This post is part rant and part plea for advice...
We unschool and because we live in NY we have to file LOTS of paperwork with our school district. For that reason, I'd really like to hear from other NY unschoolers who have figured out how to handle this.
We just started this year (age 6, K) and because I am a NYS certifiable teacher in early childhood ed I know the learning standards and all the fancy education lingo and bull...so I had no problem with age-appropriate goals for the IHIP. But these quarterly reports are just freaking ridiculous! I mean, seriously...my kids don't make very notable progress in 2 months! Sometimes there's barely any change for months at a time and then, bam, they'll get an interest and surge ahead! It's called REAL learning, not forced learning. Ugh.
I am considering just buying a common homeschooling curriculum and just (lying) reporting that we're doing that. That would be so much easier. Right now I'm reporting every nuance of their learning and their quarterly reports are 4 pages each! Is that too long? I've never seen a sample not written to following a curriculum program, so I don't know. Here is a sample paragraph:
Number identification: 0-10, counts to 20, writes numbers 0-8 (copying 1-20), addition 1-3 or so (beginning), subtraction of 1-2 only (beginning), fractions: understands ½ and sometimes ¼ (beginning), patterns (intermediate), time-telling: understands how to read hour on analog and digital clocks (beginning), coin identification: penny, sometimes quarter (beginning), calendar skills: we do the calendar daily (beginning).
EVALUATION: Strengths: XXX likes to count and write numbers. She’s improved on her number-writing significantly this quarter! Her understanding of patterns is quite advanced for her age. She sees the practical application of math in everyday life and has a strong life-foundation for mathematics. Developing Skills/Concepts: XXX is capable of getting a better grasp on some basic concepts (more basic arithmetic, coin identification, and time-telling) but just needs the exposure and interest to come along as the year progresses. She enjoys Starfall.com and educational games we play that expose her to these concepts so skills will develop.
GRADE: Meets Expectations"
Am I doing it right?
I was on the verge of going under radar and talked to many other unschooling parents about it who said the paperwork and testing was NOT a big deal....I feel like screaming, "LIARS!" or thinking they are not true unschoolers...ugh.
I don't really know what to do...maybe I'm just doing it all wrong? How do others survive this?! I don't want reporting to run my life or take up more of my time/energy than it's worth. I don't want to have to keep a notepad with me constantly and write down every time they ask about something! I'm even considering getting a legal residential address in another (non-reporting) state to get out of this mess.
Thanks :( Sorry for the vent, just SO frustrated.
It could be that the unschoolers you have talked to who say that the paperwork isn't a big deal are not doing as comprehensive of a job (which is fine, imo.) Maybe you could ask them to show you what they turn in?
I'm in PA which is also a high paperwork state with testing. The testing has been no big deal (we can use the CAT which is a simple multiple choice.) I usually only have a few pages in my portfolio. But I know others who do an insane amount of work documenting every little detail about their children's education. They turn in binders that are 2" thick at the end of the year doing way more than they need to to meet the state's requirements.
I like to keep in mind that a job doesn't have to be well done, merely adequate. I'm talking about me, not the work my child does. I don't have to have perfect paperwork with every detail documented. I just have to show the gist of what my child has done in order to "show progress." I don't need to make sure he is progressing in all things evenly. Even progress isn't required.
We have to submit educational objectives each year. Mine says things like "Continuing to explore _____." It's totally vague.
I don't carry a notebook around to jot down what my child does. If he does something major, I'll make a copy or take a picture and file it. But I usually just do a little end of year recollection of what my son did, find some copies, print some photos, etc and call it good. Some people like to keep blogs or memory books which is useful for keeping track or refreshing their memory.
Other than the testing, unschooling in a high regulation state has just meant that I notice what my son is doing and how those things can be considered educational. It doesn't really impact him at all since he can still do what he wants (and not do what he doesn't want, except the tests.)
I expect you're over-doing it right.
I'm not in NYS, but I was part of a program for several years here in BC Canada which required weekly anecdotal reports and three comprehensive term reports. I had a very unschooling-friendly facilitator, and she kept reminding me not to report too much. Why? It was unnecessary work for both of us, and doing so ran the risk of raising the bar for other parents. If anyone ever audited a bunch of records, and there were people like me obsessively submitting four pages per report, the parents doing more reasonable "highlights" reporting would end up looking bad, and would be more likely to have their homeschooling called into question.
Eventually I got the knack of writing a single short paragraph per subject area. eg. "F. continues to enjoy math and has a strong understanding of the inter-relationship of all four basic operations. She has explored applications of mathematical topics like geometry and probability through numerous crafts and games. She is very interested in more advanced topics like decimals and measurement of angles, and has satisfied all major 2nd-grade expectations."
I agree with 4evermom that it might be helpful to ask a seasoned unschooler in your area to share a copy of one of their old quarterly reports with you. If the amount of detail you see is considerably less than what you've been submitting, you'll get a feel for how you can get a little leaner and save yourself some work.
Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up
I started unschooling in NY 8 years ago. My IHIP has always been a copy and paste from the Typical Course of Study from worldbook.com. It's a very general list of what we "may or may not" cover for the year, broken into subjects. My IHIP is 1 page. It is very hard for an unschooling child not to cover more than half of what's on the list. This amount of detail allows my quarterlies to be about half a page. I state that we have had instruction in all subject and that we've exceeded the required amount of hours. My annual assessment has always been a half a page as well. I use the same paperwork all the time while only changing the dates.
Sending more than that is completely pointless. Keep those for yourself as a record, but send only the minimum paperwork required. They're not reading it, believe me. As impressive as we want to sound, your paperwork is just so they can check of that you did it.
Check out the sample I have in my blog's sidebar. See if you'd like to use that instead.
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