Homeschooling info and related background check needed.
April 10, 2006 10:22 AM   Subscribe

Home schooling info and related background check needed.

My 11 year old daughter has been having trouble with social anxiety. As a result, my ex-wife, with whom our daughter lives, has once again (third time) pulled her from school without discussing the issue with me. This time she has made arrangments for a woman she knows to homeshool our daughter along with her own children. I know many people who have successfully been homeschooled and have successfully homeschooled their children. I am a little reticent about the idea considering the last time my ex did this she tried to homeschool our duaghter herself. That was useless; our daughter ended up being her own teacher when she was at her mother's house.

Can you give advice on what questions I should be asking, things I should know and variables I should consider.

Also, I have decided that I need to run a background check on our daughter's new teacher. What do I need to do this? I have the woman's name, phone number, address and social security number. Can you recommend a reputable service to do this? The services that I've found so far via internet search seem a little dodgy to say the least.
posted by anonymous to Education (8 answers total)
You'll have to get her to sign something to release her credit/employment history. As far as what, if any, heinous crimes she has committed, you'll need an autograph on that too. But as far as what form you need, you might see if you have a company called "We the People" near you, they offer legal documents that I believe you fill in the blanks on.
posted by bilabial at 11:17 AM on April 10, 2006

One thing to check is the homeschool related law in your ex's state of residence. Homeschool laws very by state, and a disinterested 3rd party as the primary teacher may not be legal in all 50 states. Homeschooling for a kid with social anxiety issues may be just the ticket - just be sure she is following the rules. You don't want to end up in court fighting a truancy charge over a misunderstanding of what is and isn't allowed.
posted by COD at 12:25 PM on April 10, 2006

Keep in mind that the records checks, while worthwhile, aren't a substitute for talking directly to personal and professional references. While many employers will give you only minimal info because of liability concerns, there are a minority who are comfortable being candid in their praise and/or criticisms, so don't assume it'd be a waste of time to make the calls. Also, personal references usually have less qualms. On principle, any personal reference that isn't unhesitatingly glowing should warn you to look deeper.

If she's ever taught (homeschool or otherwise) any other kids that aren't her own, contact those parents too. After all, the goal is to establish both that your child will be physically safe AND intellectually stimulated under her watch.

Can you give advice on what questions I should be asking, things I should know and variables I should consider.

You know what questions are in your heart. Write down what you really want to know, without censoring for political correctness or propriety. After you've unloaded it all, you can edit if necessary. But don't be afraid of asking the direct, uncomfortable questions. ("Have you ever been arrested?") Don't be afraid to ask the "stupid" obvious questions either. ("Have you ever taught this grade level before?") Listen not only for the factual contents of the answers, but also for cues about shared values. For instance, do her responses affirm the validity of your concerns/interest as parent, or does she dispute the relevance/appropriateness of inquiries?

Let's say the good news is that she's a terrifically qualified teacher and very responsible caregiver. Great. But do her priorities and choice of curriculum support the values and goals being set at home? There's a lot to be learned from discussing an educator's philosophical orientation. What is her stance on disciplinary methods? -Amounts of homework? -Sex education? -Lecture format vs. experiential learning? -Evolution and Big Bang vs. Intelligent Design? -School/life balance? -College preparation and AP-tracking? -Dealing with the social anxiety? Etc.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:26 PM on April 10, 2006

Former homeschool parent here. I'd check to see what types of curriculum the other parent is using, and making sure there were some kind of social outlets for your child (sports, extracurriculars, homeschool kid field trips, etc.)

Is it possible for you to at least meet and talk with this woman?
posted by konolia at 12:29 PM on April 10, 2006

Being homeschooled myself, I must speak out in favour of the child being her own teacher to a large degree. Children are naturally curious and want to learn; in many cases, if the caregiver is there to provide encouragement and support, the child will learn more and be happier doing it than in a situation where the child is being "taught" things. My parents' approach to my schooling was very hands-off until I expressed an interest in something, at which point they were happy to help me explore it.

I obviously don't know the details of your situation or that of your daughter, so I don't know to what degree what I'm saying applies, but I think it's worth considering that homeschooling doesn't have to involve much of what's traditionally thought of as "schooling" or "teaching" in order for the child to receive an education.
posted by louigi at 12:31 PM on April 10, 2006

If your daughter has problems with social anxiety, make sure she is getting enough social contact with people her own age. In my experience with social anxiety, the solution is usually to get more social contact, not less.
posted by lemur at 1:31 PM on April 10, 2006

I agree with COD. Here in MA, we have to apply for permission to homeschool from the town school superintendent. The requirements in my town are different from the towns on either side of me. I know on our application we need to state who the teachers will be (I list myself and my husband) and what we intend to teach with what resources. If your town or state has similar requirements, I think you would have a legal right to see the documents your wife submitted to the school/town/Ed dept.

I have suffered from social anxiety all my life, and think I would have benefited from homeschooling. I also allow my children to have a great deal of flexibility in their education. So on the face of it, I see the situation being beneficial for your daughter. You know the mother and her abilities better than we do, though. If you are truly concerned about this, ask her for copies of her ed plan, and ask the school or whoever to copy you on any correspondence relating to your daughter's schooling.

If you want, email me with your location and I will see what info I can dig up on homeschooling requirements.
posted by Biblio at 2:47 PM on April 10, 2006

If you want to do the background check, an easy way to do it is searching for "nanny background check." Even though she's not being hired to be nanny, she will constantly be around your child and you can still use the service to get criminal records, driving records, sex offender searches, etc. I have been hired as a household manager and as a nanny and both of my previous employers used I had a clean record, but one employer said they did get a few hits from a previous applicant for past DWI's.
posted by Ugh at 9:31 PM on April 10, 2006

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