Self-directed education in NY
Many NY families who are interested in self-directed education wonder if it’s possible in such a regulated state. While NYS is one of the 5 most regulated homeschool states (RI, VT, PA, & MA being the other 4), self-direction is still very possible. In fact, NY is a great state for unschooling! The natural wonders, museums, arts resources, vast library system, homeschooling groups, meet-ups, and co-ops, and even the 4 distinct seasons are all just some of the big factors in making NYS a fabulous place for self-direction.
So how exactly does one self-direct in a state that requires as much oversight as NY does?
The same way you would self-direct in any other state! The NY homeschool regulations require certain subjects be covered each year. However, those regulations do not state how each subject must be covered. Math, English, history, art…..all of these subjects can be covered through typical classes or through organic exploration. We’ve been trained to hear a word like “math” and instantly envision classrooms of students grudgingly working out problems and memorizing math facts by rote. Self-directed learners (SDLs) know it doesn’t have to be this way. Math can be acquired through everyday activities including baking, buying a pack of gum, sewing a costume, running a lemonade stand, re-designing a room, or even starting a business. As far as paperwork in NYS is concerned, math is math, no matter how it’s acquired. The same goes for all the subjects.
You can’t just write “baking” under math….. can you?
Well, yes and no. If you simply write “baking” you’re likely to get some pushback. Remember, we’ve ALL been trained to envision a specific set-up when someone talks about learning math. The folks looking over your paperwork are no different and they need a little context for how baking relates to your child’s math education. Here’s an example of what an unschooler might write on their quarterly report under the math section:
Tomis continues to explore mathematical concepts organically and through everyday activities. His natural interests have provided innumerable opportunities for math practice. Topics covered this quarter have included: basic computation, fractions, decimals, percentages, word problems, algebra, and estimation. His favorite mathematical concept this quarter has been multiplication. He has found his daily activities often have opportunities to employ multiplication in place of his previous go-to, addition, and his ability to multiply quickly is growing. We will continue to explore these topics as opportunities arise for practice and we plan to build upon these topics as Tomis gains confidence in each area.
How do I make our quarterly reports look like that?
Translation is a skill every unschool parent must hone. Crafting IHIPs and quarterly reports for self-directed learners in NY relies on an adult’s ability to translate effectively. Translation is only effective when the translator is confident in their grasp of the content and the intent. Effectively written reports are effective because the person writing them values what the learner has done with their time as has translated those activities into something others can understand. If you don’t like how your kid spends their time, you’re not likely to translate their work in a very satisfactory way. Likewise, if you see value in how your child learns and how they choose to do their learning, you’re likely to have an easier time describing what you see in positive and “productive” terms.
Unschooling is absolutely possible in NY. There’s noting barring a driven family from pursing an organic form of education for their child(ren).