Saturday, March 29, 2014
Work Journals as Homeschool Proof
The Real Question:
If the only requirements are "equivalent subjects to the local schools" (the state will not define the word "equivalent" - to give homeschoolers more rights) and "attendance of 180 days per school year" (the state, for the same reason above, will not define "attendance" or "school year" - each private school and homeschool can define their own school year, their own attendance, and their own equivalency to local school subjects) starting at age 7 until the child graduates (the state fully supports a parent-issued diploma based on the parent's own graduation requirements) ---- what is the best way to document those requirements while only providing the minimum. Each of these things must be shown upon request.
Solution 1: a list of numbers 1-180 - checked for each day of attendance, noting the "school year" only
(because even a marked calendar actually gives the days/dates of attendance - as the work journal idea presented below --- too much information)
It is pretty obvious if a child can have a generic conversation on the same topics the local kids would study - so that one is a verbal proof.
Solution 2: same as above, but not even noting the school year other than the child's grade level? Or is that too much too?
How can we document attendance without giving more than "attendance"?
I am seriously looking for ideas here! I appreciate the 3 private e-mails I received, but the question wasn't really addressed, which is why I post this second update ;)
I am pondering my post below. But I am keeping it up - for the sake of conversation - of working out the best plan for those who Montessori homeschool - or even unschool.
Clarification --- Three families in my state that I know of have been visited by DCS in the last 2 months. Each family uses some form of Montessori - and all had a work journal of the basic type that has the date and the name of the work done (not necessarily *what* that work is - such as "bead chain 9" - no description of what it is). With lawyers in place, meetings in their homes with the DCS person, the one thing they each shared with me that they appreciated having (so they didn't have to do anything else) was having that work journal to show *that* schoolwork was done on that day. No way could the DCS person know what the work done even was (and legally couldn't even ask). Apparently one of the lawyers involved also homeschools - and they were ok with the sharing of the basic work journal.
MBT has fantastic comments below - regarding NOT giving more than requested. The trouble in our state is, "what shows what is requested?" Yes, I appreciate the lack of definition of attendance, but how do you show proof of something that has no definition? Each family has to figure out how to do that and NOT provide more than necessary. These families made a particular choice and it worked well for them. Some families just print out a calendar and write the letter "S" on each day school was done. In our family, we school every single day of the week. Pick up any calendar and those are our school days. I wonder if a DCS agent would believe me. But there's my son's attendance record. Every - single - day - of - the - year.
Maybe I am putting this out there so someone else can answer the question for me. What evidence is the bare minimum for showing attendance in a state that doesn't define attendance, but requires 180 days of it - and no other legislation on homeschooling? Is a basic work journal too much? Certainly can be questioned less. How much does this depend on the definition of attendance? A calendar marking school days isn't in the definition either. And that is where the real conundrum lies - for me.
The original post:
Let's pretend you live in a state that only requires attendance in school for 180 days - but the state won't define attendance for private school (and considers homeschools to be private schools).
Portfolios are great; community testimonial that your child is brilliant is great.
But you know what makes life SO MUCH EASIER when someone knocks on the door to question your child's absence from school (presence at home during school hours) ?
Hand them the child's DATED work journal. The contents (style, lay-out) don't matter, but the dates do.
Let me say - it is SO much easier to SAVE those, keep them in ONE place (not hidden somewhere in the piles of papers and boxes of papers that a certain Lego-loving Fiend likes to collect) - then it is to go back and use a calendar to note that school was done on enough days to count for 180.
Do you realize how questionable that looks!? But a work journal, obviously written in different handwriting styles on different days with different writing utensils - so much more believable.
Reality-check: 180 days is half the calendar year. We have school on some level or another every, single, day. 365 days a year. Even Sundays are music (Traditional Latin Mass choir or Novus Ordo chants); Latin with a bit of Greek thrown in; community service (altar serving); history (personal Bible study looking at the historical development); logic (the games we play together later in the day) and literature (Once Upon a Time lovers in this household - and we are always going back and discussing the original tales included in the series as well as the Disney versions - and many times other versions - compare/contrast, discuss the moral implications, changes through time according to culture, what components are the same in all versions because of universal truths, etc.).
Yeah, even Sundays count as school ;) And that's just what we do every Sunday - let alone what we do on only some Sundays (cooking to take food to others in need; art projects of a wide variety).
So, we have 180 days covered in less than the first 6 months of each year.
Of late, I have NOT been as adamant about the work journal as I should be; he does keep a notebook with study ideas, project ideas, he does have his work plan (his organization of the ideas in his head, the requirements he has to meet to attain the goals he has set for himself, and our family projects) and he works from that to move forward with his own work. He does not track dates these days. He should.
So there you have it. Bad idea on my part to not track anything (I don't even have a calendar printed out with "s" on it for every day). We'd need credible proof of 180 days of schooling this school year and last - and a not-quite-10-year-old reading and holding intellectual conversations on high school level literature, doing typical middle school math, pseudo-expert on Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Ancient Israel, running his own small business on Etsy ---- not proof enough of adequate homeschooling.
Not when it is only attendance that counts.