So You’ve Decided to Homeschool!
Here is some direction for those of you who have decided to home educate, but you don’t know where to start.
1. Start with your kids
This is going to be a boring and fruitless endeavor if you don’t have any kids to educate.
If you do, take a look at them. Not one of those motherly bruise-inventories or an investigation into what they’ve been eating by inspecting the corners of their mouths, but a good, quiet observation of them. Think about what they’re like, what their gifts and talents are, what they enjoy, what they don’t. Who are they? (We know you’ve asked this question of yourself before, like after the deafening crash at the supermarket or after you found the harmonica-shaped hole in the living room wall, but we don’t mean it that way now.) Who is this little person?
Fact: every child is different, and no single approach is best for all kids.
But that’s what’s great about homeschooling. Instruction is individualized in a way institutional* classrooms can only dream about, by teachers who love their students in way no institutional teacher ever can. (*Notice I said “institutional classrooms,” and not traditional classrooms. Let us not forget that for the vast majority of our nation’s history, and world history too, homeschooling was the traditional means of education children.)
OK, so you’ve taken a good look at your kids, and you still want to do this. So let’s do it right.
2. Keep it legal
The good news is, homeschooling is perfectly legal. Despite how your parents reacted when you told them your decision, nobody is going to send you off to jail or shove your screaming children into the back of some social worker’s car and drive them off to an institutional school. Not if you do it right, at least. (Relax. You’re forming a home-school, not an underground-school. You’re not on the lam. It’s perfectly OK if your kids go outside and play for a bit, or even GASP! if you have to take them with you to the supermarket during the hours institutional schools are in session. It’s OK. You are not in trouble for choosing to home school. Let’s keep it that way.)
The even better news is that since Kentucky law does not differentiate between home-schools and any other type of private school, you’re living in what’s considered a “homeschool-friendly” state. There are certain requirements, but they are relatively simple.
Instead of quoting the state laws to you, allow us to recommend a document forged by the pioneers of homeschooling in Kentucky, back in the days when you could get your kids taken away from you for exercising your right to personally direct their education. (Those of us who enjoy the freedom to home-school today owe an inexpressible debt of gratitude to those who were willing to go to jail or meet officials at the doorstep with shotgun in hand to keep their kids from being taken away. Brothers and sisters, we stand on the shoulders of giants.)
Set the Way-Back Machine to the year 1997. Twelve representatives from Kentucky’s two main homeschooling associations, Christian Home Educators of Kentucky (CHEK) and Kentucky Home Education Association (KHEA), meet with an equal number of representatives from the state’s Directors of Pupil Personnel Association to convene a task force charged with the creation of a guideline of “Best Practices” for establishing a “bonafide” home school. (The word “bonafide” is from the Latin bona fides, which means “in good faith.” Nice term.)
Their product, the “Best Practice Approach to Home School Verification,” should be read in its entirety (it’s quite short), and is available on the CHEK website (www.chek.org) under the “Kentucky Law & Forms” tab.
Here are the highlights:
A. Each year, you must send a letter of notifying your local Director of Pupil Personnel of your intent to home-school. This letter should only include your children’s names and ages and the address at which your school is held, and be sent within the first two weeks of the start of your local public school. That’s it. The great news is, once you’ve done this you are “presumed to be in compliance with the law and operating a bonafide school.” Congratulations!
B. Since you just established for yourself a bonafide school, consider it as such. Do not go around feeling the need to prove your school is valid—it is. Take a deep breath and accept that. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the DPP to prove otherwise, should problems arise. Remember, even if the DPP decides to investigate you, he or she can only determine if your school is bonafide or not. Period. He or she does not have the authority to “approve” the education provided by your school. So any DPP asking to “review your curriculum” to better “align your program of studies” with any “standards” is merely a DPP that is ignorant of his or her own jurisdictions. If you are ever contacted by such a DPP, please contact CHEK immediately.
C. You must offer education to your children in the following subjects: Reading, Writing, Spelling, Grammar, History, Mathematics, and Civics. This does not mean that you need to teach a class on each subject, but that each subject must be covered in a class you teach. Obviously, History and Civics could be taught together. Reading, Writing, Spelling, and Grammar could be combined into an English class. (Speaking of English, by state law that’s the language you must provide your instruction in.) Note: the cross-curricular approach that homeschool affords is one of its greatest strengths. Home educators can focus on interdisciplinary connections that teachers and students stuck in bell-driven class periods simply cannot afford. Think about it: Literature needs the context of History to be understood. Combine them. Science uses applied Math. Why teach them separately?
D. You must hold school for at least as many instructional hours as the public school district in which you reside, which is 185 days with a minimum of 170 student instructional days. KRS158.070 1. (d). states, “Student instructional year" means at least one thousand sixty-two (1,062) hours of instructional time for students delivered on not less than one hundred seventy (170) student attendance days;”. So, make sure you have documented 170 days with at least 1062 instructional hours per school year. Keeping lesson plans in a notebook works fine. Note: homeschooling frees you from the rigid 6-hour instructional day of the institutional school. The law does NOT say that you must be in session the same time the public schoolers are in session. Some kids are morning people. Some are not. Some kids want to tackle subject after subject all day and be done with it. Others need frequent breaks. You know your kids. Do what works. Just keep track of what you did.
E. Since we’re on the subject of documentation, you’ll need to also keep records of attendance and grades. Attendance had better be easy. If not, there’s a problem. (If you have an AWOL kid, check behind the hanging clothes in the closet. That’s a great place.) Anyway, the lesson plan notebook mentioned above is a great place to keep attendance too. Now, grades must be done at the same interval as the public school district in which you live. (I’ve always kind of wondered about this one, but oh well.) So if your district is on quarterly grade reports, you are too. Trimesters? You too. Get it? Assign grades each grading period for every subject you teach. Note: Think about how you‘re going to grade. Philosophies of assessment (how you grade) are all over the place. Nobody agrees about anything, except that effective grading informs both the teacher and the student about progress and achievement, and that ineffective grading can simply crush kids and the teachers who care about them. Use grades effectively. Because homeschooling is individualized, home school educators can teach to mastery far more effectively than institutional teachers. Unlike teachers in public school who have classrooms packed with students of widely disparate ability levels teaching according to “pacing guides” that relentlessly push content forward whether all the kids have learned it or not, home educators can teach, formatively assess (that means quiz), reteach differently, and formatively assess over and over, repeating the process using different strategies until the kid GETS IT and can teach it back to you (that’s called mastery). Then summatively assess (that means test), grade, celebrate, and move on. Nobody gets hurt.