In Maryland, the local school boards oversee annual homeschool reviews under COMAR (Code of Maryland Regulations). Basically, COMAR states that homeschoolers must show “adequate and thorough” instruction in the required subjects. Nothing more, nothing less. However, the Calvert County School Board is now going to require a form, that will be used to monitor, evaluate, and “score” homeschoolers. This form is not part of the COMAR regulation, and nowhere does COMAR state that homeschoolers are required to be reviewed using such forms. Upon questioning school board officials about the validity of the form, only vague answers were given. The form is judgmental, arbitrary, and a little intimidating, because there was no way to see how it would be interpreted. It will be “required” for reviews, no other option was given.
Part of my issue with the form is that is uses things like tests, grades, and dates on papers as a means for judging a homeschooler’s portfolio. Yet COMAR makes no mention of these things, so how can the school board start “requiring” them? Perhaps the most ominous part of the form is in its layout. On the top of the form is the name, and directly underneath is a reference to COMAR (which means the form looks like it comes from COMAR.) So, for homeschoolers who are new, or nervous, or even just trusting, they may assume that the COMAR regulation requires the use of the form. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Although a form may seem like a small thing, sometimes it is small steps are the first ones towards accomplishing a larger goal. Given my experiences, and those from countless other homeschoolers, there is little doubt in my mind that local school boards have a larger agenda regarding homeschooling. They are trying to make us fit into their vision of “school” and “learning”, and that is infuriating. If we comply with their “interpretations of the law” and overlook the law itself, then we are opening the door for potential changes in the COMAR regulation. Once a few people accept the changes and work with them, officials will have a foothold in making changes that would apply to everyone. For example, if a homeschooler does not use grades or tests as part of a portfolio (which is perfectly legal under COMAR), there will be many gaps on the form. A reviewer could use those gaps as a way to say that a homeschooler was not providing adequate and thorough instruction, because she would be relying on the form, rather than on the regulation. Suddenly, the homeschooler could be forced to adopt schooling practices that go against her homeschooling practices, in order to receive approval of the school system.
It is wrong for local school boards to try and impose their will on homeschoolers, and in doing so go against the COMAR regulations. To quote directly from COMAR: “A local school system may not impose additional requirements for home instruction programs other than those in the regulations.” If homeschoolers are expected to comply with the regulations, then local school boards should be held to the same standards.
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