MOUNT VERNON — Preparing children to compete successfully in the 21st century’s global economy is an important task, and there are a number of ways parents deal with that task. They enroll their children in a public school, a parochial school, a community or online school, or take on the full responsibility and provide an education for their children at home.
According to the Ohio Department of Education, home education is education that is directed by the parent or guardian of a child who has been excused from attending school. The parent or guardian selects the curriculum and educational materials, and takes responsibility for educating the child. There is no financial assistance for families who choose this option.
The responsibilities of parents and guardians who choose to home school their children are outlined in the Ohio Home Education Fact Sheet available through the ODE Web site. First, the parent or guardian must notify the superintendent of the public school district of residence of the intent to home educate a school-age child. For residents of Knox County school districts, parents should notify Dave Southward, superintendent of the Knox County Educational Service Center. Mount Vernon city school district residents would make the notifiction to superintendent Steve Short.
Both superintendents’ responsibility, by law, is to make sure the parents are making proper notification and meeting the legal requirements for home education. They will then notify the parents that their child has been excused from compulsory school attendance.
The notification must include assurances that: Certain subjects, including health, fine arts and physical education will be taught; at least 900 hours of home education will be provided each year; and that the home education teacher has at least a high school diploma or equivalent. The notification should also include a brief outline of the intended curriculum and teaching materials, such as textbooks, which will be used.
In other words, parents have to furnish content material to be covered and a list of instructional materials to justify time spent in completing the academic course. While the requirement is that children receive 900 hours of instruction for a full class load, there is no hour requirement for an individual course. Many parents, according to Southward, use electronic courses for home schooling, and those do have specific hour requirements for course completion.
To maintain home education for a second year and beyond, the parent or guardian must notify the school district of the intent to continue home education and demonstrate that the student is making sufficient academic progress. Parents have to maintain progress documentation and need an assessment at the end of the year to justify advancement to the next grade level. If satisfactory progress is not made, Southward or Short can deny a parent’s request to further home school; that, under the law, forces parents to send their children to public school.
Although many parents choose home education for religious reasons, Southward said other factors could influence parents’ decision to home school their children. Those reasons might be to meet more of their children’s individual learning needs, to supplement coursework they are taking simultaneously at the home schools or to allow their children to catch up on class credit recovery. Some parents or children may have a personality conflict with teachers, Southward continued, and some children cannot maintain the physical rigor of the school day.
Some parents, he said, believe the children learn better within a home environment, some feel that the public school environment is not conducive to their value structure and some parents withdraw their children from school because of discipline issues.
“Whether I agree or disagree,” Southward said, “I still respect the right of a parent to determine the kind of education they want their children to have. There are advantages and disadvantages to each kind of schooling. Parents have to be accountable for the decisions they make for raising their children, not only in education but in other areas as well.”
Sometimes parents choose to withdraw their children from public school and begin home education in the middle of a school year because they have decided the school environment is not the best placement for the child. The parent would have to meet the same home education requirements as for a full year of home schooling, but with the hours of instruction prorated.
Hopefully, the school has first made a strong effort to resolve the issues which led to the parents’ decision to withdraw the student.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to education,” said East Knox superintendent John Marschhausen. “We need to look at each student as an individual. In some cases, we may agree with the parents that the best thing for the student is to be home schooled. In some cases we may offer virtual or digital classes as a way to keep the student in contact with the curriculum, but provide a fresh start or new environment. We may even explore the alternative center or other education options in Knox County. For some kids, the traditional school simply isn’t the best environment; we must work with parents to meet each kid’s needs.”
Although students enrolled in state-chartered online schools do typically work from home, the state-chartered online schools are considered by the state to be community schools and are not the same as home education. Like other forms of public and private schools, online schools, not the parents, are responsible for providing the curriculum and educational resources.