Thursday, June 6, 2013

Local Issues, and a Reminder

So, here in Mooselandia, where Monkey, Skeeve and I make our home, there is very little regulation around homeschooling. The basics are that anyone who may be expecting your child at their school or in their seats needs to be formally notified in writing, and you must actually educate your child.  There are, of course, subregulations around this, setting up what expectations are, and which agencies are to be part of which investigations and when. There are also several local groups dedicated to the protection and information of the homeschooling parent.  This past month, however, a homeschooling (or home-school, as she puts it) mother from another town in another county two and a half hours from here has decided this isn't good enough. She (and her nebulous board of directors, though they remain unnamed) aims, according to her website, to "We are safe-guarding the home-school industry by maintaining a desired level of quality; one way is by ensuring all home-school children in Ontario receive adequate instruction in reading, writing and mathematics with assistance from the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO)."  Now, on the surface, I would agree with this. All children deserve a decent education, no matter who is providing it. But the involvement of the EQAO, who also serves the public school system, which many people find to be failing recently, homeschoolers or otherwise, presents a problem. This continues on to focus on testing for homeschooled children in grades 3, 6, 9, and 10, and making it mandatory.  The issue with this is very simply that the testing is not mandatory for publicly schooled children, why would it be for homeschoolers?  The website then goes on to present specific curricula as "good" options, with no vetting or testimony attached, and the general feel of the site is that the designer or group is seeking to be an independent third party, intending to force significantly more regulation on homeschoolers in the province. Now, don't misunderstand me. I believe that all children deserve an education. I believe that all children should be taught art, science, physical education, math, reading, writing, English language arts... the list goes on. However, my insistence that only a specific kind of anything be taught takes away from the freedoms of other families to teach what they truly believe is imperative to their children's education and well-being. As I don't want anyone stepping on MY toes, or on those of my family, I'm not in the business of stepping on anyone else's.  This is, on the whole, a very bad idea. This reads as a set-up for requiring government/board approval of the curricula being used (which typically leads to a list set by the government, and nothing that isn't included on the list is considered acceptable),  in exchange for a tax break. This is not a trade I'm willing to make, despite the fact that our homeschool curricula costs are entirely out of pocket at this time, and one of our government sponsored program funding checks will be ceasing effective on Monkey's sixth birthday. So, it's not that we're wealthy, and don't care. These things could make a big difference, but I still don't feel it's worth the imposition.  

Once we get past that part, the attitude of the people behind the initiative comes into play. Many people have been stopping by their Facebook site looking to ask questions about what this entails, and how it would play out in the grand scheme of things, despite the vast majority being happy with how things are now. The general response from the page's administrators has been that people are being argumentative, questioning credentials, and are harassing the administrators. In truth, people who are passionate about their homeschooling are defending their right to teach their children without the government watching every single step of the way, and are rightfully leery about this brand new group on the scene. Matters are even less helped when the administrators are responding to questions by requesting personal telephone numbers to "enlighten" the questioners.  Yes, they used the term "enlighten" in their response, thus implying that anyone disagreeing with their stance is inherently uneducated, and requires their help to see the light, as it were.

This presents a secondary problem for our house. Monkey operates on several grade levels at once. Depending on the subject, he could be found working on level (handwriting and art), above level (logic, math, history), or significantly above level (reading, science).  If I were to have to classify him as one grade level, I would do it at the lowest - he would be starting Senior Kindergarten this fall, as his age dictates. However, if this were formalized, it would be entirely probable that the government required curriculum would then require he be instructed at Kindergarten across the board. As he's operating in grades 1-3 in his better subjects already (before the start of SK), this would be catastrophic at best for our house, and lead to our purchasing not only the government approved curricula, but also the curricula we would have purchased in the first place.  Further, there would still be no coverage for his exceptionalities, nor would we be able to have his testing done with qualified testers while still being entirely covered by the umbrella of the home/public school system. This is, inherently, a loss for our family, and for many others as well, regardless of the individual situations they find themselves in.

Thank you for 'listening' to my thinking this out, to my organizing my thoughts, and to my general discomfort around this entire idea. I know I can be extremely wordy, so if you made it this far, I applaud you!

Now, onto the reminder!

Announcing the 2013 Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour, June 14th - June 21st.
As the primary update-writer here at Homeschooling Hatters,  I am very excited to be participating in the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour 2013 from June 14th-21st.
This international blog tour is organized by parents who met on The Well Trained Mind Message boards.
We come from different parts of the world, different school choices, and different social and economic backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common. We know that parenting a gifted child can sometimes be as challenging as it is rewarding. If you have ever woken up at 3 AM in the morning wondering What am I going to do with this child?” then this blog tour is for you!

From June 14th-21st the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour will discuss some of the most pertinent issues facing gifted education today: