June 10, 2003

Wyoming Wants to "Help" Homeschoolers

While homeschoolers in some states are still fighting for the right to exist, homeschoolers in Wyoming face a new challenge: a government attempting to be "helpful." Families in Laramie County received a mailing inviting them to fill out five different surveys and a 'Verification of Private or Home School Participation' form. This form included an invitation to provide input and participate in a discussion about "how the money from the [federal] Consolidated Grant will be spent for 2003-2004." Perplexed homeschoolers provided copies of these documents to HSLDA for our review.

The packet consisted of seventeen pages of forms to fill out, beginning with a "Verification of Private or Home School Participation" form that says, "I/we are aware that the U.S. Education Department General Administrative Regulations, 34 CFR 76.650-76.662 require that subgrantees shall provide students enrolled in private or home schools with an opportunity for equitable participation. No funds can be paid directly to the private or home school." The packet continues with several "Staff Development Needs Surveys," asking respondents to identify their level of training or training needs with respect to questions like:

  • I can easily list and explain the content standards to students, parents, and/or teachers.

  • I have a thorough understanding of how to monitor the implementation of standards-based education using LCSD #2 curriculum.

  • I have a thorough understanding of the Six Traits of Writing Model.

  • I am proficient in the application and use of the Student Management Software PowerSchool.

  • I use the SQ3R method in my classroom for note-taking and study skills instruction.

In the form entitled "Innovative Programs Consolidated Grant," respondents have an opportunity to identify their priorities with respect to goals such as "promising education reform projects, including effective schools and magnet schools" or "community service programs that use qualified school personnel to train and mobilize young people to measurably strengthen their communities through non-violence, responsibility, compassion, respect, and moral courage."

One of the priorities a respondent could choose is "activities to promote, implement, or expand public school choice." As homeschoolers succeed in providing excellent education to their own children in their own homes, they work to expand school choice, but not "public school choice." Homeschoolers are not using "qualified school personnel" to "train and mobilize young people to measurably strengthen their communities through non-violence, responsibility, compassion, respect, and moral courage," but homeschoolers are consistently raising exactly that kind of child. While homeschoolers do not use the SQ3R method in their classrooms, and may or may not know about the Six Traits of Writing model, they are consistently performing well on norm-referenced standardized tests. Homeschoolers are doing what the federal government wants: they just aren't getting federal funds for it.

The Old Testament tells the story of a boy named David, who saw a giant who defied the armies of the living God. He offered to fight that giant, and the King of Israel, Saul, was so grateful that he offered David his very own armor. David tried the armor on, but then politely turned it down. Instead, the shepherd boy choose five smooth stones from a nearby brook, and with a stone and a sling and his faith in God, he brought the giant down. Many homeschoolers, after reviewing the Laramie County forms, may feel just like David. The government's "armor" just doesn't fit. Fortunately, that doesn't stop from doing an excellent job of educating their own children.