When you’ve dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’, it can be daunting to face a determined authority figure who is demanding you produce more information than you’re legally required to give.
Before I go any further, please understand that I am in no way qualified to give legal advice. Everything here is just my personal experience. For legal advice, please seek out a professional (I have listed one I recommend below).
Several months into our homeschooling journey, we made the inevitable trek to the doctor’s office. In an attempt to coax my daughter into talking, the nurse started off with the usual questions, and ended up asking where she goes to school. This is pretty much expected, in my experience. The moment we mentioned homeschooling, we could practically see her hackles rise. No exageration, she sat up ramrod straight and held her pen over the notepad, and started an interrogation. It’s kind of funny now, but at the time it sent me into borderline panic mode.
I’m paraphrasing here, but here is the jist of our conversation:
Nurse: Where is she being homeschooled?
Me: At home, with me.
Nurse: What curriculum are you using?
Me: We aren’t using a purchased curriculum.
Nurse: You have to use a curriculum.
Me: (I interrupted her at this point. I hate confrontation, but I’ve had experience with ‘professional’ bullies- years as an insurance representative prepared me for this moment.) I am aware of my legal rights, and I do not have to use any particular curriculum so long as I am providing my child with an equivalent education. (Honestly, I fumbled my words a bit, and it didn’t come out this pretty or organized, but I mentioned all these points in my bumbling manner.)
Nurse: But you have to follow the Core 40 standards! (She was getting a bit heated at this point. Psychology tip- when they get louder or more aggressive, make your voice softer. I learned this in training, and I love watching it work in real life settings.)
Me: The Core 40 requirements are for high school; my child is in sixth grade. And legally, no, a non-accredited private school does not have to follow the standards imposed on public schools.
At this point, I could see she was trying to muster another argument. I didn’t feel as if she was hostile, just worried. Before she went any further, I gave her a lifeline to reassure her and to hopefully head off any future issues from her. (I had child services popping up all over my childhood. I really didn’t want my daughter to deal with that stress, as it is unnecessary and disruptive, even if the potential investigation would turn up nothing.)
Me: I understand your concerns, but I’m following the curriculum standards for her grade using a variety of sources, just in case she wants to return to public school in the future. If you’d like more information on the homeschool laws, you can find them on the state website.
She changed tactics, and started asking Kitt some questions. I didn’t have to let her, but my daughter handled it well, and I didn’t feel I needed to protect her from this type of conflict since we’d likely face it many times before graduation.
Some questions she asked: Do you like homeschool? Do you feel it is harder or easier? Did you like public school? What about friends? Etc.
We finally got around to the actual doctor’s visit, but I expect these conflicts to slam into us now and then. Every FaceBook group I participate in has stories like this (and worse) pop up frequently. So what can we do to keep nosy busy-bodies out of our business?
1. Know your legal rights, and obligations, before any potential confrontation can occur. Forewarned is forearmed, right?
2. State your rights clearly, but without hostility. Not everyone is attacking you; most might just be concerned for your child’s wellbeing- especially with the troubling reports regarding homeschool neglect in the news.
3. Offer them a link (or mention the website) to the legal requirements for your state so they can check it out before filing an unnecessary report (many professionals are required to file reports if they suspect abuse or neglect, so it doesn’t hurt to point them toward the laws so they can reassure and educate themselves.)
4. Consider having legal representation on hand for any possible legal complications.
I had been on the fence about signing up for a membership with the Home School Legal Defense Association. After all, with such an easy-going state regarding homeschooling laws, when would I need legal advice or help? After this minor confrontation, I changed my mind. As I mentioned, I had child services breathing down my (mom’s) neck for most of my childhood. Even if my legal rights protect me, I didn’t want to deal with the hassle should someone come knocking on my door. Next time I face this situation, I will be giving the number for my HSLDA representative as well as the website info for my state. (I am in no way affiliated with the HSLDA, and I haven’t received any compensation or benefits for mentioning them. I was referred to their service through my homeschool groups on FaceBook.)