by Susan Ryan
Thank you, Chairman Meeks, Education Committee Members and Senator Maloney for the opportunity to present my testimony as a homeschooler regarding Senate Bill 136 and Registration of Home Schooled Students in Illinois. I co-founded the Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch group and the Illinois Home Education Network. Today, I am here speaking solely for myself and my family.
My husband and I have used various forms of education for our children; including what homeschoolers call –‘brick and mortar’ private schools (both religious and secular) – homeschooling, and public schools. While we homeschooled our youngest and our middle children were in the public high school, my husband served on the school board as president and I helped found a supporting educational foundation for our local school. We are engaged in our community and there are thousands of other stories similar to mine regarding Illinois homeschoolers’ civic duties. We are proud to be home educators and do not live in the shadows.
I would like to emphasize that laws are in existence now to protect all children, including homeschooled children in order to ensure a solid educational and nurturing base. The compulsory school attendance exemption requires private schools to teach the branches of education that are taught to children of corresponding age and grade in the public schools and that it should be in the English language. If there are questions, the truant officers employed in the Regional Offices of Education may follow up and confirm the education process. We’re not hard to find.
Registration has been unnecessary for our children to receive quality educations. Our esteemed University of Illinois created an admittance information page specifically to recruit homeschoolers. There are several other states proving the same educational results from our productive homeschooled adults.
Some worry about whether we are tested or not, even while the National Education Association has pled to Congress for less standardized assessments and more project based learning. Homeschoolers have the wonderful advantage of time and flexibility to create what the public school teachers crave. With that said, there are private means to test homeschoolers and access that progress and many homeschoolers take advantage of those opportunities.
The Home School Registration Form created some years ago has been a concern of mine - first of all - for the expended money for paperwork, mailing and other costs by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Regional Offices of Education for a non-mandated over-compliance demand. They already have this sort of spending history, so what can we tax payers expect if they are in charge of mandated registration.
But my major uneasiness is that new homeschoolers are trying to find what works for their children, and particularly when they start - parents often find much that doesn’t work. What if a homeschooler listed Sonlight Curriculum in the box for “Which curriculum will you be using” and discovered it works for the 8 year old, but not the 11 year old. Will we be stopped from switching to useful materials for our children by a bureaucracy that hampers us? That seems to be the saga of too many public school learning opportunities. Homeschoolers will lose our flexibility. We aren’t running a classroom. We are tailoring a one on one educational plan at home.
Often we don’t use a textbook as much as we frequent the museums, nature trails, the park district programs, and various community programs that enrich our children’s education. For instance, the Annenberg Learner program offers Journey North – a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. Science, math and observation skills are used in this program. The Great Backyard Bird Count- sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audobon Society pulls families into the world we live in by observing birdlife in our backyards. The Cornell Lab also created specific homeschool resources online to use for their Project Feederwatch. But it’s not a “curriculum”.
In 1950, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Crampton delivered the opinion of the court in the Marjorie Levisen ruling that determined Illinois homeschools are private schools. In part of that legal documentation, he said this: “Compulsory education laws are enacted to enforce the natural obligation of parents to provide an education for their young, an obligation which corresponds to the parents’ right of control over the child.”
We don’t have to be forced to do the right thing for our children. We’ve proven that. Please honor our love, respect and nurturing of our children. Do not require onerous demands on our lives and our time with pointless paperwork held over our heads, when we’d much rather spend that time with our families living and learning.