Summer is waning, and the fall quickly approaches, with its back-to-school excitement! Even homeschoolers who educate throughout the summer often use the fall as a time to try a fresh start with new curriculum, implement a new approach, or get creative to inject a breath of fresh air into their school. For many home educators, August is an important time to send in test scores, file notice-of-intent forms, and fulfill their state’s legal requirements in order to be able to homeschool. It is important to be prepared and to meet any state homeschool guidelines – don’t let those dates creep up on you!
Each state’s requirements differ, with some states, such as Alaska, Idaho, Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Connecticut, and New Jersey, not requiring any notification by parents. Some states simply require parental notification, while others require test scores and may have additional requirements. It is important that homeschoolers research the laws for their particular state and comply with those laws. For a list of homeschool laws by state, visit TheHomeSchoolMom’s resources by state or visit homeschoollegal.com.
But sending in forms and scores is not simply a legal requirement. It can also be the legal and social equivalent of a nice cup of tea and some homemade muffins. You know, what happens when you go over to meet a new neighbor and you bring a little food and drink with you? Even if that neighbor wasn’t thrilled about moving in next door to a house with a bunch of young children in it, after the tea and muffins, he’s your newest friend. Homeschoolers have the opportunity to positively impact others’ opinions of home education through the means by which they communicate with school officials. By sending in required forms, test scores, or other requirements in a timely manner, and having respectful conversations with school superintendents or other state representatives, homeschoolers can leave a positive impression in the minds of those who do not homeschool themselves. And in the world of home education, which is reliant upon laws that permit the freedom to go against the “norm”, we can use all of the good will we can get!
Like it or not, to those who do not homeschool, each homeschooler with whom they have contact is a representative of “Homeschoolers” (with a capital H) as a whole. And each homeschooler’s actions can impact the non-homeschooler’s impression of homeschooling for years to come. And, not incidentally, those non-homeschoolers are the majority of those making laws by which homeschoolers must abide. There is no doubt that there may be times when school officials ask for more information than the law requires, or question something you do that is fully within your rights to do. But how you handle that situation can make all the difference in whether that person is left with a positive impression of home education, or has negative impressions or stereotypes reinforced.
So this fall, as you file those notices of intent, and send in scores from standardized evaluations, don’t bemoan the annoyance. Think about it as a chance to do your part to, well, positively evangelize the world about home education. This year, as you put the stamp on the envelope, put a smile on your face, and send out your best tea and muffins.