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State court ruling riles local homeschool community

Credential requirements upset parent educators
By: Jenifer Gee, Journal Staff Writer
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It's one of the biggest jokes around in the homeschool community. The suggestion that her children don't learn the same socialization skills as students attending a public school is something at which Alta resident Leslie Buchanan scoffs. We don't homeschool in a vacuum ““ none of us lives in a vacuum, Buchanan said. Buchanan, 36, is a liaison with the HomeSchool Association of California, which provides support and information for homeschool families. Recently, the entire homeschool community was jolted to its core when 2nd District Court of Appeal made a decision that forces an estimated 166,000 families to comply with a requirement they say doesn't apply to them. Justice H. Walter Croskey ruled Feb. 28 a state teaching credential is necessary to teach children at home. Those found teaching without a credential could face criminal complaints, the ruling stated. The decision came as a shock, Buchanan said. I think it's a pretty universal reaction that it's a bad ruling. It's a poor interpretation of the law, Buchanan said. We really feel it's not going to be upheld. Buchanan teaches the three of her four children who are of school age. She said she doesn't have a teaching credential because it's not necessary or even applicable for her as a homeschool teacher. I don't see over 100,000 families going out and getting teaching credentials, Buchanan said. Buchanan said she hasn't looked into applying for a credential because it wouldn't help her. She said a credential certifies skills such as how to organize a classroom, keep records, identify child abuse, and other issues that she says that don't exist in a homeschool environment. It does not teach you how to teach children, Buchanan said. Gayle Garbolino-Mojica, Placer County superintendent of schools, has a different view of the ruling. (The ruling) basically upheld the law, Garbolino-Mojica said. She said she supports a parent's right to choose how their child will be educated, as long as its within the limits of the law. While the ruling doesn't change policy for Placer County schools, it does have an impact on those homeschool families who do not fall within the guidelines of California's compulsory education law, Garbolino-Mojica said. Buchanan does fall within the guidelines of the law because she files a private school affidavit each year so she can continue teaching at home. A private school affidavit is mandatory for those who operate a full-time day boarding school. The affidavit includes information about school enrollment and what courses are offered at the school. Buchanan said she also turned in attendance records. An affidavit does not mean the state Department of Education has approved and reviewed a school. Instead, it is used to comply with the compulsory education law and to fulfill the state's No Child Left Behind Act requirements. As a result of filing this affidavit, Buchanan can issue a valid diploma to her children. From there, it is relatively easy for them to take a General Educational Development test or pay a small fee to take the California High School Exit Exam to make the step to further their education. We have so many options to officially recognize they they've learned everything they would've in public schools, Buchanan said. Placer County school officials say they do not monitor homeschools in the county and they cannot even guess at the number, Garbolino-Mojica said. She explained people often confuse the district's independent study program with homeschooling. Independent study programs typically mean parents or a tutor teaches a student at home, but they meet once a week with a credentialed teacher who monitors the student's progress. Because families with children enrolled in an independent study program meet with a teacher, they are not affected by Croskey's ruling. Independent study teacher Kim Lockwood said she considers the program a good alternative for many students, including the 3,817 enrolled in Placer County. I think there are some real advantages to independent study, said Lockwood. She has been a teacher through the independent study program in the county for 18 years. She said some of those advantages include allowing students to advance, and letting the teacher tailor to the student's learning style. There are some challenges that come with teaching at home, but for Buchanan, those are subtler. Sibling rivalries are exasperated because they are around each other for most of the day every day. She said she deals with those small issues on a day-to-day basis. As far as her children's future, she said she is confident they have the skills to succeed in a world outside of their home. She also said she is happy with her decision 12 years ago to stay home with her neat kids. I don't go around telling everyone to homeschool. I think everyone should choose what's best for their family, Buchanan said. Homeschooling works for so many kids and so many families. I wish there were more positive things said about it. The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment.