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    Course of Study

    July 14, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    At the Bakersfield Home Education Conference this past weekend, I attended a breakout session on record keeping. The gal who taught the class was obviously über-organized. I learned a lot from her. Specifically, I discovered a few gaps in what I thought was my simple, yet water-tight {okay, maybe that’s stretching it a bit}, record keeping system.

    Now, some people {like meahem} might tell you that there is nothing really required beyond taking attendance. People {um…me again} who say these things don’t know what they are talking about and ought to be promptly ignored.

    I’m just saying.

    One of the things I haven’t been doing, at least not as precisely as it ought to have been done, is completing a Proposed Course of Study at the beginning of each year. According to my breakout session teacher, when I sign the affidavit each year, I am certifying that I am keeping this record.

    Among others.

    So this is the time of year I begin my school planning. Unlike former years, I am currently fighting a bad cold or flu or something, so in between using up entire boxes of tissues and dying lying on the couch, I decided the easiest place to start was with this Course of Study thing.

    I thought I’d share mine here {sans the names, of course} because it’s likely that it seems harder to propose a course of study when you are using a living books curriculum. I would say that it isn’t, except that textbooky families can say they use English Textbook A for English and Math Textbook B for Arithmetic and Social Science Textbook C for Social Sciences whereas in a living books situation it’s possible there’d be a whole long list of books for each category.

    Or something.

    So here are my first attempts at a Course of Study*, based upon the sample forms in CHEA’s An Introduction to Home Education, which is really helpful to own if you live in California**:

    Course of Study {Ambleside Y1}

    Course of Study {Ambleside Y4}

    I have a few thoughts on this sort of paperwork. First, this is a requirement of my particular state {California}. Therefore, it is important that I use the actual words in the education code. Even though I like saying “history” or “geography” rather than “social science,” I need to use the prescribed words and combine the subjects as needed so that it is obvious that my school is in compliance. In other words, this form is really for the state rather than for me, and I ought to customize it with that in mind.

    In addition to the required seven branches, I added a few things which didn’t fit, but did need to be on the list, since they comprise what we will do this coming year. For me, that meant Bible, foreign language, citizenship, and applied arts {that the word the state uses for handiwork-type activities in the upper years, so that is what I chose to use in the lower}.

    I was told that it is acceptable to go back and modify at the end of the year, in order to reflect what really happened, rather than just what was proposed. I like that, and I’ll probably go back and add in our Advent activities. I don’t want to let this Course of Study thing put pressure on me to plan our DecemberTerm right now. That is something I usually do around Thanksgiving, and I don’t want to add that into my summer work.

    This process took quite a bit longer than I had hoped, but mainly that was because I was designing the spreadsheet from the ground up. Once I got the first child’s perfect, the second child took me only fifteen minutes. I decided to save one of these documents {in Excel} separately for each child, but then just add a new “edition” each year to make it easy.

    *Note: I’m going to go back and prepare a Course of Study for each previous year we’ve done. Since I’ve kept very thorough teacher records, it should only take a half hour or so to bring my school into full compliance.

    **I know the title of these records says “Ambleside” and then the year. They do include the Ambleside assignments {except I chose different artists, etc.}. Ambleside Online kindly granted me an exception to their License and allowed me to use the copyrighted booklist for this purpose. There are various additions I have made, and most of this is because I needed something for a required branch of study, or I like to mix state history in with the chronology as it goes along. California is a young state so Year Four is the first year I add in anything special.

    I am getting a lot of hits on this post concerning the filing of the actual California Affidavit for private schools. This form must be filed between October 1 and October 15 of each year. Click here and follow HSLDA’s instructions, which are not always completely up-to-date, but will suffice as long as you pay attention to the actual questions on the form.

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  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts August 4, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Okay, Monica, I drew one up real quick. I hope that helps! I also made it more clear as far as the law goes, so hopefully that is helpful, too. 🙂

  • Reply Monica August 4, 2011 at 6:50 am

    do you also put up a blank copy that we can fill out for our own kiddos? if so, where could I find it?

  • Reply sara July 15, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I agree with you about appreciating the liberal homeschooling laws. I think we should differentiate, however, between favorable laws and the absence of any regs at all and here’s why:

    My mom homeschooled my younger siblings until just this past year, first in NY and then in PA and her opinion is that you want at least some regulations on the books because the lack of them leaves the door open for very burdensome regulations to be made. Ideally, there would be some written provision allowing homeschooling, whether as a private school or whatever.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts July 15, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Wow, Sara! That *does* sound tough. And poor PA residents! Goodness! I think I am now understanding why so many of the older, more experienced ladies at the conference were saying how happy we should be with the private school provision, and that we don’t actually have the word “homeschool” in the law at all. Even though there is a little bit of paperwork, there is quite a bit of freedom.

    Of course, then there are states where you…do nothing but what you like to do, and that’s even better. 🙂

  • Reply sara July 15, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I forgot – the IHIP must include my chosen dates for submitting quarterly reports.

  • Reply sara July 15, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    IHIP stands for Individual Home Instruction Plan. For grades 1-6 it must include a plan for teaching English language, math, science, U.S. history/geography, spelling, reading, writing, health, physical education, visual arts, and music.

    They have no say over HOW these subjects are taught, but may only tell me if my plan complies with the law. (???)

    FWIW the only state that has it harder is PA which, in addition to variations on the NY regs, actually requires an end of year evaluation by an outside party.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts July 15, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Pam, I think we all have a bit of inner teacher nerd. 🙂

    Sara, I think the main difference is probably that because I am considered my own private school, I don’t actually turn any of this in. It is just something I’m required to keep. If there was a complaint against our school, these are the documents I’d have to produce. Also, because we are a private school, we have complete religious freedom in that I can include things like Bible without worry.

    It is so interesting to me how each state is different. I have to say that I already did something similar, which would qualify as the record in a pinch, but I wanted to conform to the standard. The gal who taught my class started homeschooling back when it was more common to get hauled into court, and so her angle was that we ought to look like a respectable private school as much as possible…

    ps. What does IHIP stand for?

  • Reply sara July 15, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    This looks like the IHIP required by NYS. I actually have to submit mine before the beginning of the school year, every year, for each student. I didn’t included the things the state doesn’t require like Bible, etc on the form I send to the district because I don’t want to set any difficult precedents, but I put it on my own weekly schedules.

  • Reply Pam... July 15, 2011 at 1:56 am

    I have some ‘record keeping’ I do here too. Not because we have to, but just for me, I guess. It’s the teacher nerd in me that makes me do it. Looks like you have some good plans there, and a system that will take little time to adapt each year.

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