Supposedly Homeschooling

Email of the Day:
My highschool aged year old step son is supposed to be homeschooled by his Mom. But when we asked him what classes he has, he says he doesn’t have any. It is a touchy subject with the Mom and we feel like our hands are tied. What do we do? What can we do? What are the laws of homeschooling regarding this situation? How many classes should a freshman be in per quarter or year? Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

It’s often difficult, even for homeschoolers who are getting a great education, to answer “school” kinds of questions like “what grade are you in?” or “what classes do you have?” Unless the parent buys a box curriculum that covers all the subjects and has the kids slog through, most homeschoolers can’t answer these questions, because they’re questions that only make sense in an institutional group setting. Many homeschoolers take approaches that allow their children to work at the level(s) where they are across the different things they’re studying; many combine subjects into “unit studies”; many are on the “delight-driven” or “learner-led” or “unschooling” end of the spectrum, and follow their students’ interests to determine what they’re learning (we did this).

Here are things the law requires:
1) Covering the 11 subjects over the course of the homeschooling ( reading, writing, spelling, language, math, science, social studies, history, health, occupational education, and art and music appreciation). There are no specifics given beyond this, and no “number of classes” types of requirements.
2) Committing 1,000 hours a year to homeschooling (this is about 180 days that are 5.5 hours each — this is how the schools break up the time. Many homeschoolers spread it over more days and school year-around).
3) The law requires homeschoolers to test or assess annually, and ” if, as a result of the annual test or assessment, it is determined that the child is not making reasonable progress consistent with his or her age or stage of development, the parent shall make a good faith effort to remedy any deficiency.”

But the law gives homeschoolers great latitude, too — RCW. 28A.200.020 states that “parents who are causing their children to receive home-based instruction shall be subject only to those minimum state laws and regulations which are necessary in ensuring that a sufficient basic educational opportunity is provided to the children receiving such instruction. Therefore, all decisions relating to philosophy or doctrine, selection of books, teaching materials and curriculum, and methods, timing and place in the provision or evaluation of home-based instruction shall be the responsibility of the parent except for matters specifically referred to in Chapter 28A.225 RCW.”

The homeschool law also states that “the legislature recognizes that home-based instruction is less structured and more experiential than the instruction normally provided in a classroom. Therefore, the provisions relating to the nature and quantity of instructional and related educational activities shall be liberally construed.”

This is my advice:
If you see a deficit in your stepson’s education — step in, or ask to step in and remedy it. Ask to take a subject (or subject) that you’re passionate about to work with him. (Or ask if which subjects she’d rather pass on to you and his father, and then find a passion for them).

One of the great things about homeschooling in a blended family is that often have 3 or even 4 parents who are invested in the children and their educations — you get the different passions of 3 or 4 parents and you can split up the workload of homeschooling. I’ve seen some really great things happen with homeschoolers whose parents are divorced when the adults decide to either work together (collaborate) or to share the work load (allocate).

Let me know if you have further questions.
–Jen Garrison Stuber, WHO Board Advocacy Chair

Thank you so much for your time in explaining this to me (and to my husband!) I really appreciate it. Starting the dialogue with the Mother is going to be uncomfortable for sure, but I loved your advice of offering to take over a subject that we’re passionate about and helping share her workload. I think that is the main reason why he isn’t taking any classes right now. She has taken up a part time tutoring job along with her part time accounting job, and she is also tutoring the middle child in his Running Start classes. So, I think she is tapped out at the end of the day to deal with the younger’s education right now. All we can do is offer her support and help, if she wants it.

So, thank you again for clarifying this to us. My husband and I are clear as to what may be going on and my concern is more along the lines of ‘what can we do to help’.