Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Trap of Imaginary Enemies

    With the new school year comes the onslaught of technical questions and discussions about state
requirements. Inevitably, with those discussions comes the avalanche of ignorance. As outliers of the mainstream, we as homeschoolers deal with a lot of criticism and judgement. Neighbors, cashiers, friends, family, and strangers everywhere have preconceived notions and ignorant questions("But how will the learn how to stand in line or make friends?!") about how we do things, so we tend to spend a lot of time sticking up for ourselves, our legal rights, and our kids. Unfortunately this means we're often going in with our dukes up, so to speak, with certain people, especially administrators in the public school district.
   When I first began homeschooling we were in New York state, one of the most demanding and difficult for homeschoolers. Not only does the state require a Notice of Intent to homeschool, but when they respond to your NOI, you then have 15 days to respond with a complete IHIP- Individualized Home Instruction Plan- which is a plan for how you intend to meet the requirements for each subject(specific curriculum book names, co-ops, community classes, etc) for each individual child. Throughout the year you must also send in quarterly reports, which are detailed write-ups on what you covered in every subject that quarter, and the student's grade for said work. At the end of the year you must provide an approved form of evaluation, whether it be an annual review(acceptable every other year for the elementary school ages) or standardized test grade report. This load of reporting, on top of the responsibility of teaching the kids was really intimidating! I did my fair share of asking questions. After several years, though, I realized it was pretty simple. Tedious, but homeschool coordinators in all the various districts we were in were helpful, flexible, and understanding of life's circumstances.
   Despite this kindness and flexibility, I found there was a constant undercurrent of tension between the district personnel and the homeschoolers, and the source was surprising. It was the homeschoolers! Always ready for a fight, always assuming the district personnel were 'glaring' at the homeschoolers, so to speak, in their paperwork and conversations. The homeschoolers were constantly inferring this from the district without the personnel doing anything. When I stated on several discussion groups the reminder that the district was just following state requirements and weren't actually the enemy I was always met with two extremes: profound agreement or outrage. OF COURSE THEY'RE THE ENEMY! THEY WANT TO CONTROL US! When asked for proof of this in either in word or deed, there's nothing. Ever. Just a perceived notion.
   One example was when a former friend(she became so angry with me as a result of this discussion that she eventually cuts ties with me) was attempting to obtain speech therapy for her child through the school district, but balked when they approved the therapy but asked for the child to be registered with the school district. The other homeschoolers in the discussion on Facebook pulled out their dukes and proclaimed the district was trying to control what she could teach her child. When I, who actually had a child receiving such services from the district so I knew from experience pointed out that registered was different than enrolled and all they wanted was their home address, child's date of birth and social security number so they could prove to the state where the funding was going as well as that the child was a legal citizen residing in their district, the commenters and mother of the student in question turned on me with mob force. SURELY I WAS WRONG, BECAUSE ALL THE DISTRICT WANTS IS EVERY CHILD UNDER THEIR CONTROL!!! When I asked what proof they had of this idea, what the interactions with the district had been thus far? Oh, nothing but pleasant, were all the responses, but they just know that's how the districts and state work. So just your ignorance and seeking offense? Gotcha'.
   Because there is so little required reporting here in Virginia, I expected it'd be different here. I was wrong. All that's required here in VA is a Notice of Intent to Homeschool and a copy of a GED or high school diploma to prove you are equipped to teach your child. Then at the end of the year you supply the district with some sort of evaluation showing your child has adequately progressed in Math and Language Arts. VERY simple and very respectful of parents' rights. But no. They find beef here. And by "they" I mean the homeschoolers. Just today there was an uproar about the minuscule semantics of the wording of various districts' responses to NOI's. One poster said, "They're trying to insert some power over us with their wording." Another said, "They should have said they ACKNOWLEDGED receipt of our NOI instead of 'accepted'. I don't need their approval, thank you very much." Seriously, one word's difference, and 30 women were in literal outrage over the abuse of imaginary power the schools were trying to infer over them and their children. They're kidding, right? But no. The indignation over minute semantics was pathetic. I took the time and wrote out a very thoughtfully-worded post reminding the moms that the district was not our enemy, that they're just printing off copies of the same letter and sending them to everyone who sends in an NOI as recognition for their records. There's no ill will, no contempt, no assertion of power. While MORE than 30 'like'd my comment, many more turned on me with that mob force and told me I knew nothing.

Yep. You're right. I know nothing.
Select "Turn off notifications."
Don't return to the conversation. 

   If you're a homeschooler I beg you to remember this: The district is not your enemy. You likely know the laws far better than ANYONE in the district, because all they do is perform lip service to the position for which they're trained. YOU know the laws because you've done the hard work for the sake of your children. Know the laws for your state. Be informed so that should you actually encounter a need, you are able to advocate for your family. Acknowledge that the homeschool coordinators did not create the paperwork themselves, they're simply handing out what was created in response to the creation of homeschool laws decades ago. They're not trying to make things hard for you. They're not trying to control you. In reality, they're all probably very nice humans just doing their jobs to earn a paycheck for their own families. The only reason district personnel have a bad attitude toward homeschoolers in my experience is because of the bad attitude of homeschoolers before you. Don't let the ignorance of others push a bad attitude into you. Fulfill your state-mandated requirements, and enjoy teaching your kids. End of story.

Post publishing note: Since writing this I have received a huge outpouring of kudos and messages of gratefulness for writing this. There are MANY of us who agree here. It's hard to say if we're the minority or not. The din of ignorance is so deafening, are they just the squeaky wheels? If so it's certainly time for those of us who disagree with their animosity to speak up. If you're silent in the face of ignorance then you're promoting their message by default. 


  1. Ugh yes, absolutely agree with all of this! Virginia is no Texas, but their requirements are very minimal and taking offense over one word is just ridiculous. I've actually been considering leaving the group entirely because of all of the negative posts. Last week someone was angry that their school district offices weren't open on a Saturday and they had to pay 50 cents to park before finding out. It's too much. I wouldn't want to deal with homeschoolers either, if this is the attitude we're constantly displaying. And do not even get me started on the amount of people who don't turn things in on time or put of testing until the day before it's due!

    Sorry, I clicked your name yesterday because you were one of the only ones with a clear head on that post yesterday and came across your blog. Hope you have a great homeschooling year!

    1. I agree completely! Both threads were just asinine. The way the bad attitude is oozed is SUCH a poor representation of us, our families, and our values.
      Thanks for finding me! It's great to be in touch with other homeschool families, and all the more special when they're at least in the same state! :-D You're welcome to follow me. I'm on Instagram under the same name as my blog. :-)

    2. Yes, being in the same state we at least know the same laws and know the same general areas! I'm not on instagram but I will follow your blog :)