This is a story about an international couple raising and home educating three young boys on a small island in Japan, half living in buses, engaged in organic, self-sufficient farming in the middle of a mountain forest while dealing with climate, cultural, and personal challenges. These pages are about pretty much anything and everything all guided by our family motto, Taking Chances, Making Changes, Being Happy. Thank you very much for joining us on our ongoing crazy adventure.

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New York State Home Education Regulations

Home education (also called homeschooling, homeschool or home learning) is the education of children at home, typically by parents or professional tutors, rather than in a public or private school. Before the introduction of compulsory school attendance laws, most childhood education occurred within the family or community, home education in the modern sense is an alternative in developed countries to formal education.

Home education regulations widely vary from country to country and even from state to state in America. Some states are fairly laid back about the requirements imposed upon parents and students, while some states, like New York state are extremely rigid, turning home education into an extension of public school. I decided to write about this because we had considered moving to New York, which is my home state, and possibly raising our family there, that is until I read the New York State home education requirements. The point is, if you do decide to move to a new place, and if you plan to home educate your kids, be sure to find out the home education regulations beforehand.
In many places home education is a legal option for parents who wish to provide their children with a different learning environment than exists in nearby schools. The motivations for home education range from a dissatisfaction with the schools in their area to the desire for better academic test results. It is also an alternative for families living in isolated rural locations and those who choose, for practical or personal reasons, not to have their children attend school.

Home education is often considered to be synonymous with homeschooling, but some have argued that the latter term implies the re-creation of school in the context of the home. I am from this school, excuse the pun, of thought and apparently so is the New York State Department of Education. John Taylor Gatto, a former New York City schoolteacher, is a strong proponent of homeschooling, and has wrote a great deal about the subject. Although I respect his work immensely, I always questioned his use of the term "homeschooling" in his works. I believe "home education" to be a much more accurate term, and considerably more descriptive of what learning at home is supposed to be all about.
Home education, in the true sense, puts students ultimately in control of their own education. Students choose how, when, why, and what they pursue. Parents act as "facilitators," providing a wide range of resources, helping their children access, navigate, and make sense of the world, and aiding them in making and implementing goals and plans for both the distant and immediate future.

I dropped out of school at age 15 in New York State. I now am now living on a small island called Tanegashma, close to mainland Japan, with my wife Akiko and our two sons, Shai and Lael, who are both being home educated. We made the decision to move back to America this year, a touch decision, details of which are not relevant to this discussion. Our plan is to return to San Diego, California where I own a home in a nice area of the city, or move back to my hometown of Buffalo, New York, again the details are irrelevant. The point is, when I looked at the New York State Department of Education, DOE, home education regulations, I was appalled. The regulations are basically an extension of everything required in the schools....hardly allowing the freedom of education normally associated with a home education program. Needless to say, our decision to return to New York States has now changed. We plan to stay in California, where our boys can continue their home education studies, more or less unregulated.

For all of you planning to home education you kids, realize that all states, and their regulations, are not created equal....BEWARE.

The full text of the New York State home education regulations follows along with my feelings about these ridiculous standards, shown in gray print. The New York State DOE is effectively pushing parents to keep their kids in school. They are not changing with the times and not revising these outdated regulations.
(effective July 1, 1988)

The educational standards certainly have changed a great deal in the United States, both at the state and national levels over the last 30 years, yet the home education regulations of New York State DOE continue to remain unchanged since 1988. In 2005, there were a few revisions made, however, these changes applied mostly to obtaining a high school degree and college entrance. No changes were made to the home education reporting requirements nor to the standardized, required curriculum. Why is that?
100.10. Home instruction.

(a) Purpose of section.

The purpose of this section is to establish procedures to assist school authorities in fulfilling their responsibility under Education Law sections 3204(2) and 3210(2)(d) and in meeting their responsibility of determining the competency of the instructor and substantial equivalence of instruction being provided at home to students of compulsory school attendance age, and to assist parents who exercise their right to provide required instruction at home to such students in fulfilling their responsibilities under Education Law section 3212(2).

New York State continues to require the instruction being provided at home to be substantially equivalent to students of compulsory school attendance age. This takes away the whole concept of home education, which is to put students ultimately in control of their own education.

(b) Notice of intention to instruct at home.

(1) Except as otherwise provided in paragraphs (2) and (3) of this subdivision, parents or other persons in parental relation to a student of compulsory school attendance age shall annually provide written notice to the superintendent of schools of their school district of residence of their intention to educate their child at home by July first of each school year. The school year begins July first and ends June thirtieth for all purposes within this section. In the case of the City School District of the City of New York, the school district of residence for students who, if enrolled in the public schools, would attend elementary school, intermediate school or junior high school in a community school district shall be deemed to be the community school district in which the parents reside.

Since annual reporting is required in many states, and since this has no affect on the actual process of home education, this regulation is basically acceptable.

(2) Parents who determine to commence home instruction after the start of the school year, or who establish residence in the school district after the start of the school year, shall provide written notice of their intention to educate their child at home within fourteen (14) days following the commencement of home instruction within the school district.

Again, another reporting regulation which has no bearing on the process of home education....basically acceptable.

(3) For the 1988-89 school year only, the written notice of intention to instruct at home required in paragraph (1) of this subdivision shall be due on August 1, 1988.

(c) Procedures for development and review of an individualized home instruction plan (IHIP).

(1) Within ten (10) business days of the receipt of the notice of intention to instruct at home, the school district shall send to the parents a copy of section 100.10 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education and a form on which to submit an individualized home instruction plan (IHIP) for each child of compulsory attendance age who is to be taught at home.

The individualized home instruction plan, or IHIP, is designed to force New York State DOE core education standards on home educators....this is unacceptable.

(2) Within four (4) weeks of the receipt of such materials, or by August fifteenth, or for the 1988-89 school year by September 15, 1988, whichever is later, the parent shall submit the completed IHIP form to the school district. The district shall provide assistance in preparation of the forms, if requested by the parents.

Again, a home instruction plan designed to force New York State DOE core standards on home educators....unacceptable.

(3) Within ten (10) business days of receipt of the IHIP, or by August thirty-first, or for the 1988-89 school year by September 30, 1988, whichever is later, the school district shall either notify the parents that the IHIP complies with the requirements of subdivisions (d) and (e) of this section or shall give the parents written notice of any deficiency in the IHIP.

There should be no need for compliance with any DOE requirements as this takes away the freedom of choice associated with home education.

(4) Within fifteen (15) days of receipt of a notice of a deficiency in the IHIP, or by September fifteenth, or for the 1988-89 school year by October 15, 1988, whichever is later, the parents shall submit a revised IHIP which corrects any such deficiencies.

More government control over the education of our kids.

(5) The superintendent of schools shall review the revised IHIP and shall notify the parents as to whether the revised IHIP complies with subdivisions (d) and (e) of this section within fifteen (15) days of receipt of the revised IHIP or by September thirtieth, or for the 1988-89 school year by October 31, 1988, whichever is later. If the revised IHIP is determined not to be in compliance with subdivisions (d) and (e) of this section, then the parents shall be notified in writing of the reasons for such determination. Such notice shall also contain the date of the next regularly scheduled meeting of the board of education that will be held at least ten (10) days after the mailing of the notice, and shall indicate that if the parents wish to contest the determination of noncompliance, the parents must so notify the board of education at least three (3) business days prior to such meeting. At such board meeting, the parents shall have the right to present proof of compliance, and the board of education shall make a final determination of compliance or noncompliance.

And even more government control over the education of our kids.

(6) The parents shall have the right to appeal any such final school district determination of noncompliance to the Commissioner of Education within thirty (30) days after receipt of such determination.

The parents have the right to appeal the criminal allegations against them for not complying with the DOE imposed curriculum.

(7) When administrative review of a school district determination of noncompliance is completed, the parents shall immediately provide for the instruction of their children at a public school or elsewhere in compliance with Education Law sections 3204 and 3210. For purposes of this subdivision, such administrative review shall be deemed to be completed when one of the following events have occurred:

Do what they say or you will be forced to send your kids to school or move to another state or country. America, the land of the free?

     (i) the parents have failed to contest a determination of noncompliance by appealing to the board of education; or

     (ii) the parents have failed to appeal a final school district determination of noncompliance to the Commissioner of Education; or

     (iii) the parents have received a decision of the Commissioner of Education which upholds a final school district determination of noncompliance.

(8) Within ten (10) days after administrative review of the determination of noncompliance is completed, the parents shall furnish the superintendent of schools with written notice of the arrangements they have made to provide their children with the required instruction, except that such notice shall not be required if the parents enroll their children in a public school.

Do what they want and they will leave you alone.

(d) Content of Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP).

Each child's IHIP shall contain:

     (1) the child's name, age, and grade level;

None of their business.

     (2) a list of the syllabi, curriculum materials, textbooks, or plan of instruction to be used in each of the required subjects listed in subdivision (e) of this section;

None of their concern.

     (3) the dates for submission to the school district of the parents' quarterly reports as required in subdivision (g) of this section. These reports shall be spaced in even and logical periods;

Filing quarterly reports? At this point, the DOE should pay home educators the same salary as a N.Y. State licensed school teacher.

     (4) the names of the individuals providing instruction; and

Difficult to include the names of everyone in the World, in other words, the individuals who could potentially provide information and instruction to your kids in one form or another.

     (5) a statement that the child will be meeting the compulsory educational requirements of Education Law section 3205 through full-time study at a degree-granting institution, meaning enrollment for at least 12 semester hours in a semester or its equivalent, if that is the case. In this situation, the IHIP shall identify the degree-granting institution and the subjects to be covered by that study.

This is no longer home education.

(e) Required courses.

(1) For purposes of this subdivision, a unit means six thousand four hundred eighty (6,480) minutes of instruction per school year.

A requirement for a prescribed number of hours of study. Is this still considered home education?

(2) Instruction in the following subjects shall be required:

     (i) For grades one through six: arithmetic, reading, spelling, writing, the English language, geography, United States history, science, health education, music, visual arts, physical education, bilingual education and/or English as a second language where the need is indicated.

Um wait a minute, my sons are Jewish and half Japanese, with family who are Canadian and emigrated from Russia. My oldest son wants to spend his time studying Jewish culture and Japanese history. These things are not on the list and undoubtedly not on the N.Y. State DOE standardized tests....what to do?

     (ii) For grades seven and eight: English (two units); history and geography (two units); science (two units); mathematics (two units); physical education (on a regular basis); health education (on a regular basis); art (one-half unit); music (one-half unit); practical arts (on a regular basis) and library skills (on a regular basis). The units required herein are cumulative requirements for both grades seven and eight.

While reading the above requirements, keep in mind the DOE considers a unit to be six thousand four hundred eighty (6,480) minutes of instruction per school year. My oldest son loves math and science but has absolutely no interest in art or music, yet he is required to engage in the study of those subjects at least 3,240 minutes per year? And library skills, basically unnecessary with the advent of computers and the Internet. Besides the Dewey Decimal System can easily be taught in an hour.

     (iii) The following courses shall be taught at least once during the first eight grades: United States history, New York State history, and the Constitutions of the United States and New York State.

Um but my oldest son is interested in the history of Canada and the Canadian constitution, and plans to go to college in California eventually.

     (iv) For grades nine through twelve: English (four units); social studies (four units) which includes one unit of American history, one-half unit in participation in government, and one-half unit economics; mathematics (two units); science (two units); art and/or music (one unit); health education (one-half unit); physical education (two units); and three units of electives. The units required herein are cumulative requirements for grades nine through twelve.

At this point all coursework should be on an elective basis.

     (v) Education Law sections 801, 804, 806, and 808 also require the following subjects to be covered during grades kindergarten through twelve:

         (a) Patriotism and citizenship;

WTF my son is not applying for a green card.

         (b) health education regarding alcohol, drug and tobacco misuse;

Um okay about the tobacco, a disgusting habit, and the drug misuse, since the use of recreational drugs are inherently bad. The alcohol thing might be a little tough to sell, since both my wife and I love to drink wine.

         (c) highway safety and traffic regulation, including bicycle safety; and

I agree with this requirement.

         (d) fire and arson prevention and safety.

And this.

(f) Attendance requirements.

Each child shall attend upon instruction as follows:

     (1) The substantial equivalent of one hundred eighty (180) days of instruction shall be provided each school year.

Yeah sure.

     (2) The cumulative hours of instruction for grades one through six shall be nine hundred (900) hours per year. The cumulative hours of instruction for grades seven through twelve shall be nine hundred ninety (990) hours per year.

Again, yeah sure.

     (3) Absences shall be permitted on the same basis as provided in the policy of the school district for its own students.

Hey fantastic regulation. This means my son can stay home from home.

     (4) Records of attendance shall be maintained by the parent and shall be made available to the school district upon request.

Welcome to the New York State Militarized Department of Education.

     (5) Instruction provided at a site other than the primary residence of the parents shall be provided in a building which has not been determined to be in violation of the local building code.

Oh no, we forgot to install a smoke detector in the hallway. Does the New York State DOE actually perform an on site inspection of every home?

(g) Quarterly reports.

On or before the dates specified by the parent in the IHIP, a quarterly report for each child shall be furnished by the parent to the school district. The quarterly report shall contain the following:

     (1) the number of hours of instruction during said quarter;

More reporting.

     (2) a description of the material covered in each subject listed in the IHIP;

None of your business. Let children design their own study program.

     (3) either a grade for the child in each subject or a written narrative evaluating the child's progress; and

Hey funny but my son already received an "A" for each grade level through high school. So some parents actually give their kids anything less than an "A" grade?

     (4) a written explanation in the event that less than eighty percent of the amount of the course materials as set forth in the IHIP planned for that quarter has been covered in any subject.

Yes of course folks are going to waste valuable study time keeping exact percentage records and then be stupid enough to provide a written explanation stating their own child did not meet the DOE requirements.

(h) Annual assessment.

At the time of filing the fourth quarterly report as specified in the IHIP, the parent shall also file an annual assessment in accordance with this subdivision. The annual assessment shall include the results of a commercially published norm-referenced achievement test which meets the requirements of paragraph (1) of this subdivision or an alternative form of evaluation which meets the requirements of paragraph (2) of this subdivision.

You must be kidding right?

     (1) Commercially published norm-referenced achievement tests.

         (i) The test shall be selected by the parent from one of the following: the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the California Achievement Test, the Stanford Achievement Test, the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills, the Metropolitan Achievement Test, a State Education Department test, or another test approved by the State Education Department.

Since these regulations were put in place in 1988, do these tests even still exist?

         (ii) The test shall be administered in accordance with one of the following options, to be selected by the parents:

             (a) at the public school, by its professional staff; or

Hmmmm, same as being in school.

             (b) at a registered nonpublic school, by its professional staff, provided that the consent of the chief school officer of the nonpublic school is obtained; or

Ah Chief School Officer.

             (c) at a nonregistered nonpublic school, by its professional staff, provided that the consent of the superintendent of schools of the school district and of the chief school officer of the nonpublic school is obtained; or

Um, nonregistered nonpublic school. Hey how about changing this to a nontest?

             (d) at the parents' home or at any other reasonable location, by a New York State certified teacher or by another qualified person, provided that the superintendent has consented to having said certified teacher or other person administer the test.

Would a local winery be considered a reasonable location?

         (iii) The test shall be scored by the persons administering the test or by other persons who are mutually agreeable to the parents and the superintendent of schools.

What a relief, I certainly was hoping it was not going to be persons who are mutually disagreeable.

         (iv) the test shall be provided by the school district upon request by the parent, provided that the cost of any testing facilities, transportation, and/or personnel for testing conducted at a location other than the public school shall be borne by the parent.

But wait, since everything else is just like being in school, then it seems appropriate that the DOE bears the costs of these tests.

         (v) If a score on a test is determined to be inadequate, the program shall be placed on probation pursuant to subdivision (i) of this section. A student's score shall be deemed adequate if:

Again on probation for the terrible crime of not performing to the DOE standards.

             (a) the student has a composite score above the thirty-third percentile on national norms; or

Why not make it an even 30% or 20% or 10% or why not throw this garbage out altogether.

             (b) the student's score reflects one academic year of growth as compared to a test administered during or subsequent to the prior school year.

Please define quantitatively the meaning of the word growth.

     (2) Alternative evaluation methods. An alternative form of evaluation shall be permitted to be chosen by the parent only as follows:

         (i) for grades one through three a written narrative prepared by a person specified in subparagraph (iii) of this paragraph;

Does it really need to be a person?

         (ii) for grades four through eight a written narrative prepared by a person specified in subparagraph (iii) of this paragraph. This alternative form of evaluation may be used no more often than every other school year for these grades;

Aw, I wanted to use this every year.

         (iii) for the purposes of this paragraph, the person who prepares the written narrative shall be a New York State certified teacher, a home instruction peer group review panel, or other person, who has interviewed the child and reviewed a portfolio of the child's work. Such person shall certify either that the child has made adequate academic progress or that the child has failed to make adequate progress. In the event that such child has failed to make adequate progress, the home instruction program shall be placed on probation pursuant to subdivision (i) of this section. The certified teacher, peer review panel, or other person shall be chosen by the parent with the consent of the superintendent. Any resulting cost shall be borne by the parent.

Oh no, probation again. And I need to pay the resulting costs?

     (3) If a dispute arises between the parents and the superintendent of schools, including disputes over the administration of the commercially published norm-referenced achievement test or the use of alternative evaluation methods, the parents may appeal to the board of education. If the parents disagree with the determination of the board of education, the parents may appeal to the Commissioner of Education within thirty (30) days of receipt of the board's final determination.

The Commissioner of Education, whoa, and if this appeal is unsuccessful, then maybe Betsy Devos, and then maybe Trump, and then maybe....

(i) Probation.

(1) If a child's annual assessment fails to comply with the requirements of subdivision (h) of this section, the home instruction program shall be placed on probation for a period of up to two school years. The parent shall be required to submit a plan of remediation which addresses the deficiencies in the child's achievement, and seeks to remedy said deficiencies. The plan shall be reviewed by the school district. The school district may require the parents to make changes in the plan prior to acceptance.

Placed on probation, plan of remediation, deficiencies in achievement, plan review....can you make education any more demoralizing?

(2) If after the end of any semester of the probationary period the child progresses to the level specified in the remediation plan, then the home instruction program shall be removed from probation. If the child does not attain at least seventy-five percent of the objectives specified in the remediation plan at the end of any given semester within the period of probation, or if after two years on probation one hundred percent of the objectives of the remediation plan have not been satisfied, the superintendent of schools shall provide the parents with the notice specified in paragraph (5) of subdivision (c) of this section and the board of education shall review the determination of noncompliance in accordance with such paragraph, except that consent of the parents to such review shall not be required.

You guys must be so tired of writing these regulations at this point.

(3) If during the period of probation the superintendent of schools has reasonable grounds to believe that the program of home instruction is in substantial noncompliance with these regulations the superintendent may require one or more home visits. Such home visit(s) shall be made only after three days' written notice. The purpose of such visit(s) shall be to ascertain areas of noncompliance with these regulations and to determine methods of remediating any such deficiencies. The home visit(s) shall be conducted by the superintendent or by the superintendent's designee. The superintendent may include members of a home instruction peer review panel in the home visit team.

A couple of questions come to mind:

Does reasonable grounds pertain to the coffee beans being used at Starbucks for their new line of cappuchinno coffees?

Hey if we relocate to Western New York, does this mean the Buffalo Bills will come to visit us in our home since they represent the home team....oh you said home visit team, not home team visit.

Well that certainly was enough sarcasm for one day. No kidding though, we were totally willing to deal with the snow and cold temperatures, and with the excessively high property taxes, but cannot handle nor be subjected to, the archaic thinking of the New York State Department of Education. Their regulations destroy the entire concept of home education and the freedom inherent in this flexible style of learning. We are happy to stay in sunny California. Update: We moved to Japan....even better.
My Story

I was fortunate to grow up in Kenmore, a very small village north of, and adjacent to, Buffalo, New York. This was a very intimate community composed mainly of middle class folks whose primary concerns were raising their families and being happy.

I attended Charles A. Lindbergh elementary school from kindergarten until sixth grade. My many years at the school were fun, I had many friends, and I actually did learn a few things. Although it was not the same warm environment as home, it was acceptable at least at the beginning. As the years went on though, I found myself getting in trouble in class, mostly for being restless and talking too much. A typical day for me meant staying after school and writing on the blackboard....yes they were black back in the day...."I will not talk in class" 300 times. The teachers always seemed to pick 300 times as the penalty for some reason, almost like it was a mandate from the New York State Department of Education. My friends were already home and playing football in the street, while I was forced into complying with this punishment imposed on me simply because my behavior was "disruptive" to the class.

No consideration was given then as to why I was behaving in this manner and unable to control myself. No one bothered to realize I was bored out of my mind and was able to comprehend the materials being taught in a quarter of the time it took the teacher to teach them. As I progressed towards sixth grade, the problem became more pronounced, and I found myself unable to abide by the strict controls being place on me and my desire to learn at a faster speed.

Then came middle school and an even more structured environment. More rules, more requirements, more restrictions, and of course, more penalties for deviant behavior. Couple this with a much more hierarchical social structure, and middle school simply became intolerable for me. Every day I watched as my formally innocent elementary school friends changed, and began showing a blatant disregard for authority, growing apathy towards studying and learning in general, and even worse, a demoralized attitude towards their future in American society and the World.

Enough was enough already. I began to get stomach cramps and was nauseous every day on the way to school. The symptoms worsened until the point I was hospitalized for a week to ascertain if there was some physiological reason for my discomfort. After a lot of testing, it was determined my manifestations were psychological, at which time the student counselor appointed a psychologist to ascertain my "problem", come up with a diagnosis, and find a solution. After being subjected to numerous psychological tests, including IQ where I scored extremely high, I was eventually labeled with the term "school phobia", at which time the school allowed me to drop out and study at home until I could get my head together.

This was a new situation for such a small village....a kid who was not bad, but simply could not handle, and did not want to go to school. The concept of home education did not exist then....I was simply a kid who did not fit the public school system. The stories about me began to circulate in town and went from, I was stealing cars, to chronic drug use....BTW I never used drugs to this day, not even cannibis, though I am an avid wine aficionado. The truth was, I stayed home every day watching "Days of Our Lives", a daytime soap opera, spent time studying, and in the afternoon played street football with my friends once they escaped from school for the day.

The school continued to put pressure on me to return to class, and at age 15, I decided to remove myself from school. The legal age to drop out of school in New York State was 16 at that time, and in fact, is still the same as of this writing. Since I was still 15 years old, the state would not allow me to quit school. When I would not comply with their demand to return, New York State took me to court. I can still vividly remember standing in the courtroom, my legs shaking in front of the judge, and being forced to defend myself for the crime of not wanting to go to school. The judge pulled out every trick in the book, including intimidation stating that if I decided not to return to school, he could and would order me to serve time in a Juvenile Detention Center, AKA Juvy, which is effectively a secure prison or jail for persons under the age of majority, who commit crimes....LIKE NOT GOING TO SCHOOL. I said to the judge, "do what you need to do, but I am not returning to school", and with that the case was dismissed.

I was fortunate and thankful my parents supported me 100 percent and were able to convince the school and the state to allow me to leave school permanently. I eventually took the GED, the high school diploma equivalency exam, and began attending night school at the State University of New York at Buffalo at the age of 17, a year before my high school graduating class. A few years later, I moved to California, graduated from San Diego State University with a business degree, and went to work as a real estate appraiser, eventually owning a very successful appraisal firm in San Diego. After retiring at age 40, I returned to college, obtained an English teaching TEFL certificate, completed a two year associates degree program in Japanese studies, and moved to Japan where I met my wife Akiko. We are now residing on a beautiful subtropical island called Tanegashima in Japan, with our three sons Shai, Lael, and Ethan, who are all being happily home educated.
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