As parents, we need to know what rights we have in our local district. I received misinformation when we started on our journey. When my kids were in public school, we didn’t receive many services. Trying to get help in our district is tough, whether enrolled in the school system or homeschooled. That being said, all districts have their own policies, but all fall under the IDEA laws.
According to the IDEA laws, we can ask for services even if homeschooling. Testing is one of those services. The first time I called our district to get help for my daughter, they wanted her to be enrolled as a full-time attending student. I didn’t know then that is due to IDEA money allotment. A school district is required to use 20% of their federal money for private (homeschool fits in that category) students. Then districts use that for testing or other services. I didn’t pursue services at that time, but a year later paid for private testing.
7 Tips for Using the Public School Testing Option
If you do decide to ask your school district for help, keep these following tips in mind.
Know Your State Laws
Once the district receives a written request for testing, many states require they respond within a specific number of days. In Texas where I live, once the district receives a request for testing, they have 30 days to respond. Other states have different guidelines, and unfortunately, some also have long waiting lists. It is best to learn your specific state laws before you begin so you know exactly what to expect. HSLDA has a comprehensive page to help you understand state-specific laws related to special education and homeschooling.
Be Ready to Advocate
Some districts require proof of need. If a child is homeschooled, they don’t have a teacher (that works for the district) to confirm that testing is needed. Some districts ask parents to jump through hoops at this point to get testing.
All Testers are Not Equal
If your child has high anxiety or other social or emotional needs, some testers do not take as much time to ensure your child feels comfortable. It’s crucial for your child to feel comfortable before testing begins. If your child seems overly stressed, and the tester’s environment or personality is not helping, I would advise rescheduling. Even if it means losing the opportunity to test with the district. An inaccurate test session is worse than no test session at all.
Diet and Rest Make a Difference
Make sure your child is rested and well-fed with food that is high in protein and low in sugar before testing. No sugary cereal or drive through greasy meals, go for things like eggs, bacon, cheese, yogurt, or fruit.
Ease Testing Anxiety
The way you discuss testing with your child will help with their anxiety. I explain that it’s not like a regular test where you get a grade with the possibility to fail, but it’s a series of activities to tell us how their brain works. I explain that God created all of us with strengths and weaknesses and these activities will tell us exactly where they excel and where they struggle.
Institutionalized Schooling Bias
Unfortunately, there is a catch phrase that is sometimes used with homeschooled kids when they are tested by an “unfriendly to homeschooling” diagnostician. It states that there is not enough information, and any low scores may be “due to a lack of teaching”. This phrase can also be used for students who miss a lot of school, so it’s not just for homeschoolers; however, it sure does feel that way when it’s in your child’s report!
Data Never Lies
There is good news – the most important data is NOT what the diagnostician says, but what the numbers tell us. If you do get the dreaded phrase of “lack of teaching,” the numbers will still tell the real story. You can take the results to someone familiar with reading test scores and find out what they think about the results. My gift to SPED homeschool is reading one test report a month free of charge. If you want to find out what your test scores mean and what you can do to help your child succeed – contact me.
The school district you live in might recognize a reason to test your child, or they might turn you down. But they are required, by law, to look at each case. Before we homeschooled, we asked if they would test my daughter, and we were denied. The teacher requested it, but there was not enough reason according to the school’s diagnostician. It’s not a given that they will test, but you can always ask. No matter what the attitude towards homeschooling in your district, don’t give up hope. You can find the resources you need and we at SPED Homeschool are here to help. Connect with us today!