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Parents have legal right to home school

By Gail Marsh

(May 25) Parents who choose to home school their children in West Virginia have clear guidelines of what is expected of them and their children, Harrison officials say.

"People have the legal right to do this so we try to assist them the best we can," said Bobbie Gelpi, a county school coordinator who oversees home schooling.

Gelpi said the first step for those considering home schooling is to get information about the process, whether from her office or from another home school family.

"Then parents must send a letter of intent to the school board, listing their educational credentials, a plan of instruction, and their children's ages and current grade," she said.

According to West Virginia code, the parent who plans to teach must have a high school diploma and must have at least four years of education higher than the most academically advanced child they plan to teach.

"We have had a few instances where students come to public school to take an art class or a math class, but this is an exception," Gelpi said.

Each child receiving home instruction must be tested annually by someone other than a parent to determine how well they are doing academically, Gelpi said.

"The children can be tested along with public school students in the spring, or they can test at one of the county's private schools, which is an option that many of our parents take," she said.

Though county school systems receive no funds for their work with home school students, they are mandated by law to offer textbooks and other assistance. Gelpi said the relationship she has had with home schoolers and their parents has been a good one.

"I've found these are a group of people who are very dedicated to their children and to making sure their children get a good education. I'll do whatever I can to help them succeed," she said.

To contact state home school groups, people can call the West Virginia Home Educators Association at 1-800-736-9843 or the Christian Home Educators of West Virginia group at 1-304-776-4664.