As homeschoolers, we hear stories every day about truant officers and social service workers knocking on the door. For many families, this is a frightening situation, especially since the officers threaten to take children away if families do not comply.
Though the occurrence of such a situation is rare, every homeschooler needs to be prepared for it. Here are some simple steps you can follow to make sure you comply with homeschool laws in your state in case the truant officer comes ringing.
- Know the homeschool laws for your state. You need to understand what rights you have as a homeschooler. Homeschool regulations vary greatly from state to state. New Jersey, for example, is one of a few states with very relaxed homeschool regulations. The law simply states that a family may operate a home school and that they must provide instruction academically equivalent to that in public schools. No notice, record keeping, or testing is required. Just one state over in New York, homeschooling regulations are quite restrictive. Homeschoolers may operate a homeschool according to stringent regulations. There is a minimum number of hours for different age levels. You must keep attendance records that are made available for the local superintendent. Subjects for each grade level are specified as well. The teacher/ parent must be deemed competent. In addition, a standardized test must be administered every two years and a minimum score must be reached in order to continue homeschooling. You can secure this information on the internet or through a local homeschool group or organization.
- Follow the homeschool laws for your state. If you live in Colorado, for example, and choose the option to establish and operate a homeschool, (some states have multiple options) then you must follow the mandates for Colorado under that option. You must homeschool 172 days per year for an average of four hours a day. You must teach Constitution of the United States, reading, writing, speaking, math, history, civics, literature, and science. You must file a notice of intent to homeschool. You must maintain attendance records, test and evaluation results, and immunization records. In addition, your child needs to be tested in grades, 5, 7, 9, and 11.
- You should keep everything. Purchase a file cabinet just for the purpose of homeschool materials. Have a folder with the current regulations, laws, and rights in it. Keep it in easy reach. As regulations and laws change, keep your folder updated. Keep scrapbooks, for pictures of all your children’s projects that are too big to save. Keep folders or binders for all of their writing. Separate these by child and grade. With each grade’s materials, keep your yearly goals and summary if this is required by your state. You may want to go ahead and write goals and reviews every year even if the state does not warrant it because your child may want to go to college in the future, and colleges will require this information.
- Have access to legal representation. In case you are threatened with the possibility of a review, you will find that it is more stressful than a tax audit. You may be accused of educational neglect of your children. You may also be told that your children will be removed from your home (regardless of whether it is legal in that state or not). You will want, and possibly need the representation of legal counsel who specialized in homeschooler and their rights. Several organizations can help you with this. You may find a local homeschooling mother who happens to be a lawyer, or you can secure membership with Home School Legal Defense Association who you pay yearly fee to so that they can represent you if your rights to homeschool are ever threatened. Whichever you choose, do your homework, and do it in advance. Some of the Homeschool legal organizations have their own set of laws you must follow in order for them to represent you.
This information probably sounds a bit scary to a new homeschooler, but keep in mind that truant officers threaten less than 1% of homeschoolers each year. However, just in case it happens to you, wouldn’t it be great to be prepared?