By Mia Anderson
Part 1 of 4 in the series: Knowledge is Power: Know Your Homeschool Law
This is the first in a series of articles discussing the Washington State laws that affect and regulate homeschooling. The more informed we are about the law and our rights, the more able we are to defend those rights. While you are reading, remember that all laws are open to interpretation. Please be aware that what follows is one interpretation. We encourage you to take the time to read the RCWs presented here for yourself. They are available in numerical order on the web.
The mandatory attendance laws are where homeschooling, or home-based instruction, is designated as an educational choice and criteria are set. “RCW 28A.225.010, Attendance Mandatory – Age – Exception,” states that children ages 8 – 18, with some specific exceptions, must attend public school, an approved private school, or receive home-based instruction. Section (4) of this law delineates what qualifies as home-based instruction. It includes the following criteria:
Educational activities are “provided by a parent who is instructing his or her child only.” So, we can homeschool our children individually, set up co-ops, hire instructors or tutors, enroll our children in classes, etc. We can provide educational activities in whatever way we want, as long as we do it for our own children.
Planned and supervised instruction and related educational activities including a curriculum are provided in the basic skills of occupational education, science, math, language, social studies, history, health, reading, writing, spelling, art and music appreciation, otherwise known as the 11 required subjects.
This section also stipulates that the hours of instruction shall be the same per grade level as established for approved private schools. This requirement is modified in section (5), a very important part of the law that states, “The legislature recognizes that home-based instruction is less structured and more experiential than the instruction normally provided in a classroom setting. Therefore, the provisions of subsection (4) of this section relating to the nature and quantity of instructional and related educational activities shall be liberally construed.” This section recognizes that the world is our classroom and our homeschooled children are learning all the time. This is why we don’t have to keep track of hours, or document curriculum or learning activities.
Parents qualify to homeschool (a) by being supervised by a certified teacher who meets with the student on an average of one hour a week, or (b) by having forty-five college level quarter credit hours or it’s equivalent in semester hours, or (c) by completing a course in home-based instruction at a postsecondary institution or a vocational-technical institution, or (d) by being deemed sufficiently qualified to provide home-based instruction by the superintendent of the local school district.
In 1999 a new section was added to the mandatory attendance chapter to lower the mandatory attendance age, “RCW 28A.225.015, Attendance mandatory – Six or Seven Year Olds – Unexcused Absences – Petition.” This law lowered the mandatory attendance age for six and seven year olds to the age of enrollment in public school. Once a six or seven year old child is enrolled in public school, they must continue to attend, unless they are only enrolled part-time for the purpose of receiving ancillary services. If a parent decides that her six or seven year old child is not yet ready for public school, she may formally remove him from enrollment, and mandatory attendance age reverts to age eight. Parents wishing to homeschool children six or seven years old, who have been enrolled in public school, must formally withdraw them. Then, when the child is eight, the duties of a homeschooling parent come into play. That is the topic of the next installment.