SOME FACTS ON HOMESCHOOL NOTIFICATION IN OHIO
Written and edited by Virginia D. Kuepper */**
*Excerpted from Home Education Answers for Ohio Parents by Diana M. Fessler. The personal experience of the author and other homeschooling friends comes from years of notifying and interacting with various school districts around the Miami Valley.
**Virginia D. Kuepper has lived in Ohio since 1996 with her husband Tom and four children. They have been homeschooling their four children since 1998.
This is not a legal document nor is it a substitute for reading the entire Ohio Revised Code for Homeschooling. The Ohio Revised Code for Homeschooling is the primary legal document to learn about the homeschooling laws in Ohio. Every homeschooling family should read the Code in its entirety prior to making the decision to homeschool.
What is the purpose of the home education regulations?
The purpose is three-fold:
1. to prescribe the conditions governing the issuance of excuses, and
2. to provide for consistent application by superintendents, and
3. to safeguard the primary right of parents to provide the education for their children.
The Ohio Revised Code states that these conditions are binding:
â€œThe state board of education may, by rule, prescribe conditions governing the issuance of excuses, which shall be binding upon the authorities empowered to issue them.â€
At what age do I need to notify my school district?
In Ohio, compulsory school attendance is required for children aged 6 through 18.
What does this mean concerning my 5-year-old child attending kindergarten in a school district where kindergarten has become mandatory?
If you intend to homeschool kindergarten when your child turns five that is fine. However, you do not need to notify the school district because compulsory education in Ohio begins at age 6. The following year when your child turns six, you do need to notify because compulsory education is required by age 6. Whether you continue with a kindergarten curriculum or start a new one for the first grade because your child has mastered the kindergarten material is completely up to you. Simply put, notification begins at age 6 whether you are teaching that 6-year-old a kindergarten or a first grade curriculum.
If the school district informs you that your 5-year-old child is truant from kindergarten because he is not registered for school, they are wrong. You are not under any legal obligation to notify them that you have a five-year-old. The issue of privacy is at stake here and we need to be aware of the unintended consequences resulting from going outside the stateâ€™s own code. One such consequence is that laws which are ignored because of how they are interpreted often become precedent for new laws to be enacted. Additionally, parents now have an opportunity to charitably inform their school district about the stateâ€™s compulsory education starting age.
If this is confusing, it is because there is a difference in opinion between parents and the schools on the issue of a childâ€™s readiness for school versus age and grade level identification. There are plenty of books on learning readiness available at the library.
At this time in Ohio, mandatory education begins at age 6. Any further discussion about schools requiring kindergarten should be taken up with HSLDA.
What does â€œnotificationâ€ mean? Do I have to get permission to home school?
No. After parents have made the decision to educate their children at home, they are required to notify the appropriate superintendent. In doing so, parents are not â€œmaking application,â€ â€œseeking permission,â€ â€œmaking a request,â€ or looking for â€œapprovalâ€ from the superintendent. Notification is to inform the superintendent that the parents are exercising their primary right to direct the education of their children.
How do I know which school district to notify? My city, my county, or my township school?
Parents are required to notify the superintendent of the city, exempted village, or county in which they reside. Notify the superintendent of the school that the child would attend if he were enrolled in the public school system. (What school buses are in your neighborhood, and what do they say on the side? That is your school district to notify.) However, if the school has the word â€œlocalâ€ in it, parents should notify the superintendent of the county in which they reside. â€œLocalâ€ superintendents do not have legal authority to excuse children from school.
According to the regulations – only superintendents, and not their designees, can excuse a child from the compulsory attendance law for the purpose of education. Therefore, parents should be sure that the proper superintendent is receiving, reviewing, and responding to their notification, not the secretary or other designated director of homeschooling business.
By what date do I send in my notification form?
Parents are required to notify the superintendent on an annual basis, but the regulations do not specify a date by which parents must notify. Parents can begin home education immediately after sending in the notification form. There is no designated â€œstartâ€ date and parents can begin home schooling at any time during the year. It is not necessary to wait for a reply from the superintendent indicating that the child has been excused. However, when conventional schools are in session, the parents must have their child enrolled in school or they must notify the superintendent that the child is being educated at home. If the child is either not enrolled or not excused by the superintendent, the child will be considered truant and subject to an investigation by an attendance/truant officer.
Many school districts are sending out letters requiring your notification form be submitted by a designated date before the start of school in August. This is not part of the regulation. You are required only to notify the superintendent by the start of the school year when conventional schools are in session. Any attempt by the superintendent to require notification by an earlier date should be responded to by letter indicating your intent to notify by the start of the school year according to the regulations.
Should I bring my form in to the superintendent in person or should I just mail it in?
Parents are advised to make a complete copy of the form and attachments they send in. Then, they should mail in the notification form by certified, return receipt mail so that it is postmarked by the start of the school year, but not later. Return receipt mail guarantees you a receipt. There is no need to show up in person with your notification form in hand. In fact, it is better to correspond by mail only, and thereby have a complete paper trail established.
Do I need to meet with my superintendent?
No. Parents are not required to meet with their superintendent or any other school official. Parents are not required to attend conferences to review notification information, student progress, or curriculum materials. Such a policy or request is not based on the regulations and accordingly, the parents may graciously decline.
Should you receive letters from the school indicating problems with your curriculum choices, it is best to respond in writing. If you are already a member of HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association), a quick call to them with the specifics of the letter sent to you will result in action by HSLDA on your behalf.
What happens if a family receives a letter challenging their right to homeschool?
The natural response when a letter arrives from the school district is to panic. As conscientious parents, we are doing our best to follow the steps properly and to do everything right. When a letter arrives stating something to the contrary, we assume weâ€™ve done something wrong. Actually, many times, the school district has wrongly interpreted the code, and has erred in contacting you. Simply put, parents should know the code well enough so that they are empowered to defend their right to home school knowing they have complied correctly. In this way, we can actually help school administrators to understand the Ohio Code and give them an opportunity to see us as responsible parents exercising our rights within the law. If you are a member of HSLDA, they can assist you with any challenging letters you receive from a school district.
My school district is sending me a notification form with their heading on it. Should I use it?
No. Many school districts are reformatting the notification form on their own letterhead and omitting the word â€œoptionalâ€ after the telephone number. While this may seem like a harmless move on the part of the school, parents should be forewarned to only use notifications forms on blank paper, with no letterheads, or required phone numbers. (The only exception to this may be using the form downloaded from the HSLDA website. It has their logo on it as well as words indicating use by members only.)
The Advisory Committee worked diligently to come to an agreement on a specific blend of words to reflect a balance between the requirements for parents and the limitations for superintendents. Thus, every word in the regulations was scrutinized for its acceptability to public educators and home educators alike. The home education advocates were assured that any optional notification form would not go beyond the intent or language of the regulations, and that it would not be used as a vehicle for seeking additional information or action.
How will I know if my child has been excused from the compulsory attendance law for the purpose of home education?
The regulations state that the superintendent shall respond, in writing, to the parents within fourteen days. The required response is to notify the parents of their compliance or non-compliance, and if the notification is in compliance, that the child is excused for the remainder of the school year. Again, expressions that indicate that â€œapproval has been granted,â€ â€œrequest has been approved,â€ â€œpermission has been granted,â€ or that â€œyour application has been approvedâ€ are not in harmony with the intent of notification.
If the parents have not heard from their superintendent within fourteen calendar days after submitting their notification form, the parents may presume that the superintendent has excused their child, provided the parents used certified, return receipt mail in order to verify that notification was delivered to the school. Parents should keep a copy of all material that is sent to the superintendent.
How many hours of home education are required each year?
900 hours are required. Character development, home management skills, apprenticeship, and business skills can rightly be regarded as education. It is important to note that the term used in the regulations is â€œeducationâ€ and not â€œinstruction.â€
Do I need to document those 900 hours?
No. Your word is your bond; documentation is not required. What is required is that 900 hours of education will be provided for the child. At the beginning of the following school year, the parent must send an assessment report indicating that the childâ€™s progress is in accordance with the childâ€™s ability, or that the child has strated reasonable academic proficiency.
What is an assessment?
At the beginning of the second year of home education, parents must send an academic assessment report with the required notification information. This evaluation, along with the notification, should be sent to the appropriate superintendent. This report is to indicate whether the child has strated either reasonable academic proficiency, or progress in accordance with the childâ€™s abilities.
How many assessment-reporting options are available for parents to choose from?
According to the regulations, parents have three academic reporting options from which to choose. One option is not â€œbetterâ€ than another option. Parents may choose to send the superintendent one of the following:
1. the composite score results from a standardized achievement test, or
2. a written narrative, or
3. any other alternative assessment mutually agreed upon between the parents and the superintendent.
How often do I need to submit an assessment?
After the initial year of home education, an academic assessment must be completed on an annual basis.
What is the difference between the academic testing option and the written narrative?
Academic testing compares a childâ€™s academic proficiency to children of the same age across the nation. The narrative compares the childâ€™s progress only with his own abilities.
Must a child always be working at â€œgrade level?â€
No. The regulations do not refer to grade level either for notification purposes or for assessment reporting purposes. Children that are being educated at home are not required to adhere to the conventional â€œgrade levelâ€ grouping.
What is the written narrative?
To exercise the written narrative assessment option, parents must first choose an assessor. The assessor must be one of the following:
1. an Ohio certified teacher; or
2. another person agreed upon by the parent and the superintendent.
The regulations state that the parents must send the superintendent a â€œwritten narrative indicating that a portfolio of samples of the childâ€™s work has been reviewed and that the childâ€™s academic progress for the year is in accordance with the childâ€™s abilities.
Parents would choose the narrative option if:
1. they prefer for their childâ€™s progress to be evaluated in relation to his abilities rather than compared to the abilities of other children;
2. they believe that standard academic testing will not accurately reflect their childâ€™s abilities;
3. they would like to limit the time and expense incurred in testing.
The parents are required to send the narrative report to the superintendent, along with the notification form and accompany attachments for the coming school year prior to the start of the new school year.