Saturday, September 27, 2008

Homeschool Regulations for New York and Tennessee, NY Testing, and some Homeschool Statistics

Homeschooling gives you a lot of freedom, but you're still bound by state and federal regulations. In fact, one of your first "duties" of homeschooling is to learn the homeschooling regulations that determine the qualifications for someone to homeschool, and then to learn your state's homeschool reporting requirements. When I was first researching regulations I found it interesting, and even slightly humorous, that in NY one of the qualifying factors is to "be able to understand the regulations." It makes a lot of sense. If you can research and understand legal regulations, you can certainly research and understand educational topics.

To find your state homeschooling regulations, it's always best to do a search for your state's Board of Education website. Someday I'll get around to making a list of all fifty states, but here are some links to homeschooling regulations in New York State along with some Tennesse Homeschool Regulations.

I listed some New York regulation links in a previous post which included links to NYS math testing exams. I also listed some NY curriculum requirement links within a science homeschooling post. I have recently found this Edinformatics website, which isn't pretty to look at, and you need to scroll down to find the state testing info, but they have valuable links, such as one that lists actual tests per state. They have a great list of NYS tests from 2003-2008 for various grades that you can easily download in a pdf form. The subjects are English, Math and Science (and possibly more high school subjects), and includes answer keys and some teacher resources. I also just found some practice links for Grade 8 Science exams.

The New York Board of Education has a link on NY Homeschool Regulations and Instruction which lists regulations and has some Q&A information. They also conveniently post the specific legal language of the homeschool legal regulations in NYS.

The Tennessee Board of Education is very lax on reporting standards, and the only requirement is submitting attendance records. (Which, although I understand the legal necessity, it seems redundant since the child is always at home and learning throughout most the day.) However, their qualifications to homeschool are more stringent than NYS (you may require a bachelor's degree to homeschool high-schoolers, but there are exceptions). You'll have challenges once your child is 6-9 months below testing level, and they don't kindly tolerate children being more than a year behind for two years in a row. (Funny how certain things are okay in public schools, but not okay in homeschools.) Also, I find it frightening that if you're late submitting reports you get fined $25 or something like that. I am ALWAYS pathetically late. But, since once I move to TN all I have to submit is attendance records, it'll be far easier to be on time. (Except for my chronic and habitual tendency to be late for everything.) I hope. Maybe I should start saving now. (Does the money go to the kids or the teacher's lounge?)

Tennessee's homeschooling page has information on individual and church-related homeschool facts and regulations. Just as NY does, TN has a link to the legal language of homeschooling statutes as well. Required testing doesn't start until Grade 5 in TN, which is great because it starts in Grade 4 in NY, and I hate the idea of having to test to public school expectations when homeschool expectations can be designed differently. My daughter may not know the answer to Question A, but you can bet she can answer streams of questions that other students her age range in public schools can't. Parents who choose to homeschool to get out of the academic inadequcies of public schools are stuck "teaching to the test" even when that's one of the repulsive anti-learning traditions of public schools today.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that the most popular reasons for homeschooling are to add morals and religion to education, to keep kids out the current public school environment, and because of a "dissatisfaction with academic instruction." The NCES also reports that in 2007 there were over 1.5 million children homeschooled. (The data is available in a free pdf download.) You can find more homeschool statistics and websites in the search results for homeschool from my Reporting Statistics blog.

I'm worried about homeschooling in TN because I've had such a kind school district here in NY, and because my daughter is below grade-level in reading because I've chosen to go at a slower place and to follow some of Finland's world-renowned educational traditions. The public schools may want children to read and spell to past tests, but I am teaching my daughter to love reading and read to learn. I have readers and non-readers between my six kids, but I've seen how pushing a student too fast can make them hate reading. And my daughter absolutely loves books and she can't get enough of them. She also has a very high comprehension level - so it's frustrating for her to not be abe to read as fast as she can understand. I like the fact that homeschooling gives you the freedom to go slow on one topic, but go grade levels ahead on another. In a public school, a child's true potential is inhibited by the need to appease the interest of the masses instead of the need of the individual. It's too bad that education has become so over-regulated.

Well, I am entirely too late filing my year-end NY report, between my teens' exams, high-school graduation, moving, and my son getting married soon, I've been way behind on paperwork. Hopefully my kind superintendent will be forgiving once again. It's time for me to start digging up memories of what Jesse and I have done for the past quarter! I really need to be more adamant with my record keeping.

Have fun reading the homeschooling regulations. Feel free to email me if I can help you in any way. I'd love to hear from Tennesse homeschooling parents (particularly in Hawkins County and the Tri-Cities area) and hear their experiences homeschooling in Tennessee. Happy homeschooling!

11/09: P.S. Unfortunately I had to disable comments on this to hide someone's tobacco advertisement. There was no way to delete just the comment. (I've enabled comment moderation for all other posts.)

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