Homeschool­ers speak out at town hall meet­ing

Maryland Independent - - Obituaries - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

Charles County Public Schools is form­ing a com­mit­tee to take a look at its homeschool ver­i­fi­ca­tion sys­tem af­ter dozens of homeschool par­ents turned out at its public fo­rum Mon­day night to share their frus­tra­tion with the homeschool ver­i­fi­ca­tion process.

Un­der the Mary­land State Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion’s Code of Mary­land Reg­u­la­tions, or COMAR, Sec­tion 13A.10.01.01-.05, homeschool par­ents are re­quired to main­tain a port­fo­lio of ma­te­ri­als re­lated to their chil­dren’s in­struc­tion and al­low school sys­tem rep­re­sen­ta­tives to re­view the port­fo­lio dur­ing the school year to “en­sure that the child is re­ceiv­ing reg­u­lar, thor­ough in­struc­tion.”

How­ever, sev­eral par­ents who spoke dur­ing the meet­ing al­leged that they were be­ing re­quired to present more ev­i­dence of in­struc­tion than was re­quired un­der COMAR.

Sev­eral par­ents said the re­view process has changed un­der its new co­or­di­na­tor and new re­view­ers.

Ap­prox­i­mately 60 peo­ple at­tended the meet­ing and 11 spoke out re­gard­ing their ex­pe­ri­ences this year.

Chris Ir­win, a homeschool par­ent and teacher at Robert E. Lee High School in Fair­fax County, Va., said his wife was told they needed to present tests for their kinder­garten-age stu­dent.

“COMAR does not spec­ify ei­ther for­ma­tive or sum­ma­tive eval­u­a­tions for kinder­garten­ers,” Ir­win said.

Lisa Har­ris, another homeschool par­ent of seven years, said her re­viewer re­quired test re­sults for her kinder­garten-age stu­dent.

“I in­formed her that I have never tested nor would I ever test my kinder­gartener,” Har­ris said.

Janet Doyle said she has been home­school­ing for 20 years.

“There have been small changes, from year to year, but noth­ing like this,” she said. “Noth­ing in the law has changed, so these changes are re­ally con­cern­ing and take away from what we are tr ying to do.”

Lisa Gon­za­lez, a home­school­ing par­ent and nurs­ing pro­fes­sor at the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land, said there are many dif­fer­ent ways of demon­strat­ing that rig­or­ous in­struc­tion is oc­cur­ring.

“One of my con­cerns is that the re­view­ers may not have had train­ing in the meth­ods and strate­gies that are flex­i­ble and work for var­i­ous homeschool­ers,” Gon­za­lez said.

Sarah MacMil­lan, di­rec­tor of the South­ern Mary­land Catholic School­house, said par­ents were con­cerned about the change in tone this year.

“We do not ap­pre­ci­ate be­ing treated as com­mon crim­i­nals, like we are ne­glect­ing our chil­dren, be­cause noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth,” MacMil­lan said. “We have ev­ery right un­der the law to homeschool our chil­dren.”

Amy Holl­stein, as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of in­struc­tion, said she was un­aware of any homeschool is­sues prior to the day of the meet­ing and apol­o­gized if any­one was made to feel un­wel­come.

“That was never our in­tent,” Holl­stein said.

Holl­stein said that in the past, the school sys­tem had only one or two re­view­ers and that more were trained to lessen the work­load.

“It was over­whelm­ing, and we did not feel we were do­ing jus­tice by any of you, or your chil­dren,” Holl­stein said.

Holl­stein in­vited homeschool par­ents to join a com­mit­tee she would be form­ing to re­view homeschool pro­ce­dures.

“We can sit down to­gether and look at things that pos­si­bly we made mis­takes on, and cor­rect­ing those mis­takes, and we can share with you some of the things we were try­ing to im­prove on, and mak­ing sure that we don’t have an overzeal­ous per­son look­ing at your port­fo­lios, but that we have con­sis­tency,” Holl­stein said.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­berly Hill said the school sys­tem ap­pre­ci­ates homeschool par­ents bring­ing the mat­ter to its at­ten­tion.

“We re­spect your pas­sion, and we had no in­tent of not fol­low­ing COMAR, and no in­tent in caus­ing all of this stress to folks who are Charles County res­i­dents who choose to do things dif­fer­ently,” Hill said. “We will look into all of the specifics that you have given us so that we can fix any­thing that needs to be fixed and com­mu­ni­cate bet­ter where we need to com­mu­ni­cate bet­ter.”

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