Saturday, February 19, 2011

Where is the Fight New Hampshire Homeschoolers?

Homeschoolers in Illinois are putting up a fight in Illinois against notification, how come New Hampshire Homeschoolers are not putting up a fight? Could it be because for 20 years people like Chris Hamilton, Mary Faiella, CHeNH and HSLDA have fought for oppressive homeschooling laws and against freedom?

The following story appears in the Beacon News. Be sure to visit the Beacon News site to see the pictures and extras associated with the story.

Spelling errors, grammar errors, misuse of homonyms and typos are left as an exercise for my readers.

Home school families fight state registration
By Jenette Sturges Feb 19, 2011

Onlookers said it was a crowded room, and not just by Illinois Senate committee hearing standards.

“My husband wasn’t even able to get into the room there were so many people there,” said Keturah Mindock, the full-time mother and educator of two in Oswego.

About 4,000 parents and their children flocked to Springfield Tuesday afternoon to oppose Senate Bill 136, a bill that would require Illinois’ estimated 50,000 home-schooled students to register with the State Board of Education for the first time.

“Basically it’s just government intrusion into our lives,” said Priscilla Kenney, an Aurora mother with four children, all home-schooled. “The system isn’t broken, so why try to institute unnecessary government watch-dogging?”

State Sen. Edward Maloney, D-Chicago, said he introduced legislation requiring registration after meeting an acquaintance who home-schooled and becoming concerned about a lack of oversight.

“There are virtually no rules in Illinois, except they’re asked to teach a curriculum of math, English, science and social studies. There’s no periodic testing, no qualifications, no accounting at all,” Maloney said.

And that’s true. Illinois has some of the most relaxed guidelines in the country for home schooling. So long as children between 7 and 17 years old are being taught the same subjects they would learn in school, in English, they are in compliance with the law. Illinois parents are not required to notify the state that they are home-schooling, unless they are brought to court for truancy.

Other states are far more stringent. In heavily regulated states like New York and Pennsylvania laws vary, but they can include curriculum approval, teacher qualification for parents and home visits by state officials.

The majority of states fall somewhere in between: parents have to notify or register with the state and may have to submit test scores or other proof that students are progressing.

But home school parents around the Fox Valley said they have plenty of proof.

Proof like admission to one of the country’s most prestigious universities: Kenney’s oldest daughter, 20-year-old Fiona McCoy, attends MIT. Her three high-school-age daughters participate on a math team of home-schoolers that has taken home the state title, competing against conventional small schools, for the past four years.

“If you look at all the statistics from testing and college, home-schoolers are doing an awesome job of teaching their kids,” Kenney said.

Or take, for example, Mindock, whose daughter, Lacey, will be 7 in April. “She already reads at a sixth-grade level,” said Mindock. “Each of my children gets one-on-one attention. I don’t have to worry about 30 other kids and what they’re doing.”

The individualized education home-schoolers get also means a lot more flexibility, from curriculum to scheduling to discipline.

Gina and Armando Regalado have two children, and both are sharing the responsibility for home-schooling their 6-year-old daughter.

“He (Armando) focuses more on the language arts and theology,” said Gina. “His degree is in theology and they’re more artists. I’m more math and science.”

The ability to teach their daughter on a flexible schedule fits their lifestyle and allows them more family time, she said. Gina works in child care during the day, and her husband works as the Paul McCartney in The Cavern Beat, a Beatles cover band. But both parents used to teach high school, and that’s what really drove them to teach their children at home.

“Knowing kids in public high school, they were not really concerned about their educations, and their parents weren’t always either,” said Gina. “Ask any teacher: the parents make or break the student’s ability to learn.”

Political intrusion?

Maloney is concerned more about those students who might be falling through the cracks. He is chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee and a former administrator at both Brother Rice High School in Chicago and Oak Lawn Community High School.

“My concern isn’t with those who are doing a conscientious job, but it’s with those who aren’t. Ultimately, the state is responsible for people’s education, so to speak. If nothing is going on, they ought to know about that,” Maloney said. “I fail to see why this is such an imposition.”

Conservatives in the state senate largely agreed that the matter of education lies ultimately with parents.

“I’m a huge proponent of public education, especially locally, but I’m also a proponent of parental authority,” said state Sen. Chris Lauzen, an Aurora Republican who said the home-schooling parents from his district he talked to were relieved to hear he opposed the bill. “I am certainly opposed to state government having more control ... within our families. In the end, these are our families’ children, rather than the government’s children.”

State Sen. Linda Holmes said she also met with constituents Tuesday, but hadn’t come to any conclusions on home schooling.

“When they go on to college, home school students excel against their counterparts, but those are the kids who go on to college,” said Holmes, an Aurora Democrat. “Do we have any that don’t? How do they fare? It does pique my curiosity to want to know, if we did have a way of measuring home school kids, how well prepared they go out into world.”

Holmes said traditional schools are also a place for intervention when it’s needed. A teacher might notice, for instance, when a student is being abused.

“They’re (home school parents) doing a wonderful job and are dedicated,” she said. “I think the concern lies in: How do we address the 2 or 3 percent who are not?”

And Holmes pointed out that while registration is voluntary, there’s simply no way to know how many students are learning at home, or at the park district, the Morton Arboretum, their church, College of DuPage, and all of the other places home school parents take their students for extra classes, enrichment and socialization.

“I guess I would say the best way to explain it is: I understand the concern, but the problem is that senators tend to run with a lot of things,” said Regalado. “What they say it’s for ends up being more and more intrusive.”

Since the outpouring of opposition Tuesday in Springfield, Maloney has tabled the bill. But home-schooling families said they’re still watching carefully, expecting the registration bill to be reworded and brought back.

“I know it’s going to come back because I know there’s always going to be someone concerned about it because their family member or whoever chose a different path,” said Regalado. “I understand the concern, but I think it’s really unfounded.”

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