Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Understanding Washington Homeschooling Law

I've had a lot of questions about laws concerning homeschooling in Washington state and now feel qualified to answer them as I took a certifying course covering the law.  The course was offered from a local university and created by a woman who was actually there and part of the law when it was first created.  As a law-abiding citizen, we should follow these laws and especially since we don't have to "prove" we did, we should for own conscience's sake and for the protection of our homeschooling freedoms.

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Reporting Age = Washington law states that the compulsory attendance age for children is 8-18 years of age.  This simply means that children aren't required to attend school until they are 8 years old, or in this case, start homeschooling.  Attempts to change this age to 6 have been made but so far the law hasn't been changed.

Days of Instruction = Under the home school statute (which means you are entirely on your own and not under a private school or public school), you are required to school for 180 days every year OR meet an annual average of 1,000 hours.

Required Subjects = You are required to teach 11 subjects every year in Washington state and they are: occupational education, science, math, language, social studies, history, health, reading, writing, spelling and art/music.  These are not optional, you have to include each one every year starting at age 8.

Requirements of the Parent Teacher = To teach your child(ren) under the home school statute, you must meet ONE of the following, if both parents are teaching, they must both meet one of the following:

  1. Supervised by a certificated person, which has contact with the child one hour per week and evaluates the child.  This "certificated" person must be a current, licensed WA state teacher.
  2. Have 45 college credits or the equivalent in semester credits
  3. Certified under a home-based education course from a college
  4. Deemed sufficiently qualified by the superintendent
*I meet the third one as I've completed and been certified by a college course on home-based education.

Reporting = You must file a Declaration of Intent (DOI) every year to your local school district by Sept. 15th or within 2 weeks of the start of the public school quarter, trimester or semester.  You can mail these in.  You only need to start filing these when the child turns 8 and from then on every year.  By law, you only have to give them your child's(ren's) name and age - nothing else besides your signature and address.

Testing = You must do one of the following every year after the child turns 8 and KEEP the results in the child's permanent records.
  1. Standardized test administered by testing official - you can not administer these yourself, the child either goes to the local school district to take the test during the annual testing time or you can pay a local test administrator who is qualified to give the test.  The scores you keep to yourself, you don't have to turn them in to anyone!
  2. Have a current, certified WA state teacher evaluate your child.
*I do the second one from a local teacher and then retain the records as proof we completed one of the two testing options.

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In a nutshell what I had to do to homeschool on my 'own' is this: complete a certifying course before my daughter was 8 and file a DOI on her birthday and every Sept. thereafter.  Teach the 11 subjects every year for 180 days or 1,000 hours and have her evaluated at the end of every school year by a certified WA state teacher and retain the records of all this.

Here is an example of what can meet the 11 required subjects:

  1. Occupational education - "marketable" skills such as domestic/homekeeping, car/bike maintenance, cooking, keyboarding, employment, volunteer work, etc.
  2. Science - life science, earth science, physics, biology, nature study, etc.
  3. Math - mathematical concepts and procedures
  4. Language - proper speech/grammar, vocabulary, etc.
  5. Social studies - geography, religion, government, map skills, etc.
  6. History - US history, world and religious history
  7. Health - nutrition, physical education, safety, etc.
  8. Reading - phonics, comprehension, etc.
  9. Writing - copywork, dictation, essays, reports, etc.
  10. Spelling - learning to spell words
  11. Art & Music - appreciation/exposure to art and music

I also recommend joining the Home School Legal Defense Association yearly for legal protection in the case of the truancy officer showing up at your door or CPS.  If they do happen to show up at your door, you simply ask them to hold on, grab the phone, call your lawyers at HSLDA and they will walk you through the process and/or talk to the officer or social worker.  Know your rights and know the law or you could find yourself in trouble!

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