Legalities and Logistics of Homeschooling
The Fishy Perks
Unlike the many questions I had to answer about why I was deciding to home-school, my husband’s questions concerned the how. How are you going to do it? How are you going to know what to teach her? How are you going to be sure she’s on track for her age? How are you going to find out what we have to do legally?
Homeschooling is not a new idea. It’s gained some acceptance and has gained a few more disciples, but thankfully, there does exist others who came before. The first thing I did was look at the U.S. Department of Education’s web site. According to a 1999 US Department of Education archived article by Patricia M. Lines, “Homeschooling has more than doubled possibly tripled – in the 5 years between the 1990-91 school year and the 1995-96 school year. By the 1995-96 school year, from 1 to 2 percent of the total school-aged population were in homeschooling. Within the private education world, it has become a major sector, where it represents approximately 10 percent of the privately-schooled population. In some states homeschooling may exceed 20 percent of the privately-schooled population.” And that was in 1999. The United States values school choice for parents—especially for parents who live in districts with Title I schools that have been designated as under-performing. Legally, however, the federal government allows each state to handle its own processes for accountability.
The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) home-school law reads as follows: “The general assembly hereby declares that it is the primary right and obligation of the parent to choose the proper education and training for children under his care and supervision. It is recognized that home-based education is a legitimate alternative to classroom attendance for the instruction of children and that any regulation of nonpublic home-based educational programs should be sufficiently flexible to accommodate a variety of circumstances” (Title 22, Colorado Revised Statutes: Education Article 33: School Attendance Law of 1963 Section 104.5, as amended). Each state has a similar article. Of course, while it is reassuring to know that you are legally within your rights to home-school, you still have to abide by some form of “regulation.” In the state of Colorado, homeschooled children need to take assessments in grades 3, 5, 7, 9 & 11.
I finally found my way to the district level. Each family is responsible for notifying the district in which they reside that they have a school-aged child who will be attending home-school. For some states, this is done with a letter and with others there is an actual form. In our case, we had to fill out an Intent to Home School Form. On that form, there is also a copy of the state legislation which lists the specific number of required home-school hours as 172 days, 4 hrs/day, for a total of 688 hours. Parents are encouraged to keep records of their contact hours. Additionally, our district also offers a “Home School Academy Enrichment Program” where homeschooled children can attend various activities such as art or foreign language, etc. Many districts are also offering on-site tutoring in core subjects for homeschoolers.
The Important Stuff
Once the legalities were out of the way, I began putting together my Home School Ecology. I needed a focus and direction for the curriculum I would choose. In answer to my husband’s question about how I would know she was on track for her age, I again began at the top and worked my way down. Because state law mandates that we still have our daughter take the Colorado State Assessment (CSAP) every two years beginning with third grade, I downloaded all of the Grade 2 Benchmarks and Standards available from the CDE.
Even as a former classroom teacher, I never thought the standards were at issue—only the means in which we attempt to meet those standards. Once all the administrative tasks were taken care of, the fun really began. Ever since I can remember, I have been enamored with school supplies. It’s hard to drag me out of an office supply store or a bookstore. Even more exciting are the teacher supply stores! I’m just afflicted with that special disease that Richard Rodriguez describes in his essay, “Achievement of Desire” excerpted from his full-length memoir Hunger Memory. In it he says he “hoarded the pleasures of learning” –hoarded. Not enjoyed. Not tolerated—hoarded. That’s what I’m aiming to truly transfer to my child. I seek only to be contagious. The first stop for us was the office supply store where I let her choose her school supplies—the perk was I didn’t have to say no to the kitty pencil case because some list in an attempt at equalization called for “plain, solid-colored, plastic box.” When she stated the next request, the conditioning of previous years was obvious, “I can’t get this kind of pen, can I?” It was a pen with a rubber fish on the top. When you squeeze it, its eyes pop out. “Of course you can!”
Jenn Gutiérrez holds an M.F.A in English and Writing. Previous work has appeared in journals such as The Texas Review, The Writer’s Journal, The Acentos Review, Antique Children, and Verdad Magazine. Her 2005 debut collection of poems titled Weightless is available through most online book outlets. She currently teaches composition at Pikes Peak Community College and is working on a doctoral degree in Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Denver.