall, it's okay, but I hate that they even send this, because I think it is intended to give parents the idea that they can--and should--rely on the state for assistance in homeschooling their children. I have a problem with this over-reliance on the state to certify and license things, to make things like birth and marriage "official," etc. in general.

My problem with this in our culture is precisely why I choose to follow the letter of the law and provide only the minimum necessary to remain compliant with the law. I do not give Ryan's DOB or grade level, because it's not required (only his age is required). I will not report Morgan as attending Kindergarten this year, because the compulsory attendance law does not require reporting until the child is age 6 by September 1 of any given school year (I know of people who homeschool for K and choose to report early, and boy I wish they wouldn't).

This packet from my county was mostly in compliance with the law--but if I wasn't informed, I might not know that it's not entirely in compliance. I know of another county in Georgia that recently sent a similar packet to its homeschoolers, and erroneously told them they needed to show up in person at the superintendent's office to apply to homeschool, and submit a curriculum for inspection, too. Uninformed citizens of that county, believing that people who work for the state have a knowledge of the law (and perhaps not realizing that they have an incentive to ask for more from people than they legally can), may have complied with this illegal request. The last thing I want to do is have people who work for the state to become accustomed to receiving more than the minimum, because once they do, they have the power to make it into a law. We need fewer laws and restrictions and requirements; not more.

(Unlike my flaunting of the Census Bureau, I choose to comply with this law at a minimum. I certainly don't recognize the state's right to know my kid's name or age and how many days he "attended" homeschool either. But given that they have the power to take him from me if I don't comply, it's not worth it to flaunt.)

So thanks, Cobb County, for sending me that packet. I assure you that you will receive only 11 pieces of paper from me this year, though: 1 DOI and 10 attendance reports.


Kash said...

Oooh, which county did all that?? Craziness!

I hate the packet. Everything you need is clearly labeled on the heir.org site. I think the thing that bothers me the most is the "withdrawal form," though. It really irks me.

Jenn Casey said...

I can't remember which county...something not metro-Atlanta though. I'm on the HEIR Board (Queen of Slack Member) and learned about it through the list.

Completely agreed about the packet. Le sigh.

Conan the Grammarian said...

I believe you mean "flout" rather than "flaunt".

Jenn Casey said...

CtG, sigh, yes. Is that what you do, peruse people's informal blogs and correct their grammar? Because if so, that's tiresome and don't do it again here.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

Click on the link for the 239th Carnival of homeschooling! Hope you can give us some link-love.

Harmony said...

I live in the lovely GA county just to the north of you. :-) Our daughter is 1 year old, and I briefly considered reporting for K. Why? Because the law says to report "thirty days after the establishment of the home study program." To me, that meant that if we were going to do K, we should report.

I changed my mind, though. Reporting for K would mean we are bound by the other conditions of the law, such as the 4 1/2 hours a day (which is a stupid law for any grade, but especially for Kindergarten).

Marbel said...

I am a firm believer in minimum compliance. Here in Pennsylvania there are enough hoops to jump through that are required by law! I don't add any more.

Every homeschooling family should be very familiar with their state law.