Thursday, September 09, 2010

An Educrat's Intro to Homeschooling

So here's precisely what happened in the course of filing *homeschooling paperwork* for my son.

On August 12th, I submitted my Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) which I ripped substantially and directly from Angela of CitySchooling:


NAME OF CHILD: ________________________
NYC Student ID: (optional)
ADDRESS: ________________________
DOB: _____________
TODAY'S DATE:_______________
SCHOOL YEAR: 2009-2010

11/15/09, 1/30/10, 4/15/10, 6/30/10

_______will be using various methods/tools for 4th-grade instruction in all the subjects specified in Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. The corresponding subtopics may include and are not limited to:

Reading and writing numbers, Roman numerals to C, Prime numbers less than 100, Prime factoring, Numeration systems, Subsets, Decimal and fraction equivalents, Addition and subtraction, Facts to 7 places, Multiplication and division facts to 144, 1-, 2-, and 3-digit multiplication problems, 2- and 3-digit dividend, 1-digit divisor problems, Meaning of mixed numbers, Finding simple averages, Geometric concepts, Customary and metric measurement, Time to the second, Problem-solving methods, Charts and graphs

The English Language
(Reading, Writing, Spelling) Silent and oral reading, Choral reading, Listening skills, Telephone skills, Making and accepting simple social introductions, Summarizing simple information, Listening to literature, Critical reading, Short stories, chapter books, poetry, plays, Spelling, Increasing dictionary skills, Cursive handwriting, Simple outlining, Writing letters and informal notes, Written and oral book reports, Creative writing, Developing skills in locating information, Increasing indexing skills, Developing encyclopedia skills, Utilizing parts of a newspaper

Social Studies
(U.S. History, Geography) Types of community life, History and development of the local state, Relation of the state to its region, nation, and the world, World cultures, Reasons for our laws, Regions of the world, Continents, Time zones, Earth's resources, Climatic regions of the world, Map skills: longitude, latitude, scale, Using a globe

Environment of the local region, Biological organization, Classification systems, The insect world, The reptilian world, Plants and animals of the past, Structure of plants, Seeds, Ecosystems, Balance of nature, Human body, Weather's influences, Weather instruments, Climate, Cause of seasons, Earth and its history, Oceans and the hydrosphere, Air and water pollution, Magnets and electricity, Light and color, Solar system and the universe, Living in space, Scientific method and scientific inquiry

Personal and mental hygiene, Dental health, The body and its functions, Skeletal and muscular systems, Care and proper use of the body, Principles of digestion, Basic food groups, Good nutrition habits, Diseases, Safety, Substance abuse

Music/Visual Arts/Phys. Ed.
Wide exposure to all forms of music, Piano keyboard, Arts and crafts, Structured group dance lessons (tap, jazz, lyrical) 3+ hrs. per week, Free play indoors and outdoors

Instruction methods/tools may include and shall not be limited to: reference materials (atlas, dictionaries, globe, maps, encyclopedias, non-fiction books, videos, the internet), workbooks, worksheets, hands-on activities, experiments, projects, newspapers, magazines, frequent field trips, group activities, classic/contemporary literature, research, journal/narrative/essay/poetry writing, games, creative thinking, predicting/forecasting, gathering facts, written peer correspondence (pen pals), music CDs, CD ROMs, piano keyboard, abundant art supplies (clay, paint, crayons, pencils, sketchpads, felt, chalk, etc.), structured group dance classes and competitions, free play, conversations, and real life.

Primary instruction to ________ will be provided by _____________ and _______________, her parents. Supplemental instruction will be provided by others, as necessary.

Parent’s Signature

I had come across it a while back while googling but it had slipped my mind. I asked a local homeschooler what she did for her *1st grader*'s initial IHIP and was re-directed there. I figured "Why not?" - if this one has passed muster...

So I used that template almost exactly - except I added geometry, algebra, and maybe guitar and piano.

1.5 weeks later I receive this notice from the educrat ("Director of Special Education"!) I was told to send my paperwork to.

Mr. and Mrs. CaptiousNut...

After reviewing the IHIP you submitted....more detailed information regarding the syllabi, scope, and sequence or table of contents from a textbook is needed.

Please submit additional information to my office as soon as possible.

I am available to answer your questions regarding this information and guiding you through the process of completing the necessary forms to home instruct Prince.

Now I was miffed. That fellow homeschooler who had advised me to use this template said she copied it word-for-word and got back a reply only four days later, "Approved. Thank you. Have a great summer!"

I emailed Angela asking if she could give me a list of school districts that she knew had approved that particular IHIP. She replied, "Hundreds of parents all over New York State have used that same exact outline and have had no problem - from Albany to Montauk. I have never heard it not be accepted in the 5 years since I put it together."

Reading that, I became even more irate at this *Director of Special Education*.

However, another homeschooler, one who's actually in my district, looked over my IHIP and said that it might not be legally sufficient; she said I just provided a generic list of topics. Obviously, as a legal matter only the letter of the law matters. I had looked over the law once or twice but really hadn't done my homework thoroughly. This woman advised me that just because some districts aren't strict in enforcing the doesn't mean that my district was out of bounds in requesting more information. Of course she was 100% correct on that last, technical point.

So back to reading the law I went....and a loophole did I find!

Attention: Educrat,

Please have your attorneys look over my IHIP as I believe it is legally compliant.

What I submitted can be construed as either a *sylllabi* or a *plan of instruction*.

If you re-read the law, it's "a list of the syllabi, curriculum materials, textbooks, or plan of instruction to be used...."

A plan of instruction need not list textbooks - that is implicit in the term "OR".

There is nothing in the statute that mentions tables of contents, scope, or sequence - your critiques in the letter you sent me. Those words are only found in a Q&A in reference to people who simply list textbooks for their IHIP:

Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP)

'Are parents required to submit more than a list of textbooks in the IHIP to comply with the requirements of subdivision (d) of Section 100.10?

The IHIP must include for each of the required courses either a list of syllabi, curriculum materials and textbooks to be used or a plan of instruction to be followed. A different alternative may be used for different subjects. While a list of textbooks may be submitted, it is reasonable for the district to require more than the name, publisher, copyright date and author's name if the district is not familiar with the textbook's content. If the district requests additional information beyond the list of textbooks, the parents may, at their option, submit either a written scope and sequence describing the text or a copy of the text for the district's review (which copy shall be promptly returned to the parents). The purpose of such review is not to compare the text with those employed by the district, but rather: 1) to insure that the parent is providing the mandated subjects for the grade level in question, and 2) to provide the district with more complete information to assist its review of quarterly reports and annual assessments.'

Again, since I opted to not do a list of textbooks, the above doesn't legally apply to me.

And, getting back to the earlier question, a syllabi need only be an *outline*:

syl·la·bus   [sil-uh-buhs] Show IPA
–noun, plural -bus·es, -bi  [-bahy] Show IPA.

1. an outline or other brief statement of the main points of a discourse, the subjects of a course of lectures, the contents of a curriculum, etc.

Also, note that you and (the Superintendent)'s role is NOT to accept or reject my IHIP. Legally you are only obligated to check it for compliance:

'When the IHIP is submitted by the parents, does the school district have the responsibility to make a subjective judgment of the substantial equivalency of the home instruction program?

No. The purpose of these regulations is to provide a basis for objective determinations of substantial equivalence. IHIP submissions are to be evaluated to determine compliance with subdivisions (d) and (e) of Section 100.10. Quarterly reports are to be evaluated to determine compliance with subdivision (g). Annual assessments must comply with the requirements of subdivision (h). A home instruction program that adheres to the standards of the regulations at each stage of the process should be deemed to be substantially equivalent.'

'Can a district require parents to provide more information on the IHIP than the Regulations of the Commissioner require?

No. A district may require only that information set forth in subdivision (d) of Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the Commissioner.'

Please realize that i did not *make this IHIP up*. Its core was ripped from World Book Encyclopedia and listed as a 4th grade level - except for a couple of things like the 7th (algebra) and 10th grade math (geometry) that my 5-year old son is doing.

This very same IHIP has been approved hundreds of times for homeschoolers in towns from Montauk to Albany. So you don't have anything to worry about in terms of making sure you do your job properly. In fact, the woman who first wrote the model told me today that she has never heard of it being rejected even once in the 5 years since she made it available.

Homeschooling laws are easy on the parents and easy on school administrators. It makes no sense at all to complicate the process.

Again, please have your lawyers look this and my IHIP over, if necessary, and reconsider my IHIP.

Okay, that's as *nice* of an email as I could produce. I kept it dispassionate and focused almost entirely on the law. Remember this before any of y'all call me a bad word later on.

Eight days later, despite frequent *I'm available to answer questions* and *I look forward to working with you* pledges....I hadn't received an answer AT ALL.

What was I to think here? What would you think?

I got the stark impression that this was spiteful silence. After all, who am I to question the Director of Special Education and the Superintendent - whose combined salaries are $410,000!!! (260k + 150k)

I've met enough earthlings over the years to learn that....well, only a scant few are biologically capable of admitting they are wrong!

So yesterday, first thing in the morning, I sent yet another email:

Hi educrat,

I wanted to make sure you received my email last week. Can you confirm if you did so? Thanks.

Guess what....she ignored that as well! Would it have killed her to say, "Yeah, I got it....but haven't had time to deal with it?", "Yeah, I got it....the lawyers are looking it over.", or even lie, "No, I didn't get it."???

But again, she was completely silent.

Now I'm really steaming. Here's why:

I believe that if I don't have an approved IHIP by September 15th (next Wednesday), I am legally obligated to send my son to the government school while that gets ironed out. AND, if I don't send him, they can call CPS (Child Protective Services) on me.

Could this actually happen?

Who knows? I have no idea whether or not I've run into one of these school districts that *hates* homeschoolers - one that was being deliberately obtuse or one that's just acting obtuse by its nature.

A couple people (including one other homeschooler in my district) told me to just accede to whatever BS they are requesting as that would require less energy than fighting them. And in the short run that would be true.

But a bully is a bully. Never give them your milk money without a fight or...

If were to concede this point, one in which I was convinced I was in the right, I would surely be hassled illegally down the road for something else. And with another child to file paperwork for next year, I'm not at all eager to agree to years of detailed reporting when I don't have to.

This woman had arrogated herself above the law in the past. I heard from the other homeschoolers in town that last year she tried to demand two *tests* - one at the beginning of the school year and another at the end - ostensibly to assess progress. Except that homeschoolers, early on anyway, ARE NOT legally required to submit to ANY *testing* AT ALL!

See what I mean about these bureaucratic bullies?

Here's the crux again - I submitted a vague plan/syllabus/outline which is all I'm required by law to submit....but that's apparently not acceptable.

Last night I looked into HSLDA - a homeschool legal defense organization. For a $115 annual retainer, they promise to cover all your lawyering. THAT sounds like a good deal to me. And my wife, having seen me seethe for the past couple weeks, was all but ordering me to pay-up and disengage myself entirely from the process.

But what fun would that be?

This morning, I angrily grabbed the phone and called Mrs. Special Ed.

I could only get through to her secretary which, given my elevated blood pressure, was probably for the best. I communicated my position clearly to the secretary, a nice woman who totally got it. And I used the magic word *lawyer*. She took down my number, apologized for her *extremely busy* boss, and said she would definitely get my message across. Good.

Then here's how the educrat responded later this morning:


I called to speak with you this morning and left a detailed voice message. We are not rejecting the IHIP plan you submitted. We are requesting additional information. Attached for your review are two samples of IHIP plans that have been submitted and accepted by the school district. I hope you find this additional information helpful.
In other words, she didn't READ, COMPREHEND, or FORWARD my email to her attorneys last week. In other words, she didn't get my clear-as-day message that I was not going to submit anything else.

So what exactly is the point of continuing a dialogue with a Moron, a woman looking more fit to be IN Special Ed. than in running it.

Here was my response which I tactically CC'ed to the Superintendent, and the entire Board of Education:


There are no missed calls or voicemails on my phone (917 xxx - xxxx) but that is fine as I'd rather all of our communication in writing.

Realize that the fact that another homeschooler indulged in extralegal requests from you for more detailed information has nothing at all to do with what I am legally required to submit.

The law states that I need to supply a syllabus ('outline') or a plan and I provided one - one that has been accepted hundreds of times, statewide and is legally compliant with Reg 100.10. In fact a friend of mine in Huntington sent the exact same one this year for her 1st Grader....only 4 days later the district responded, "Approved. Thank you. Have a great summer!"

The law states that you cannot pass subjective judgment on the substantive quality of my IHIP.

The law states that you cannot ask for more than what's set forth in Reg 100.10

Also NY law also clearly states that you cannot force me to register my child with the district - WHICH YOU DID, against my protests, and has been documented.

See the Q&A here for all those regulations:

Look, this is not the way I wanted to start off here in town. I've already wasted a ton of time/energy/money with your *requests* - as you have as well.

How would you feel if some government authority tried to force you to do something you weren't legally obligated to do? I doubt you'd be too happy about it. Realize that's precisely what is going on here.

I am pleading with you to re-read my email from last week and reconsider approval for my IHIP's compliance with Reg 100.10.

Without satisfaction in the matter very shortly, you are not only forcing me to engage lawyers - one to deal with the IHIP and another to sue the district for an emerging pattern of clear legal harassment....but you are also forcing me to publicize this injustice.

Okay. So I used the lawyer bluff...

Hopefully they won't realize that I am too cheap, and too much of a DIY'er to hire one of those leeches!

But my email *up the chain* must have done the trick.

About an hour later I received a phone call from Mrs. Special Ed - the same woman who had completely ignored two emails for the past 9 days.

Now I don't know this woman's natural tone, but I swear she was trembling throughout the phone call. Clearly, given the alacrity of the response and the fear in her voice, clearly some higher-up whom I CC'ed on the email, ordered her to back off. It was my turn to keep mum - I let her squirm without saying a single word in response for quite some time.

She tried to make it like this was a sincere phone call about my IHIP, and asked some weak questions about what my son was studying. Questions which, again, I am under no obligation to answer.

Educrat - You're new in the district so I don't know anything about what level your son is at. For example, I have no idea what your son is doing in math.

I broke my silence.

CaptiousNut - Did you even read my IHIP?

Educrat - Of course.

CaptiousNut - Do you have it in front of you?

Educrat - Yes.

CaptiousNut - Please read what it says under math.

Educrat - Arithmetic, Money, Time, Graphing, Using a calculator, Word Problems, Algebra, Geometry,...

CaptiousNut - Okay. Roughly, what grade levels do you think 'algebra' and 'geometry' are at?

Educrat - Well....

CaptiousNut - Because they were, at least, 7th and 10th grade when I was in school.

Educrat - I don't know....geometry could just mean 'shapes'...

CaptiousNut - What about 'algebra' could that just mean learning the letter 'X'?

Alright, I didn't actually say that last line, but I should have!

But this was was turning into a real beatdown. She was flailing now after that math lesson and meekly accused me of being *condescending*.

Well, I had to condescend in order to communicate on her level!

And at that inverted accusation I blew up about her forcing me to register after I had repeatedly pointed out that I wasn't legally required to do so. Her Moronic response, "Well that's how we do things in this district." "So you get to supersede the laws of the State of New York", I fired back. It was like talking to a wall!

Then I threw a couple more illegal and unprofessional things she did in her face and the phone call mercifully ended - with her stating that a letter of IHIP approval would be forthcoming.

She was definitely extremely upset. She probably had been yelled at first by a superior for potentially bringing a lawsuit on the district, and then by me right afterwards.

I have the capacity to feel a little bad about this....but I'm smothering it for the time being because she's started dishing out the harassment first. I can be either the easiest person on Earth to get along with, or, the most difficult - whatever the market demands.

I plan on sending her a conciliatory message, but not for a month or so. Let it burn in that I am not one to butt heads with.

Now, if I was truly as depraved as some of my critics believe I am....I could go really *detail-light* on my first quarterly report. I would, essentially, be daring this shell-shocked woman to come at me again.


Paul Mitchell said...

Bureaucrats never cease to amaze me.

Anonymous said...

You are the man!!!!


CaptiousNut said...

I can't believe anyone would read that whole post!

Taylor Conant said...

I love how you started feeling sympathetic towards a woman making $100K+ a year because you slapped her into line when she got herself out of it.

Isn't she being paid so much to deal with people like you? "She's just doing her job" in that sense-- no need to feel sorry for her!

I'm sure she had a tearful, self-pitying drive home in her Mercedes-Benz.

NYCitymomx3 said...

Well, good for you. Unfortunately, it does take some assertiveness sometimes to stand up for what is right. Most districts push the envelope to see what they can get away with, regardless of the regulations. That said, I will advise you not to use my quarterly sample, unless you're ready for another battle, lol. Your district certainly has control issues.


Paul Mitchell said...

C-Nut, use Angela's quarterly sample. We need to see how you handle that, too.

This is research.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line, they don't want you homeschooling your kid because they don't derive any tax money from it.

You thought you had your landlord beat too. The educrats will be back...

auntulna said...

Man, that is sad, but you made it really funny (to read about anyway).

Kind of like a ball player who is twice as fast as the rest. The beatings will continue until morale improves!

Al Benson Jr. said...

We had our children in Christian school until we could no longer afford to do that and then we home schooled them. Public school was never an option and 90% of the people in the church we attended disagreed with us, tried to talk us into putting the kids into public school and the pastor even came out and tried, so we home schooled without any backing or encouragement from our church. Nonetheless, I am glad we did it. I have read enough about public schools to realize that I wouldn't even want my dog in one, let alone my kids. There are several articles about public education, or lack thereof, on my blog spot I would encourage you all to check some of them out.

CaptiousNut said...

Hi Al,

It is unbelievable that churches do not at all encourage homeschooling - at least in my limited experience. And that goes even for born-again types!

I guess they are still *institutions* at root...

Your blog is terrific. I subscribed.