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Laws aim to help homeschool kids

By Staff | Oct 9, 2009

A Shenandoah Junction man who home-schools his daughter using the Jefferson County Schools curriculum says for the second year, he is having trouble getting her science and math books from the school system.

School officials say the county’s 320 home-school students may access books, assistance and even facilities, subject to their availability.

Parent Jack Dodson, who had himself worked in the Jefferson County Schools system, told the Chronicle recently that he waited until November last year before getting many of the books he needed. And it looks like he may have to wait again this year, he said.

“It’s getting worse – it’s not getting better,” Dodson said.

His daughter is a fourth-grader whose home school is T. A. Lowery Elementary.

Dr. Sheri Hoff, director of attendance for Jefferson County Schools, said last week she was unaware of any home-school instructors having trouble getting materials. If they call her at the Board of Eductation office, she can check throughout the 15 schools in Jefferson County for extra books that may be available.

“We hunt around around the county to try and come up with the books that they’re requesting,” she said, noting the materials do not have to come from the school the student would attend if they were in public school.

According to the provisions for home-school students in Chapter 18, Article 8, of the West Virginia State Code titled “Compulsory School Attendance”:

“The county superintendent or a designee shall offer such assistance, including textbooks, other teaching materials and available resources, as may assist the person or persons providing home instruction subject to their availability. Any child receiving home instruction may upon the approval of the county board exercise the option to attend any classes offered by the county board as the person or persons providing home instruction may consider appropriate subject to normal registration and attendance requirements.”

For Dodson, having the materials that Jefferson County Schools uses will mean better preparation for the WESTEST, the West Virginia Educational Standards Test. The WESTEST is administered to students in grades 3-8 in the subject areas of math, science, social studies, and reading/language arts.

Dodson said home-school students often score high on the tests, and their scores are used to show achievement in their home school district. Because of the home-schoolers’ role in academic success for the school system, they should not be given short shrift, he said.

The material covered on the WESTEST is similar to that on the SAT college entrance exams, so Dodson wants his daughter to be familiar with it.

Hoff – who noted she was homeschooled, as are her grand-children – said she understands the challenges facing home-school instructors and will do what she can to help them. She suggests home-school parents contact a principal and make arrangements for their child to use the library or other school facilities. She said many home-schooled children attend certain classes like art, music or advanced placement courses to complement what they’re learning at home. Hoff also noted that students don’t necessarily have to go to the nearest facility. Arrangements usually can be made at any one of the schools. It just requires the parent to establish a good working relationship with the school’s principal, she said.

Dodson does concede he seems to be in the minority when it comes to using books from Jefferson County Schools. Most other home-school parents simply buy all the books they need, he said. And sometimes, home-school instructors have “book swaps” where they all meet and trade learning materials.

– To contact Dr. Sheri Hoff, attendance director for Jefferson County Schools, call (304) 728-9221.