Regarding Learning Time

Our family has many unrestrained chunks of learning time during our days and evenings. We have a huge, old tree in our yard that attracts monarchs for an overnight roost every year in the early fall. We’ve enjoyed the Journey North website for many years, and appreciate that we can follow other butterfly discoveries and migrations around the country, while being able to document ours. Noticing those amazing beauties and following up by learning more about them just happens with a walk past that tree to close up the chicken house or grab an apple off our trees.

Sweet Corn Harvest

Learning time for homeschoolers is not on the same playing (or financial) field as Average Daily Attendance that is computed in public schools. The recent Galesburg article noted the family had ‘official studies’ from nine to noon. Some people aren’t envisioning the one on one interactions between parent and child regarding their home education studies. They assume homeschoolers are ‘getting away with something’. But that time tends to be direct and efficient. Illinois homeschoolers do not need to follow a public school calendar or school day, and we’re not mandated to do so.

Good public school teachers crave the time and attention we can reserve for our kids, and I’m always amazed at the incredible job some teachers accomplish despite the limitations they endure in classroom management. But, further east from Galesburg in DeWitt, McLean and Livingston counties, Regional Office of Education #17 Superintendent Mark Jontry professes that homeschoolers must receive their education "the entire time the public school is in session during a regular school term" . This claim is incorrect, and can’t be supported by law.

Bond-Effingham-Fayette County Regional Office of Education Superintendent Mark Drone states this in an online letter to homeschoolers: “your private school is required to provide 880 hours of grade-appropriate instruction during the school year”. These requirements are not defined in Illinois Compiled Statutes. 105 ILCS 5/26‑1 is a compulsory school age exemption for private and parochial schools and we are not restricted to a public school calendar.

**Update and good news:  Mr. Drone responded in a written response to our Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch concerns.  He has confirmed  removal of an on-line letter to homeschoolers requiring tracking of instructions hours.  We are most appreciative of his prompt response.

Boone-Winnebago County Regional Office of Education Superintendent Fairgrieves states in the lengthy and often incorrect notions on home education that we must follow an “academic term of 176 days with 5 hours of instruction daily or 880 clock hours”. Most homeschoolers use a much longer learning time, but the ROE does not need notification of such. For that matter, public schools often have 4 hours of daily instruction time, and still receive tax money compensation.

Will County Regional Office of Education Superintendent Bertino-Tarrant also signed off on the claim that homeschoolers must “create a school calendar of 176 attendance days and a daily schedule of 5 hours or more”. There is no legal requirement for private schools to follow public school attendance rules. Homeschoolers are exempt from those regulations as we meet our individual family’s needs in education. Our legal responsibility is to ensure that our children are taught the branches of education that correspond to the public schools and that instruction is in the English Language.

ROE 13’s Superintendent Keri Garrett pushes for daytime curfew throughout that area. In the Centralia Sentinel earlier this year, she stated the following as one of her reasons to pursue homeschoolers: “We ask that they fill out a registration form, because people do call and ask about children they see out during the day, and the state board is asking for more information.” Children “out during the day” might be walking to the library, running errands or taking a break from their studies by playing in their yard or playground. Homeschoolers do not need to register with her office to be out and about during the day. Even the IL State Board of Education states that “IL law does not set any minimum number of hours per day, or days of instruction per year, for students in private schools”. Illinois homeschoolers are not restricted to the public school schedule or calendar. Are those same demands made of other private schools in Illinois? I suspect the answer would be no.

Why do Regional Offices of Education make these over-compliance demands of parents who home educate? Three hours is plenty of time to cover subjects at home. It doesn’t include the many hours that are used as learning time outside the home in libraries, museums, field trips or just on a shopping trip with a math task of determining a 20% discount. It would be a dreadful chore that only a bureaucrat could love in trying to document those hours into a record. It would certainly take the joy out of spontaneous learning and teaching. Surely that is not what these education authorities want to accomplish.


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