This blog post has been adapted from my testimony before the House Education Committee on February 16, 2017, as requested by the Committee Chair.
On any given day, Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE) office staff and sixteen Regional Representatives across Indiana field phone calls from potential homeschoolers to ensure they receive solid information to start off well. All IAHE Regional Representatives have homeschooled for many years and have relationships with support groups and co-ops in their region. Additionally, we offer multiple opportunities across the state for Homeschool 101 workshops to instruct new homeschoolers on how to homeschool. These services are all free of charge.
Throughout the years, and more frequently in recent years, IAHE has received some calls that have raised questions and some concerns. Some parents state they were told to call IAHE by the public school. While we appreciate the referral from local school officials and the opportunity to assist these families they will often tell us that their child has already been reported by the public school as a “homeschooler” before they were ever given IAHE’s phone number. If you look at the Homeschool Enrollment Form on the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) website, you will see it says, “ONLY parents and legal guardians may complete this form.” Yet these parents have told IAHE that the school reported enrollment for the child and they were unhappy to learn the school had acted in such a manner.
After educating these families about what is involved with home education, many actually decide they cannot or do not want to take on the responsibility. We then refer them to a virtual public charter school, back to their school, or the IDOE for other options. After they hang up with us, does the public school change the status of the child back to being in another educational setting? We are doubtful.
Some of our most heart-wrenching calls come from expelled teens seeking help to get an education. Our first step in this situation is to ask to speak with a parent. More than once we have been told there is no one with whom to speak. Regrettably, we cannot counsel or recommend home education without a parent to oversee their education. The parent must be actively overseeing the child’s education. On these occasions, we refer the teen back to the school or the IDOE for other options.
Indiana Association of Home Educators also takes calls from parents whose children have been pushed out of public school for one reason or another and they have been told to contact us by local school officials. Many of these parents contact us looking for someone else to teach their child in their home or think that the student will be taught in our home. No one has explained to them what homeschooling really is. That the parent is the one who gladly takes full responsibility for teaching their child. Once we have counseled the parent on what is required to successfully homeschool, many are not at all interested in home education. As stated previously, the school often has already reported their enrollment as a homeschooler without ever explaining what homeschool is to the parent. We refer these parents back to the public school or to IDOE for reevaluation. Indiana Association of Home Educators believes that home education needs to be a parent driven decision and not a public school dumping ground. It is a weighty responsibility that is not to be taken lightly.
To govern well, we must define our terms and use the same definitions for words. As a matter of fact, some public school staff do not even know the difference between a homeschool student, public virtual charter school student and a truant. A home school is a non-accredited, non-public school controlled and paid for by the parent based out of the home. A public virtual charter school is an accredited, public school paid for with taxpayer money done at home, but controlled by the charter school. Many enrolled in a public virtual charter school mistakenly believe they are privately “homeschooling” their child.
In fact, we have been told that by some families who have decided to homeschool that they received a call from a virtual charter school and were told that if they want to homeschool, the virtual charter school is the place to sign their children up for homeschooling. In reality, these students become enrolled in a public virtual charter school not a non-accredited, non-public school.
Public virtual charter schools are not parent led or self-funded which means it does not meet two of the three criteria for homeschooling. As these virtual public school parents become involved with IAHE, they start to realize the difference.
Another category that often gets confused is that of truancy. Under Indiana Code, a student who has more than 10 days of unexcused absences in one school year is a habitual truant. Habitual truants, by definition, are those who are purposefully avoiding an education. Children receiving privately funded instruction in the home by a parent, cannot be truant. No one who freely chooses to enter into a homeschool program is avoiding an education. However, we are aware through our contact with parents that a problem does very much exist in the public school system. Pushing kids out of public school and leaving families unprepared and unwilling to take on their child’s education is a problem created within the public school system. This is a problem that only can be solved within the public school system.