March 2, 2016

A lighter load for homeschoolers

homeJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Sydney, 11, right, gets a piano lesson Tuesday from her mother, LeAnn Scanlon, of Cortlandville, with her 9-month-old son, Sterling, on her lap.

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — A proposed change in state law could lighten restrictions for New Yorkers homeschooling their children.
Two new education bills, Assembly Bill 9091 and Senate Bill 4788, are being supported by local homeschooling parents because the changes would allow them to administer their children’s standardized testing themselves and eliminate the requirement of filing quarterly reports.
Homer Superintendent of Schools Nancy Ruscio said she believes the current system to administer state tests at the school districts should remain in place and working with homeschooled students on testing requirements is not a burden to the district.
LeAnn Scanlon of Cortlandville teaches her five children at home, ranging from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.Scanlon is completely happy with her decision to homeschool despite the strict requirements.
She pulled her children out of the schools because of the commute, she said Tuesday, adding, “I wanted to be able to spend the best hours of the day with my children.”
Working with a group of other homeschooling parents, Scanlon organized a cooperative in 2014 called Help in Christ. The group meets every Thursday at the Homer Avenue United Methodist Church at Homer and Maple avenues. The co-op has an enrollment of about 50 students and meets for 22 weeks out of the year. Scanlon serves as treasurer, and said that the parents donate to the church to rent the space. The co-op provides parents the opportunity to combine resources to teach their children different subjects. Scanlon, for example teaches piano.
She supported eliminating quarterly tests, saying that they aren’t a true measurement of whether the children are up to date. As for state testing, she said the new approval of administering the test would give homeschool parents the flexibility they desire. After her experience in the co-op, Scanlon said she is often surprised at the assumption that homeschooled parents would cheat the system in regards to grades.
Maggie Phelps, a friend of Scanlon’s who chose to homeschool two of her four children, said Tuesday that any parent who would cheat a child through their homeschool education would be a poor reflection of the parent’s ability to educate their child.
Phelps said she chose to homeschool her children to keep the family as a unit working together. She said her husband, Drew Phelps, owned his own business and by homeschooling the children they got to experience what hard work looks like, and to help keep the family values strong.
Cortland parent Sharon Riedl, who teaches her 12-year-old daughter Sophie and 6-year-old Oliver, said educating children, whether it is done at home or in a traditional classroom, is a tremendous amount of work.
“I personally don’t know a single parent who has taken it on lightly,” Riedl said. The type of parents who make the commitment to educating their children at home are not looking to shirk requirements or cheat the system, she said.
“On the contrary, the homeschooling movement has expanded rapidly in recent years among parents who are frustrated with low achievement in the public schools and want their children held to a higher academic standard,” Riedl said.

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