Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, nor is this post to be construed as legal advice. For homeschooling laws and requirements for your state, please contact your state’s department of education.
When my kids were little, I never worried about keeping them home for preschool because I knew that it wasn’t required; it is an option.
But when it came time for kindergarten, the realization struck me that I could be doing something wrong if I didn’t know what was legal and what wasn’t.
Thankfully for me, we live in Michigan which is a “no notice” state, so I didn’t have to worry about getting forms filled out and writing letters of intent or tracking test scores or using state approved curricula.
But I had a near panic attack after hearing attorney David Gibbs, III talk about how home schooling is under heavy pressure all across the states. (Yes, the Common Core came up too. I ordered a session on CD about this topic.)
During a Q&A someone asked him “How do we know that our right to home school our children won’t be denied?” His reply was simple: Know the requirements and keep records.
That was 2 years ago when I had a kindergartener and a 1st grader. I was relieved when I confirmed that Michigan is a “no notice” state, but since then home schooling has gotten some negative attention in Michigan. Legislation is being voted upon to increase the strictness of regulations on home schoolers in Michigan. Read Senator Phil Pavlov’s letter to Michigan parents affirming home schooling here.
As of today in 2015, home education is legal in America. The laws differ on how much regulation there is by state. The Home School Legal Defense Association has a great map of the states showing by color-code what level of regulation each state operates by – click here to see the map.
So even though it isn’t required of us at this point in Michigan, I think it is appropriate for us to begin the process of formally recording our home education. Starting with a letter of intent.
What is a letter of intent?
It is a letter written by you, the parent and/or legal guardian to the school district in which you live stating the name, age, and hours of attendance for each of the children in your home that you intend to provide education for.
Plainly, it’s the official way of saying: my kid won’t be at your school, they will be home schooled.
Erica of Confessions of a Homeschooler has a downloadable form: Notice of Intent to Homeschool which is customizable for any family in any state.
Again, currently Michigan is a “no notice” state. The Michigan Department of Education states:
The annual registering of a home school to the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is voluntary. It is not required unless the student has special needs and is requesting special education services from the local public school or intermediate school district. It is recommended the parent first submit a completed Nonpublic School Membership Report to MDE if special education services will be requested. This form is available on www.michigan.gov/homeschool.
This means that you as a home schooling family have the right to additional services from the state for your child with special needs, and the MDE is inviting you to register with them in order to confirm with your local school district that you are approved for these services as a home school family.
The MDE goes on to remind us that:
It is not required that a parent inform their local school of the decision to home school, however, it is suggested.
In a Letter to Home School Operators, Kyle L. Guerrant, Deputy Superintendent says “the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) requests that you complete the attached Nonpublic School Membership Report (NSMR) and submit it to MDE.” Restating that the purpose is for the family’s eligibility for services. It also says: “In order to keep our records current, please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you will not be operating a home school this school year. Please include your name, address, and phone number in the email.”
This email to the MDE would be in addition to the Letter of Intent to Home School which is written to the local school district.
Next: Know the Homeschool Statute for your state.
In Michigan, records are not required to be kept or reported to the state, however, the list of subjects a student must be taught is listed clearly. Under Course of Study the MDE writes:
Instruction must include mathematics, reading, English, science, and social studies in all grades; and the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of Michigan, and the history and present form of civil government of the United States, the State of Michigan, and the political subdivisions and municipalities of the State of Michigan in grades 10, 11, and 12.
This requirement applies to every child in the home school who is 6 years old or older for the current school year.
What this means for me.
I believe that when it comes to the law and the care of my children, one can never be too careful. I intend to keep records of our courses this year and the hours/days that we completed our instruction. This doesn’t mean that I need to write everything we do and say out word-for-word, and it doesn’t have to be fancy.
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), regarding record keeping says:
These records should include attendance records, information on the textbooks and workbooks your student used, samples of your student’s schoolwork, correspondence with school officials, portfolios and test results, and any other documents showing that your child is receiving an appropriate education in compliance with the law. You should maintain these records for at least two years. You should keep your student’s high school records and proof of compliance with the home education laws (including any type of home education notice that you file with state or local officials) on file forever. HSLDA’s high school webpage has additional information about homeschool recordkeeping.
Again, we as home schooling families are protected under the law to keep our children home for their education. This information is not intended to cause fear or anxiety that this calling or this job is too big or too difficult. I believe that as we strive for excellence in our homes even in the details of letters and records, we can be Light in a very dark world.
So, I’m taking a deep breath. I hope this information is helpful. If you are new to home schooling, please don’t stop reading this series after today’s heavy topic. Later in this series I will share more about how I have worked through my panic over this commitment – and I believe you will be encouraged to keep going too.
More in depth information:
- Home School Legal Defense Association’s guidelines: Homeschooling under your state law: Michigan
- Michigan Department of Education Recommendations for Home Schooling in Michigan
- The complete list of links for information about nonpublic and homeschool support services by the Michigan Department of Education
- The MDE form for filing at a nonpublic school in the case where you want to request services from the local school district for special needs
- Coalition for Responsible Home Education lists the Homeschool Statute for Michigan and the services available to homeschooled students
- Legal Defense for Your Home School that I have had personal experience with:
- For record keeping:
- Homeschool Record Keeping :: a list of options from Amazon
- The Complete Homeschool Planner and Journal by Larry Zafran looks great for junior high and high school students – This record book provides space for 180 days of comprehensive homeschool planner/journal entries spanning 20 subjects. I like the attendance record/grid at the beginning of this planner.
- The Complete Home School Planner and Record Book by April Thome contains 53 weeks worth of documentation, covering 7 days each week. Heavy pages in a spiral binding make it easy to use. Track up to 8 subjects daily for the best record keeping. Colors are intended to be coded for each child – one book per student is necessary.
- Homeschooling Log/Journal by Angela M. Foster – each day contains a list of possible subjects to either enter the lesson completed or check off for attendance records. One log per student will be necessary.
- For planning:
- Consider doing the easy Bullet Journal system :: I will be writing more about this soon as to how I intend to use my Bullet Journal for my home school planning – and for my kids’ plans too. Because I believe all of life counts as education.
- Homeschool Planners :: a list of options from Amazon – be sure to read which ones are intended for a single student and which ones are customizable for multiple students
- Free Homeschool Planning Mini-Kit from Pam@EdSnapshots :: I found this link on AmongstLovelyThings’ post on Planning from Rest
- Or check out Five J’s Free Homeschool Planner :: What I like about this one is that the forms can be filled in digitally. No need to print. Thank you, Joy!
- For your education:
- Consider attending the next Great Homeschool Convention :: sessions are available to inform you about laws, rights, and protections necessary for your family
- Research other “great” conventions :: INCH, Teach Them Diligently, and many more that are specific to each state – just do a little searching and you will find many options
- Just a homeschooler? Become a confident educator. I share my experience and encourage you to step up and be counted as an educator. There are helpful tips and practical benefits (like discounts) included in this post.
This is Day 12 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.
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