". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Adventures in Homeschooling, Driver's Edition

Sometimes I think God created homeschoolers just to challenge the rest of the world.

We went to register Caitlin for Driver's Ed today. (Yes, she is learning to drive later than the typical teenager. In this, as in most things, we are non-conformists.)

She will be taking the course this summer through our local school district. In preparation for registering for the class, I found information and materials online. The instructions said that we should show up on registration day with a completed registration form, a grade report signed by a school administrator :-), proof of residency (so as to get the lower in-district rate), a form of payment, and a student ID. The first four items were easy enough, but I wasn't sure what to do about the last one. She's never been a student in the district; why would she have an ID? In lieu of such, I added her passport to the pile.

We were warmly greeted at the door of the school and directed to the first table. It turned out the first step was getting one's student ID number checked for unpaid charges. The nice lady behind the table was confounded. What to do with a student with no ID? (It didn't seem to matter that the lack of a student ID equated to never having been a student and therefore never having had a previous balance.) She called for help, and we were again warmly greeted, this time by a gentleman who said, "Don't worry. You can take the class. We just have to figure out how to get you through the system." He left to work on it.

While we waited I chatted with the ID lady and her table partner. My fellow homeschoolers may recognize some of the dialogue.

"So you've never been a student in the district? You've never taken any classes?"

Nope. Not until now.

"And you've never used the school for services or extracurricular activities? For example, speech therapy or sports?"

No, we haven't.

"But you pay for these things with your property taxes. You have access to them." By this time, deep befuddlement was spreading across Nice Lady's face.

Believe me, I know we pay property taxes. Probably over $70,000 in the last thirteen years. I don't see that as a reason to utilize services we don't want or need.

"But aren't you required to register with the district even though you are homeschooling? So that they know about you?"

Well, no, we aren't. One of the things we like about Illinois is that there are no notification or reporting requirements.

"But what about tests? Don't you have to take tests? How do you get into college otherwise?"

Um, actually, testing is not required. And as for college entrance exams, not everyone goes to college. But amazingly enough, those who do are able to take the entrance exams without a school ID card.

By the time we left that table I think we had totally short-circuited that poor woman's synapses.

Next we were taken to another table manned by an extremely helpful assistant principal who temporarily waived the ID requirement so as to sign Caitlin up for the class. She told us, however, to go to the administration building next week to register as a student with the district and to get a student ID because ultimately we would need one to get credit for the class. From the assistant principal we were sent to the final table for payment and, expectedly, the first scene repeated itself. "I can't process your payment without a student ID number." "But Mrs. Smith said we could do this today and get the student ID later in the week." "Well, I'll try, but I don't think the system will take it."

Guess what? For once the computer was easier to convince than the human being. Our payment went through without a hitch. I guess "the system" likes adding to its balance sheet.

I was impressed by our district's openness to homeschoolers when Caitlin took the PSAT (we didn't need a student ID for that); I was impressed again today by the desire of the school personnel to find a way to make it work in spite of their difficulty figuring out what to do with us. I am surprised that we seem to be such a rare breed. Certainly they have encountered people like us before? Wait. Maybe I don't want to hear the answer to that question.

Caitlin told me later that while I was talking to the school personnel she was doing her best to put on her "normal teenager" face. (If you ask me, she looks a lot more normal than some of her peers in line today.) As for me, I'm a little disappointed that we weren't able to get her through all twelve years of school without having to acquire a student ID number. But we have decided that we need outside help with this endeavor, and sending her to a private driving school would be at minimum twice the cost of taking Driver's Ed at the high school. Obviously our rebelliousness has its limits. Goodbye, weirdness; hello, driver's license!

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