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A View from the Home
by Cyndy Rodgers
 
Autumn days are beginning to fade and the chill of winter is approaching. Our homeschooling is in full swing and I'm feeling a lot like Snow White. Like her, I'm snug in my little cottage with Happy, Grumpy and Sleepy by my side. We're whistling while we work, oblivious to the outside world, until we realize that there is someone outside our door. Someone who is bothered by the happy world we have found together. In her case it was a jealous queen. For homeschool families in California, the foes are the Department of Education.

Those of us with common sense would wonder why, despite the fact that life back at the castle has its problems, the queen chooses to spend her energy trying to destroy Snow White's world. Not unlike Snow White, I too find myself being very na´ve. I am in disbelief at a group of people who complain of low test scores, crowded classrooms, and violence on campus, showing such determination to remove a choice that is yielding positive results.

Of course, I'm referring to former California State Superintendent Delaine Eastin. For twenty years, California homeschoolers have had the option of filing an R-4 affidavit declaring their home to be a private school. But suddenly, homeschooling families find themselves having to fight to keep this right.

As I reported in the last issue, Eastin wrote a letter to State legislators asking them for clarification of the homeschooling laws. In the letter she claimed that families who chose this option are using it illegally and their children are truant. This action empowered county school superintendents, who approve the R-4 applications, to use their own interpretation of the law. Now, counties up and down the state are beginning to question families' applying for the R-4 affidavit and in some cases denying applicants. Most often they are pushing them into home-study programs in their area, administered by the county public school district.

This battle has only begun. Although the 2002 session is closed and no new laws were introduced, the issue is not dropped. Eastin's successor, the November-elected superintendent, Jack O'Connell, whose background is in public education, has said he would support whatever the legislature decides.

There is a strong chance that next year the right to declare yourself a private school will be challenged, not unlike our fellow homeschoolers in Delaware. They found themselves in a similar battle last year with Senate Bill 165, which tried to remove homeschools from the private school classification. This would have jeopardized families who need special education services.

According to a recent interpretation of federal law, states where homeschools are not private schools do not have to spend any federal money on special education services for homeschool students. After much debate, the bill was stricken by the senate in January of this year and is now dead.

Special education services are not the only issue at stake here in California. It's the power to control your child's education. Recently, I found myself being interviewed by a local paper on the subject of the R-4. The reporter assumed that because we choose to affiliate with a home-study program, this issue did not affect us. I quickly corrected her. I cited this example:

Last year a group of homeschooling parents rallied the director of our home-study program to get a more meaningful science class for our middle schoolers. This year she came through with a 90-minute-per-week class in a beautiful laboratory on campus.

This program is out of my district and welcomes homeschoolers, so as to help fund the regular school with music, art and science program. If the R-4 option were removed, then the free market system giving parents the choice to affiliate with a home-study program or walk away, would also be removed. In essence, parents would lose their leverage.

The California legislation session begins in January 2003. This give us time to organize and inform our legislative officials as well as a sometimes misinformed general public to why this right is so important.

I say a "misinformed public" because in the course of the interview, the reporter asked if I knew a family that she could photograph homeschooling. My response was I am not sure what that looks like. Is it a parent and child reading or sitting at the kitchen table? Don't parents in public school do this too? Maybe she wanted to see a dining room with a chalkboard, textbooks and little desks. I explained to the reporter that my child was in a Spanish class with a group of other homeschoolers and most of the families I knew were not available -- art, music, science and sports classes made up their afternoons.

The next day, the newspaper displayed a large photo of a child standing on the front porch with his mother, pledging allegiance to the flag. The caption said that after the Pledge they would do their Bible study. Now don't get me wrong -- the American flag and the Bible are very precious to our family but homeschooling for us is about so many other things. But this newspaper chose to perpetuate a stereotype to the outside world. I socialize in a group of more than 150 families. They make up many faiths. Although there are some families who homeschool for religious reasons, homeschooling families are very diverse. Just pick a book on homeschooling and you will find represented Unschooling, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason and even public-school curricula for home use.

Former state superintendent Eastin referred to those who differed with her on this issue as "Extremists." Our cause is not helped by mainstream media resorting to stereotypes. Portraying all of us as home-schooling because they don't teach the Bible in public schools does everyone a disservice -- especially public education which needs to know all the other ways it has failed our kids.

What bothers me most about this situation is the fervor in which public education officials are going after homeschoolers. This zealousness is echoed in other states.

For example, in Louisiana, legislators Reggie Dupre Jr., Butch Gautreaux and Damon Baldone have written to Cecil Picard, Superintendent of Louisiana Department of Education saying "We are interested in filing bills for the 2003 Regular Session to tighten up on the requirements for home study and home schooling." They concede that the majority of homeschooling families are doing a good job. Their concern is the educational background of the parents.

The same arguments are being made here in California. All the rhetoric seems to be about credentials. Most parents don't have them and the state believes everyone who gets near a child should have one. Credentials are received after taking a list of courses designed by public school advocates and must be maintained with continued hours of in-service instructions in the same subjects. Basically, these courses are how to teach public school.

Being educated to teach is not the same as being educated. Many of the top graduates in math, science and history would not be considered adequate to teach a child in public school because they lack a credential. Yet, on the university level, the professors in demand are the leaders in their fields. Having experience and a commitment to their subject is what makes them desirable instructors. Most parents I know are more committed to their child's education than any paid stranger.

The Louisiana legislators cited a couple of cases that appear to be more about child neglect than a poorly educated parent. The argument that homeschooling attracts neglectful parents was made in the recent news article I referred to earlier. Opponents, left unnamed, said homeschooling could attract neglectful parents.

To that I relate this experience: When my children attended the public schools and I was a Room Mother, I saw children who were dumped at school. These children were in both before- and after-school care, which made for a ten-hour day. There were parents who never met the teacher, helped with homework or came to school events. Children were sent to school without a lunch and a coat. These parents were educated. Every day you can see on their child's face a feeling of neglect and abandonment.

The Louisiana legislature will be meeting with their state superintendent to discuss "the problems with homeschooling." I'm not sure if they realize that these are not problems with homeschooling, rather with two or three families who have also chosen to use the homeschool option.

Some of the options generated by the discussion are: (1) Give the power to oversee homeschoolers to the local school districts instead of the state DOE. (2) Make yearly testing of all homeschoolers mandatory, and the passing of tests criteria for approval to continue homeschooling. (3) Charge the homeschool family an annual registration fee of $35 or $150 per year so that the state or local school districts would have enough money to effectively regulate the homeschoolers. (4) Require that parents who wish to homeschool must have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED before they can begin. And finally (5) Require that if homeschoolers continue to apply for the home study program using a "list of books used" as part of their proof, they must use books off of a BESE-approved book list. The legislature will begin its session on March 31, 2003.

Proof that homeschoolers are doing a good job in the eyes of the state is also on the minds of legislators in Montana. Sen. Don Ryan (D-Great Falls) submitted a formal request to the Montana legislature for the drafting of a bill to require homeschool students to be tested annually with the same state assessment used in public schools.

Other nonpublic school students would be tested as well under Sen. Ryan's proposal. Parents failing or refusing to have the test administered to their children would be subject to prosecution for truancy and possible investigation by social services. Ryan says he was prompted to impose state testing on home schoolers by president Bush's "No Child Left Behind" federal initiative requiring the testing of public school students. He says there is a need for some type of accountability to the state for all children of compulsory attendance age, regardless of the educational option chosen for them. There is no bill yet drafted -- just as in California, it is simply dialogue. So Montana homeschoolers keep your eyes open.

In Nevada there's talk about making homeschoolers accountable to the state. Although the Nevada legislative session is not scheduled to meet this year, the dialogue has now stepped up to the drafting of a bill. Nevada just recently adopted "Content and Performance Standards" that are intended to provide accountability to public schools. Somehow, to the surprise of both homeschoolers and school officials, one of the unintended results of this reform effort was to link the state's homeschool regulations to these new public school standards.

At a September 14th meeting, the Nevada State Board of Education initiated the process of revising Nevada's homeschool regulations. Gary Waters, vice-president of the Nevada Board of Education, explained that traditionally the board has never really watched over homeschoolers, and that homeschooling has done very well in Nevada. Waters asked the board and the department to support homeschoolers by working with the Nevada Homeschool Network (NHN) and other homeschool groups. State Boardmember Theresa Malone then moved that NHN and other homeschooling groups work together with the Department to change the Nevada Administrative Code (NAC). A workshop to draft language was held in October the outcome is yet unknown.

By now you may be thinking the wicked queen has many sisters, but hold on -- there appears to a good witch living in Pennsylvania. There, a bill has been drafted which would eliminate some of the existing requirements from record-keeping, remove the need for a notarized affidavit containing education objectives, as well as mandatory testing. House Bill 2560 seems to hold that families know what's best for their children. H.B.2560 won't be voted on until after the election, but its language contains protection for home education programs from any state oversight except what is contained in the statutory law enacted by the General Assembly in this bill. Let's hope Pennsylvania wisdom spreads across the land . . . and we all live happily ever after.

Calendar of Events:
 
Alabama Conference held in July. For info about the 2003 conference see www.alhome.com
Alaska No conference scheduled. More info contact www.aphea.org
Arkansas No conference scheduled. More info contact www.familycouncil.org
Arizona For info on 2003 dates see www.afhe.org or contact Covenant Home School Resource Center Special Events 1117 E. Devonshire Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85014; 602/277-3497 Contact: Holly Craw hsgrd@att.net
California - March 29, 2003 - 9th Annual Southern Calif Homeschool Conf. For more information, visit: http://www.bayshoreeducational.com/conference.html
May 1-4, 2003 The Link "kid comfortable" 7th Annual Homeschool Conf, Pasadena Hilton Hotel; for more info, see www.homeschoolnewslink.com or e-mail: LinkReg2003@aol.com
June 13-15, Calif Homeschool Network 2003 Conf, Riverside Convention Center see www.californiahomeschool.net for more info.
For 2003 dates in central California www.valleyhomeeducators.org or call (209) 544-6892 or email to: information@valleyhomeeducators.org
Colorado June 19-21, 2003 conference in Denver. More info go to http://www.chec.org
Connecticut No conference scheduled. For updates visit: http://www.teachct.org/ or email teach.info@pobox
Delaware No conference scheduled. For updates check www.dheaonline.org
Florida May 22-24 2003. Florida Homeschool Convention, Gaylord Palms Resort, Kissimmee. For more info www.fpea.com or 877-ask-fpea 2002 tapes still available.
Georgia May 2-3 2003 17th Annual GHEA Home Education Conference. For more info (770) 461-3657 or www.ghea.org 2002 convention tapes available on line.
Hawaii Hawaii Homeschool Assoc, go to www.hawaiihomeschoolassociation.org, Voice mail (call anytime): 808-944-3339; hawaiihomeschoolers@hotmail.com (e-mail is best)
Idaho June 13 & 14, 2003 at Boise State Univ, in the Student Union Bldg. Keynote speakers will be Gregg Harris and Joyce Herzog for info visit: http://www.chois.org/
Illinois The 7th Annual Home Educators Conference is scheduled for March 14-15, 2003 at Pheasant Run, St. Charles, IL. Our new web site will be completed soon - please check back often. http://www.illinoishouse.org/index.html You can reach us at admin@HomeEducatorsConference.org
May 15-17, 2003 ICHE 2003 Annual State Convention Calvary Church, Naperville, IL. For more information, visit: www.iche.org
Indiana April 11 & 12, 2003 Indiana Assoc of Home Educators, 18th Annual Home Educator's Convention"No Greater Joy" Indiana Convention Center for info http://www.inhomeeducators.org
Iowa June 13, 14, 2003 11th Annual Home Educators' Conf & Curriculum Exhibit Hall, "Pressing Toward the Goal" for more info www.the-niche.org
Kansas The 2003 Midwest Parent Educators Conf is scheduled for May 2-3, 2003, at the Overland Park Convention Center at 6000 College Boulevard. www.mpekc.org
Kentucky Conf just held. For 2003 dates go to www.chek.org or call 502/358-9270 Email: sburzlaff@kvnet.org
Louisiana No conf scheduled. For updates, contact CHEF: Phone:1-888-876-CHEF E-mail: amedees@bellsouth.net
Maine May 9 & 10, 2003 Summit Conf Center Sunday River in Bethel, Maine for info: http://www.homeschool-maine.org
Maryland Convention updates go to www.chenmd.org or call 410/730-0073
Massachusetts 2003 Convention planned for Spring. Scheduled: John Morris of the Institute for Creation Research, and Jeff Myers. For info 508/755-4467 or www.MassHOPE.org 2002 tapes still available on line.
Conference held in July for 2003 dates visit: http://www.homeeducator.com/conferences.htm
Michigan Feb 1-2 Mid-Winter Home Educator's Conf ; Sunshine Ministry Center Hosted by Reformed Bible College. Mid Winter Home Educators Conference POB 305, Grandville, MI 49468; info, visit: http://www.homeschoolbuilding.org/hsc/midwinter.htm
Minnesota Conf just held. For 2003 dates go to http://www.mncatholichomeedconference.org/
Mississippi May 16-17, 2003 18th Annual Spring Conf ; info go to www.mhea.net
Missouri April 25-26, 2003 2003 Catholic Homeschool Conf: St. John Bosco Church, Maryland Hts, MO http://www.stlouiscatholichomeschool.com/2003/
Montana No conf scheduled. Updates, call Steve White 406/587-6163 go to www.mtche.org
Nevada No conf scheduled. Updates, contact Northern Nevada Homeschool www.go.to/nnhs or 775/852-6647
Nebraska Conf being planned, contact www.angelfire.com for info. Or www.nchea.org
New Hampshire No conf scheduled. Update, contact http://www.nhhomeschool.org
New Jersey Conf just held. Tapes available and updates www.enochnj.org
New York June 5-7, 2003 19th Annual Convention and Curriculum Fair "No Greater Joy" will be held at the State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, see www.leah.org
New Mexico Conf held in Sept. For 2003 date see: http://homeschooledscouts.tripod.com/ptc2002.html
North Carolina Conf just held. Updates http://www.nche.com/index.html
North Dakota No conf scheduled. For info, email: ndhsa@wdata.com
Ohio Conf just held. Updates http://www.cheohome.org/events/convention01/convention_2001.htm
Oklahoma No events scheduled, updates at http://chescowest.homestead.com/bookfair.html
Oregon No 2003 dates scheduled for updates go to www.ohenconference.org
Pennsylvania May 9 & 10, 2003 The CHAP Homeschool Convention; info see http://www.chapboard.org
Rhode Island No conf scheduled. Updates see http://member.tripod.com./righthome/
South Carolina Event just held. No conf scheduled; Updates www.p-chee.com or 864/609-5411 for other convention info go to www.scaihs.org or call 803-772- 2330
South Dakota Conf held in July. For more info go to www.sdche.org
Tennessee Conf just held; see www.mthes.org for updates. No conference scheduled For additional information: www.smhea.org
Texas January 10-11, 2003, Winter Gulf Coast Home Education Convention, Houston call 281/370-8787 Southeast Texas Home School Assoc (SETHSA), see www.thsc.org
January 30-31, 2003, NTHEN Winter Conf, call 214/495-9600 or go to www.NTHEN org
April 11-12, 2003THSC State Convention and Family Conf, Houston call 806/744-4441THSC Convention site Texas Home School Coalition (THSC)
June 6-7, 2003 Gulf Coast Assoc Home Ed Conf, Houston, 281/370-8787 So. Texas Home School Assoc (SETHSA)
June 14, 2003 Home Educators Conference and Book Fair in Lubbock call 806/791-1374 or contact South Plains Christian Home Educators Association (SPCHEA)
Utah Conf held in June, tapes available at www.utah-uhea.org
Vermont Nearest conf -- see Massachusetts or go to www.vermonthomeschool.org
Virginia Held in May. No 2003 date set; Updates go to www.teachhomeschool.com
Washington June 13-14 WHO 18th Annual State Convention Puyallup, WA www.washhomeschool.org
August 2 & 3, 2002 WHO (Wash Homeschool Org) 2nd Annual Inland NW Curriculum Exhibit Spokane, WA http://www.washhomeschool.org/
West Virginia No conf scheduled. For updates go to www.wvheahome.homestead.com
Wisconsin Conf just held for 2003 dates go to http://pages.prodigy.net/jang8/html/conference.html