by Res Peters (05.31.07)
One year at a time. We don't enter marriage for one year at a time. We don't purchase a home for one year at a time. We don't even acquire a pet for one year at a time. And we certainly don't raise children for one year at a time. Yet, when the issue is homeschooling, it is often considered for one year at a time.
Twenty-five years ago, when the modern homeschooling movement began, this unconventional path was legal in only six states. The "Founding Families" of the modern era engaged in an educational method untried in the 20th Century. Although a sound historical norm, homeschooling was unconventional and unacceptable to grandparents, neighbors, and government officials. To placate this host of skeptics, the "one year at a time" response was born.
The Founding Families, however, were far from tenuous in their commitment to home educate. This was not merely an appealing idea. This was a commitment to a deep philosophical conviction that for some brought imprisonment, the loss of their children, and even death. To those Founders, "one year at a time" meant until we are discovered and stopped.
It was this philosophical base, forged with unwavering commitment under the shadow of enormous opposition, that produced the success that is universally recognized today. With little choice in curriculum, limited funds, and often isolation, those Founding Families produced a generation that has been acknowledged for high moral character, community leadership, and academic excellence.
As school begins this fall at kitchen tables across the state, the Idaho Coalition of Home Educators (ICHE) has expanded its website to equip parents to explore the long view in home educating their children. From "Getting Started" to "High School" and beyond, links to information and valuable tools are a click away.
Whether this is your first year home educating or you are a veteran, begin by thinking through and writing down your philosophical basis for this weighty decision. You will return to this over the years for clarification, direction, and renewal of purpose. At www.iche-idaho.org under "Getting Started," you will find a listing of "Homeschooling Resources" from a variety of perspectives that will assist you in clarifying and crafting your thoughts. Viewing the streamed DVD, You Can Homeschool: A Closer Look, will give you the best overview.
In taking the long view, it is particularly important to look ahead to the end of the road, where the most rewarding years await. Under "High School" you will find a comprehensive roadmap to navigate you through the high school and college years. Links to courses of study, curriculum, transcript preparation, the college application process, scholarships, distance learning, online tutoring, and numerous additional resources make it possible for families to homeschool through high school and beyond. The most extensive link categorizes resources for preparation before high school, during high school, and after high school. These include college prep, vocational, military, and transitional guidance as well as personalized help from experienced high school counselors.
Once you have established your philosophy, the "Getting Started" link to You Can Homeschool provides practical information to consider as you create your homeschool. A sampling of national curriculum resources and homeschool publications is also provided.
As you chart your course, it is wise to annually evaluate your children with a nationally standardized test. Under "Testing," you will find information concerning ICHE's voluntary statewide testing program on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. At twenty locations across the state, testing is offered for third through twelfth grade students. Test scores are private and sent directly to parents.
High school students with qualifying scores are nominated to Who's Who Among American High School Students and are designated Summa Cum Laude Scholars. These honors are particularly well regarded for college admission and scholarships, and entitles those students to wear honor cords at graduation. The scope and sequence for the test, graphs of composite scores, and online registration are available on the website. Registration is open May 1 to August 1 for testing the following March. Links are provided to email regional coordinators for further information concerning testing, homeschool support groups, and other homeschool information.
Taking the long view also involves knowledge of the laws governing home education and protecting them for the future. Under "Idaho Law" you will find a summary of our laws along with the actual Idaho and federal statutes. The Social Worker at Your Door: 10 Helpful Hints, and information concerning your legal rights when contacted by state authorities is also posted. While we are grateful for the freedom under which home education thrives in Idaho, it will only remain intact with our collective vigilance.
The website offers several avenues to keep you informed and responsive to legal issues. The red alert box on the "Home Page" posts Information Alerts and Action Alerts. When responsiveness is needed, the alert box will link to the specific issue or legislation, background and analysis, and the suggested action. When an alert is posted, a link is provided for you to directly respond to the appropriate legislators or officials.
Email notices of the alerts are sent to current ICHE members. At "Join ICHE" you may join online or print out a mail-in form. Your $20 membership includes Educator Discount and Student ID cards which are honored at more than 50 businesses. It is your membership and donations that have enabled ICHE protect the right to unrestricted private home education in Idaho since 1992.
Tracking the progress of legislation and keeping in touch with your legislators is another essential service of the website. At "Your Legislators" you are able to identify each of your elected representatives by entering your home address. Your message, written on the website, will be emailed directly to the officials that you select with a copy to you. Additionally, email address links for all Idaho Senators and Representatives are listed. During the legislative session, links to the Session Reading Calendars and Committee Agendas allow you to follow legislation from introduction in committee to final floor votes. And you can view on your computer the live Senate and House floor sessions.
To find your legislators' positions concerning home education, go to "Your Legislator Comments on Home Schooling" on the "Home Page," which will connect you to their 2008 ICHE Candidate Statements. "In the News" will keep you abreast of U.S. print media articles mentioning home schooling via a continuous feed. And for articles concerning most issues affecting home education, explore our "Issues Library" which posts Idaho articles on thirty-five topics and links to the extensive national Home School Legal Defense Association Issues Library.
Involving your children in the legislative process is also vital to the long view. Training the next generation to value and protect the freedom which has been safeguarded for them is crucial. During Legislative Day, home educators present student displays from around the state at a formal Statehouse pie reception. This is a unique opportunity for your children to meet their legislators and see the process first hand. Information and applications are posted at "Legislative Day" along with pie recipes, family vignettes, and photos presented to the legislators.
Each family is a unique blend of personalities and of circumstances, both seen and unforeseen. With that in mind, it is the responsibility of the parents to consider which avenue of education is best for their particular family. Our website is designed to assist with that process. In so doing, like the Founders, we would be wise to map out our plan through the scope of the long view, commit to it, and then follow it.
One year at a time? An apt response... but only to placate our skeptics.