Homeschoolers in Montgomery County who choose to do their review with MCPS rather than under the auspices of a homeschooling “umbrella” organization (my choice when I homeschooled) are discovering that although they have opted out of the the county school system, budget cuts are impacting them nonetheless. Letters recently went out to homeschoolers informing them that the twice yearly reviews, previously held in MCPS field offices around the county, are now going to be conducted in the auditorium at MCPS headquarters in Rockville on one of four appointed days, with numerous reviews happening in the room at the same time.
Hmmm. According to the Maryland State Board of Education Regulations, “the review is at a time and place mutually agreeable to the representative of the local school system and the parent or guardian.” Will be interesting to see whether any parents feel that this setting is not mutually agreeable. It also potentially raises privacy and confidentiality issues…but then again if you’ve ever attended a mass parent-teacher conference in a middle school gym, with parents lined up three feet from the table, maybe this doesn’t seem so bad.
But while I’m on the topic of MCPS homeschool reviews, let me just repeat that it frosts me the way the MCPS website homeschooling FAQ misrepresents homeschooling requirements and needlessly scares/stresses out new homeschoolers. For example, MCPS says:
Do I need to set up a classroom in my home?
No, but you need to provide an area that includes a desk or work space with suitable lighting and ventilation. Resource and instructional material should be available to your child.
The COMAR says nothing about the homeschool setting.
Am I obliged to follow the public school calendar?
You need to specify the hours, days, and length of your instructional year during the program review. Weekend, evening hours, and summertime also may be a part of the schedule if you desire. A minimum of 180 days (based on 5 hours of instruction per day, it would be 900 hours) per year of instruction is expected.
The COMAR merely says:
The home instruction program shall: (3) Take place on a regular basis during the school year and be of sufficient duration to implement the instruction program.
MCPS also has a series of questions related to the program of instruction.
Should I develop a planning book for instruction?
Evidence of a planning book is included as part of the program review.
Should I keep a record of attendance and evaluations/grade given to my child?
What sample of my child’s work should be available during the program review?
Examples of the child’s writing, worksheets, workbooks, creative materials, and tests must be saved for the review. In addition, work should be dated as it is completed.
The COMAR merely says:
A parent or guardian who chooses to teach a child at home shall maintain a portfolio of materials which:(1) Demonstrates the parent or guardian is providing regular, thorough instruction during the school year in the areas specified in §C(1) and (2);
(2) Includes relevant materials, such as instructional materials, reading materials, and examples of the child’s writings, worksheets, workbooks, creative materials, and tests;
No mention of “evidence of a planning book,” or “attendance and evaluations/grade[s].” The COMAR calls for “relevant materials, such as [emphasis added]…” No specified materials which “must be saved” nor requirement for dated work. You don’t even have to demonstrate that academic progress is being made. Just that “regular, thorough instruction” is being offered.
The MCPS form letter sent to to parents in conjunction with the review is also misleading, in my opinion. It tells parents that they “should plan to bring the items listed below…. dated relevant work samples in each curricular area….Complete list of textbooks and workbooks used…weekly instructional schedule.” Again, none of these are spelled out/required in the COMAR.
Yes, don’t get me started. While I suppose our homeschooling regs in Maryland fall somewhere in the middle in terms of homeschooling nationwide, I chafe at some of the state educational establishment’s bizarre interpretations (college and other external courses have to be “supplemental” to material taught in the home by the parent?) and misconceptions about homeschooling and what actually constitutes an education.