August 26, 2009
In the state of Maine there are a couple legal options for homeschooling.
You can register with a private school (and I think you can even become a private school) or send the Department of Education yearly notifications of 1) your intent to homeschool and 2) a copy of a year end review signed by a certified teacher. Maybe you can send standardized test results but I'm not sure about that.
Lucky for us ahem... relaxed homeschoolers (recall I haven't done anything bookish with these kiddos since April) there are certified teachers within the homeschool community, many homeschooling parents themselves, who respect alternative methods of education. Who, by sitting down and spending time with our family, can verify to the state "yes, these Tougas children, unconventional though their schooling is, are in fact learning".
Like duh, of course they're learning. In some instances they are way beyond the skills and knowledge of their peers and in some areas they are not. They are unique, and homeschooling them is a recognition and celebration of that fact.
But... I still need to prove to the state I'm not shutting them up in their room all day and neglecting to provide them an education. Enter the learning portfolio which I take once a year to be reviewed by a local homeschooling parent who is also a certified teacher.
What's a portfolio you ask? In our case it's a binder that I use to keep track of educational evidence. Ie: what the kids learn and do in everyday life as well as a place to record their more "bookish" activities, copies of progress in their math workbooks and handwriting practice for example.
This year's binder is full of art, poems, maps (places we've been and places they've drawn), pamphlets from communities activities we've done, musical concert bulletins, copies of letters written and received, hiking logs, a list of favorite books we've read, photos and a couple math, spelling and handwriting samples for good measure.
I also have 8 pages filled with stuff we've learned to keep track of everything that isn't recorded elsewhere. On these sheets I divide the kids learning into categories that somewhat line up with the state requirements but classified in a way that makes sense for our family.
I break down our studies into these topics (in no particular order) world study, nature study, science explorations, Maine study, outdoors/physical activity, math, language and communication, crafts, music & dance, art appreciation, poetry and Bible.
I love preparing this yearly recollection, a scrapbook really, that showcases our kiddos learning. These binders become mementos, like our photo albums, that the kids refer back to. And I have them just in case any official wants to indeed verify that I've provided an education for my children.
Sharing these with the certified teacher every August is one of the highlights of our school year (we learn all year round so I choose to officially finish up one year just before the next begins). I love her gentle manner and visiting with her bright and talented teenaged children.
Last week was hot so we sat outside on the picnic table under the shade of the maples, with iced juice and a checkered table cloth. She viewed the kid's work, asked them questions and listened to presentations they prepared. The kids alternately drank all the juice, played on the hammock swing and ran around the yard. It was lovely, all around lovely.
At the end she signed a letter she'd prepared verifying that they've made progress and were schooled for the required amount of days in our state. And so ends our school year. A week before our new one begins (smile).
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