Homeschooling 101: Getting Started

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One of the questions we get asked almost daily is, ‘How do we get started?’. To help, we’ve created this guide to getting started as a handy reference for you to refer to.

PART I: Is it legal to homeschool in Texas?

YES. Home schooling has been a legal alternative to public schooling since 1994. According to the Texas Education Code, home schools in Texas have been classified by Texas courts as ‘private schools’, and private schools are not regulated by the state. You can read an excerpt that covers homeschooling, specifically, here.

The law in Texas is one of the most favorable for home educators in the United States. There are no regulatory bodies that govern homeschooling, there are no testing requirements for students and no curriculum oversight. Parents are free to choose whatever method or follow whatever educational philosophy they choose to educate their children.

To be in compliance with Texas law, there are only three requirements:

  • The instruction must be bona fide (i.e., not a sham).
  • The curriculum must be in visual form (e.g., books, workbooks, video monitor).
  • The curriculum must include the five basic subjects of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship.

Some parents are concerned about CPS involvement if they decide to homeschool, and others worry that their homeschooled student will not been seen as equal to a traditionally educated graduate. These are myths, and some Texas agencies have released directives concerning homeschooling and homeschooled students. For a complete list, visit the Texas Homeschool Coalition Association’s Government Agency Directives page.

From the Texas Education Agency

2013 Commissioner of Education Michael William’s letter to school districts with guidelines for dealing with home school students.

From the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services:

2012 CPS Memorandum on Homeschooling – Regarding lack of CPS authority over home schooling

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services – Confirms that CPS workers have no jurisdiction in home education, truancy or compulsory school attendance matters

In layman’s terms, what does all this mean? Basically, that you’re allowed to homeschool legally in Texas, and that you may do so however you wish (provided the three above-mentioned guidelines are followed), and that you’re not going to be visited by CPS just for deciding to homeschool. Good news, right?

So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, what next?

PART II: Withdrawing your child from public school

If your child has not been registered in public school in Texas (for example, you’ve just moved to Texas or your child is not old enough to be registered for Kindergarten), you are not legally required to register with your local school district or receive their permission to home school.

However, if your child has been in school already, then you are required to withdraw your child(ren) from the school they are enrolled in. If you are going to start homeschooling after the school year is over, please be aware that your child is considered enrolled for the following year. To avoid your child being marked as absent or truant, you may want to withdraw your child before the next school year begins to avoid the possibility of charges being filed against you or your child by the school.

According to the Commissioner’s Home School Policy Letter:

“Students should be disenrolled by school officials when they receive written notice either by signing withdrawal forms or sending a letter of withdrawal. It is not necessary for the parents to make a personal appearance with school officials or present curriculum for review.”

When you withdraw your child from school, simply signing the withdrawal forms meets the legal requirement. You should also bring paper and pen and record the name of everyone you deal with for future reference.

Even though signing the form is sufficient, a public school district is allowed to ask parents to provide assurances in writing that they intend to home school their child. If you receive such a request, don’t panic. Some parents choose to submit a letter of intent  when they withdraw their child(ren) from school to provide any necessary assurances and avoid such requests. You can send a letter of intent by registered mail so that you have proof the school received it. A letter of intent is not required for withdrawing your child from school although it can be used to meet any requests from the school district.

A letter of intent is simply a letter that states that you are educating your child at home and that you are providing “a curriculum designed to meet basic education goals of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics and a study of good citizenship.”

School districts which become aware of a student who is potentially being home schooled may request in writing a letter of notification from the parents of the student regarding their intention to home-school the student. This letter may require assurances that the home-school curriculum is designed to meet basic education goals including reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and a study of good citizenship. Please note that a letter of this type is not required each year (from the April 20, 2004 Commissioner’s Home School Policy Letter)

You can find sample letters online, or craft your own. You do not need to send a letter or intent, or an email, to any other agency or group (including your local homeschool support group, coalition or other association) in order to be in compliance with the law.

Once your child is legally withdrawn from his or her previous school, you are ready for the next step.

PART III: Let the Education Begin!

Here’s where things can get confusing. Many parents contact us to ask ‘which curriculum should we use’, but that’s not for us to say. In Texas, the TEA does not regulate, index, monitor, approve, register, or accredit the programs available to parents who choose to home school, nor do most homeschool support groups. You may find a homeschooling co-op that uses the same curriculum for the group, but most families are independent and choose their materials and method based on what works best for their family.

That means that you can use any variety of resources, from boxed (all in one) curriculum (which is usually bought according to grade level), to online resources or workbooks – whatever works for your family.

For more on curriculum, see Homeschooling 102: Methods & Curriculum

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