Part 2 of “Knowledge is Power”

Part 2 of my post for North Star Independent Homeschoolers has been published. It is now live on their site!

Click here to read about the first 3 myths of independently homeschooling high school and click here for the other 3 myths of independently homeschooling high school.

Be sure to check out the rest of the NSIH blog as well. Happy reading!

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“Why Should I Be Concerned? It Doesn’t Affect ME!”

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative has been around since 2009. I’ve been keeping my eyes on it and following it for quite some time now, all the while warning and informing our local homeschooling community. Even though we are “independent” homeschoolers, the spread of CCSS doesn’t directly affect us. I create my own curriculum so we don’t need to worry about which publishers are and are not aligned. While it does not directly affect US, it does have an effect on education in our nation as a whole.

In my efforts to warn and inform the homeschooling community in my area, I learned yet another invaluable lesson: people in general WILL NOT make a concerted effort for or against something until it personally affects them. The average response: Oh, well, that’s the Lower 48.  Alaska hasn’t adopted Common Core, we’ve actually rejected it, so we’re not too overly concerned about it.  Even when presented with the information that Alaska had NOT “rejected” Common Core, the stance was still indifference.  It seemed that everyone was under the assumption that such a thing could not possibly happen here. I failed to be able to make them realize that if it is affecting the nation, it is affecting Alaskans and we all need to care about it!

On April 19th, 2013, the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development announced that Alaska joined the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC). You can see the press release here. What is the SBAC? In short, the SBAC develops the electronic assessments, aligned to CCSS, so that students and teachers can better evaluate how students measure up to the Common Core State Standards. That far off idea that could never happen here just got real. No, Alaska hasn’t adopted Common Core, yet, but Alaska has gotten on board with the CCSS testing. All indifference has left all those people who couldn’t be bothered about it!  It’s now personally affecting them! A majority of the homeschool community utilizes programs offered through various public school districts. SBAC testing and Common Core does directly affect them — they’re enrolled in a public school district! When they “enroll”, they trade their homeschooling freedom for money. This same group gets upset when the state is looking to do the exact same thing. Pot… Kettle… I digress.

This issue needs to be on the minds of ALL citizens in this country for several reasons. First, when states adopt CCSS, they hand away their autonomy. In essence, the federal government is buying each state’s 10th Amendment right when it comes to education. Second, the scope and sequence of the Common Core is uncharted territory; none of it has been tried and tested thereby proving that it does or does not work. These states are agreeing to let the federal government experiment with children’s futures! The third reason that everyone needs to be involved is because these generations of experiments are OUR future! In reality, we are allowing experiments on all ages, races, and creeds of EVERY generation! The public education system has been in trouble for decades; Common Core is just the emperor’s new clothes. Public education was never meant to be the be-all-end-all of education. It’s high time We The People take back what is rightfully our responsibility.

Cashing In on Homeschool’s Success

Alaska is an interesting environment: culturally, geographically, and politically. Perhaps because I am still waiting for springtime to get here I am getting anxious and turning my attentions to home education. I can’t get out and garden or build a barn and chicken coup with my children, so here we sit longing for the snow to disappear, the ground to thaw, and the summer sun to shine. It’s cabin fever at its highest in a long, long time.

Until recently, Alaska was one of the only states that offered homeschool programs through enrollments in public school districts. These programs aren’t correspondence programs. Parents are free to use whatever curriculum best fits each child. Parents educate their children at home using whatever education method or methods that fit their family. Parents receive support from certified teachers and the programs arrange a variety of educational classes and clubs.

Alaska’s law about homeschooling can be found in the Compulsory Attendance statute, AS 14.30.010(b). Many parents are unaware that this law even exists. Parents that choose to educate their children according to this statute are free to use whatever curriculum best fits their child. Parents are free to educate their children using whatever educational method or philosophy best fits their family. Parents have the option of receiving support through several different networks of other independent homeschool families. Some of these groups also arrange a variety of classes or have clubs for their membership base. The families are considered “Independent” homeschool families.

So what’s the difference? Enrollment in programs provides funding for curriculum, supplies, and activities. Independent parents provide their own funding, usually through the family budget. This is always a big persuader because we are a very money driven society. I heard it explained by a family that moved here from California, “Alaska is the only state that PAYS YOU to homeschool!” While I don’t agree with that statement, many do indeed feel this way.

There is a trade off. Enrollment brings with it state and district regulations and requirements. There are required courses to teach, hours to track, work sample submissions, quarterly reports, monthly contacts, and mandatory testing, just to name a few. It can be stressful enough to homeschool, yet many choose to succumb to these extra rules, regulations, and requirements. In other states, homeschool parents have similar regulations; the amount depends upon the individual states. In Alaska, parents are choosing to have this regulation.

I have to pause here and give kudos to the public school district that first implemented a program of this type in Alaska: the Galena City School District. They had the vision and foresight to see the increase in popularity of homeschooling and devised a way to tap into it. We don’t see a lot of ingenuity coming from public school districts; yet their IDEA program was visionary and managed, as they intended, to capture a multitude of homeschool families.

Regulation aside, the further I step back and look at Alaska’s homeschool culture, the more realizations I am able to make. As the popularity of the IDEA program spread, other districts developed their own homeschool programs to compete with the IDEA program. We have, in essence, the “voucher” system where students are able to enroll in whichever school they feel will best benefit them to encourage competition. The only difference is that these students don’t receive a “voucher” to take to a rival school program. Enrollment is open to any family living anywhere in the state.

Parents that have enrolled their children in these programs do so because they ultimately believe that homeschool is the best option for their children’s education. These parents are actively involved in their children’s education; these parents are striving to turn their children into productive, upstanding citizens that will, one day, be influential people in our communities. These children are homeschooled in every sense of the word. Their transcripts, academic records, and test scores, however, reflect “public school students.” None of the statistics are included in homeschool statistics; rather, their scores and successes are reflected in the public school statistics.

I don’t know about you, but I get angry when someone else takes the credit for MY hard work. It’s not right! It’s unjust! And, as much as I don’t like to use this phrase, it is not fair! Wasn’t one of the reasons that you decided to homeschool because you believe it is far superior to the public school systems? It appears that Alaska public schools have found a way to “cash in” on homeschool success and take the credit for parents’ hard work.

Societal Burdens

We are trying to raise our children to be productive members of society. We are hoping to raise the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs on the heels of the current “entitlement” generation. There is no such thing as a free lunch and we want our children, especially, to know that there is a world out there in desperate need of accountability in the form of responsible adults.

EVERYONE that is not a productive and responsible member of society is a burden on society. It’s not about just providing for yourself or your family’s basic needs. It’s about a moral obligation to not be a burden on someone else and to leave behind a better place; something for your great-grandchildren.

So how does one not become a burden? One obvious answer is to avoid all forms of public assistance and pay your taxes. Another, not so obvious, answer is to search out ways to lessen the tax burden imposed by you. In an effort to explain what I mean, I will give three examples.

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Automobile Registration

 You pay your biennial registration for your mode of transportation: car, truck, SUV, van, etc. You have paid for your use of public roads and bridges, including the maintenance and upkeep, for the duration of the registration period. The wear and tear your automobile puts on the roads and bridges is figured into that registration fee. By avoiding those registration fees and driving with expired tags, you’re burdening society with wear and tear on those roads and bridges that you haven’t paid for. It’s stealing. It’s dishonest.

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Ownership & property taxes

Property taxes, while they may be outrageous, pay for EMS, police, and fire service. Many fire departments used to have a list of those who were current on their taxes and those who were not. If your house caught fire and the trucks showed up, but you hadn’t paid your taxes, they would watch it burn. That’s not the case anymore. If you don’t pay your property taxes, you are increasing other property owners’ tax burdens to provide your residence, and theirs, with these invaluable services. While you hope you won’t ever need to rely on these services, they are paid for when you pay your property taxes.

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Education

Communities have an obligation to insure that its members have access to an education so that they can get jobs for its own sustainability. This is the public education system. Obligation does not mean responsibility. It is not the community’s responsibility to see that every child attends a public school. It is the parents’ responsibility to see that their children are educated. Public education is paid for, in part, by property taxes.

For the 2012-2013 school year, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District enrolled 14,264 students at a whopping cost of $18,091.92 per student! When it comes to property taxes, each student cost the borough taxpayers $3,709.53. The remaining $14,382.39 is from federal, state, and “other.” (Information obtained from http://www.k12northstar.org/sites/default/files/2012-13fingertipfacts.pdf) I know that not everyone pays almost $5000 in property taxes every year, so if you are a property owner with only ONE school age child AND your property taxes are less than or equal to $3709.53, you’re already “upside down” and your child’s public education is a burden!

What can a parent do to lessen their children’s education burden? You can opt to send your children to a private school. Private school tuition is far less than the $18,091.92 that the FNSBSD spends per student. Far North Christian School charges tuition at most, $3850 to educate Pre-K and K, and $2800 per Grade 1 -12 student. They also offer discounts when enrolling multiple students. By choosing to enroll your child or children in a private school, you erase your children’s public education burden.

What if you can’t afford or don’t like private school? The other option is to independently homeschool. By taking full responsibility for your children’s education, whether you have one child or many, independently homeschooling means that you also take 100% of the financial burden. Our family chose this option. For our six children, we relieved $22,257.18 from our neighbors’ property taxes. ($3709.53 x 6) We erased their overall public education burden (federal, state, local, and “other”) in the amount of $108,551.52 for the 2012-2013 school year! ($18,091.92 x 6)

A society cannot bloom and prosper with thieving and dishonest ideologies. Every choice we make has an impact. Everything we do has both an immediate and a long-term effect. In choosing the moral high ground, you are leading by example. By choosing to be a responsible and productive member of society, you are not only relieving a burden, but also planting the seeds of prosperity for the next generations.

Simple: Not Complex

A few years ago, I had a virtual meltdown over the complexities of my life. From personal development to homeschooling my five children to meal planning, preparations, and shopping to the household management of cooking three meals a day, the barrage of laundry, and keeping up on cleaning schedules to… well, you get the picture.

All along, I was convinced that these issues were stemming from poor time management skills. The more I tried to “manage” my time (and the children’s), the more harried I became. It wasn’t until my best friend introduced me to “A Thomas Jefferson Education” that my eyes were opened to something the Lord had been trying to tell me all the while: Simple, not complex.

Look at the world of machines: from automobiles to dishwashers. The more complex the mechanism, i.e. the more moving parts, the greater the likelihood of a failure. We’ve had our share of failed appliances: refrigerator, ranges, ovens, dishwashers, washers, and dryers. Some were fixed while others ended up at the transfer site due to the amount of damage they had caused. If we compare that to Creation, even though an ecosystem can be analyzed into many details and parts, it is still vastly simpler than its manmade counterparts are.

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I’ve had my fair share of relying upon Man. It’s stressful, fearful, and always leaves me empty. When I rely upon God, when I’m following Him to my utmost, I experience peace, security, satisfaction, and fulfillment! Simple is peaceful; complex is chaos.

Simplicity can be applied to every facet of your life. In home education, I design simple courses to promote self-education for my now six children. Each child has his and her own bent and mission in life and all I do is to encourage them in those areas. In household management, we have purged most of the clutter, which saves time on chores. Do I really need all of those clothes? If it hangs in the closet for six months, it is time for it to bless someone rather than cause undue stress for me. Even such a small thing as this has cut down on the amount of laundry!

Simple, not complex. I didn’t say, “Easy, not hard.”