January 25, 2006

Homeschool Paperwork Reduction Act

HB 406

Last week the state legislature approved House Bill 406, the "Homeschool Paperwork Reduction Act." The result is that New Hampshire homeschoolers no longer need to file curriculum plans with the school districts at the start of each school year. Now we need only administer annual achievement tests to confirm our children's progress.

Common sense favors the passage of this bill:

  • The requirement to submit a curriculum was redundant, since annual evaluations ensure that homeschooled children are receiving an adequate education.

  • There was no standard form for describing a curriculum. How could the government judge whether one parent's three-sentence write-up described a better or worse education than another parent's table of contents from a purchased curriculum?

  • The requirement created extra paperwork for homeschoolers and the school districts alike.

  • It just doesn't make sense for public school districts to review homeschool curricula. How could a public school district, committed to the separation of church and state and the mainstreaming of special-needs children, go about approving, for example, the distinctly Christian curriculum of a homeschooler who withdrew her children from public school because she didn't believe the school was addressing their special needs?

  • In practice, curricula were collected, but never reviewed. (I don't know this for sure—it's what I understand from anecdotal evidence.)

On the other hand, the requirement to submit a curriculum, while bureaucratic and unnecessary, wasn't really harmful:

  • Submitting a curriculum wasn't onerous. We struggled with how to begin because there were so few samples online, but Camille assembled our curriculum in a few hours.

  • I'm not convinced it hurts to lay out a year-long plan for your child's education, even if you end up changing it.

  • Reviewing New Hampshire's public educational requirements in order to submit a curriculum gave us confidence that we weren't overlooking anything in our own plans.

  • Having our curriculum "approved" (even though it was probably never reviewed), was psychologically reassuring. It felt less like we were sneaking around the system. It validated our choice to homeschool.

Can Red Tape Protect Homeschoolers?

I wonder if the curriculum requirement actually protected homeschoolers. We're a minority, but by keeping one toe in the public educational system, we show our willingness to participate in majority culture. Submitting a curriculum helps to keep the uneasy alliance between public educators and homeschoolers from becoming a rift.

Here's the worst thing that I can imagine happening to the homeschool movement:

A parent who is abusive or negligent or otherwise criminal chooses to homeschool his children—but not in order to educate them. He does it in order to fly under the radar. He doesn't want his kids in school because teachers might notice the scars or hear that Daddy makes bombs in the basement. (We store books in our basement, but I do have a vivid imagination!)

Might this insignificant, cursory, bureaucratic requirement pose a barrier to such a person?

I don't know.

But if such a horror story ever does make the New Hampshire nightly news, I bet there will be somebody pointing out that the children of homeschoolers are totally outside of the system, that homeschoolers don't even have to share a curriculum with the state. Then where will we be?


Mamma1420 said...

As I am starting homeschooling this year, I wondered the same. I could not believe how lax the homeschool law seemed. In Georgia, homeschoolers are required to turn in attendance every month (30 days), turn in an annual Declaration of Intent to Utilize a Home Study Program for 180 days of a 12 month period. Students are to be subject to an appropriate nationally standardized testing program administered by professional/teacher beginning in third grade and every three years thereafter.

What about the family in my town that has 6 children, all being homeschooled. Three of which are over 8 years of age and have reading problems? The standardized tests are for the parents' records and the parents' are not required by law to show them to anyone.

As I planned our first year, I had mixed feelings about the law. If curriculum was to be approved, then what would make the cut? Who's to say what is appropriate for my child? Me or the state?

Susan said...

I for one am happy that there's no curriculum requirement in NH - well, there was, but it's now gone.

The main reason I plan on homeschooling my children is that I do not believe that the state has any right in saying what is taught and how it is taught to my children. I, as a parent, decide that.

My personal feeling is that if a state requires one to submit a curriculum, it wants to oversee the "appropriateness" of that curriculum - and the closeness of that curriculum to public schools.

Susan said...

I should add that I have written out a detailed preschool curriculum for my 4 yr old son to follow this year. I also plan on writing out a detailed curriculum each year - even though it is time consuming.

However, that curriculum is for my benefit as a teacher/parent, and not for the state. I also wish to keep those curriculum in case my children need something like that to show colleges when it comes time to apply.

Red tape is just that red tape. Hoops created by the government because it doesn't think the average citizen can think or take care of himself.

(oops - showed my political leanings now, didn't I?)

Anonymous said...

You should be congratulated for homeschooling your kids. It's not easy, especially with the public school bias and redtape. byetta