What things do you need to know that are specific to homeschooling through IDEA? You have responsibilities, of course, and you have expectations of us. Below you will find information about what we expect, what your allotment is and how you use it, and other resources that we provide to make your homeschooling journey easier and more enjoyable.
As the IDEA home educator, what do I need to do?
- Attend the General Orientations for New Families: This is an important step in learning the nuts and bolts of homeschooling with IDEA and how everything flows together. Orientations are enjoyable and will give you the opportunity to meet and connect with other homeschooling parents and IDEA staff. IDEA Orientations will also help you to save time and money.
- Facilitate Learning: IDEA provides the support and resources; you are in the driver’s seat with the primary role in the education of your children. Your children may have input from other educators, through online classes or guided instruction, but ultimately you are in control of your children’s education.
- Individual Learning Plan (ILP): The ILP is your educational roadmap or overview for the year and is submitted once in the fall for each student. For each subject that you plan to teach, the ILP includes what topics you will cover, what curricular materials you plan to use and other important details. It can be changed if your plans change.
- Progress Reports: These are your report cards that are submitted twice a year; once per semester per student.
- Work Samples: Samples are submitted quarterly per student, one sample per subject on the ILP.
- Testing: Schools in Alaska (including home school support programs like IDEA) are required to offer state standardized tests to their students in grades 3-10 in April. Optional assessments are available in Language Arts and Math, for those who would like it.
- Communicate with Your Contact Teacher: The more you share with your contact teacher, the better they will be able to help you meet your learning goals for your child. Contact teachers, besides being your cheerleader and advocate, serve as a valuable resource of experience and knowledge to keep you informed and supported.
- Have Access to the Internet: You will be given an “ideafamilies” e-mail account. Since IDEA uses email to keep our families up to date on important events and opportunities; it is suggested that you check it on a weekly basis. Internet service is also necessary to access the IDEA website, calendars, news, and resources. You can use your student allotment dollars to pay for your home internet.
- What is my allotment?
Your allotment is money allocated to educate your child. The amount is $2,700 for any student in grades K-12. Families whose IDEA-enrolled children include a pre-schooler (4 years old by September 1) will also receive a $275 stipend from IDEA for that child.
- How do I access my allotment?
IDEA has a unique and convenient online system called the Family Allotment System Tracker (FAST) that allows you to place orders, seek reimbursement for purchases of materials or services, track orders, and monitor budgets and your history of expenditures. Placing orders through FAST is a favorite feature for many of our families because it allows you to order directly out of your allotment dollars. IDEA pays the vendor and your order is delivered right to your door!
- How do I use FAST?
Your regional field rep will offer you an orientation workshop to introduce you to FAST so that you will be confident using it at home or from any computer. If you live too far from your regional IDEA office to attend, your field rep will offer an alternative means for gaining the information necessary to utilize the FAST system. Also, there is a “FAST Help” page in the Family section of our website that includes helpful QuickSheets, 2-page illustrated instructions on how to complete requisitions in FAST.
- What can I buy with my allotment?
You can purchase materials and activities which are educationally-relevant and support the topics on your students’ Individual Learning Plans (ILP), including textbooks, school supplies, science kits, math manipulatives, art supplies, field trips, guided instruction, etc. There are some limits and exclusions so be sure to read the details in the IDEA Parent Handbook before purchasing. The Parent Handbook is available in the family section of the IDEA website, under “Students & Families” in the top navigation bar.
- What if we are using faith-based materials?
IDEA is committed to maintaining continued support of you and your choices in every possible way. The good news is that your students can receive credit for classes using sectarian materials and you have the ability to use the materials that you determine are best for your children. Families who use a majority of sectarian materials in their homeschool education should work closely with their contact teacher or field rep in order to receive full allotment and be enrolled full time. We make every effort to accommodate the needs of your family while abiding by the rules set forth by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED).
- Can I use my allotment for computers or internet?
You have many technology choices in IDEA. Windows-based desktop or laptop models are available by lease through your allotment on a 4 year plan or you can purchase tablets and readers to be reimbursed from the allotment. (Purchase limits do apply so please refer to your IDEA Parent Handbook.) Internet of your choice is also reimbursable or you can participate in a special plan by IDEA/AT&T that will automatically be deducted from the allotment. (Be sure to use our online Technology Order Form to request equipment.)
- What happens to my allotment if I don’t use it all?
In the IDEA program, any unused allotment at the end of the year can be carried over into a special account called the Allotment Carryover Account. The money carried over into your student’s Allotment Carryover Account will be available to you in subsequent years as long as that student remains enrolled in the IDEA program.
Other than financial support, what other services does IDEA provide to assist me in educating my students?
- Free Resources: Many times the quality of a job is dependent upon the tools you have to get the job done. At IDEA, we do our best to load your tool box well! IDEA purchases many premium online resources that you can use for free, including World Book, AKCIS, BrainPOP, Children’s Technology Review, Iditarod Insider, Enchanted Learning and more. You may access these resources via the IDEA Family website.
- Resource Room: Selecting curriculum is often easier when you can examine them “in real life.” Each IDEA office has hundreds of different textbooks, various homeschool curricula packages, supplemental curricula and learning games that you can view and compare before placing an order.
- Library: Each IDEA office has a well-stocked library along with a librarian/resource room coordinator to help you find what you need. You can check out books (print or audio), kits, and educational resources. If you can’t find what you are looking for in your own regional office, we may have it elsewhere in our system and it can be sent to you from another IDEA regional office or the Sidney Huntington School in Galena.
- Events: Statewide, IDEA students participate in spelling and geography bees, Battle of the Books, and the Academic Decathlon. We also have exciting programs to participate in such as Close Up trips to Juneau or to D.C. and New York. IDEA is the only homeschool program that has its own FFA chapter for students in grades 7 through 12. At a regional level, many more events take place in the IDEA office or local community that are organized and led by IDEA staff and/or parents.
- Support Staff: Each regional office is staffed with Field Reps, Contact Teachers, Resource Room Coordinators and Computer Techs. We are here to meet your needs, answer your questions and offer our support, and are as close as an e-mail, phone call or visit. Our offices are open year round (excluding some holidays).
- Communication: IDEA maintains a comprehensive website complete with tools and resources to help you plan your year, answer many of your questions, request computer help, and much more. Our regional field reps will send you regular e-mail updates to let you know what is going on, offer tips, and keep you well informed on what is happening in IDEA. To keep our families connected to each other, we offer a separate listserv just for family to family sharing of information, community events, and opportunities. If you use Facebook, you may enjoy joining one or any of our closed, private IDEA regional Facebook groups.
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