Homeschooling is becoming somewhat more common in the Spokane area, advocates here say. Data aren’t available for homeschooling in North Idaho, but homeschooling supporters there are a passionate, close-knit and growing group as well, proponents say.
Spokane School District 81 says that for the current 2014-15 school year, parents have submitted declarations of intent to home school for about 410 students between ages 8 and 17. That’s up from 319 homeschoolers in the district 10 years ago, during the 2004-2005 school year.
Idaho doesn’t require declarations, so the number of homeschoolers is unknown. However, nationally, just under 3 percent of school-aged children are reported to receive instruction at home.
According to Karen Carver, former manager of the Spokane-based Family Learning Organization, the number of families here seeking information and resources has risen dramatically in the last 10 years. The number of families using the testing and support services offered by the organization has increased by 15 percent in Washington and North Idaho over the last year, and the number of families involved in the co-op has increased by 100 percent since last year.
The Spokane Area Homeschool Community Facebook page has grown from 100 families in 2012 to nearly 1,500 families currently. Northwest Christian Academy here has increased its homeschool extension program from 10 students in 2002 to 88 students in 2015.
Carver says she believes that the increase in homeschooling can be attributed to violence in schools.
“Parents want to keep their kids safe, educate them with family values, and raise well-adjusted kids that contribute to their community,” she says.
The history of homeschooling in this area began with diverse demographic groups that ranged from hippies to conservative Christians. All parties were looking for the freedom to educate their children in their own way, with their own ideology without an overseeing institution.
The idea initially was met with criticism, and was a difficult task because the laws worked against parents that wanted to homeschool. Until 1985, homeschooling was against the law in Washington state.
Ruth Wagley, of Northwest Christian Schools Inc. Home-school Extension Program, says many Christian homeschool families created private schools in an effort to manage the education of their children. Under the umbrella of a private school, families could homeschool their children legally, she says.
After lobbying the Washington state Legislature, homeschooling families then drafted a law to meet the needs of their varied community. The homeschooling law was written and enacted in 1985.
Wagley says there are many ways to educate children at home, but only one is considered homeschooling under state law. Parents first must file a declaration of intent to homeschool with the superintendent of the school district in which they reside when their child turns 8.
They also must do one of the following: have superintendent approval, hire a teacher to provide oversight of your homeschooling, have completed 45 college credits, or take parent certification classes. They also also must cover 11 core subjects, and they must provide yearly testing or assessments of their students to ensure they’re making satisfactory progress.
Idaho laws are more flexible, and parents don’t need to file a declaration or provide tests or assessments.
In both states, public school alternative learning experience programs, including parent partnership programs, and online virtual academies give parents the opportunity to provide public school education from home.
These programs bill themselves as “homeschooling,” but they aren’t as it relates to the law. Families enrolling in these programs are administering public school programs in their homes. Homeschoolers can use a private school extension program for their homeschooling. It’s a subset of hiring a teacher privately to provide oversight, but with the benefit of on-campus classes and other enrichment opportunities.
Laura McCallister Kaczor is an active homeschooling mom and director of the Spokane Area Homeschool Community (SAHC), a homeschool co-op that supports 50 families in Washington and North Idaho. It claims to be the only secular co-op in the area.
“We are an all-inclusive group for homeschooling and un-schooling families. We are open and accepting to all,” McCallister Kaczor says. “We do not discriminate based on race, religion or lack of, gender, sexual orientation, political views, etc. We also ask that you’re accepting and open to others if their beliefs and opinions may be different than your own.”
She decided to create a Facebook page “Spokane Area Homeschool Community” that any homeschooling family could visit and participate in. The page is successful, and is bringing the homeschooling community even closer together, she says.
“The newer generation of homeschooling families wants to educate their children in a progressive way,” McCallister Kaczor says. “Some with a religious foundation, and some not, but all are interested in a holistic, personally centered curriculum. Something that offers schedule flexibility, caters to different learning styles, and has the ability to foster independence, critical thinking and delve deeper into areas of interest, which inspires passion and a zest for learning in our kids.”
Jen Garrison Stuber, who homeschooled her daughter and is the advocacy chairwoman for the Washington Homeschool Organization, says the intricacies of getting started in homeschooling can seem daunting, but there is support in Spokane for the homeschooling community.
WHO is a nonprofit membership advocacy group that was founded in 1985 and created by many of the same homeschool families that helped write and shape the law legalizing homeschooling in Washington state.
Garrison Stuber says the organization offers homeschooling families statewide support, parental certification classes, a large West Coast homeschooling conference, and advocacy services, and answers questions from the community and parents interested in homeschooling. It often provides referrals to families new to homeschooling that are seeking support services such as co-ops, testing and assessment services, curriculum, and regulatory compliance advice.
“Homeschooling is an amazing opportunity to connect with your child through education. Most parents that inquire are afraid that they can’t educate their kids, or that they will mess them up,” she says. “WHO is here to alleviate those concerns, help parents navigate the system, and provide backup from well- seasoned homeschoolers.”
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