It was a field trip of sorts for the Stowell family Tuesday.
"It's a way to show what we do every day. Our kids are part of life... that's how they learn," Jen Higgins-Stowell said.
The mom who home-schools her kids brought them to Vermont's Board of Education meeting in Stowe.
The Stowells' were one of many home-schooling families in the audience as a protest. They are concerned about changes to the enrollment policy outlined in a recent memo from Vermont's Education Commissioner.
"It's only limiting home schooling; it's not limiting private schooling. It's singling out home schooling and limiting who can have access to that," Higgins-Stowell said.
The new policy requires parents to notify the state by Labor Day if they intend to home-school their children. Home-school advocates say the change creates a situation that may prevent parents from enrolling their kids if they miss deadline, with no way to appeal.
"If the commissioner won't accept an enrollment notice, you can't get the department to call a hearing because the enrollment doesn't exist," said Retta Dunlap a home school advocate.
Dunlap says the Labor Day deadline is arbitrary and that parents should be able to enroll kids in home school at any time.
"We're simply asking that the right of the parent be respected," Dunlap said.
The new policy also says no new enrollments for home-schooling can be made after March 1, something alarming to parents who say they need to have the ability to home-school kids midyear because of problems like bullying.
"The memo would have prevented me and my husband from doing what we thought was best for our kids at that point-- to gets kids out of the school," said Susan Nop, a home-school parent.
The Vt. Education Department says the commissioner's memo is aimed only at trying to stop extreme cases of truancy in home-schoolers.
"This memo is only intended to clarify those cases that are true truancy cases... where kids have been found to be completely off the charts. It's not just educationally, but in terms of neglectful situations... as opposed to a choice on behalf of the kids made by parents who have the best interest of the kids in mind," said Mark Oettinger of the Vt. Education Department.
Education officials say there will be flexibility to the deadline in some rare cases.
Home-schoolers want to have a series of forums with the education commissioner, setting a Nov. 1 deadline for the meetings. Otherwise, they say they'll be back in front of the board of education again.
The commissioner's office says they see home-schoolers as a critical group in Vermont's education and that they will work to set up a time to meet.
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