Thursday, April 17, 2014

Louisiana Homeschoolers: Demand Your Information

This morning, I contacted the Louisiana Board of Education to inquire about the number of homeschoolers enrolled in Louisiana's two homeschooling options - the Home Study Program and the Registered Nonpublic School.

I was writing an article about how to get started homeschooling in Louisiana and wanted to get as accurate a number as possible.

They refused to provide the number.

I was told at least three times, "We don't give out that number."

Note that in Louisiana, regardless of which of the two options you choose, everyone who is homeschooling legally reports to the Louisiana Board of Education.  They have a number (unlike many states that do not require any reporting whatsoever).  They didn't deny having a number, they just stated repeatedly that they would not provide it.

The Louisiana Public Records Act states:
The Louisiana Public Records Act, also known as Louisiana's Sunshine Law, was enacted by the state’s legislature in 1940. Section LA 44.01.2(a) defines public records as, “All books, records, writings, accounts, letters and letter books, maps, drawings, photographs, cards, tapes, recordings, memorandum, and papers, and all copies, duplicates, photographs, including microfilm, or other reproductions thereof, or any other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, including information contained in electronic data processing equipment, having been used, being in use, or prepared, possessed, or retained for use in the conduct, transaction, or performance of any business, transaction, work, duty, or function which was conducted, transacted, or performed by or under the authority of the constitution or laws of this state, or by or under the authority of any ordinance, regulation, mandate, or order of any public body or concerning the receipt or payment of any money received or paid by or under the authority of the constitution or the laws of this state, are "public records", except as otherwise provided in this Chapter or the Constitution of Louisiana.”

Anyone can request public records and a purpose does not need to be stated. There are no restrictions on what can be done with the public documents once a records requester has them in hand. The custodian of the records must respond to requests within three days.
I contacted Governor Jindal, Louisiana House Representative Seabaugh, and State Senator Traver and wrote the following:
This morning I contacted the Louisiana Board of Education and requested the number of children enrolled under the Home Study and Registered Nonpublic School options available to homeschoolers in our state. I was repeatedly told that they "do not give out that number." When asked why, they just repeated that they do not give out the number. Why are they not releasing it? Seems to me that such a number should be available upon request under the Louisiana Public Records Act. I would appreciate your office's investigation and response to this matter.
Louisiana requires information from us, and I am requiring information from them.  If you think this is a pile of garbage that they won't release the numbers that we supply them with, then please contact the governor and your representatives and demand this information be released.

EDITED TO ADD: This afternoon Press Secretary for the Louisiana Board of Education was in touch with me and provided numbers about enrollment.  The phone call I made earlier was apparently handled incorrectly.  Thank you, Mr. Barry Landry.  He stated:

It’s not that this is protected information. It’s just not a data point usually readily available because it is not calculated through the normal course of business. Our data management team would have to write a query to search the database and pull these numbers together.

Fortunately in this situation, I made such a request to our data team in the last few months.

Here are the numbers as of Oct. 1, 2013.  I have included the enrollment for all public schools from the same time to give you something to compare them against.

Home Study Program – 9,798
Registered, Non-Public Schools – 12,108
Public Schools – 713,110

I am sorry the call center answered your call the way they did this morning. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Followup to: Why the Romeikes Don't Deserve Asylum

AP

On Friday, I posted "Why the Romeike's Don't Deserve Asylum."  The response was quite amazing.  In just two days, I received more than 1,000 views.  It was shared on Facebook over and over again, and, from what I can see and what I have been told, all the feedback was very positive.  

Way to be civil, world!

There are a few items I would like to clarify about the Romeike situation.

The result of all this back and forth on the Romeikes' status has left the Romeikes without asylum.  The Department of Homeland Security has, according to the HSLDA, granted the family “indefinite deferred status."  They are not U.S. citizens and they do not hold asylum status.  Essentially, they can stay in the country unless they commit a crime or until DHS lifts their deferment.  

Yes, the HSLDA/Romeike storm can get stirred up again at any time.

A friend on Facebook put it this way:
... it just looks like the courts gave in (they didn't), that HSLDA won (they didn't), and that the Romeikes are now akin to citizens of the US (they aren't) ... This turn around did nothing but give the false view that everyone won. No one won. It is like a stay of execution. It isn't over and will pop back up most likely when one of them wishes to go overseas or as the children become adults.
I could not have put it better myself. 

Interestingly, in mid-2012, the DHS announced giving deferred status to undocumented immigrants who came to the United as children and pose a very low security risk to the country.  It allows them to get work permits and to obtain driver's licenses (Star-Telegram).  The status gives them two years in the United States to pursue citizenship without risk of deportation and they can request a two-year extension.

The White House also had an official response to a petition regarding the Romeike case:
... while we can’t comment on this particular issue, we know that homeschooling is a popular option for many parents pursuing high academic standards for their children. Homeschooling can provide young people with the resources and attention they need to succeed academically, and we understand why their parents value this freedom.
That petition garnered more than 127,000 signatures.

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In my previous post, I used the example, "It's not so dissimilar to marriage equality in this country.  Illinois won't marry a woman and her fiancee, but California will - does that mean they move across the ocean to the United Kingdom to seek political asylum?"  

At this moment, Illinois is set to legalize marriage for same-sex couples on June 1, 2014 and the Illinois Attorney General has already urged county clerks to begin granted marriages licenses (Huff Po).  Perhaps my home state of Indiana would have been better used in this example.

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Thank you everyone for your open hearts, shares, likes, and positive comments.  It's been very humbling.

Somewhere in here, I feel like I should also post a disclaimer that I am not a lawyer and nothing I say should be taken as legal advice.  Seriously.  I'm a homeschooling mom of three who resells vintage junk on the side.  Don't trust my creative writing degree to represent you in court :)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Why the Romeikes Don't Deserve Asylum

Wade Payne/AP Photo
The Romeikes flooded my news feed multiple times the past few years.  Most recently, on March 3, cries for support once again dominated my Facebook timeline and homeschool groups.

Why the concerns for the Romeike family and not for other struggling immigrants?  Perhaps because many American homeschoolers see themselves in the Romeikes - they are a white, Christian family with, originally, five children (now seven children).

The Romeikes are an interesting story for homeschoolers, but also for those who follow religious freedom, education, and politics.  If you're new to the Romeike case, here's some background information for you:

Uwe and Hanalore Romeike desired to educate their five children at home in Germany, where homeschooling is illegal (BBC).  Homeschooling was outlawed in Germany in 1938, under the rule of the Nazi party (The Brussels Journal).*

In Germany, homeschooling families can be fined, imprisoned, and have their children removed from their home.  Both German and European courts maintain that “Schools represented society, and it was in the children’s interest to become part of that society. The parents’ right to education did not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience” (The Brussels Journal).

The Romeikes believed that sending their children to school "engendered a negative attitude toward family and parents and would tend to turn their children against Christian values."

So, was coming to America the Romeike's only choice?

No.  Comparing the list of European Union countries (amongst which citizens can move between much like Americans can move between states, European Commission) to the list of European countries that legally permit homeschooling, the Romeikes had many new homes to chose from - the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Belgium, Ireland.  Some of these countries even, unlike the United States, give constitutional rights to homeschooling.

While Germany was not permitting the Romeikes to homeschool, Germany was not stopping them from practicing their Christian faith nor was Germany preventing them from moving within the EU.  The family could have, with much less dramatics, moved to Belgium and homeschooled peacefully and legally.

So, why did they come to American and clog up our legal system and spend your tax dollars?

Thank Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).

Really, "The thought was that sponsoring an asylum application for a German homeschooling family would allow the light of truth to shine on this problem with American and German public officials. A successful asylum application would also provide a path to safety for German families to escape persecution by immigrating to the United States. HSLDA is sponsoring a similar process in Canada" (HSLDA).  

HSLDA made this our country's problem just to stir crap up.

They lured this family across an ocean with promises of political asylum in 2009.  They did get it in 2010 (NY Times) when a judge decided that homeschoolers were part of a "members of a particular social group."  Then, they didn't get it in 2013 (CBN) when the Justice Department ruled that "homeschooling is not a fundamental right." On appeal, they didn't get it again on March 3 when the Supreme Court refused to hear the case and faced deportation (CNN).   Less than 24 hours later, however, they were told by the Department of Homeland Security, that they are welcomed in the country indefinitely (ABC News).  

I repeat, the Romeike family could have legally skipped out of Germany and relocated to Italy, the United Kingdom, France, etc. and all this messy American stuff could have been avoided.

Why does it matter if this family gets asylum?

To be granted asylum, an asylum attorney must prove that their client(s) fall into at least one of five protected categories:  race, religion, nationality, particular social group or political opinion, or religion (NPR).

If the whole European Union outlawed homeschooling, then I would be open to the argument that the Romeikes fall under a "particular social group or political opinion."  But plenty of EU countries permit and protect homeschooling.

It's not so dissimilar to marriage equality in this country.  Illinois won't marry a woman and her fiancee, but California will - does that mean they move across the ocean to the United Kingdom to seek political asylum?  I think my congressman and senator are persecuting my views in Washington D.C.  Do I move to Australia to escape this?  It's stupid, of course not, I either stay put and fight for my rights or I move to a different congressional district or state that better represents and protects me.
 
There are people who don't have access to any education, clean water, or food.  There are people who are killed for being the wrong shade of brown, for being born into the wrong religion or social group. There are women whose genitalia are mutilated for the sake of tradition and purity.  The asylum process is long, messy, and time consuming.  There are people who desperately need it, and to take time, attention, and resources away from them to pursue cases like the Romeikes is reprehensible.

But the Romeikes?  

People who could have moved just 65 miles west of their hometown and homeschooled legally?**

These people do not need my country's protection.

I don't even really blame the Romeikes, and I don't blame the American homeschoolers who loudly supported the efforts.  I think both were swindled by the HSLDA.  I blame HSLDA, by making this America's problem, the HSLDA abused the Romeikes and the hearts of American homeschoolers.

Why say all this?  

The Romeikes are staying, the Department of Homeland Security says so, but I needed to say all this, because I don't want good, kind people believing every word published and every case pursued by the HSLDA is well-intentioned.  

Also, if you found compassion for the Romeikes, I hope that compassion spreads to other people who are in this country seeking safety and freedom. 

Ask yourself: Would you have cared so much about a Muslim homeschooling family?  What about a single mom homeschooling her children?  How about two dads homeschooling their child?  What about other people who risked death, knowing that a meager life in America is still better than any life they could scrape together in their homeland?  Would you care this much about people with whom you have little to nothing in common?

*Some believe that this fact alone means the ban shouldn't have any value, but we still drive Volkswagens and use the Autobahn and respect animal conservation efforts (all things the Nazis started, ListServ), so under whom the ban began seems irrelevant.

**According to Google Maps, it is 65 miles from Bissingen, Germany (the Romeike's hometown) to Lauterbourg, France - by car, it's about 1 hour and 11 minutes.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Explosive Child by Ross W. Greene, Ph.D

 
A diagnosis is not a solution. 

Dr. Greene considered the dilemmas in families with challenging children - behavior that often came with labels such as ADD, Asperger's, or hyperactivity.  Regardless of the diagnosis, Dr. Greene wanted to set out a plan that helped the children and manage navigate life.  His solution was Collaborative Problem Solving, a practical approach that fosters mutual respect between parents and children.

The Explosive Child comes from the perspective that your child knows their behavior is wrong.  They don't want to act this way - screaming, throwing fits, etc.  If they could do better, they would.  Also, reward charts are useless.  Say what?
There's a difference between viewing these kids' explosions as the result of failure to progress developmentally and interpreting them as planned, intentional, and purposeful.
This was a real shift in my thinking.  Of course, my son wasn't acting this way on purpose.  After all these years punishments, he certainly knows that his behavior is unacceptable.  He doesn't want to be set in timeout while everyone else is playing, he doesn't want his DS taken away for a week, but his behavior wasn't changing.  Punishments weren't changing a thing.  Within the first 20 pages, Dr. Greene had sold me.  Throughout the book, he reminds the reader, "Kids do well, if they can."

The Explosive Child features the stories of many parents and children, covering all sorts of ages and situations.  Only children, children from large families, single parents, strict parents, children diagnosed with a range of mental illness, and children who were just considering, well, strong-willed and challenging.  You're sure to find several stories that reflect what is going on in your family life.

Dr. Greene offers several plans, probably one or two of which you are using now, and he wants to know how that is working?  (Hint: It's probably not, or you wouldn't be reading this book.)  He encourages you to identify your child's triggers.  When does he or she have the most explosions?  Are they hungry or bored?  Does it happen before Boy Scouts or after swimming?  More in the morning or around bed time?  His suggestions are not to avoid this situation, but to develop a plan that makes these activities easier - quiet time beforehand, having a snack ready.  He always encourages the parent to seek the child's input too.  It makes the child feel respected and gives them accountability.

I was very pleased with The Explosive Child and have found - for my own son - that being knowledgeable of his triggers has worked wonders.  For example, on days my son has speech therapy, I need to make sure we're home at least a half hour before the therapist shows up.  He needs the time to transition from "car time" to "home" to "speech session."  It's not about being permissive, it's about giving him what he needs.
While the CPS model has its roots in the treatment of explosive children, it's clear that it's not just explosive kids who benefit from identifying their concerns, having those concerns taken seriously, taking another person's concerns into account, generating and considering the alternative solutions to problems, work towards mutually satisfactory solutions, and resolving disputes and disagreements without conflict.
The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children. HarperCollins, 2010. ISBN 978-0-06-190619-0. $15.99

*This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, January 27, 2014

January 2014 Review

My oldest didn't return to school after the Christmas break.  I wrote a withdrawal letter, sent it certified mail, and submitted my application for home study.  I have an email saying they received my application.  I do not have an email from them accepting my application yet.  It's possible that my kid is a truant at this point.

The reasons for not waiting till the end of the year?  There were many, but it ultimately boiled down to knowing I wouldn't send him back there for fourth grade, so what was the point to continuing?  I don't think six weeks is enough time to really give the school a fair assessment, so I'll resist a full-blown report on the experience, but it may or may not include words like "prison" and "busywork" and possibly some swears.

I started a new routine with my oldest, where I write out all his language arts and math work for the week - what needs done on what days, what pages need done in what books, what lessons he needs to do on the computer, as well as five books to read and quiz on at BookAdventures.com.  We're four weeks in now, and I'm still really liking the new system.  He's responding well to it, and it's easy for my husband to peek at the sheet and help him get some things done, if needed.  I want to test run it some more before I post details, but so far, so good.

My goal for the month was to get both kids' language arts and math work done every day.  I'm significantly less stressed than I was prior to sending my oldest to school and less stressed than when he was in school (waking up everyone at 6:30 to sit in the carpool lane for 20 minutes every day, oh, I don't miss it at all).  Baby steps.  We'll master this routine and then add in a steady dose of science and social studies.

My friend and I have also started a secular homeschool group, meeting at the Unitarian Universalist Church once a week.  So far, it's just our kids, but I've learned about other groups that went from 15 kids their first year to 40+ kids the next year.  So, who knows where it might lead.  I'm in no rush for it to grow too fast too soon.  The church building and grounds are a nice change of pace from home - a little break in the week for everyone.  We debated about whether or not to include "secular" in the group name - it might turn some people away - but we ultimately decided that if someone was offended by the word "secular," then they probably wouldn't be a good match for the group anyways.  Besides, I've accused other groups of not calling themselves what they actually are (saying they're inclusive and welcoming, when what they really are is legalistic Christians who really only want to include other legalistic Christians or secular people who keep their opinions to themselves).  So, we are what we are.  We're secular homeschoolers.

Reassessing a lot of things lately.  Where I want to put my time and effort. What is important and what is not.

So, for sanity, January is language arts and math every day.  The secular group hangs out every Thursday with no set agenda.  These are great things as they are.

mind·ful: ˈmīndfəl/ adjective/ conscious or aware of something

Monday, December 30, 2013

Make Your Own Handwriting Sheets

I use McRuffy's Language Arts for my kindergartner.  One thing you have to prepare yourself is handwriting sheets.  Of course, I can write them out myself, but it just feels more professional to print them.

SoftSchools.com offers a huge list of FREE handwriting printables and the option to Make Your Own Handwriting Sheet.  (Hint: If you want a blank line, just insert "[]" into the generator, it'll show up as a blank line.)

The site also has loads of other printables, games, flashcards, and more - I haven't checked those out yet, so leave a comment with your thoughts, if you do.

The site has a free registration option and a premium membership option ($19.99 for parents and $29.99 for teachers).  The paid account is ad-free (as is, the site is quite littered with ads, some of which are very distracting), gives you the option to create student accounts, and a few other features.

Mainly, I wanted to note this site, because there is nothing to "Pin" on it, so I can't add it to my Pinterest account as-is.  But now I can pin this post!

Just wanted to share the resource!

Hope you're all having a wonderful holiday season!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Free Printable! Gift Planner


For whatever reason, I decided to create a gift planner this year and decided to share.  You can download it at my Teachers Pay Teachers site here.  It's free!