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The Hoosier Homeschooler


going to public school isn't about education, it's about attendance

Hoosier Homeschooler #1.003 | September, 2007

Well, first off, let's clear the air and make it known that I have several opinions on this matter. But none of my opionions have anything to do with hating teachers, hating government (or government employees) or hating the fact that a huge amount of our property taxes are redirected for the purpose of financing the alleged schooling of the state's children. It's distasteful and annoying to me... but I don't hate it. Especially in a manner that would get me in trouble with the lovely government employees who are charged with redirecting my taxes into failing government programs. After all, most of them pay for their kids to go to private schools while paying the same school taxes for other people's kids. We're sinking in the same boat.

So why DO we go to school?

Too many people still believe that the state should require all children to go to school because it's in America's best interest that we become educated citizens by the time we grow up. We gladly pay our property taxes because we believe that employees of the public schools will give our children the tools to accomplish our national goal: Smart people. The thing is... we don't seem to be getting our money's worth.

The fact is, the states have never been able to create a law that guarantees an education be given to your child. They can only guarantee (mandate) your child attends a public school. There is an exception: You can send your child to a school of your choice; as long as you pay for it yourself. Either way, it is mandatory that your children attend a school for about twelve years.

Hence: Compulsory Attendance Laws.

The majority of all 'school laws' in this country have nothing to do with education, learning or providing children the tools they need to become good citizens. All laws having to do with publicly schooling your children start with, and are enforced on the idea of compulsory attendance. This means the state can make your child go to a school in your area (or bus them to another school if they believe in quotas) but they can't make him learn anything. The diploma is cool though. The down side is there's a better than thirty percent chance he won't be able to read it.

So here is the bottom line: We are required to send our children to state schools, paid for by our neighbors, with no guarentee that our children will learn anything beyond what the state deems important at the time. Our only choice, if we want something better, is to pay again for private alternatives, or homeschool.

Thus we find ourselves in the quandary of our generation: Public Education in the Twenty-first Century. No wonder we don't use jet packs and flying cars!

Because in order to explain why the IDOE wants you to report the enrollment of your family, we need to explain why they need to know.

They need to know this information because knowing this information satisfies the Compulsory Attendance Laws. If your child isn't in a public school, then they need to make sure you are being a good parent, and making your child attend SOME school. In our minds, we trust that you are feeding, dressing, housing and generally caring for your own children. We bet you're teaching them a thing or two as well.

And actually, the state trusts you too. The enrollment forms have nothing to do with curricula whatsoever! So just like mandatory attendance in a public school doesn't guarantee Junior will learn anything, filling out Zee Paperz doesn't make you an official homeschooler, with the powers or certifications or magic mojo some people think you need to educate your child. The form just makes you a parent that is making your children attend YOUR school. You are the teacher, not the state.

Let's be blunt: This piece of paper is worthless and a waste of tax dollars and time. This form does nothing but put you and your children in a useless database somewhere.

Conveniently, the law, as written, does NOT require you to report the enrollment of your hand full of children in your homeschool. The law says that you should report at the request of the State Superintendent of Schools. Tens of thousands of homeschooling parents are still waiting for the request to come to them. And if it does, then I guess they'll have to report. Not that it will change anything. However, the state will need to hire more people to handle a bunch of new, worthless information. Your tax dollars at work!

What do you need to know to begin homeschooling?

If your child is currently enrolled in a public school, and you want to homeschool, you need to transfer the child to a private school. (Homeschools are not actually defined in Indiana Code, but are classified as non-accredited, non-public schools -- private schools.) You simply need to inform the school, in writing, that you are transferring your child to a private school.

Words Are Important

You are transferring, not withdrawing your child. The state suggests you report your child's enrollment, not register him or her or your 'school'. These words are important.

To withdraw your child, requires the school officials follow a different set of rules, including an interview process before they allow you to leave with your child. For someone to say you have to 'register' your homeschool or your child, suggests something official. Like registering your dogs or your bicycle. Reporting enrollment is nothing of the sort, and confers nothing official. Simply, it's a bean counting procedure. And by law, it is only required if you are asked to report your enrollment by the State Superintendent of Schools.

Frankly, we believe they have much more important things to do than keep track of parents doing what the public schools can't seem to get done.

Will There Be Trouble?

In the majority of cases, one experiences very little trouble with a transfer request. Sometimes, when a parent withdraws her child(ren) in a confrontational manner, the school officials get nervous. After all, it's their job to make sure your child attends their school, and to them, you're just taking their student out for no apparent reason!

Transferring to another school, seems to put government employees at ease. It's an especially good idea to make this distinction with people who might have negative preconceived notions about homeschooling.

If there are problems, make sure you know the Indiana Code citations, so you can inform the school official that ignorance of the law is no excuse for poor treatment or harassment.

Compulsory School Attendance Law

IC 20-8.1-3-17(j)

This is the part of the code that says all children must "attend a school taught in the English language from either the start of the school year during which a child will turn 7 (if the child is to attend a public school), or at age 7 (if the child is to attend a non accredited, nonpublic school {including, but not limited to, a "home school"})."

See if you can find the part where they are supposed to teach your children all kinds of smart, academic things to make them good productive citizens!

Reporting Enrollment

The IDOE web site suggests one thing, but the Indiana Code says it another. Both are vague enough to confuse parents who want to do the right, legal thing, but don't want to simply do what the state tells them to do, especially for no sound reason.

All legal analysis from HSLDA and others pretty much agrees that there is no reason to require anyone to report the enrollment of their small number of children in a private homeschool, unless, as the law says, they are requested to do so by the State Superintendent of Schools. (Blanket requests on web sites does not count, since not everyone will see those sites. If it was legally binding as a request, then several thousands of parents would be trapped into noncompliance with the law.

IC 20-8.1-3-24(b)

Read the code for yourself. And if a school official tells you you need some kind of certificate or certification or you are required to register your homeschool, kindly give them this reference and tell them to read the law for themselves, thank you.

What if my children have never been enrolled in a public school?

Just start or continue to homeschool as you always have. Keep some kind of attendance record. Enjoy your family. Piece of cake.

*This commentary was written by Benjamin Bennett and it is not to be confused with legal advice. Nor is it a (set in stone) policy statement of the Indiana Home Educators' Network. This commentary is just opinion based on experience and nothing more. Consult an attorney if you're worried. You are also welcome and encouraged to subscribe to our statewide discussion e-list, IndianaHomeschoolers, to discuss this topic with homeschooling parents throughout the state.


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The majority of all 'school laws' in this country have nothing to do with education, learning or providing children the tools they need to become good citizens. All laws having to do with publicly schooling your children start with, and are enforced on the idea of compulsory attendance.



B. B. Bennett - Editor

For the three or four of you who don't know me, I'm not known for my quiet, poetic tomes on the condition of state controlled public education. Don't expect this one to be any different. And while the concept of an educated citizenry is a good one -- in theory -- it falls apart over time, when the time, place and means of getting said education is made compulsory by the state. And this is my main point: You can force a kid to school, but you can't make him learn.




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