Homeshooling expands in Iowa


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Homeschooling families have one more way they can interact with public schools and the state — families now have the Independent Private Instruction option.

Kirstin Miller, a University of Iowa graduate student, held a workshop on Tuesday in which she highlighted some of these new changes which “opens it up so homeschooling is more accessible.”

Gov. Terry Branstad signed the 2013 Education Reform Bill into law last year, and it allows for several new elements to the options available for homeschooling in Iowa.

Under the bill, homeschooling families are no longer required to submit assessments of their children to the local school districts. Those who are in charge of the children are also allowed to teach up to four other students unrelated to them, and parents may choose to teach their children to drive themselves rather than sending them to a driver’s education program.

“[Some parents] feel that the government should have no input on how they educate their children,” Miller said. “[The new option] fits in well with the changing family structure. That was a big win for use this year.”

The structure works well for homeschooling when parents may work full-time, Miller said, and a family member, such as a grandparent, educates the children.

Miller said the independent private instruction approach does not charge tuition, but that the instructors may charge for their services.

Andrea Farrier, a former lobbyist for the Iowa Homeschool Assistance Program Professionals, wrote in an email the bill gives families “the opportunity to continue using the excellent resources that are currently available, but will provide new and more flexible options for people to pursue as well.”

“In a nutshell, it added new options without taking away from current resources, programs, or opportunities,” Farrier said. “There aren’t many new laws that achieve that.”

While this approach offers more freedom for homeschooling families, there are some who remain cautious.

Marti Melton-Streeter, a lobbyist for the Iowa Home School Assistance Program Professionals, said that the new program could become a “loophole.”

“I think it’s important to realize that with any change, there may need to be modification to that change,” Melton-Streeter said. “Just because the bill was passed does not mean it should be set in stone.”

She said, as an example, that a family who told one school district that they would homeschool their child would not be required to tell another school district if they should move. In this case, there would be no one to check on the child’s progress.

“I am really concerned about some of those students who may get lost,” Melton-Streeter said.

However, she also said that the families that fall into this group fall between 1 and 2 percent.

“It’s only 1 or 2 percent, but that 1 or 2 percent could make a huge difference in that child’s life,” Melton-Streeter said.

While she doesn’t believe that the new changes will influence more families to leave the public school system, she does think that the bill “might get rough along the way.”

“People have the right to homeschool,” Melton-Streeter said. “I just think with that privilege also comes responsibility.”

Farrier was more optimistic, saying that Iowa’s homeschooling families have “proven themselves to be competent, capable, and extremely effective in providing top-quality education.”

“The back of Iowa’s state quarter shows a one-room school house and has the phrase ‘Foundation in Education,’ ” Farrier said. “I think it’s especially appropriate that we, as a state, are providing a wide range of options for students and families, including in the area of homeschooling, to achieve the education that best suits their needs.”

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