Model UN is Thursday, February 13, to Sunday, February 16, in Washington D.C. at NAIMUN LVII.
As the Chair of the West Virginia Home Educators Association, I’m responding to comments made by Dr. Steven Paine, the state superintendent of schools, to members of the WV State Board of Education (WVBOE) on Thursday.
His remarks targeted homeschooling as one reason for the sharp decline in enrollment and indicated many families are “bailing out because we’re putting a lot of pressure on them to go to school and behave”. He claimed more accountability is needed for those who choose to educate their children in the privacy of their own home.
In October, we learned that for the fourth consecutive year more than half of all WV public school teachers missed more than 10 days out of their 200-day contract. These are the WV Department of Education (WVDE) numbers and they show far more disturbing trends. Around 11% of teachers missed more than 20 days of work! A staggering 25% of teachers in McDowell and Brooke Counties were absent greater than 10% of their work days. If a child missing 11 instructional days suffers disruption, imagine the negative impact an entire class full of children without the regular teacher who is being paid to teach them suffer over and over again for 10, 15, even 20 days or more!
This isn’t the only bad news regarding public school teachers in the Mountain State. Year after year we have teachers abusing youngsters emotionally, physically and even sexually. From preschool to high school, from Berkeley County to Wyoming County students in WV public schools have experienced assault, intimidation, humiliation and rape at the hands of the very people to which parents entrust their precious children.. These acts are hardly caused by homeschool families.
Accountability is in desperate need. I urge Dr. Paine and the WVBOE to begin holding teachers and other staff accountable. Stop passing the trash. Do your jobs! Protect the children not criminals! Focus on fixing the public school house instead of worrying about homeschooling. Make WV public schools a place to which families flock rather than flee.
Stephanie E. Butcher
Chair, West Virginia Home Educators Association
What happens when two hundred high school sophomores stay at WVU for a weekend? A leadership seminar. Hugh O’Brian Youth is a seminar for sophomores in high school focused on leading yourself, your community, and your world. HOBY, as it is called, has been around since 1958, and has seventy seminars across the country every year. I attended the seminar in Morgantown this year. Somehow managing to balance work and fun, HOBY was educational and enjoyable most of the time.
The seminar’s main point was leadership, and the organizers definitely drove that home, but there was fun involved too. Most of the speakers were more than qualified to lecture a room of teenagers about how they could influence their world. During the HOBY seminar, we don’t just talk about leadership. Every seminar has a mandatory service project where teens can put into practice the skills they have learned. My group went to a youth camp and helped them set up beds and cubbies for the summer season. While dragging iron bedframes up mountains, you meet many kinds of people from all across the state. After attending HOBY, I firmly believe that bluegrass pickers can be found everywhere. Bluegrass has become a passion of mine, and I was extremely pleased to find at least two people who could play really well at the seminar. However, the main point was always leadership.
Although HOBY was an educational and interesting experience, it was not all fun and games. My introduction to HOBY was a crowd of staff screaming “HOBY HUGS!”. I said “HOBY what!?”. Apparently it is a tradition to welcome the ambassadors by swarming them with hugs. Not my cup of tea. Another thing that I found unnecessary was PMA—Positive Mental Attitude. During PMA, we would use every chant from every summer camp ever invented—Little Red Wagon, Pizza Man, and dozens of others. It seems to me that we should be doing something other than chanting during a leadership seminar. Although the application specifically states that HOBY is not politically motivated, most of the speakers had the same political beliefs, and were very vocal about them. The organizers did not do a very good job of bringing in speakers from both sides of an argument. HOBY is good at teaching leadership, but there are still places to improve.
Overall, HOBY was a great experience. It does an excellent job of teaching leadership, while still staying mostly fun. Most importantly, it is the only place where many of these teens really get to study leadership. This allows them to go back to their communities and make a difference. HOBY teens return home ready to work, yet prepared for adversity.
“Begun in 1990 with fewer than 10 families, Ohio Valley Christian Home Educators (OVCHE) has matured into an active, non-denominational support group serving around 100 families in the Tri-State area near Wheeling, WV.
Our mission is to support and encourage families who are striving to educate their children in a manner pleasing to our Savior Jesus Christ. OVCHE is a volunteer-led, Board of Directors governed support group providing resources for educational activities, encouragement, fellowship, and information to homeschool families and to those considering homeschooling in the Ohio Valley.
Although we are faith based, we are inclusive, allowing families to join who choose not to sign our Statement of Faith. Instead, they may choose the option agreeing not to undermine the sincerely held beliefs of our members and abide by our code of conduct.
By joining OVCHE for $30 per year, privileges include:
• Field trips
• TerraNova Group testing
• Weekly co-op (fee-based; pre-school-12th grade)
• Sport-of-the month
• Members-only portions of the group’s website: ovche.org
• All e-mail/text communications, including announcements of interest to OVCHE members and homeschoolers in general
• Private members-only Facebook group
• Mom’s Night Out (MNO)
We warmly welcome new members. To find out more, please visit ovche.org.
OVCHE Vice President”
-by Ashley Neider
Academics – Homeschoolers generally do well academically. In fact, children who received structured homeschooling had superior test results compared to their peers, anywhere from a half-grade advantage in math to 2.2 grade levels in reading.
Socialization – Homeschoolers tend to walk their own path. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be homeschooling! But, homeschoolers have many opportunities to be social—in fact, many experienced homeschoolers are so busy with activities outside the home that they work to find time to do academics! More research is available here and here.
Special Education – One of the strengths of homeschooling is the ability to tailor the education to meet the needs of the individual student. One size does not fit all—especially for children with special needs. Homeschooling parents have access to a wide range of resources to help their children.
Sports – Homeschoolers in WV cannot play WVSSAC sports. But, depending on your area, your student can participate in local, private leagues and teams.
College – Some of the best colleges in the world love homeschoolers, and accept them at higher rates than the most applicants. WV parents issue their child’s diplomas and transcripts, legally equivalent to public school diplomas.
–by Courtney Ostaff
Education Methods For Your Homeschool
by Erika Fishel
I have been homeschooling for over 6 years and I believe every homeschool family is different. The beautiful thing about homeschooling is you do what is best for your family and child’s way of learning- homeschooling is a lifestyle. I love exploring and researching different methods to use for our homeschool education and to help others that are starting out on this homeschool journey or are wanting/need a change.
We have tried different “methods” of homeschooling. When we started out, I felt we needed to recreate school-at-home. We don’t have a designated room for a school room in our home, but I tried to make our dining room feel like a classroom. For the first couple years of our schooling, we used an out-of-the-box curriculum and it worked okay, but as I explored more about homeschooling, I saw there are many other options.
My favorite and what we do for our homeschool now is what I call a “modern secular version” of Charlotte Mason Education. Miss Charlotte Mason was a British educator in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I just feel in love with:
“The Charlotte Mason method is based on Charlotte’s firm belief that the child is a person and we must educate that whole person, not just his mind. So a Charlotte Mason education is three-pronged: in her words, “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.”“What is the Charlotte Mason Method?”
Using living books, nature, shorter lessons and lessons with learning about composers/music appreciation, artist/picture study, Shakespeare, poetry and more of the beautiful courses that we were not doing as much with when we were doing a more “boxed curriculum”–that really appealed to me.
When we started incorporating this method in our homeschool days, I saw a big change in my child and how he started enjoying school more and it wasn’t just grumble “not another worksheet”. Now we still use certain workbooks/curriculum for some subjects such as math, but we add living books and CM methods along side.
I have a hard time with the whole “twaddle” books though, as we do read rich literature for our school readings, my son wants to read what Miss Mason would consider “twaddle” for his own reading, and you know, I am okay with that. Letting my son pick his own “fun reading” and using electronics are a couple examples of why I call our Charlotte Mason Education a Modern Secular Charlotte Mason Education.
In my next article I will pass along some helpful tips and resources that I use.
In the mean time, if you would like to dig in with learning about Charlotte Mason Education, you can listen to a great podcast: A Delectable Education Podcast- Spreading the feast of the Charlotte Mason Method, available on Apple Podcast or Stitcher.
Also check out: Ambleside Online for more great information and to see what a Charlotte Mason Curriculum has or what you can add/adapt to your homeschool to spread the feast of the good, true and beautiful.
WV Code §18-8-1a covers when students are required to start school and how you get in. Beginning in the school year 2019-2020, parents don’t have to file a Notification of Intent (NOI) until the child is six by July 1, or if they’ve enrolled in a publicly supported kindergarten program. Easy, right? Then why do school systems call Child Protective Services?
Most parents want to start their child in kindergarten at age 5.
WV Code says: “beginning in the school year 2019-2020, compulsory school attendance begins with the school year in which the sixth birthday is reached prior to July 1 of such year or upon enrolling in a publicly supported kindergarten program.”
The child isn’t legally required to attend school yet, and so no NOI is legally required. However, the law continues on to say:
(b) Attendance at a state-approved or Montessori kindergarten, as provided in section eighteen, article five of this chapter, is deemed school attendance for purposes of this section. Prior to entrance into the first grade in accordance with section five, article two of this chapter, each child must have either:
(1) Successfully completed such publicly or privately supported, state-approved kindergarten program or Montessori kindergarten program; or
(2) Successfully completed an entrance test of basic readiness skills approved by the county in which the school is located. The test may be administered in lieu of kindergarten attendance only under extraordinary circumstances to be determined by the county board.
If parents have done kindergarten at home and haven’t filed an NOI, from the BOE’s point of view the child hasn’t yet been in school and the kindergarten law would apply. Therefore, if parents try to enroll their child in first grade in a public school, they will either deny entrance to first grade, or test the child into first grade.
As a result, if parents are homeschooling kindergarten and there is a possibility that their child may attend first grade in the public school system, parents should try to make sure the child is prepared to pass a first grade level reading and math test.
This is good advice even though the law does not require that homeschoolers use the public school standards for reading, language, mathematics, science and social studies.
If the parent doesn’t mind a younger child doing kindergarten twice, once at home and once at school, this is not an issue.
Because the law doesn’t explicitly mention homeschooling as an acceptable substitute for kindergarten, filing an NOI and obtaining an end-of-year assessment is not a guarantee that homeschooling will be accepted for entrance into first grade, but it certainly increases the odds.
Note that the law only applies to children entering the first grade – a second grader would probably not be sent back to kindergarten.
- parents try to enroll their child in first grade without an NOI or an end-of-year assessment, and
- the school system tests the child and believes that the child should be placed in kindergarten on the results of the test, but
- parents file an NOI for homeschooling first grade instead of taking the kindergarten placement,
- then a school system may file charges of educational neglect with the Department of Health and Human Resources.
At this point, parents should hire an attorney, assuming they’re not already a member of a homeschool legal defense association.
Chapter 18, Article 8, Section 1 lays out the compulsory school attendance requirement in West Virginia, and the exemptions–including homeschooling. In order to qualify for exemption c, subdivision 2, you must begin homeschooling with an NOI (parts A and B), and “obtain an academic assessment of the child for the previous school year“.
There are four ways to do this, two of which are not usually recommended.
- WVHEA offers the first option every spring: “a nationally normed standardized achievement test published or normed not more than ten years from the date of administration and administered under the conditions as set forth by the published instructions of the selected test and by a person qualified in accordance with the test’s published guidelines in the subjects of reading, language, mathematics, science and social studies”
- The third option is a portfolio review by a certified teacher. This is a recommended method, although WVHEA does not typically recommend working with public school teachers because they are rarely aware of the legal requirements of homeschooling. WVHEA maintains a list of portfolio reviewers, although WVHEA does not endorse any particular reviewer. The homeschooling parent is responsible for locating a portfolio reviewer with whom they feel comfortable, and paying for the portfolio review.
- The second option (the testing program currently in use in the state’s public schools) is not usually recommended, because homeschoolers are legally required to obtain the results by June 30, while the public school testing program results are often not yet back by then. Every year, WVHEA takes calls from homeschoolers who have been contacted by their local BOEs because they have not yet turned in their annual assessments, because the results aren’t yet available to them. Therefore, this option is not usually recommended.
- The final option is “an alternative academic assessment of proficiency that is mutually agreed upon by the parent or legal guardian and the county superintendent.” This is not typically recommended because of the imbalance of power between the homeschooling parent and the county superintendent. Every year, WVHEA takes calls from homeschoolers who chose this option, and find that they’re having difficulty working with the superintendent’s designee, usually because they’re not aware of the law. Therefore, this option is not usually recommended.
Once the option is selected, you are required to keep copies of each child’s academic assessment for 3 years. These assessments assist parents in combating charges of educational neglect.
“The parent or legal guardian shall submit to the county superintendent the results of the academic assessment of the child at grade levels three, five, eight and eleven, as applicable, by June 30 of the year in which the assessment was administered.”
Holding a child back or double-promoting a child does not exempt them from the requirement for an assessment for a given grade level.
How do you know what your child knows? Are you worried about them being behind in math or reading? What grade are they really capable of doing? Did your child actually learn all the key concepts last year? If you’re concerned about your child being behind, or ahead, one way to figure it out is to test them.
WVHEA’s annual spring testing meets state requirements. The TerraNova is a “norm-referenced” test. Norm-referenced is a percentage ranking compared to an average population. For example, Johnny is at 45th percentile. This means if you took 100 students and ranked them from top to bottom, Johnny would be 45 from the bottom. The TerraNova is a good annual test, but your score report usually doesn’t offer the detailed information you might want as your child’s teacher–is Tommy just being difficult, or can he really not divide two-digit decimals?
One product to test your child’s math and reading levels is Let’s Go Learn’s ADAM and DORA tests–available for homeschoolers. They are “criterion-referenced” because they report in grade level equivalent scores. For example, Jane’s phonics skills are low 4th grade level. They are also:
- online (computer, iPad, or tablet), meaning your child can do them in their pajamas
- untimed (as many sessions as you like, take as long as your child needs, when your child is ready to work), and
- individualized, adaptive tests (questions change depending on whether they got it right or wrong, so you know what grade level your child is actually capable of).
The best part is that they give you many pages of detailed results (Johnny can add like fractions, but not unlike fractions, for example). Sample report.
These are not the only tests, or even the best tests (an educational psychologist can administer much more detailed, much more thorough assessments, including screening for learning disabilities), but these tests can be a useful part of your homeschool planning.
Raleigh Educational Association of Christian Homeschoolers, also known as REACH is a nondenominational Christian homeschool group serving around 153 homeschool families in southern West Virginia ranging from Prek-4 through 12th grade. They offer many activities to their members including co-op classes, gym and swim, field trips and even “mom’s nights out” where moms can get together to discuss homeschooling and offer support to one another. For older children, they have “REACH High” which offers activities geared towards preteens and teenagers. Those activities include paintball, geocaching, volleyball clinics and canoeing. If you would like more information about REACH membership and everything it has to offer, visit their website at www.reachhomeschoolgroup.com.
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