Thursday, May 20, 2010

Letter to the Superintendant....

2009-2010 IHIP for Jeremiah Foster Burton
DOB 9/02/01 age 8 Grade 3

In accordance with our goals that our children will remain passionate and inquisitive independent learners; that they will have the drive and ability to explore personal areas of interest; that they will be able to form well-considered opinions; and that they will be able to defend or alter positions as new understanding emerges, we have given Jeremiah the latitude and freedom to develop his own passions and abilities with parental guidance and support.

English (Reading, Writing, Penmanship, and Spelling)

We will continue to support Jeremiah as he pursues his various interests in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, plays, and other written forms; as he strengthens his confidence and ability to communicate via the written word, to provide ample opportunities for reading, writing, and the exploration of the English language through literature and dramatic performances, both live and recorded.


We will continue to support Jeremiah as he pursues his passion for numbers, codes, geometry, beginning algebra, fractions, decimals, percentages, and graphing. We will provide a wide range of real-life opportunities to hone existing skills and develop new ones, including manipulatives, computing devices, puzzles, computer gaming, budgeting, purchasing, and other forms of calculating, assorted building toys, measuring devices, and construction materials.


We will continue to support Jeremiah’s intense fascination with science through visits to science museums and exhibits; ample time to explore his backyard and various other natural surroundings; computer gaming, documentaries, books, and children’s programming in areas of particular interest: biology, electricity, magnetism, simple machines, chemistry, archaeology, space exploration, nanoscience, and geology; access to lab kits; and to facilitate his independent experimentation as needed.

Social Sciences

We will continue to feed Jeremiah’s curiosity about world, American, and New York State history; other times; and other cultures through museums and exhibits; local and recorded cultural and historical events; historical fiction and nonfiction titles; explorations of assorted maps, atlases, and globes; computer gaming; documentaries and children’s programming. We will support his ongoing interest in Native American, early colonial and American history, westward expansion; ancient civilizations; vintage cartoons; current happenings; and world cultures. We will assist Jeremiah in his independent charitable activities.

Visual Arts/Music

Jeremiah will continue to have the free use of various artistic media, including: paints and inks, both manufactured and self-created; drawing materials; assorted tactile materials; musical instruments; costumes and puppets; recorded audio and visual performances; museums, galleries, and local live performances and exhibits; computer gaming; children’s programming and documentaries; building materials; puzzles; and art books.

Physical Education

Jeremiah will continue to have the freedom to choose a wide variety of indoor and outdoor pursuits, including: swimming; biking; hiking and camping; playgrounds and parks; group activities; obstacle courses; and access to the YMCA. We will support him in learning to make informed and balanced choices in food, rest, and exercise. As Jeremiah’s independence is growing rapidly, we will continue our frequent discussions regarding traffic, fire, home, stranger, drug, and computer safety, as well as respond to his interest and concerns regarding sexuality as they continue to develop.

Bilingual Arts

Jeremiah enjoys exploring other languages in both written and oral form, largely through computer gaming, children’s programming, or in live performances. He will continue to have free access to Japanese, French, and Spanish tutorial DVD-ROMs, literature, music, and performances that contain other languages he finds intriguing.

Attendance and Quarterly Reports

As learning happens all day, every day, regardless of location or circumstances, Jeremiah will be in attendance ever day, unless otherwise noted. His parents will facilitate learning by providing resources, answering questions, introducing new possibilities, and ensuring he has the time, space, and freedom to explore topics of interest with as much depth and breadth as he desires.

Quarterly reports will be submitted on or around November 1, February 1, May 1, and July 1. An end-of-year narrative will be submitted on or around August 1.

Please feel free to check our family blog, The Unfettered Life, at
for details of Jeremiah’s day-to-day learning adventures!


To clear up any confusion, I have rewritten Jeremiah's quarterly as a bulleted list, without specific focus on games and activities. Here is the result.

English Language Arts -

* Vocabulary Building
* Reading and Comprehension
* Print and Screen Reading
* Oral Reading
* Internet Navigation/ Online Writing
* Keyboard and Manual Writing

Resources include: library visits; environmental reading; books,magazines, and manuals; computer with Internet access; board and video games; educational television; family interaction.

Mathematics -

* Fractions
* Multiplication/Division
* Budgeting for Long-Range and Short-Range Purchases
* Bartering
* Banking
* Spending/Comparison Shopping
* Cantilevering
* Foreign Coins (Yen, Franc, Irish Pence)
* Two and Three Dimensional Geometric Building
* Lines, Angles, and Vectors
* Negative Numbers/Infinity

Resources include: handling, saving, and spending real money; real-world calculations; computer with Internet access; manipulatives; video games; charts, graphs, and number lines; Youtube tutorials; educational programming; building materials; books; environmental math; and family interaction.

Science -

* Evolution
* Archaeology
* Paleontology
* Prehistoric and Ancient Creatures
* Space
* Volcanology (Mount Vesuvius)
* Natural Disasters (Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Tornadoes, Hurricanes)
* Ocean Life
* African Wildlife
* Life Cycles
* Scientific Method
* Independent Experimentation
* Ecology
* Genus/Species Names
* Animal Families
* Physics
* Space/Time Travel/Extraterrestrial Life (hypothetical musings)
* Observation Skills (Rocks, Minerals, Tracks, Cattails, Local Wildlife)
* Glass Piano Demonstration and Experimentation
* Planning and Prototype Experiments

Resources include: Library visits; nature; pets; books,and magazines; Youtube videos; rocks and fossils; educational programming; video games; materials for independent exploration and experimentation; real-life experiences; demonstrations; computer with Internet access; and family interaction.

Social Sciences -

* Social Interaction with Various Ages(Toddler-Elderly) in a Wide Range of Situations
* Cartography( Mapreading) Skills
* Victorian Street Walk
* Mummer's Performance
* Pre-Automobile Architectural Features (Mounting Blocks and Hitching Posts)
* Traffic, Fire, and Dog Safety
* New York's Dutch Heritage
* European Settlement
* Current Events (Especially Haitian Earthquake and Iraq War)
* Japanese Culture
* Theology (Exploring Religious Thought)
* Ethics
* Mythology
* Martin Luther King Jr. ( Reports, commentary, and historical footage.)

Resources include: Books and magazines; educational programming; community and family activities; Youtube videos; computer with internet access, television and newspaper articles; family interaction.

Foreign Language Study -

* Japanese, Spanish, and French Exposure
* Swedish with English Subtitles
* Hebrew/Yiddish Exposure

Resources include: environmental exposure (subtitles, spoken languages); books and magazines; computer with Internet access; video games; educational programming; family interaction.

Visual and Performing Arts/Music -

* Rubber Band Instruments
* Glass Piano Exhibit and Experiment
* Anime
* Sculpture, Glass Art, and Painting Exhibits
* Mummers and Street Musicians
* Drumming/Dance
* Photography and Videography
* Pattern Block and Building Art
* Computer Animation (Scratch, MIT's Animation Game)
* Gingerbread House Construction/Meal Preparation

Resources include: Exhibits, community activities and events; viewing assorted works of art; digital camera; art and building materials; music recordings and instruments; computer with varied playlists and Internet access; family interaction.

Physical Education -

* Snow and Ice walking
* Indoor and Outdoor Obstacle Courses and Playspaces
* Fort Building
* Sledding
* Climbing
* Swimming
* Choices in Diet and Sleep/Listening to His Body
* Hygiene
* Traffic, Fire, Knife, and Stranger Safety

Resources include: indoor and outdoor play areas; nature areas; books; tools and play equipment.

Jeremiah has met at least 80% of the criteria set forth in his IHIP this quarter.

Jeremiah attended each day this quarter, for a total of 216 days, or approximately 1080 hours, this year. At this point, he has exceeded the state requirement of 180 days (or 900 hours).


Your letter prompted me to research the relevant points of the homeschooling laws. I have listed them here, point by point, along with an explanation of how we are meeting them or need to improve our performance.

Review of NYS homeschooling law Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education,
(e) required courses,
(2) instruction in the following courses 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.

A review of Jeremiah's revised quarterly report, previous reports, and IHIPs show clearly that he has/is covering these required areas, as well as pursuing other interests. He has preferred to avoid writing until recently, and that area is developing more slowly than others. We do see a greatly increased desire for writing and typing recently, as Jeremiah begins to find his own valid reasons to use writing as a personal tool.

(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.

At age seven, Jeremiah accompanied his family to Washington DC, where we toured the Capitol Building, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, viewed the Washington Monument and the White House, toured the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and visited briefly the Native American Museum. Jeremiah has covered topics in American history from pre-colonial times up to the moon landing, as well as being interested in how government works, voting, and current events.

We visit the New York State Museum in Albany several times each year. Favorite exhibits are NY wildlife, birds, NY Metropolis, 9/11 exhibit, longhouse, the A train, and the fire trucks. Locally, we have toured the Stillwater Blockhouse, spoken with Revolutionary War re-enactors during an encampment, visited Saratoga National Historical Park, and attended shows on the lawn of the Schuyler House. Jeremiah enjoys learning about New York's Dutch heritage, and we have frequently visited portions of the canal system, in addition to attending a performance of Erie Canal music and lore at the Waterford Harbor Visitor's Center at Erie Canal Lock 2. We have not yet explored the New York State Constitution.

(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;
(b) health education regarding alcohol, drug and tobacco use;
(c) highway safety and traffic regulation, including bicycle safety, and;
(d) fire and arson prevention and safety.

(a) Jeremiah and his sister have a fondness for Sousa marches, and we often view or listen to clips of important speeches by Presidents Obama, Kennedy, Clinton, and the words of Martin Luther King Jr. Jeremiah is familiar with the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem, as well as the etiquette for both. When we vote, the children accompany us, and we discuss the reasons why we are choosing as we do. We have discussed the meaning of the flag, as well as flag etiquette. We frequently clear litter from public places we visit, donate to causes we value, and have volunteered at a local food pantry and the Regional Food Bank.

(b) We speak often about these topics - legality, effects, dangers, the minimum age of legal use. We also choose to live a life without tobacco, and where alcohol is very rarely consumed in any amount.

(c) As we are on a variety of roads (our rural road, village streets in Stillwater and Waterford, small city roads in Clifton Park and Saratoga Springs, and busy city roads such as Madison Avenue by the Empire State Plaza in Albany, assorted streets in Washington, DC) regularly, in vehicles, and as pedestrians, and are beginning to bicycle on our road and in parking lots, we frequently have the opportunity to talk about and practice safety techniques in these situations. Jeremiah has been particularly safety-conscious since he was quite small, and understands the need for protective equipment and close attention in these situations.

(d) Again, Jeremiah's natural safety-consciousness means that he understands the dangers fire presents. We have a family fire plan, and Jeremiah has proven trustworthy around our woodstove and assorted campfires and cookstoves. We have discussed fire extinguishers, types of fires, and ways to protect oneself in a fire. He is familiar with the equipment firemen use, and we have toured fire stations fire trucks, and ambulances. He knows how to call 911 if there is an emergency, and we have discussed a backup plan involving his grandparents, who live very close by.

It is noteworthy that there is nothing in the letter of the law that requires that material be covered in any specific manner. Through a lifetime of observation and interaction, we know that Jeremiah is an independent, visual-spatial, kinesthetic learner much better served by being allowed the freedom to explore by attending events and museum exhibits, participating in activities and games, watching documentaries, and by the free flow of discussion about what he has seen and done than he would be by direct instruction, which, although vague, I interpret as a parent lecturing upon a predetermined topic.

The law allows choice, and, with the ability to tailor learning experiences to specifically meet the needs of our child, we have a child who learns voraciously in a manner perfectly suited to his needs, who thrills at each new discovery, who has the confidence and ability to independently apply what he has learned, and who often makes connections between disparate concepts and draws new conclusions based on what he already knows.

Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education

(f) Attendance requirements.
Each child shall attend upon instruction as follows:

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

Jeremiah is actively engaged in learning 365. Since his days do not involve deskwork designed to fill waiting times, unrequested or unneccessary review, or repetitious lessons designed to help the maximum number of students absorb the assigned work, the time he spends in learning generally exceeds that which is possible in a classroom setting. For those rare times when it does not, Jeremiah has more than twice the number of days available to him as a schooled child has. There are many days where learning is intense throughout his waking hours.

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

As noted above, Jeremiah is generally engaged in learning throughout his waking hours. In our home, learning is the main purpose of life. Everyone here is an independent learner, with disparate interests, and each shares what they have learned with all interested others. It is not at all unusual for Jeremiah and I, as the two generally up latest, to have deeply philosophical and stimulating conversation in the small hours of the morning, as we read or watch a television program, or simply discuss our day and the thoughts that don't arise in the busier hours. 900 hours per year is approximately 75 hours per month, which is, in turn approximately 3 hours per day. I cannot think of a day in his life where Jeremiah has not exceeded that requirement.

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

Jeremiah has attended everyday this "school year". Activities on a representative day and week can be found at the following links:

Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education

(c) procedures for development and review of an Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP).

(1) Within ten (10) business days of the receipt 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.

Letter of intent was emailed to the school district on 6/22/09 (before the July 1 deadline for letters of intent). I received my IHIP packet around 10/6/09, after contacting the district on at least two occasions. At that point, we had been using the IHIP as written, for nearly four months.

(2) Within four (4) weeks of the receipt of such materials, or by August 15, whichever is later,
the parent shall submit the completed IHIP form to the school district.

Once I received the paperwork from the school district, I submitted the IHIP promptly.

(3) Within ten (10) business days of receipt of the IHIP, or by August thirty-first, 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.

I have never received any notification, whether of compliance or of deficiency, about the status of any IHIP I have submitted. I inquired about this lack of notification during Jeremiah's first grade year, and was told that I would only be notified if the IHIP was not in compliance, and, if I heard nothing, I could assume it had been approved.

Therefore, I assume that the current IHIP has been accepted, and find it somewhat perplexing to have it questioned in May, very near the end of the school year (as noted in the IHIP in question, Jeremiah's "school year" runs from July 1-June 30.)

In future, please approve or disapprove of the IHIP, as submitted, in writing, and within the time frame specified herein, so that I will have a clear concept of the IHIP's suitability.

(d) Content of Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP).
Each child's IHIP shall contain:

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

These are clearly listed in the IHIP's header.

(2) a list if 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;

Plan of instruction and resource materials are listed in the IHIP.

(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;

The IHIP clearly contains these dates, spaced evenly, except that the first quarter included July-October, and the fourth quarter May-June.

(4) The names of the individuals providing instruction;

Both my name and my husband's appear as instructors.

(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:

Many of our reports have been submitted somewhat later than the dates I listed on previous IHIPs, so this year, I listed the date as "on or about". At the moment, Jeremiah's third quarter report is pending, and you will receive it shortly after I have attended to this matter.

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

As Jeremiah is actively engaged in learning throughout his waking hours, we have always listed his days of attendance rather than hours. However, five hours per day of attendance would be a conservative estimate of the time we spend, as Jeremiah's parents, in directly facilitating his learning each day. In future, I will include the hours attended for each quarter.

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

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

These items are intermingled, and appear in each quarterly report. However, a review of the second quarter report, with which you were concerned, shows that the information might be difficult to absorb. I have revised the report into the form of a bulleted list, and will continue supplying reports in this format from this point forth. We opt to recount Jeremiah's progress rather than assigning a grade to his learning.

(4) a written explanation in the event that less than 80 percent of the amount of the
course materials as set forth in the IHIP planned for that quarter has been covered
in any subject.

Jeremiah has always met or exceeded this criterion.


I took this from our district's synopsis at

"...The students will learn to use their minds well to critically analyze and respond to complex real-world issues. They will use what they learn to become successful academically and professionally and to become advocates for themselves and their communities.

Learning technology applications will deepen student engagement and improve student achievement by enabling them to access and analyze information, solve problems, collaborate with others, and communicate their thoughts and ideas. Effective use of learning technologies will allow students to become self-directed, self-motivated, and lifelong learners. Teachers increasingly will be facilitators of student learning through proficient use of learning technologies.

The School staff remains devoted to supporting each student in academic, social, and moral growth to promote a lifelong commitment to learning and to encourage responsible contributions to society..."

I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing, below, in order to show that the education Jeremiah is receiving achieves these goals set forth by the Stillwater Central School District:

"...The student uses his mind well to critically analyze and respond to complex real-world issues. He uses what he learns to be successful within his family and the larger society of our community, and to be an advocate for himself and his community.

Using technology applications has created deep student engagement and enables Jeremiah to access and analyze information, solve problems, collaborate with others, and communicate his thoughts and ideas. Effective use of learning technologies allows Jeremiah to be self-directed, self-motivated, and a lifelong learner. His parents are his facilitators of learning through proficient use of technologies, among other real world techniques.

Jeremiah's parents remain devoted to supporting him in academic, social, and moral growth to promote a lifelong achievement of learning through doing and to encourage and model responsible contributions to society..."

It is our mission, as Jeremiah's parents and the facilitators of his education, to find a balance that ensures Jeremiah is given every possible opportunity to learn what he needs to function in the larger world, both now and in future, while honoring his independent nature, and nurturing the passion for learning that has been so much a part of his nature throughout his life. We found, during the first two years of his homeschooling, that a more traditional approach, with structured lessons and deskwork,required a great deal of energy. It was necessary to motivate Jeremiah into completing assignments, which affected our relationship throughout the rest of the day, and, most importantly, resulted in Jeremiah putting forth only the effort required of him, and nothing more. His interest in intrinsic learning evaporated.

We chose, when Jeremiah turned seven, to instead facilitate his learning by supporting it, by providing many varied opportunities to explore and expand his current interests, to regularly bring new information and ideas into his life, and to replace predetermined lessons with ongoing interaction, conversation, and learning of many types throughout the day, to encourage his independent projects and to share our many interests with him.

Jeremiah's focus on gaming through the second quarter was the result of several factors. As noted in his first quarter report, Jeremiah chose to spend some of his savings (kept at our credit union) to purchase a Nintendo DS game system. He researched prices and options on his own, through online resources, talking with children who owned them and the parents who had purchased them, and reading about them in department store catalogs. He set his own budget, and I assisted him in bidding on a system on Ebay, once he was satisfied he had found one he was willing to spend his money on. It had extras, including games, and was $20 under his budget. He gravitates toward epic type challenge games that require him to amass a considerable amount of skill and resources in order to progress through the game. We support this interest, just as we supported his interests in National Geographic documentaries, trips to the state museum, and interest in coins.

Jeremiah's interest in vintage technology led to a Gamecube system at Christmas, and Jeremiah thoroughly explored its range of games. At the same time, he began doing math equations in his head.

While it may seem that we were relying upon games to teach Jeremiah, our reality through the quarter was a child who had many great leaps in his understanding of social structures such as ethics, philosophy, mythology, and theology, clear advances in his math and research skills, and a new interest in writing. As these all seemed very positive indicators of learning, we saw no reason to remove or minimize Jeremiah's ability to work through the logic and skill puzzles the games he was playing clearly were to him.

While I understand that this seems unorthodox, from a classroom perspective, this approach is clearly working for Jeremiah. His intense phase of playing has given way, in the third quarter, to a wide assortment of related interests, and a heightened interest in social sciences, art, writing, math, technology, research, map reading, and the Japanese language. His free play has become much more complex and imaginative.

These would seem, to me, to be ends that well justify the means, and we feel that Jeremiah's educational needs are very well met by a blend of hands-on experiences, reading, physical activity, much conversation, activities, events, and exhibits in person and online, and the freedom to play and learn from games, too.


Sandra Dodd said...

I was going to ask:
-=-Jeremiah is actively engaged in learning 364 days per year, only taking one day off. -=-

Christmas? HIs birthday?
But I kept reading and came to "Learn Nothing Day."
(fun, but... eeek!)

I hope other New York State families have found easier ways to report.

Shan Jeniah Burton said...

Sandra, I was on the fence about including that...and you may have helped me decide against. I could justly say 365, anyway, because we certainly did NOT Learn Nothing on Learn Nothing Day!

Jeremiah said last night, "Mom, you can't ever be doing nothing. Because, even if you were doing nothing, that would be doing something."

That comment led, in a way you would appreciate, to talk of death and decomposition, "Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. he is food for worms", to a brief plot description and "dead for a ducat, dead!"....

All of which seems considerably less convoluted than New York's homeschooling laws, somehow.

Anonymous said...

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