The information provided on this website is intended to assist you in legally homeschooling your children using unschooling methods. The site owner is not an attorney and nothing on this site should be considered legal advice. Please contact an attorney if you are in need of legal advice.

Sunday, December 2, 2007



This blogspot is intended to be one small corner in the vast expanse of what is the world wide web, where one might find resources to help them unschool in Iowa. The blog author is a lifetime resident of Iowa with over eleven years experience unschooling and serving as a licensed supervising teacher for Iowa homeschoolers.

I hope to add many more resources over time but for now you should look in the sidebar for links to important Iowa Department of Education documentation that can answer just about any logistical or legal concern you might have. There, you'll also find links to online support lists both local and world wide, as well as several unschooling websites.

Enjoy and if you have any questions or requests for information about unschooling in Iowa please feel free to post a comment or send an email to: iowaunschoolers at gmail dot com (replacing the word "at" with the @ sign and the word "dot" with a period - you knew that didn't you?)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Basics

Here is a brief explanation of the basic information with which first-time homeschoolers in Iowa should familiarize themselves. In the near future I hope to post more detailed explanations of completing the CPI Form A and the choices Iowa homeschoolers have in choosing a method of assessment.

It is important for homeschoolers in Iowa to always try to get their information from as close to the original source as possible. With that in mind, here is the Iowa Department of Education's website where they post the "Competent Private Instruction Handbook" which contains the CPI Form A (on page 13 of the .pdf file) that all homeschoolers must file. http://www.iowa.gov/educate/content/view/301/504/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=301&Itemid=1335 It is in .pdf format and can be viewed using Adobe's free Acrobat Reader software that you can download here. This document is updated each year so you should re-read it before the beginning of each academic year, prior to completing your CPI Form A.

The handbook is a lengthy document with clear, plain-language explanations of the laws applicable to, as well as the rights, roles and responsibilities of homeschoolers, supervising teachers, school districts and the Iowa Department of Education, regarding homeschooling in Iowa. It really is a must read for all Iowa homeschoolers to understand clearly and first-hand their legal rights and responsibilities. Be empowered! Please do not take others', individuals or organizations', interpretations at face value without checking it out for yourself first.

Your CPI Form A is due, in duplicate (so they can send a copy to the Iowa Dept.
of Education) to your school district by 14 days after the first day of school in your district or after withdrawing your child from school.

Choosing Your Method of Assessment
Of the three options for meeting annual assessment requirements (Annual Standardized Testing, Annual Portfolio Evaluation by a licensed teacher, ongoing assessment by a Supervising Teacher,) testing may seem to many like the least intrusive option. However, if you look at your options closely it really boils down to who you want getting up into your privacy.

Portfolio Evaluations and Standardized Test results, while most often being administered by a licensed teacher must also be reported to the local school district as well as the Iowa Department of Education each spring. On the other hand, a supervising teacher (not of the Home School Assistance Program type) with whom you must have at least eight contacts over an academic year (four face-to-face and four "other") works privately with you and reports to nobody else (unless they determine that adequate progress is not made.) When utilizing a private supervising teacher, once you turn in your CPI Form A at the beginning of the academic year or upon withdrawing your child from school, you have no further contact with the "authorities" until it's time to file the next year's CPI Form.

Standardized Testing
If you choose the supervising teacher method you can still have your child tested for your own purposes if you like but you are not required to do so. And, if you dual-enroll for testing purposes, even though you have your own supervising teacher, you are also entitled to have your child tested at the expense of the school district either by sending your child to the school when they are testing the other children or by having the Area Education Agency (AEA) for your district administer the tests. If the test publisher allows*, you can even have the district give you the testing material and administer the tests yourself at home, turn the answer sheets back into the district for scoring and then receive the scoring back from them. This last option only works if you are NOT using the testing for your official method of annual assessment. You should contact your school district's homeschool liaison to determine which method works best for your needs.

All homeschoolers are required to comply with the same immunization laws as everyone else. Here you can download your Immunization Certificate to be completed and signed by your health-care professional: http://www.idph.state.ia.us/adper/immunization_products.asp

If your child needs an exemption to immunizations (medical and religious reasons only) you can download a "Certificate of Immunization Exemption" here: http://www.idph.state.ia.us/adper/immunization_products.asp

*The ITBS publishers have very specific requirements for who is allowed access to their testing materials. You can read about them here: http://www.education.uiowa.edu/itp/itbs/itbs_materials.htm
Some homeschool families test via BJU Press' services: http://www.bjupress.com/services/testing/

CPI Form A - Sample Plans of Instruction

Filling out the CPI Form A for the first time can be daunting. But don't worry. In actuality it is pretty simple. Unschoolers have completed these forms for many years in complete compliance with the laws.

I recommend that all Iowa homeschoolers familiarize themselves with the Iowa Department of Education's Competent Private Instruction Handbook to fully understand their responsibilities according to law.

There are step-by-step instructions in the Handbook for completing the Form A that is to be submitted in duplicate to your school district within 14 days of of the first day of school in your district or pulling your child from school.

Many unschoolers feel confused about what the authorities are looking for in the "Instructional Program Information" section. Remember, just because they ask for it on the form does not necessarily mean you have to provide it. If you do not plan to use or have textbooks you do not need to list any in spite of the spaces provided on the form to do so. Since there are no laws that dictate the curriculum homeschoolers follow, nobody at the school district has the authority to evaluate, approve or disapprove of your plans. What is required on the CPI Form A is evidence that some thought and planning has gone into your homeschooling plan and an indication of the method of assessment you plan to use. If your child is not seven years old by September 15th you do not have to chose or indicate a method of assessment yet.

Since the law does require that children who would be in grades 1-5 be assessed in Reading, Language-Arts and Mathematics (grades 6 - 12 add Science and Social Studies) many homeschoolers include information on what they plan to do that would cover those subjects.

Below are examples of some homeschoolers and unschoolers CPI Form A.

Samples for Grades 1 - 5

Sample #1
Plan of Instruction as required by Iowa Code Section 299.4 for (child's name) for the 2003/2004 school year

(Child's name) will study mathematics, language arts, science, social studies, music, physical education and art. Her lessons and programs will encompass the use of an eclectic collection of books, workbooks, computerbased programs, hands-on projects and real life experiences. We will be working with (child's name) daily on these and other subjects of interest. We will continue to encourage (child's name) to read on her own and to further develop her writing, language and math skills.

The amount of time spent on any particular subject will vary, depending on her interest and her need.

Sample #2
Home School Plan
(child name)/2nd grade
(child name)/Kindergarton
Fall 2004/Spring 2005
By: (parents name here)

Our approach
We believe that the students’ education must follow their interest. When they have a question or show interest in a topic then we will support that interest with instruction, learning materials and learning opportunities.

Overall, we want to develop a lifelong love of learning. We want to foster and nurture their natural desire to learn. Information is so great we could never go over it all but rather teach them to find their own answers to their own questions.

Real education, learning in the real world, dealing with real situations involves a wide variety of criticalthinking and problem solving skills. Every learning moment can present an opportunity to explore a myriad of skills—from math to language arts to science to art.

Subject Areas

We will read. Everyday. We will read to them, they will read to us and they will read by themselves. We will read for fun as well as for information. We will visit the library often and choose books that spark their interest. We also have our own books we will read. Included will be fiction, nonfiction, reference books, magazines, newspapers, internet, yes even a textbook or two! (child's name) also belongs to a book club at the Library that meets bi-monthly.

Language arts
Language infuses all parts of everyday life. We listen, read, talk and write on a daily bases. Our
activities will include, story telling, story writing, story reading, story performance, discussing stories-both on their own and in context with other stories we know.

We will write for fun, including letters to family and friends, journaling, word puzzles, notes, list, charts, signs, and invitations. We will also play with words and sounds, examples include impromptu poetry, word rhyming, creating songs.

Vocabulary, composition, grammar, spelling and handwriting emerges naturally as part of our working on any and all language arts activities.

(childrens' names) follow the curriculum Math-U-SEE. (child's name) is just starting and (child's name) is about halfway through the intermediate. We do believe that math occurs in everyday living and will emphasize these areas. (childrens' names) also enjoy computer math games.

Art and Music
Our approach to art and music is that they are both all around us. At home we have extensive art supplies and materials as well as many different instruments to try (and create). (child's name) is also involved in Kindermusik, weekly. They are both involved in a class at the Art Center that meets weekly. They are also in an art club that meets monthly. (child's name) takes fiddle lessons weekly.

Science is everywhere. Our plan is to observe the world closely, develop theories about how things work, and test them when possible. Activities include reading, computer programs, experimentation and attending science-oriented events and field trips. (childrens' names) both belong to a science club that meets every other week. We go to the Science Center often for field trips and they are both signed up for a variety of classes there as well as the Zoo.

Social Science
Being engaged in the community leads to natural lessons in the social sciences. We will seek to
develop an understanding of how people relate to each other through discussions, reading and experience in civics, geography, and history. For history, we also read “The story of the World” and keep a timeline.

Physical Education
We play, walk, ride bikes, swim, run, and dance and play some more. (childrens' names) are both involved in the (city name) Soccer Club.

Additional Activities
(children's names) are involved in 4H/Clover Kids and (child name) is also a Brownie.

Sample for Grades 6 - 12

Sample #1
2005 - 2006 Course of Study for (child's name)

READING: (child's name) will read. Read aloud, silently, regularly, widely, for pleasure, and for information. He will utilize the public libraries, other community resources as well as our home library to facilitate his interests and relate reading naturally to his every day life.

LANGUAGE ARTS: (child's name) will listen and observe discerningly, naturally developing a sincere curiosity, interest and insight that will lead to meaningful writing and communication. (child's name) will read. Read aloud, silently, regularly, widely, for fun, and for information. Through exposure to literature and the written word he will learn a variety of writing styles and language structure naturally. Upon listening, observing and contemplating (child's name) will converse. He will converse about joys, concerns, current events, great books or not so great books, interesting shows or not so interesting. He will converse about the mundane, the every day, the unknown or the newly discovered. (child's name) will write. He will write
to friends, family, publishers and companies. He will write for the fun of it, write thoughts as a way of organizing or self-expression. He will write privately, for others to read, to prove a point, or raise a question. All of this is a natural part of his daily life and involves language arts, communication and critical thinking.

MATHEMATICS: (child's name) will learn mathematical concepts by participating in a rich family life. He will grow to understand mathematics and its application, value and meaning to his real and immediate world. He will focus on abstract mathematical concepts, problem-solving and critical thinking skills as related to experiences that arise. He will have many opportunities to acquire knowledge, gain comprehension, and practice application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of mathematical concepts.

SCIENCE: (child's name) will learn scientific concepts by living. He will grow to understand the sciences and their applications, value and meaning to his real and immediate world. He will focus on concrete and abstract scientific concepts and the scientific method. He will practice problem-solving and critical thinking skills as related to experiences that arise. He will have many opportunities to hypothesize, experiment, record results, acquire knowledge, gain comprehension and practice application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of science concepts.

SOCIAL STUDIES: (child's name) will listen, observe discerningly, read, contemplate and converse, naturally developing a sincere curiosity, interest and insight that will lead to meaningful observations about the cultures of the world. Through exposure to literature he will learn about many cultures, people, events and places throughout the world and history. He will learn about current events, religions, politics locally, nationally and worldwide. He will explore great people and not so great people, interesting social patterns or not so interesting social patterns. All of this is a natural part of his daily life and involves the observation and study of humanity.

Although (child's name) may use textbooks from all grade levels for reference, he does not limit himself to their scope and sequence. He draws on primary sources when applicable, computer programs, personal home library, public libraries, media, the internet as well as his parents’ life and academic experiences and those of his family, friends and acquaintances. The content he will cover will not be limited by chronological age or grade levels.