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.
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]