Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Petermans Go To Springfield

Long ago, in grade school, I would think, you were taught that one of the great things about this country is our participatory government. We elect people to head to Congress or the State House or the County building or wherever, and these people make laws that order society. Every once in a while, there's a disconnect, and one of these guys tries to make a law that isn't fair, or would cause problems in implementation, or oversteps boundaries. OK, enough for 5th grade civics.

Recently, in Illinois, such a law was proposed by a well-meaning state senator. The bill, seen in it's current form here, would require all parents of students not enrolled in a public school to register their students yearly with the state. Since 1950, Illinois has put the "burden" of home education on the parents of students, as explained here. Homeschooling in Illinois requires only of parents that we keep records of days of attendance for our kids/students; no registration, testing, curriculum reviews, home visits, teacher certification, or any of the like have been required of Illinois parents. We like it that way. Most of us who homeschool talk about the freedom of tailoring curriculum to our students' learning style, teaching appropriate subjects at the appropriate times, looking for the teachable moment. This bill is seen as an intrusion, a way of compelling us to "answer" to another authority when designing our curriculum.

Yesterday, hearings were held in Springfield to discuss this bill, where to assign it to committee for further study, and whether it was workable. About 4,000 homeschoolers (that statistic is an estimate from Capitol security) decided to show up for the "festivities," and let our legislators know that, no, thank you, we're doing fine and don't need any help from the state of Illinois.

We stood in line, waiting to get into the Capitol building.

We talked to others in the line, and noticed various levels of information about the day's events. Some who had arrived for a pre-hearing information session to be held at 9am were turned away; security at the building where the meeting was held couldn't handle the crowds. The Capitol building was much more capable, although they asked us to stay on the main floor. Seems the upper levels were already full to capacity. Four floors of our State Capitol filled with homeschooling families. Too bad I didn't get a picture of that. My journalism professor would smack me upside the head.

Some families were convinced that voting on the bill was happening yesterday. The Gub'mint, see, always lies and sneaks things past us when we're not looking. Yeah, well, we were looking yesterday, and this was just a hearing day.

Several folks we talked to spoke of taking the opportunity to meet their representatives and senators, "While we're here." One family told us that their senator was obviously in favor of the bill, although he insisted it was a "bad bill," and would be withdrawn, rewritten and re-presented. He couldn't understand their deep concern over something as innocuous as registration. Well, my friend, when the stated purpose is "to find the homeschoolers," people get suspicious.... This lady sums up my concerns about the bill. Although our daughter is about to leave our homeschool, and she's our last student, I want the flexibility and freedom we enjoyed during these years to be available to those who choose to homeschool in this state in the future.

We waited in line for a little over an hour before we got inside. It was cold, but the sun was warm. It really wasn't too bad.

We tried to meet our senator, but she was in meetings. We'll go back later the spring to do so. We tried to sit in on a Senate session, but they started late; we waited 45 minutes before we gave up.

We did sit in on the end of the House session, and were treated to the recognition of a fine young Marine who gave his life in Afghanistan last fall.

And then we drove home, stopping at the Cracker Barrel and Starbuck's along the way.

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