Calling the Dance with Best Partners

We’ve asked our friend, Jen Siek, to share the negative consequences that Michigan homeschoolers have experienced due to other homeschoolers’ involvement with the public school Parent Partnership Program.  We hope to remind Indiana home educators that others may experience unintended consequences even if they choose not to participate in a public school program. 

 

“Grab a partner, circle left!”

Contradance enthusiasts hear about “partners” every time they show up for another great evening of fun and exercise, and choosing your partner is a fun social opportunity for the three-minute dance that ensues. Within the lifestyle of homeschooling, however, the dance with a “partner” is a matter for prayer, great thought and wise counsel.

What is your process for deciding who partners with you in training your children in the way they should go?

A Parent Partnership Program is a public school re-enrollment program developed in the last decade, offered throughout my state to homeschoolers in which students choose from a menu of activities sponsored by local studios, museums, even YMCAs, and then are enrolled into required activities determined by that public school or a public school employee. Hired staff, often from within the homeschooling community or sponsoring organizations, insist upon saying that the re-enrollment programs are geared for “homeschoolers,” rather than “part-time public schoolers”–yet the school district considers the enrolled children as part-time students instead.

I first learned of a parent “partnership” program when I moved to the Midwest from Pennsylvania. Ms. “Smith,” the partnership coordinator, came to the door of the house we were renting with a mug of candy, a friendly smile, and forms. Our requirements were listed beginning with data for not only the children who would be getting the free or nearly-free classes but also their siblings’ information.

Pennsylvania’s overreach in draconian homeschooling laws trained my spirit for this moment– I knew I would not be signing up for this program. I will never forget seeing my husband on the computer accounting for the children’s learning hours per subject, every week, getting documents notarized and delivered to the school district, or driving the family up to the evaluator’s home for a two-hour long interview session.

After my new friend left with her mug and blank forms, I noticed news in the months that followed of the State Board of Education meeting where they discussed the “problem” of homeschoolers. Watching the proceedings, I saw the board was unhappy that homeschooled students do not register their names into the system, and therefore couldn’t be tracked and overseen by the state. A guest attendee, the Teacher of the Year award recipient, offered the idea that homeschoolers would be happier to voluntarily register and accept Public school requirements if the registering family got “the freebies, the band, the teacher development classes, more benefits than [independent homeschool families].”  

At the close of the board meeting, the President asserted that she would “follow up” on those suggestions. “Oh,” I thought, “this might explain the knocks on the door, mugs, and smiles.”

While I do not impugn the motives of legislators designing a plan to “offer” electives in return for student data and requirements like Count Day, or a school vetted “mentor” to sit with or interview the re-enrolled child once a week, I do question whether this dance partner may result in a stubbed toe or worse. School districts are intent on data from students which draw tax dollars. Shall we dance with a partner motivated chiefly by the bottom line? Ouch.

Is a partner a true partner if they don’t believe you can dance? The best pairings are two people with confidence in their dance partner, yet what do we find–requirements placed upon a family before they were ever tried and found negligent in their homeschooling? Whoa. I think I may have sprained something.

Moreover, the situation is unjust. Self-funding families operating under their own guidance are ushered into their community music studios, art classes and YMCA Swim-Gym programs and told they will pay a great deal more than their friends in the class who have re-enrolled their children into part-time public school status through the new “Parent Partnership.” In practice, this amounts to a harsh fine placed upon parent-led, privately paying homeschooling families; a newly created class system of winners and losers. The new normal is a division within the homeschool community where before the partnership, every family was treated and billed the same for the same great class. The dance hall has been divided, many are flagging, and the band is thinking about packing it in and going home.

May I suggest a biblical test for choosing your dance partner in the homeschooling journey? Perhaps a biblical test to apply may be found in Genesis 18:19–

“For I have chosen him (the father his household), so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Perhaps, consider: In what ways are keeping to school district requirements through parent partnerships helping families to direct children “after their father?” Also, in what ways do interviews done by a state worker “mentor” help family members “keep the way of the Lord?”

From our family’s experience, should I ever be the Contradance caller I might call out:

“Circle ‘round, all join hands, avoid partnerships which drain confident leadership, tooling and time with children.” “ Promenade away from state programs clouding parent educators of a right vision, a reliance on Jesus, The Way”. “Now bow to your corner, keep fair pricing, share a class, a gift, or talent joining your neighbor.”

Let’s partner with one another, let’s partner with the Lord, the Best.

 

Jennifer Siek

Administrator, Founder Music Naturally, music initiative, teacher at home, motivator, musician, and independent teachers’ advocate.

Saint Joseph, Michigan