Homeschooling in an NCLB Society

What does NCLB (No Child Left Behind) have to do with homeschooling?  After all, homeschooling is exempt from NCLB.  The regulations set forth by NCLB are all directly tied to federal funding and homeschools are not federally funded, so why should you care?

The pressure of the testing that is directly related to  NCLB not only stresses out the kids, but it makes otherwise wonderful teachers virtually ineffective.  They are pressed to "finish the book."  They don't have time to stop at the teachable moments.  And teaching to individual learning styles?  Unless that learning style involves filling in a bubble with a #2 pencil, you may as well throw that out the window.  It's not necessarily what teachers choose to do, it's just what they are left with.

Is it any wonder so many families are choosing to homeschool?  Homeschoolers do what NCLB was designed, in principle, to do:  Not leave any children behind.  Homeschoolers teach a topic or a skill and you work on it until it is mastered.  In 2003, it was estimated that 1.1 million children were homeschooled. That number is undoubtedly growing.

Evaluating progress is not, in itself, a bad thing.  It's the manner in which it is occurring that is disturbing to me.  NCLB wants parents to "know that their children are learning."  But the testing doesn't test what they have learned.  Take a look around this site to see what I mean:  http://www.fairtest.org/facts/whatwron.htm.  However, some states, such as Alaska require homeschooling students to take standards-based assessment tests.  If these children are taking the same test that the public school children are taking, what is the difference?  The difference lies in the fact that the homeschooled children have not been "taught the test."  And parents, then, have an opportunity to see the results year to year and adjust to their individual child instead of having to make broad generalizations about children who won't even be learning with you the next school year.

Something many people are unaware of is the fact that there are not any federally recognized national standards.  There are many organizations (such as the National Council of Teacher of English) who have written "voluntary" standards, but NCLB does not actually define what schools are supposed to be teaching.  They just want schools to be held accountable for whatever it is that they are teaching.  Nearly every state has a different assessment test.  This is why:  Each state lays out their own set of standards (often based on the recommended or voluntary standards of teaching organizations).  And then, in many states, each district writes their own scope and sequence to meet those state standards.

So, what is the correlation then, between homeschooling and NCLB?  Because in most states, some type of reporting to the state is required. Homeschools are already regulated under state law. While section 9506 of the NCLB Act protects the rights of homeschools, religious schools, and private schools, state officials often have to be reminded that this is the case.  It is important that homeschooling parents, especially those just starting out are aware of their rights.  How, then, do homeschoolers know that they are getting the "right" content to their children?  Some don't follow any of that and prefer to let their child lead their own learning.  Some, however, would like a little more structure, especially in states where there is no "homeschooling law" present.  The best comprehensive guide I have found that covers all age groups (preschool-grade 12) can be found at http://www.worldbook.com/wb/Students?curriculum.  But my best piece of advice would be to choose a curriculum that works for you and your homeschooler.


Crystal Pratt is a writer and content contributor for LessonPathways.com, an innovative new product that maps online educational resources into ready to teach units.

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