Happily Homeschooling in New Hampshire
NOTE: The opinions and commentary expressed in this essay are those of the author and are an exercise of free speech. They do not necessarily represent the views of Free State Project Inc., its Directors, its Officers, or its Participants.
Happily Homeschooling in NH
by Julie DiCarloI recently attended an informational meeting for the FSP in Dover, New Hampshire. It was a very small crowd, which unfortunately, did not include interested non-members. We did, however, have a nice talk about what New Hampshire has to offer. A comment was made about how hard it is to homeschool in New Hampshire. Until that very moment, I had wondered if I had anything to offer to the members of the Free State Project. It suddenly occurred to me that if and when people start to migrate to New Hampshire they may actually need me as a resource for homeschooling. I started to talk about how easy it had been for my husband and I to start a homeschool program, even though we started in the fall of the 2001-2002 school year. It was suggested that I write up a little article to help dispel the notion that New Hampshire is tough on homeschoolers.
From the time that our oldest son was in first grade until he was beginning the fifth grade, my husband and I became increasingly dissatisfied with the elementary school here in town. The school principal did not act quite right, and became quite aggressive towards the children and me. The principal's verbal abuse peaked during November 2001 and it became clear to Ron and I that we must take action for the safety and emotional health of our children.
The very same day that we "pulled the children," I hand-delivered a letter of intent to our local school administration unit. The basic requirement of the letter is to state that you intend to homeschool your child, the date that your homeschool program starts, the full name of the child, the age of the child and the child's birth date. From the date of that original intent letter, a homeschooling family has 30 days to submit a scope and sequence letter which is a basic outline of the materials that the family intends to use for the school year. This letter should include a statement that says, "We reserve the right to change any and all of these materials to meet the needs of our child." Within 3 weeks, the homeschooling family should receive a letter that acknowledges the homeschooling program.
At the end of the school year, the family has two choices for evaluation of the child. The results must be submitted to the participating agency no later then July 1st of that school year. The first method is to have the child complete a recognized standardized test, for example a CAT test. The second and most popular method is the portfolio evaluation. The portfolio consists of samples from the beginning of the homeschool program year and samples from the end. The portfolio is then examined by a licensed evaluator of the parent's choice. A letter is then sent to the participating agency stating that the child has made progress and is at an appropriate level for age and ability. These letters are very standard, and each family tends to use the same set of letters each year by simply changing the dates and ages of the children. Examples of these letters can be found here.
We have just completed our second year of homeschooling. The 2002-2003 school year was the first full year for us. This year I filed my paperwork directly to the State of New Hampshire Department of Education. So our participating agency this year was the DOE rather then our local SAU 16. Due to our conflict with the Newfields Elementary School, we felt it was best to work around the local school district. This turned out to be a blessing for us, as the above mentioned principal was arrested this past March for unspeakable behavior.
I found the homeschooling division of the DOE amazing. These people work hard to make sure that the freedom to homeschool here in New Hampshire is preserved. I find the team up there hard working and dedicated to the homeschooling alternative. Ms. Angie LeBel keeps the files on homeschoolers who file directly to the state. She works very hard to educate the superintendents in the state as to what is required of homeschoolers. She has written a booklet and has spoken to school administration all over the state. Ms. LeBel is currently working on a book about homeschooling being an alternative for education in NH. She invited my children to her office in Concord last week so that we could bring our portfolio evaluation paperwork in person rather then mailing it. The children were able to stamp their letters with the official "received" stamp, which made them feel so important. The children were also able to meet and thank the individual who takes care of the legal requirement so that they can continue to learn at home.
There are dozens of support groups here in New Hampshire. A family can find a group with or without religious affiliation. These groups usually have portfolio seminars in the spring which are very helpful. There are also dozens of email support lists. If the FSP group moves to New Hampshire I intend to set up a homeschooling email list for FSP members for example, possibly through the NHHR. I am also available for support once the project moves here. I am actually looking forward to the day when a large group of homeschooling FSP members can gather to exchange ideas and to let the kids socialize. I am urging people to give New Hampshire a chance for the first Free State as NH offers much in the way of freedom in respect to the choice for homeschooling. I am available for any questions that you may have at any time.
Please feel free to write me, or to call if you need any help. We welcome visitors to our family web-site for additional information and resources.
Happily Homeschooling In NH,