Flexischooling in Arizona, USA

Flexischooling in Arizona, USA

Samantha Eddis

Flexischooling is just not an issue in many countries around the world. Samantha’s four children have experienced flexischooling (dual enrolment) in Arizona over the last seven years. Her insight is invaluable. The common sense attitude of the authorities is to be applauded.

 Home-education had never been the plan. After all, I was a qualified teacher, and I have always loved being in the classroom. In fact, we fell into home education in Florida primarily because the local school would not allow my eldest daughter to attend the appropriate grade as she was too young. So our home – education journey began twelve years ago, and even though I was a teacher, I felt completely out of my depth, isolated and lonely, in my new home education life.

 I also found it difficult to gel with the home-educating group that I joined. The families were pleasant enough, and my children enjoyed the field trips and social events. However, it irritated me whenever I heard a group of parents extolling the virtues of home education by bashing the teachers in the local schools. The worst comment I heard still makes me cringe, “Well, home educators are obviously more concerned about their children’s education.” Go say that to a family who invests time, money and effort into their child’s education, social and sporting activities, and see what reaction you get! That is what I thought, but instead, I simply interjected, “I’m a teacher.” Funnily enough, the parents shuffled their feet, the conversation shifted, and I wasn’t really part of the conversation anymore. Was I considered the ‘enemy’? An ‘infiltrator’? I wasn’t really sure, but I was indignant enough not to care. Fortunately, there were a few families that did not see me as a threat to their home educating lifestyle, and I formed friendships that have lasted to this day. They could see that I was, and always have been, an educator that has seen the benefits of both school and home education, and has opted for the best path for my children and my family. I don’t judge other families for the way they home educate, or if they access schools for flexischooling opportunities – I am just following my children’s educational needs and desires.

 So, our family had five years in Florida, where the home education laws are not too intrusive, and where we mixed almost exclusively with a small group of like-minded home-educators and the local neighbourhood children. I accessed the local school when my young son was having speech issues (most common in boys, and very easy to overcome when treated early enough). My rationale was that, as an untrained speech therapist, I was in need of some professional help for my son, and my taxes supported the school that my son would have gone to anyway. Not that I foisted such an aggressive perspective on the school. Instead, I asked the local school for help and explained that I really need some professional input – within the week my son and I had seen the speech therapist and we were given some exercises and reassurances that all would be well (and it was).

 When we moved to Arizona, seven years ago, I thought more about the common sense approach of accessing the local school when something was beyond my normal capabilities (speech therapy, specialist reading help, music, art, group PE classes and more).

  I also looked at the Arizona law, specific to home education. This is what it says, under the Arizona Revised Statutes:

 ARS§ 15-802.01 Homeschooled children; eligibility to participate in interscholastic activities

 A.       Notwithstanding any other law, a child who resides within the attendance area of a public school and who is homeschooled shall be allowed to try out for interscholastic activities on behalf of the public school in the same manner as a pupil who is enrolled in that public school. Registration, age eligibility requirements, fees, insurance, transportation, physical conditions, qualifications, responsibilities, event schedules, standards of behaviour and performance policies for homeschooled students shall be consistent with those policies established for students enrolled in that public school. The individual providing the primary instruction of a child who is homeschooled shall submit written verification that provides:

  •  Whether the student is receiving a passing grade in each course or subject being taught.
  • Whether the student is maintaining satisfactory progress towards advancement or promotion.

 B.       A child who is homeschooled and who was previously enrolled in a public, private or charter school shall be ineligible to participate in interscholastic activities for the remainder of the school year during which the child was enrolled in a school.

 C.       A school district shall not contract with any private entity that supervises interscholastic activities if the private entity prohibits the participation of homeschooled children in interscholastic activities at public, private or charter schools.

 NB ‘Public school’ in the United States is the state-funded school that is freely available to all children residing in the school district.

 Armed with the law in case I needed to refer to it, I went to my local elementary (primary) school and asked if my homeschooled (this is the preferred term in the US) children could take part in any activities at the school. I was amazed by the refreshingly inclusive approach by the school’s administrator. She told me that the school district did indeed ‘dual enrol’ (their term for flexischooling) and then she gave me a list of all the activities that my children could take part in. No pressure was put on me to choose all or any of the subjects on offer, or to bring my child in every day. My children had a card that they gave to the administrator when they went into a class, and then took back when they left the school for the day (school policy dictates that school personnel know who is on campus). When my children expressed a desire to drop one of the classes, we discussed their goals, and then followed the best educational path for each child. As much as I let my children have a certain amount of autonomy with their classes, I was respectful enough to always let the school know if one of my children was going to be absent or drop a class.

 Under Arizona law, home-educated children do not have to take any standardised annual testing, and there was never pressure put on me to have my children tested at the local school. Unfortunately for them, as a teacher, I like to have a measurement of my child’s academic ability – so I had each of my four children take standardised annual tests, from 3rd grade and above, either at the local school (they were happy to oblige, especially as home- schoolers’ scores do not affect the overall scores of the school) or at a homeschool centre in town.

Each of my four children had access to the local school, and to the subjects I felt would be best taught in a group setting: music, art, and PE. There were also opportunities to go on field trips with their assigned class, or attend the sports day and charity events. Just to give you an idea of how each child took what they needed or wanted from the school, I have detailed their flexischooling options below:

 First daughter – was only interested in art, so took two terms of art classes in 8th grade. She was not interested in dual enrolling in any other classes, and did not want to pursue options in the high school.

 Son – tried music classes but wanted to do his own thing so asked to drop the class (grade 8); took art for a year in Grade 7; took PE for two years (grades 6 and 7). He looked at various sporting options and computer graphics classes at high school, but the timing of the classes did not coincide with his workday at home, so he did not take up dual enrolment options at high school.

 Second daughter – went into the local school full time in 1st grade, but came out to home-educate and dual enrol in music, art, and PE in 3rd grade. She went back into the local school full time for 4th grade, but then dual enrolled in music, art and PE in 5th grade. She went back into the local school full time for 6th grade and is still in school, full time, in 7th grade. She plans on coming out in 9th grade to dual enrol and take IGCSEs as a private candidate (home educator).

 Third daughter – dual enrolled in the local school from 1st grade until 4th grade (music, art, PE) when she went into the local school full time. She is still in school, full time, in 6th grade but also plans to come out and dual enrol as a home educator taking IGCSEs and accessing the local high school from 9th Grade onwards.

 I know that I have been so fortunate with our home-educating journey.  I have been able to largely accommodate my children’s wishes for home education, full-time schooling, or dual enrolment (surprisingly they didn’t want to take annual tests!) – thanks, in part,  to the common sense approach of Arizona lawmakers and school district personnel. They have realised that if home- schoolers are committed to providing the best educational program for their children, their school system can offer support and encouragement for an alternative education. I do hope that other home educators who wish to access the local schools or colleges are able to use the experiences of other collaborative projects in order to provide the best education for their children.

 Samantha Eddis, PhD, has been teaching for over thirty years, in three countries (Hong Kong, England, and the USA). Passionate about education, and open to the best educational paths for her children, she has also been home educating (including flexischooling) for the last twelve years, in Florida and Arizona. Her focus at the moment is on accessing IGCSEs and A Levels for her children and for other private candidates. Her website at www.eddistutorial.com gives plenty of free information and suggested resources so that other home educators and private candidates can be successful with examinations. She is always open to ideas, advice, or suggestions that will help fellow home educators and private candidates, so please contact her at Samantha@eddistutorial.com


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