I have said several times that if I had to keep homeschooling “attendance records” that I would just make it up. I wasn’t kidding either. And now I may get the chance to invent data because the government is proposing a rules change that may require homeschoolers to turn in some pretty elaborate attendance records.
This is hopefully just a mistake in a poorly written law. At one point it says homeschoolers are exempt and at another point it says we’re not. But whether it’s an accident of the kind that happens when too many people try to write a single document together or a purposeful new regulation of homeschoolers, it’s definitely a mistake because trying to make homeschoolers keep attendance records is pure nonsense.
It’s absurd on its very face. We live in our school. Every single day of our lives we’re in attendance. So what are we supposed to even count?
From the moment we get up to the moment we go to bed, free play, learning conversations, housework, educational games, reading, social activities, art, and old-fashioned book work are all mixed up in our day. Some of it is obviously not “school.” While there is a learning value to cleaning the kitchen or playing with Legos, I think it’s pretty obviously not school activities. And some of it is obviously “school.” When we sit down with math curricula or spelling, it’s pretty clearly a school activity.
But so much falls in between. Is BalletBoy’s ballet class PE or just an extra thing he does? What about the audiobooks in the car? What about bedtime reading? What about the dinner conversation about science? Or the math in a casual game of Rat-a-Tat-Cat? How about seeing a play? Going for a hike? Making cookies and measuring the ingredients? One of the nicest things about homeschooling is that while much of what you do with your kids is no different from what other good parents are doing, you know exactly what they’ve been studying and working on academically so you can bring it casually and seamlessly into those small learning moments that happen in everyday life all the time. A story on the radio can be made to connect with the book you’re reading or the science you just studied because you know exactly what content you’ve covered. A walk down the grocery store aisle can become a math moment because you know that your child was practicing estimation earlier that day. There are a million little moments like these every day where homeschoolers bring school and home together like this.
This is why I just refuse to count. All the things that matter don’t have to do with timers and excused absences. They’re all about how much we’re learning, focusing, and advancing. You can’t measure those things with an attendance record.
So, D.C. government, go ahead. I’ll just be checking off every single day, from the days we spend outside hiking and playing to the days we spend reading to the days we do math to the days with friends and activities and museums. I’ll even check off the sick days when we snuggle and read and watch TV all day or the days we’re on vacation looking at the animals on safari or riding the rides at Disney. I say what’s school and I say that it’s all school at the rowhouse.
PS – If you happen to be a DC homeschooler and think attendance keeping would be nonsense, considering sending your State Board of Education member a note saying so. You can find more about all this on the very low-fi DCHEA page.