May 12, 2016

Mistakes New Home Schoolers Make: Part II


This goes hand in hand with my first post on meeting with the superintendent and begs the same advice: DON'T DO IT!!!

States vary widely in how much paperwork is required for home schooling.  Some states require nothing. Others, like my home state of New York, require paperwork be submitted several times throughout the year.

For those of us in states that require paperwork of some kind,  I advocate for becoming intimately familiar with your state's home education regulations.  At some point, your school is bound to ask for more than you are required to give.  On the surface, that doesn't seem like a big deal.  And just giving them what they ask for seems like the easiest thing to do, so you don't have to worry about them hassling you.

A big reason many people choose to home school is because of the amount of control the government has over their kids. We want less government involvement in our lives.  We want to decide for ourselves what our kids should learn, when they should learn it, and in what way they should learn it.  We don't want our kids lives stored in a government database.

If we want to continue to home school our way without the schools and government stepping in, then we need to offer them no more than what we are required.  

Imagine if:

You're driving down the highway at a speed of 55mph where the speed limit is posted as 55mph.  You get pulled over by a police officer.  He says he clocked you going 55mph, and he's going to write you a ticket for speeding, because the town you're driving through would really like it if people drive 40mph. 

Would you not argue?  Would you not take it to court and plead your case to the judge, citing that the law allows you to drive 55mph, so you are not required to drive less than that?  Of course you would.  Because it doesn't matter what the town you drove through wants people to do.  What matters is what the law says, and unless and until that law is changed, you have the right to drive 55mph through that town.

I cannot think of a single legitimate reason why a person would acquiesce to driving 40mph and simply accept the ticket the police officer hands you without question.

The same holds true in homeschooling. 

In New York State, this is what is required:

Letter of Intent (LOI) - a simple, one paragraph letter stating that you intend to home school your child, naming the school year and grade level of said child.  Nothing more; nothing less.  I've seen many parents say that their school told them they need to come in to meet with the Superintendent (or any other school official) to discuss this.  You do NOT.  Other parents have said the school told them they have to come to the school to "sign out" their child and fill out some paperwork.  You do NOT.  A one paragraph letter.  That is all you are required to do.

Individual Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) - this can be as simple or as complex as you desire, but here is all the state requires:  your child's name, age, and grade level; ONE of the following four things - either a list of syllabi, a list of curriculum materials, a list of textbooks, OR a plan of instruction - for each required subject; the four dates you've chosen to submit your quarterly reports, evenly spaced throughout the year; the names of who will be teaching your child (yourself, and any tutors you've contracted).  That's it.  You do not need to list out every single book you'll be using and describe every single thing you'll be teaching with how many hours a day you'll spend on each one.  Your IHIP can be covered in a single paragraph.  If your school asks for more details, you do NOT need to provide them.  My school district sends us a packet after they receive our LOI with their own IHIP form they suggest we fill out and return to them.  I toss it in the garbage.  You are under no obligation to fill out any forms your school requests of you.

Attendance records - yes, you are required to keep a record of your child's attendance.  NYS requires 180 days of instruction (900 hours in grades k-6 and 990 hours in grades 7-12).  You are NOT, however, required to turn in your attendance records, UNLESS your school asks for it.  Just keep it on hand.

Quarterly reports - four times throughout the school year, you'll need to submit to your school a report of your child's progress.  This is another thing that can be as simple or as complex as you desire.  Your reports must include the number of hours of instruction completed during the quarter, a description of the material covered in each subject, either a grade or a written evaluation of the child's progress in each subject, and a statement that at least 80% of the planned material was covered that quarter (or an explanation for why it wasn't, if that's the case).  All this can be accomplished in one or two paragraphs.

Annual assessment - in grades K-3, you can do the same thing you did for your quarterly reports, except summarize your entire school year rather than just one quarter.  In grades 4-8, however, NYS requires you submit the results of a commercially published norm referenced achievement test, such as the CAT test or the PASS test (there are several others they accept, but those are the most popular), every other year.  You can choose to test every year, if you prefer.  Or you can test in grades 4, 6, and 8.  Or in grades 5 and 8.  Whatever you choose, it must be at least every other year beginning with grade 4, and on the years you choose to forgo testing, you'll need to submit a written narrative in the same manner as your quarterly reports.  For grades 9-12, you must submit test results every year.

That's it.  New York doesn't require anything more than those five items.  If your school district requests anything beyond those items, you do NOT have to provide it.  Become intimately familiar with the state regulations so that when confronted with a difficult school district, you can point them to the regulations and stand your ground in refusing to give an inch, so that they don't ask for a mile.  After all, you wouldn't pay a speeding ticket for driving 40mph in a 55mph zone, would you?

Nothing contained within this blog or this article should be construed as legal advice.  Please consult a lawyer if legal advice is what you are seeking.


  1. Marisa thank you for all this information.Do you have experience with withdrawing a child from school then wanting to homeschool?

    1. I'm not entirely sure what you mean. We withdrew our kids after 3rd grade and kindergarten, then began homeschooling. Is that what you're referring to? Or do you mean withdrawing the kids without knowing what you're going to do, but then later deciding to homeschool?