Email of the Day:
Jen – I have an 8 year old daughter who I am homeschooling. I filed my “letter of intent” with my school district here in Washington state. What now? Do I contact a certified teacher to evaluate my daughter each year. How many times a year? I know it’s not rocket science, but I’m having a hard time figuring out what to do after filing a “letter of intent.” The Superintendant’s office just told me that they file the letter of intent and that’s it. I find that strange as how are they going to know if a Parent is really homeschooling? Can you please advise me on the next step. Greatly appreciated.
Homeschooling in WA is a little like driving in WA. It is assumed, as a driver, that you have a valid license and insurance, but there is no mechanism in the law for the police to pull you over and ask. You have to break the law in some other way (run a stop sign) for them to have the opportunity. It’s the same with homeschooling — it’s assumed, if you file a DofI, that you qualify, will now cover the 11 subjects, test or assess annually, and keep the required records. Generally, only if you end up in court because of divorce, CPS, or your children are hoodlums do you ever need to “prove” that you’re in compliance with the law.
So, does the school know that you’re “really homeschooling”? No. Just like a cop on the street doesn’t know if you’re really licensed or actually insured.
And, overall, I think that’s a good thing. It allows you great freedom and latitude to provide your kidlets with an education uniquely suited to each of them. Our law emphasizes this: “all decisions relating to philosophy or doctrine, selection of books, teaching materials and curriculum, and methods, timing and place in the provision or evaluation of home-based instruction shall be the responsibility of the parent.” And “the legislature recognizes that home-based instruction is less structured and more experiential than the instruction normally provided in a classroom. Therefore, the provisions relating to the nature and quantity of instructional and related educational activities shall be liberally construed.”
I’ve included a piece below that goes into some detail about “what to do next” — but really, it’s up to you. You’ve qualified, you’ve declared — now go forth and have some fun with the 11 subjects! (And sometime this year, do a test or an assessment, and then file the scores in your records). The world is your oyster!
Welcome to homeschooling; it’s a great journey.
Getting Started Homeschooling
prepared by Jen Garrison Stuber, WHO Board Advocacy Chair
The first thing to understand is that compulsory attendance in WA is from ages 8-18. Children under the age of 8 are not required to attend school, including homeschool. Therefore, none of the HBI (home-based instruction, the legal name for homeschooling) laws apply to children under the age of 8.
Those children remain educationally free.
Beginning on your child’s 8th birthday, you must either enroll in a school, or homeschool. To homeschool, you must qualify, declare intent, begin to cover the 11 subjects, test or assess annually, and keep certain records. More on each of these here: http://washhomeschool.org/homeschooling/law.html
Please note that ALEs, online schools, PPPs, etc., even those which take place in the home, are not homeschooling under WA law. Public school laws apply to those programs and are not covered in this document.
You only need meet one of the qualifications. Either 45 college quarter credit hours (about 24-30 semester hours, or one year full time college work) in any subject; OR take a Parent Qualifying Course; OR hire a teacher to supervise; OR superintendent approval.
The first Declaration of Intent should be submitted when your child turns 8. The second and subsequent will be filed on the 15th of September each year there after. The law requires only your child’s name and age on the DofI. Many schools ask for more information than is required by law. You are not obliged to provide it. There is a DofI that is in compliance with the law here: http://washhomeschool.org/homeschooling/Declaration.pdf
It should be sent to the superintendent of your local school district (usually in the district office — the address will be on the district’s website).
I used to send in two copies with an SASE; my district would stamp my copy and send it back for my files. This is not necessary, but it useful for showing places where you’d like to get an educator discount.
If your child is already in school, then you need to formally withdraw h**. The school usually has a form for this, but you could write a letter that says roughly this: I [Name of Parent] hereby formally withdraw [Name of Student(s)] from [Name of School], effective [Date of Withdraw]. Then sign it and date it. If your child is >8yo, you will need to file a Declaration of Intent that same day in the superintendent’s office. If the child in <8yo, you wait until h** birthday to submit the Declaration of Intent. Many school officials erroneously believe that if the child was in school before, even if *he is 5, 6, or 7, that you must file a Declaration of Intent. This is a common misconception that is contrary to the compulsory attendance law. You may withdraw a child from public school at any point in the school year.
You do not need to cover the 11 subjects every day, every week, or even every year. Some are meant for the lower grades (social studies); some are meant for the upper grades (history). In the public schools, occupational education is that one day that the police officer, firefighter, and doctor parents come in and share about their jobs. PE is not a required subject (though it might certainly fall under health, which is), nor is literature (which just makes me cringe).
You have a choice to test OR to assess annually. The test must be an academic achievement test given by a qualified individual. It is the testing companies that qualify individuals to proctor their tests. Some require a bachelor’s degree, some an advanced degree in psychology plus specialized training in that test, and others simply require that you be a homeschooling parent in WA. The assessment must be performed by a certificated person currently working in the field of education.
The certain records you must keep are the test/assessment scores and immunization records. These are the records a school may request from you at the time of a transfer. If you have taken a medical, philosophical, or religious exemption, to vaccination, you should use that paperwork for this documentation.
How, when, where you homeschool – these are choices that are completely up to you. The law specifically states that “parents who are causing their children to receive home-based instruction shall be subject only to those minimum state laws and regulations which are necessary in ensuring that a sufficient basic educational opportunity is provided to the children receiving such instruction. Therefore, all decisions relating to philosophy or doctrine, selection of books, teaching materials and curriculum, and methods, timing and place in the provision or evaluation of home-based instruction shall be the responsibility of the parent.
The homeschool law also states that the legislature recognizes that home-based instruction is less structured and more experiential than the instruction normally provided in a classroom. Therefore, the provisions relating to the nature and quantity of instructional and related educational activities shall be liberally construed.”
You are free to choose any curriculum, or to choose none.
Find what works for you and yours, don’t bother trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” and you’ll see very quickly that your kids will excel in some areas, and not in others. It’s okay. Play to their strengths, mitigate their weaknesses, help them develop a sense of wonder, a love of learning, and foster their innate curiosity. The rest will take care of itself.
When it all gets to be too much, consult your local homeschool group – they’re the best source of information and support. http://washhomeschool.org/homeschooling/support.html
If you have more questions, give me a hollar at WHOContact@washhomeschool.org