What do you do when nothing (or little) is required of you?
The Oklahoma State Constitution provides protection for the right of parents to homeschool their children. The Attorney General qualified that right by stating “so long as the private instruction is supplied in good faith and equivalent in fact to that afforded by the State.” “Equivalency” has never been established. The compulsory school age is over 5 and under 18, and 180 days of instruction must be completed in a year. The following subjects must be taught: math, writing, reading, citizenship, U.S. Constitution, health, science, P.E., safety, and conservation. Although this is all required, we report to no one. No one looks at our attendance chart or our grade records. (For a full evaluation of the laws affecting homeschools in Oklahoma, visit the OCHEC website* or HSLDA’s page on Oklahoma Regulations.)
*The OCHEC website includes a withdrawal form for children who have been in public school previously.
If your child has never been enrolled in public school, as of the publishing of this article, there is nothing you must do in this state.
With no one to report to,and no required records to maintain, there is great freedom — but should you really do nothing? Should you just forego record keeping all together? In my opinion, no. Why?
1. It is good to keep some sort of record to track your child’s progress. It is also fun to go back and compare their work from previous years to see how they have grown. In addition, laws can change or you could face a move to a more highly-regulated state. It is good to be in the habit of keeping some records.
3. If your child is interested in attending college, you will need records of work at the high school level that fulfills the admission requirements for the school. By keeping records throughout the child’s school career, it will be a less daunting task when you reach high school.
I keep three types of records for our school. The first is simply to keep all work completed in a year. We date our work and everything goes in one box at the end of the year. The second is a photographic record of the kids on field trips and working at home. The third is one standardized test at the end of each year. (I have played around with several online and paper planners for maintaining records. For elementary school–for me and the way we run our homeschool–they are not a good fit. When we reach middle school or logic stage work, I plan to add an online planner to our record keeping.)
Why do I test if it is not required? For my peace of mind. That is the only reason. I start testing when my kids are at a first grade level or above in reading and math. I order my tests through Seton Testing. The tests are inexpensive, and the company has provided quick service every year we have used them. Scores are posted to your online account for a quick turnaround time.
I have used the CAT/E or CAT Survey for 1st and 2nd grade and the CogAT for 3rd and will use it again for 4th/5th grade testing. I like these tests because they only test math, reading, and language abilities, not science or social studies. Since we follow the classical method as laid out in The Well-Trained Mind, we do four-year history and science cycles. What we study does not line up with what is taught in most public and private schools in the lower elementary (or grammar) stage. I just want to see how my kids are doing in the basics of math and language.
I do not test for the “grade” my child is in, or the “grade” they would be in if enrolled in public school. I select the test for the level at which my child works. My son took the first grade CAT/E when in “kindergarten” because he was working on first grade math and reading. This year he has made a huge leap and we will test at a 5th grade level (last year we did 3rd). My daughter is in kindergarten, working at a kindergarten level, so we will not test this year. Next year we will start with a first grade test. You will not gain any information about your child’s growth and development if you test too far below or above their level. (This advice is meant only for states where testing is NOT mandated; if testing is required, follow the regulations for your state.)
One side benefit of testing when it is not required: If anyone were to question the education of my children, I have tests that show they are at or above the level of their peers. Another side benefit is that they have practice taking standardized tests in a low-stress environment. My hope is that they will be very comfortable with testing by the time they start taking college admissions tests.
When nothing is required of you, you must be more self-motivated. You must set the standards you want for yourself and your children.
Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.