For several years we homeschooled under our state’s Home Education Program (HEP). The HEP required a Letter of Intent to the school district to announce our establishment of a homeschool program (done for each child), an annual evaluation by 1 of 5 state statute approved methods, and the mandatory keeping of portfolios. These things were sore spots for me. I complied, reluctantly, because I didn’t see that I had any other options.
Because of my strong dislike for the public school system under which I was tortured and persecuted (a topic for a whole post of it’s own), I wanted no association with the public schools. I tried to keep the contact to a minimum and hoped they would never ever ever call me to submit to a portfolio review. (We did get called in 2008, but were dismissed because of a scheduled trip out of state on that date.)
Annual evaluations always felt more like judgment day even though I have had nothing but wonderful certified teacher’s who have evaluated my children’s work. However, there are just so many things you can’t take pictures of, moments and achievements that cannot be demonstrated in a 3-ring binder. The longer I homeschool, the further away from workbooks I move. We do a lot of oral work. I read to them (a lot!) and we have long discussions. How can any evaluator ever “see” that?
From the very beginning, we have had trouble finishing certain subjects by the end of the “school year”. So we often rushed through the last month of our math curriculum, with me crossing off things I didn’t think they needed to review yet again, especially with next year’s math not so far away. Instead of allowing them to work at their own appropriate pace, I felt I was homeschooling to meet bogus requirements. That was very contra-indicative of our purpose.
The portfolio concept, while warm and fuzzy to an eduction major and politicians, is the furthest thing from my natural abilities. Try as I may, different methods of compiling throughout the years, it was always a last minute rush to put it together. I hated it! As I already stated, a portfolio never contained an accurate picture of what my children were learning. It was a big farce.
Each year at convention time, I longing gazed at umbrella schools. I was attracted to the idea of not being under the government system, but two things prevented me from going with an umbrella school. Costs and feeling like I was under an even bigger thumb.
Then last summer, someone on Twitter introduced me to a free private school (umbrella school) for homeschoolers…or rather, unschoolers. I was in the process of yet again compiling several portfolios for a very impromptu portfolio review that a friend had arranged for anyone who wanted to get it done and over with. As soon as I dropped my annual evaluation paper in the mail to the school district, I enrolled my children in Florida Unschoolers.
Now I have finally gotten to the reason for my post today. It’s March and I had to order MORE curriculum. My 10yo son completed his 4th grade math a few weeks ago and is now into his 5th grade math curriculum. My 11yo son is two days from completing his 5th grade math and will be starting his 6th grade math next week. We are 3 weeks from finishing our history curriculum. There have been numerous other accomplishments this year as well.
Without an impending portfolio review to worry about throughout the year, we have been free to learn without restrictions or regulations or government interference. And we have gotten more accomplished in a shorter time than in any previous year!
We are rolling right into “next” year’s curriculum, finally realizing the dream of year-round homeschooling. Year-round isn’t really as bad as it may seem. It’s not working 5 days per week for 52 weeks straight. It’s being able to take breaks without falling behind (to cram for portfolio evaluations). It’s each child working at their own pace and being able to have time to focus on their interests as well as having some structured learning. It’s working on family projects, doing life, learning new skills and training up the next generation. It’s losing the summer knowledge loss and gaining consistent reinforcement of important concepts.
Never in the course of our homeschooling journey have I felt more at ease while feeling we’re getting somewhere, where each child needs to be. We’ve got so many cool things on the horizon. And I finally have the strength to tackle and plan some new things with my kids…things they have been begging to do.
I am so thankful to God for this new opportunity He brought to me,. For opening my eyes and helping me change my original perspective. For seeing me through the rough times and for pouring out His peace on me along this journey.