Monday, March 14, 2011

CT Statute 10-184

Tenth Amendment – Powers of states and people.

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively,
or to the people."
I am frequently asked if I need to submit reports to our local school district or to the State Department of Education.  When I answer no, I do not, I am most often met with astonishment.  
“Well, I know you are educating your children....”
“It is okay for you since you are a teacher.....”
“What about the people who don’t educate there children?”
“There should be accountability!”
Here is the deal.  In the State of CT we have a statute: 
Sec. 10-184. Duties of parents. School attendance age requirements.
All parents and those who have the care of children shall bring them up in some lawful and honest employment and instruct them or cause them to be instructed in reading, writing, spelling, English grammar, geography, arithmetic and United States history and in citizenship, including a study of the town, state and federal governments. Subject to the provisions of this section and section 10-15c, each parent or other person having control of a child five years of age and over and under eighteen years of age shall cause such child to attend a public school regularly during the hours and terms the public school in the district in which such child resides is in session, unless such child is a high school graduate or the parent or person having control of such child is able to show that the child is elsewhere receiving equivalent instruction in the studies taught in the public schools. The parent or person having control of a child sixteen or seventeen years of age may consent, as provided in this section, to such child's withdrawal from school. Such parent or person shall personally appear at the school district office and sign a withdrawal form. The school district shall provide such parent or person with information on the educational options available in the school system and in the community. The parent or person having control of a child five years of age shall have the option of not sending the child to school until the child is six years of age and the parent or person having control of a child six years of age shall have the option of not sending the child to school until the child is seven years of age. The parent or person shall exercise such option by personally appearing at the school district office and signing an option form. The school district shall provide the parent or person with information on the educational opportunities available in the school system.
I am instructing my children in these areas OUTSIDE of a school building.  However, we are NOT doing school at home.  When people ask my children “is today a school day for you?”  No it is not, I reply.  When people say it is a school night, it is not for my girls.  I understand their thinking, it is hard to adjust to a new paradigm.  But we are not in school.  School is just a place where teachers teach many children at once.  Learning is what we focus on and we do it in a non-traditional way.
I tried the school-at-home way.  We started at 9:00 am and moved from one subject to the next to the next, just like they do in school.  We quickly realized that we don’t have to learn this way.  I don’t have to use textbooks for reading comprehension and spelling.  I don’t have to follow the district guidelines that teach in small increments of time; a month of electricity for science, followed by a month of Native American studies for social studies, then back to water for science and so on.  
I prefer to spend at least six months on one science topic, which is botany for now.  My girls will not learn an overview, they will become 8 and 10 year old experts on this topic before we move on to the next.  They will not learn the social studies topics that the Board of Ed feels is appropriate for their grade level.  They will learn history starting at the beginning of time to the present.  Rather than being given a packet to teach themselves cursive, we learn poetry at the same time we practice our cursive skills.  We don’t watch videos to kill time, we watch videos to enhance our time.  We don’t write to prompts, we write letters to real people we wish to know more about.  We write to demonstrate our understanding.  We blog and gain confidence sharing our writing with others who learn at home, like we do.  We read.  For pleasure.  Often.  We do not do book reports, we talk about books in the backseat of our car.  We have lively debate over the reasons a movie version of a book fails to do justice to the original written words.  We ask who was Hans Christian Anderson and share book recommendations with our friends.  Books are traded among friends rather than Pokemon cards.  
I have never been in a community that embraces learning the way the homeschool community does.  Research is rampant, whether it is how to design and construct a home completely off the grid, or how to design a garden that will allow harvesting year round in New England, or how to use a GPS to find a hidden treasure trove of carnivorous plants in a far off bog.  These are not the children....these are their mothers!  The children have taught themselves how to call an 8 point buck to their yard for observation, how to create and maintain a blog, how to track a hurricane.  These children are writing books of poetry.  They are entrepreneurs with their own businesses.  They are traveling the world journaling their experiences.  They are winning national Destination Imagination tournaments.  They are acting in Shakespearian plays.  They are auditioning for music competitions.  They are amazing people regardless of their young age.
This is not to say that school educated children cannot do these same things.  I have met many who are.  One of our friends is a naturalist who builds his own bows and arrows.  Another is flying through the Suzuki method for violin.  But the sense of community is different.  Rather than embracing CMT scores and college acceptances, we embrace depth of knowledge and true experiential learning.  Some of us expect our children will continue on to college, but realize the path they take to get there may look different that a student in high school.  Others do not value the institution of college as  proof of education but emphasize learning for the value of learning and the result of that is up to the child to determine.  
I do not feel that having my children removed from a school environment limits them in any way.  They have more social opportunities than they did before.  They are not together all the time, as each girl has her own unique interests and follows them seperately.  Yes, we are together more than most siblings are, but I view that as a positive, not a negative.  Opportunities available to us to extend their learning continually amaze me.  They have attended classes in art, music, nature studies, home economics, and science.   They have a diverse group of friends that range in age but also close friends their own age.
In the year my girls have been out of public school, I have not met one family that I can say is not educating their children.  We all go about this differently, from the classical educators to the eclectic (like us) to whole hearted unschoolers.  Neither is right or wrong, better or worse, they are just different, tailored to the needs of the individuals.  The easy thing to do is to put your child on a bus, or drop them off at the school door.  I know.  I did this for five years.  Eight if you count preschool.  I am not judging, just stating that it is easier to let someone else take the responsibility for the education of your children.  That leaves you with seven hours to work, manage the household, persue interests of your own or a blend of all these.  You still have homework and projects to manage, teacher conferences to attend and test scores to worry about.  You are not off the hook, you just are not responsible for the actual teaching, the choosing of curriculum, the implementation of your choices, modifying the choices on a daily basis, monitoring the learning process and evaluating the addition to the household management, the outside interests and in some cases, part time or full time work.  
I have yet to meet someone who takes this responsibility lightly.  It is an heavy load to carry.  It is not made one bit easier because I was once a teacher.  If anything it is more cumbersome because I have had to unlearn all my school-indoctrinations.  Classroom management will not work with your own children. I have no lesson plans to write, no report cards to fill out and no IEPs to adhere to.  Do you know how many classes I had to take to learn these things?  I took many.  Yet I only took one semester of teaching math, teaching reading and teaching science.  Three months of preparation to teach a class of 25.  Not that impressive.  But I could write one hell of a report card comment!
No, we homeschooling families take this responsibility seriously.  No matter how we choose to label our philosophy of education, we want our children to grow and learn and mature.  We want them to be independent people capable of participating in relationships, attending  the college of their choice, landing the job of their dreams and realizing their fullest potential.  We worry constantly about how our choices will affect these things.  We talk, we research, we plan, we coordinate, we read constantly.  We live our profession daily.  There are no days off for us, no sick days, no teacher workshop days, no preset calendar to follow.   For we have decided to follow the model that states that learning does not take place in the confines of four brick and mortar walls.  It is not something that starts at 8:30 and ends at 3:30.  It is not limited to a certain subject and time.
I get a bit passionate about the assumption that because CT lacks strict reporting procedures, we are somewhat lacksadasical about our role as learning facilitators.  I am sure that there are families that are not dedicated to their child’s education, just as there are in the public school community.  It just has not been my experience.  
As I have written before about my political views and positions, I would love to come to a place where we do not judge each other for our choices; whether we educate our children at home, or through the schools.  Instead I would like to see parents respect the choices we each make and realize that they are made to fit our own unique best interest.  What works in one family will not work in another.  I would never judge or critisize without first walking more than a mile in their shoes.
So although I do not have to file quarterly reports to the district or state, and I do not have to submit to portfolio reviews, I teach my children well. I am grateful that I do not have to submit to such reviews as I chose to educate my children free from the restrictions and limitations of the public school system.  If this should change, I would willingly adhere to new regulations because I am proud of the work my children have done and I have no misgivings that we meet each of the criteria put forth in CT Statute 10-184.  But I give thanks that I can live my life according to the 10th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, that the education is not mandated to be administered by a government agency and therefore I can assume this responsibility as a citizen of this great country. 


Theresa said...

Great post! I get asked the same question all the time.

I want to lose some of my school-thinking ways, I think it just broadens and enhances the experience.

Deb said...


mamak said...

Outstanding! I feel the same as you. I look around my small tribe of fellow others and am wowed how none of us, zero, educate our families in the same way, but we get so much community and resources from each other, it is astounding. Awe.

Jessica said...

And this is why I blog.....I love you all. My inspiration is fueled by the amazing things that families do every day. Whether it is dissecting fish ;) or traveling to Williamsburg :>) or taking classes at local Universities. .....we are doing some very cool things all for the purpose of educating our families. It is more than just the kids....we are educating our families. I have learned more in the past year that I can remember learning in a loooong time!

Tom/Tabitha said...

Thank you! EXACTLY! :)

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