Friday, May 15, 2009

New Town, New Rules - Writing a Homeschool Education Plan

As many of you know, we have moved from Connecticut to Massachusetts (which I am proud to say that I think I can finally spell – who needs graduation test with words like Massachusetts – if you can spell it, you pass). This move has brought not only the many common moving problems like boxes and space, not being able to find things that you packed, learning new roads and how to get the grocery store, but as homeschoolers it has brought new regulations.

We are very lucky in Connecticut to have the right to educate our children as we see fit. There is recommended additional bureaucratic paperwork set out by the Department of Education if you see fit to complete it, but there is no legal obligation other than withdrawing officially, being enumerated by your school district (i.e. being counted as a homeschooler), and properly educating your child so that they are employable in the future. In Massachusetts however, paperwork is mandatory and so is the annual review. So I am busy now trying to fill out the children’s educational plan.

I didn’t think that it would be difficult to fill out a plan, but I must admit, I feel a little tied down. We are eclectic homeschoolers. We have a core curriculum that I follow for each child, primarily from Alpha Omega’s LifePac series, but then we also supplement with a variety of other materials. We often go on tangents, down side roads, and basically explore the world. For example, during the move, I’m not sure how many “official” homeschool books we opened, but this does not mean we did not learn things. How many kids can explain about down payments, participated in home inspections, and had closing documents explained to them by a lawyer? Certainly this experience has been an educational one, but how would I have put that in their educational plan a year ago?

In our first year of homeschooling in Connecticut, I had filled out the letter of intent and expected a portfolio review at the end. In fact, I kind of looked forward to showing them that I accomplished what they could not (we pulled our kids from public school in 2nd and 3rd grade). But then when I wasn’t called in for the review and opted to just withdraw the kids the following year, I never expected to have to face Big Brother again. Here we are though, in Massachusetts, with a whole new set of rules and an annual review again looming. I’m not so cocky now. I don’t need to prove anything anymore. In fact, I am a little concerned that our definition of education has pulled so far from society at large that it may be hard to explain our accomplishments. I no longer look at their quiz grades to tell me that we are successful. I wait for the times when they come up with an insight or an idea that may never have occurred to them before. I wait for the times that my daughter shows me a political cartoon that makes her laugh because she understands all the concepts behind it. I wait for the times that my son comes up with a better way to do something than either my husband or I. How am I supposed to record and show these moments? And frankly, given the public school’s track record are they the ones that should be judging?

Do you think that I could get away with “Educational Plan – to live in the world, to search for new experiences, and to participate in society so that it is a little better because we are here.”?

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