My “special arrangement” with the Dept. of Ed (Spoiler alert: I don’t have one)

First of all, let me say that this article by Farran Powell, titled “Homeschooling on the Rise in NYC” is great.  It is a 100% positive look at homeschooling in the city.  When Farran spoke to me and then came to our home, she was lovely.  She took a ton of photos and was truly interested in what we do and how we live our lives.

So it’s all good.

Despite that, there is one particular sentence of her article that I need to correct.  There were other minor corrections I’d have made if I’d seen the article in advance of publication, but only one that truly needs addressing.   It is vital, because a misunderstanding about this could have ramifications for other NYC unschooling families, and I don’t want that on my head.   In the article, when talking about the paperwork required in NY for homeschoolers, Powell wrote:

Milstein, who subscribes to the “unschooling” educational model, said she worked out an agreement with the Department of Education in which she submits a record of her children’s daily activities, such as building Legos and taking art classes in a group setting, and submits her entry logs to the education authorities.

No, no no.  There is no special arrangement between me and the Dept. of Ed.   Department of Education people, if you are reading this (probably you aren’t but I’m covering all bases here), I did not say I have a special arrangement with you, nor do I expect one.

What I said, which was misinterpreted, was that instead of a detailed IHIP stating every book and/or curriculum we intend to use for the coming year, my IHIP is general but my quarterly reports are very detailed.    We unschool and can’t know in advance exactly what we will cover.  However, I keep notes for myself throughout the year regarding the kids’ interests and activities and then refer to those notes extensively when writing up my quarterlies.   I don’t know what we will do, but I know, and report, what we have done.     The only reason I know this is acceptable is that the Central Office of Homeschooling sends me my letters of compliance for both kids.

Why is this important?   Two reasons:  First, I don’t want to give the impression that I am somehow special; that I’ve managed to make a unique arrangement with the DOE.   I’m not, and I haven’t.  Second, I wouldn’t want anyone to avoid unschooling because THEY don’t have some special arrangement, or believe that they have to get one in order to be allowed to unschool.   That is not the case.

As unschoolers, it is up to us (those of us living in NY anyway) to be in compliance with the regulations for homeschooling.  How we do it and still stay true to our ideas about learning is entirely up to us.   There are a myriad of ways to go about it, and kudos to the Homeschooling Office for – almost always patiently – dealing with so many variations on a theme.  They are not perfect, of course, but overall, do a more than acceptable job.

So there is no special arrangement, because none is needed.  I keep up my end of the deal with the paperwork, and the DOE does as well.


Thank you to Farran Powell for her kind words and lovely photos

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