Many families homeschooled their children prior to COVID19, while other families would not have considered this daunting option. The global pandemic has created a shift in our awareness of how education can occur, and everyone with children is now presented with choices and decisions they never thought they would have to make. For many parents, virtual learning from home is the only option provided by their public school district. Those offered an in person option face inconsistency with classroom and school wide shut downs due to exposure to COVID19. With this shift, many others have decided that homeschooling is a much better alternative. To some, this will be a short-term need, but now, more than ever, others will recognize this as their way of learning for years to come.
Whether homeschooling is a short-term solution or new-found way of life for you, we wanted to give you the legalities of homeschooling so you can see they are not as daunting or restrictive as you may have thought.
Where do I start?
First, most states require written notice or online submission of the intent to homeschool. School law is set at the state level. Review the laws to be sure that you have documented in accordance with the state. The regulations vary with documentation throughout the year as well. After reading through homeschool laws, visit your official state Department of Education website (Georgia’s is www.gadoe.org). These sites provide suggestions in addition to requirements. For example, Georgia has a page designated for homeschool requirements, as well as resources linked throughout.
What do I use to teach my child?
Before you look into curriculum, the laws in your state may dictate certain subjects; you can always teach more, such as adding a religious-based study, foreign language, or any other subject that isn’t strictly required. You may either purchase a full curriculum from any company that will keep your child on par with students in your state, or you may piece together a lesson plan using a mix of curriculum and hands-on learning materials. The U.S. Department of State provides a list of resources on their site, and there are so many others out there that the decision-making can be daunting, yet exciting. This decision is where the homeschool plan becomes a reality.
Creating balance each day is important and your curriculum will be the basis of that balance for you & your child. Each child thrives with different ways of learning. Try not to choose one style of teaching, such as all workbook-based or all computer-based. And what works for one semester may not always work. As your children explore concepts, they will find new ways of learning naturally. Balance their favorites with something that will make them stretch outside their comfort zone (and yours).
One great option is to pick a set of standards and skills you will aim for your child to master in a year, from the beginning of homeschool, rather than trying to start from scratch each week. The beauty of homeschooling allows you to circle-back to concepts as much as your child needs.
As the parent/guardian of your child, you are now taking on the role as teacher. Many states require a high-school diploma or GED to be qualified as a homeschool teacher. If you meet this qualification, you are also the person responsible for documentation to the state throughout the course of your child’s home study. Some of the high regulation states require quarterly reports. Some of the low regulation states only require documentation every three years. (See below- “What do I have to submit?“.)
Home study programs require a minimum amount of school days or hours. Typically the requirement is 180 days with about 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours of study, but this can vary by state and by grade level so be sure to check the requirements for your state. Keep in mind learning can also take place on weekends. This 4 1/2 does not have to be scheduled all at one sitting. Check out our Kids Connected Guided Homeschool Program sample week:
Some states require attendance to be submitted, while others only require you to document and keep on hand.
Report Cards / Progress
Most states do not require a grade submission, but some of the more regulated states expect a quarterly narrative of student progress.
Nationally Normed tests are typically required every three years after 3rd grade. Some of the more regulated states require this assessment yearly. Your state education website can give you suggested locations and times for this assessment. Testing may currently be waived in your area. (COVID19 has put many states on hold for testing until further notice.)
What do I have to submit?
The legal requirements for each state differ, but be sure to check on the following and submit accordingly:
- Notice of Intent to Homeschool
- Attendance registry / log
- Narrative of your Curriculum Plan
- Teach and document all required subjects
- Provide contact information for anyone other than parent/guardian teaching and ensure no one in the home is convicted of certain criminal offenses
- Immunization records
- Register and assess your student on required Standardized Achievement Tests; record and submit results as required
- Student evaluation of appropriate education
Currently, there is no money available for families who choose to homeschool. There is some proposed legislation out there currently that may change this in the future. There is one exception to this, if you are working for the state department overseas, the government does provide funding for home study. Check out the U.S. Department of State website for more information.
One way to simplify the thought process of homeschool law is to think of it as just 2 things: 1) a list of requirements and 2) a list of what you and your child want to accomplish this year.
The list of requirements are non-negotiable and should be treated like your job. Make a list of the items required by the state department and check items off frequently. Be sure progress is being made and submitted to the state.
Next, set goals you and your child want to accomplish this school year in addition to the requirements; for example, take Spanish 1, practice baseball for an hour a day, read the Bible for 30 minutes each day, or master pre-algebra skills. If your student’s goal for daily study time is 5 hours a day, determine the approximate time it will take to cover the requirements from list 1 and structure the balance of the day to accomplish what is important to your family.
If you simplify the thought process and consider it just 2 things – requirements and desires – homeschooling is extremely manageable and a great alternative to traditional school methods. Enjoy the journey, and let us know what else you need. You can comment below or find us at www.kidsconnected.com.