Homeschool Mom: Iowa’s Laws Helped My Children—and Me

Over the weekend, I corresponded with a woman who spent a decade and a half homeschooling her children in Iowa. When she expressed her strong feelings in favor of keeping Iowa’s homeschooling regulations and not repealing them, I asked if she would mind sharing her thoughts with my readers. Here is what she had to say. 

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As a Christian homechooling parent of four, I always felt very fortunate with Iowa’s homeschooling laws. I homeschooled my children in Iowa for fifteen years, all the way up until my youngest graduated three years ago. I’m writing because Iowa’s homeschooling law benefited my own children in a real way, and I want present and future homechooled children in Iowa to have these same benefits.

The Iowa homeschooling law has allowed parents to choose one of several options to satisfy the Competent Private Instruction requirement. There is the annual assessment, which means results from a standardized test, either taken through the school system or provided in some form by the parent, or this could be satisfied by a teacher assessing a portfolio of the child’s work. Basically either one needs to show some kind of progress being made. The other option is a supervising teacher who meets with the family every 45 days. The family can choose dual enrollment where the school receives funds and then the child can access textbooks, classes, extracurricular activities, and standardized testing. Or a family can choose, if the school district makes it available, to sign up for a homeschool assistance program where the school receives funds to provide the supervising teacher. Most of the homeschoolers I knew chose dual enrollment for the access to the school library, field trips, sports, and extracurricular activities like choir, speech, and drama.

During our 15 years of homeschooling, we used both the standardized test assessment option and the supervising teacher option through the homeschool assistance program our school district provided upon our request. The teacher we worked with was incredible, and our children preferred meeting with her over the testing option, since test taking was difficult for them. The teacher helped us acquire school textbooks when we found them suitable and loaned us a large number of reading books. The children developed a relationship with her over the years, and she still takes an interest in their lives. She also helped us connect with teachers in the school system who could give me advice on dealing with specific learning issues. Other friends who used the supervising teacher option have hired certified teachers in the school system or have found certified teachers who were currently homeschoolers.

Because Iowa allows for dual enrollment, my kids could participate in extracurricular activities in the local school system. Our school system has a tough policy concerning grade requirements in those activities. You could be the best person on the speech team but with one bad grade, you’re out. Since all the coaches knew the kids had a supervising teacher who was overseeing their schoolwork and who would let them know if their schoolwork dropped below the acceptable level, all four kids were active in extracurricular activities, including speech, drama, show choir, and sports. The sports led two of them to college scholarships.

Even more importantly, I found that Iowa’s regulations gave standing to my children’s academic qualifications when it was time for college. Ultimately that meant they went to college and are on their way, successfully, to degrees. For two of my children, you see, college was not an interesting concept, but they desperately wanted to play a college sport. Fortunately, they were each recruited to play their freshman year, which as kids who found academics difficult and who are terrible test takers, was the only way they were interested in college. Their athletic ability was also their only route to scholarships since their ACT scores were never going to get them there.

The NCAA, however, has certain regulations as to who is eligible to play their first year, one of which is high school graduation. With my older son, the coach had a lot of doubts about how to work homeschooling into those requirements. My son was a great recruit for him, but no coach wants to go back and forfeit a bunch of games because he or she made a mistake about eligibility. While I was able to create a very pretty transcript of his high school classes and a wonderful diploma, it was not sufficient because it could not by itself be fully verified.

Eventually, the college eligibility office decided that because we had chosen the supervising teacher option and she could therefore verify that we had indeed taught the necessary core courses, and because the school system had received her evaluations and our paperwork on a timely basis, my older son was eligible. The school superintendent simply crafted a letter testifying to these events, and that eligibility requirement was met. That set a standard then for the younger son, and for other homeschool kids who wanted to play sports their first year at that college.

If we hadn’t had excellent homeschool standards in Iowa, my children would not be where they are today. I hadn’t anticipated they would be good enough to play a college sport, since those qualities did not emerge until later in high school, and so I would not have been foresighted enough to have a supervising teacher, or to make sure they met those NCAA core requirements for classes. Both boys now say that it’s not sports that keep them in school. It’s the learning and what it will do for them in the long run. But without that firsthand experience of how it could work with their learning requirements and without that lure of playing a college sport, they would never have had the passion to pursue a degree. As I see their pride in their accomplishments, I thank Iowa for their concern for my children and for the state’s high education standards, of which we Iowans have always been proud.

As I look at the pending repeal of Iowa’s homeschooling law, I am appalled. It’s not like the paperwork is all that difficult, and the assessment is in the best interest of the child. Having been part of very large homeschool groups, I can honestly say I never heard anyone complain about the requirement. We always looked down on those states without the standards we had. I’ve called Governor Terry Branstad and asked him to line item veto Division XI of House File 215 so that current and future homeschooled children can have the same excellent experience as my own children, and I hope you will too. [See this link for more information]

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    Thank you for sharing this.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/dameocrat Dameocrat

    Caffeinated thoughts goes apoplectic against Libby Anne!

    Iowa Homeschooling Law Changes Brings Out Liberal Ignorance

    Shane Vander Hart |

    May 28, 2013

    | Reply

    There were a number of hatchet jobs written last week and over the weekend about homeschooling and Iowa’s repeal of it’s current homeschooling law. Let me drill down on “Libby Anne” who was highlighted, rather irresponsibly I might add, by Bleeding Heartland over the weekend.

    “Libby Anne” writes:

    Yesterday, the Iowa legislature betrayed its
    obligation to protect the well-being of that state’s homeschooled
    children. In one fell swoop, the legislature removed every safeguard
    designed to ensure that they were actually receiving an education. It’s
    gone now, all of it, every little protection, and there is now nothing
    left to ensure the needs and interests homeschooled children. Nothing.
    And that is, of course, how homeschooling advocates wanted it.

    First we have an obvious conflict of worldviews at
    play. Who is ultimately responsible for a child’s well being? If you
    say the state then you are a statist – wear it loud and proud. A
    biblical worldview would state that God gave parents responsibility over
    their child’s well-being……….

    http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/2013/05/iowa-homeschooling-law-changes-brings-out-liberal-ignorance/

    • http://geekinthebreeze.wordpress.com mythbri

      Kind of sounds like they should switch to decaf.

    • smrnda

      Wow, accusing people of being ‘statists’ which, apparently, means believing government should do something beyond just protect private property rights.

    • Miss_Beara

      “A biblical worldview…”

      So i guess a “biblical worldview” is not having a set number of instruction, no proof of progress, required subjects but don’t actually have to teach them and no vaccines, which will suit the anti-vaxers perfectly. They care more about the red tape than they do about the children. If they are homeschooling the correct way, the original law should not be a problem.

    • forgedimagination

      I love the scare quotes around her name. Fantastic.

      • Composer 99

        To be fair, Libby Anne does blog under a pseudonym. However, if memory serves this is to protect her homeschooling parents & her siblings. It certainly does not merit the obvious disrespect intended by adding scare quotes, as if to suggest that her pseudonymous blogging diminishes the quality of her argument (*).

        That said, Caffeinated Thoughts‘ response is full of the typical specious reasoning and knee-jerk dismissiveness that is characteristic of authoritarian fundamentalists.

        Indeed, just a bit further down we have this gem: “it shows me that “Libby Anne” probably doesn’t know any homeschooling parents.”

        Laughable. And IMO almost certainly the height of dishonesty.

        —–

        (*) I’ve often seen people falsely claim that they have been subject to an ad hominem argument. This, however, appears to be the real McCoy.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Actually, it shows they’re going to have to develop a new response. People like that blogger are used to having those who suggest homeschooling should be regulated be political and educational progressives whose only experience with homeschooling is second hand and can therefore (not entirely fairly I should point out) be written off. They’re not used to getting push back from young adults who were themselves homeschooled, and they haven’t developed a playbook to read from in dealing with them. So they just go with the default one, hence accusing me of not knowing any homeschool parents. Which yes, is laughable. I mean, I visited my parents for a weekend not so long ago, and they had a cookout and had people over, and there were numerous homeschooling families there, so even if you want to say that my homeschool experience happened long ago and I’m not in contact with anyone who homeschools today, well, that would be incorrect. I also have friends I’ve met since leaving home and heading out on my own who homeschool today. Yes, friends. Would that just blow his mind?

    • http://twitter.com/#!/dameocrat Dameocrat

      I think Mr. Vander Hart either banned me or closed the comments in that thread because there is no way to post there now. At least for me?

    • Lunch Meat

      Who is ultimately responsible for a child’s well being?

      Another way of asking this question is, of course, “Who is my neighbor?”

      (Which is to say that we are all responsible for the well-being of every vulnerable person in our community. You don’t get to shrug and say, “I can’t do anything about that child abuse because it’s her parent’s responsibility and they haven’t asked me for help.” /explaining the joke)

      • http://twitter.com/#!/dameocrat Dameocrat

        Good point. You should post this to his blog, if he hasn’t closed it for everyone.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I commented and so did another blogger, at least one. I just checked and they haven’t been approved. That’s weird, especially that they wouldn’t let *me* respond. All I did is point out that it’s wrong that I don’t know and haven’t known homeschooling families, and also that their stats are wrong and why with links. I now wish I had gotten a screen shot, but I didn’t think to. I don’t heavily moderate here, so I forget that other people do.

      • Lunch Meat

        I went ahead and commented and it’s showing up. Sounds like they’re not very keen on letting people speak for themselves.

    • antimule

      >>Who is ultimately responsible for a child’s well being? If you
      say the state then you are a statist – wear it loud and proud. A
      biblical worldview would state that God gave parents responsibility over their child’s well-being<<

      Sure, parents have the responsibility, but what happens if parents abuse that responsibility? The primary function of state is to clean up the mess that irresponsible people leave behind or to do jobs no one else wants. It is like calling 'statist' anyone who thinks cops should enforce traffic laws. Sure there would be no need for anyone to enforce traffic laws if everyone drove safely, but they don't, and hence law enforcement.

      Similarly, welfare exists because private charity alone was never ever able to meet the demand. If you want Biblical justification, you can think of every regulation as God taking away your rights because you acted irresponsibly.

      • JaCo

        Excellent point. Who pays when a person can’t get a good enough job to provide health benefits? The rest of us. There are so many other examples of times when we accept the state has some responsibility. Even having to have this discussion is depressing.

      • gimpi1

        IIt is the job of the state to step in when individuals, families, corporations or organizations fail to live up to the standards expected of them. Children, (or employees, customers or tenants) have rights, as well as parents (or employers, businesses or landlords) and the state has the duty to step in if those rights are abused. This intervention is much more important to protect the weak from the abuses of the strong. Apparently, they don’t think the God they worship approves of that. That’s just weird.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Now here’s a homeschooler who did it RIGHT!

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

      My thoughts exactly! If all parents homeschooled this well, then we wouldn’t be having any of these discussions.

      • JaCo

        This was my piece that Libby Anne was kind enough to share and I thank you for your support. Truly, without the state requirements I am afraid my basically lazy nature would have prevailed :-)

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        And thank you for writing it!

        Truly, without the state requirements I am afraid my basically lazy nature would have prevailed :-)

        I don’t think enough people think of it like this! I grew up in a state with no requirements, and I saw parents who weren’t bad parents, it’s just that without requirements it was really easy for them to let things go. A little bit of accountability isn’t a bad thing, and it’s not just “bad” parents who stand to benefit from it.

      • JaCo

        It’s also frightening to think of what would have happened without the state requirements. Even with a college degree, I still would not have known exactly what my kids needed to be doing. I’d run into a problem though and I had experienced professionals in the school I could ask for advice.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne
  • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana Hope

    Excellent post. Thanks for sharing.

  • aim2misbehave

    I wish SO much that this option had been available to me as a homeschooler! Whenever I meet homeschool parents now, I say “I was homeschooled” and at some point in the conversation I tell them, that as a homeschool graduate, it is imperative that their child get some sort of “diploma” or official equivalent or they will have difficultly later in life with not being able to provide proof of graduation!

    That said, I’ve recently been hearing a lot about some online public schools/charter schools that are available tuition-free in California. I don’t know much about them, but they sound like a promising option that’s a compromise between the “officialness” and structure of public schools, and the “home” element of homeschools.


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