From the Schoolhouse to Your House – Part 1

Okay, 2020…we get it. No, really, we get it. You didn’t like that we were excited to tell you what to do, that you were going to be OUR year – the year WE whipped YOU into shape. So you kicked back. Hard. And we hear you – loud and clear. And you can lay off now. Can I get an amen, Pueblo?!  From masks to quarantine, from toilet paper shortages to runs on backyard pools, from the schoolhouse to your house, 2020 and its infamous sidekick, COVID-19, have our worlds reeling.

Parents of school-aged children are in a tough spot right now. Some are sending their kids back to the brick-and-mortar schools – even though their stomachs are in knots over it. Some have their kids at home with them but are using the school system’s online curriculum – even though their stomachs are in knots over it. And some have chosen to take their kids’ education fully into their own hands – even though their stomachs are in knots over it.

If you are a parent who is now newly homeschooling or considering doing so, the mere thought can feel entirely overwhelming.

  • How do you start, what curriculum do you use, how do you teach, and is it really even legal?

  • Will your kids be isolated and lonely?

  • Will your friends make fun of your choice?

Are these questions yours? I’ve been there too. I’ve been homeschooling six years now, and, thankfully, I’ve had a lot of people come alongside me to help me, talk with me, listen to me, instruct me, and encourage me. Every now and again I still get stuck and have to scream ask for help…and my tribe is always there for me. We all need each other, and, if you’re new to homeschooling, I would love to give you some information and encouragement. So let’s talk!

LAW

First, let’s talk law. Yes, homeschooling is legal. 😊 According to the Colorado Department of Education website, “…it is the primary right and obligation of the parent to choose the proper education and training for children under his care and supervision. It is recognized that home-based education is a legitimate alternative to classroom attendance for the instruction of children and that any regulation of non-public home-based educational programs should be sufficiently flexible to accommodate a variety of circumstances.”

Colorado is considered a minimum-requirement state and is homeschooling “subject to only minimal state controls”. Homeschool laws vary from state to state, and it’s important to research your state’s laws. You can find Colorado’s laws for home education here.

Colorado requires that:

  • For children ages six to 16, a Notice of Intent (NOI) must be sent to the school district each year fourteen days before your homeschool start date. This notice can be sent to any district, and should include the student’s name, age, address, and number of hours he or she will spend in the program. Though the NOI must be sent for children beginning at age six, your program need not start until the child is age seven.

  • Your educational program must include 172 days of instruction per year with an average of four hours a day. This includes any instructional content you, the parent or guardian, deem appropriate. Touring museums, attending co-ops, wandering through zoos, drawing at the table, cuddling on the couch and reading good books, star gazing and naming constellations, watching documentaries, listening to history CDs in the car, taking nature walks, doing grocery store math, and more count as “school” hours. There are myriad educational board, dice, and card games that make learning fun!

  • Homeschools are required to teach certain subjects. The website reads, “A nonpublic home-based educational program shall include, but need not be limited to, communication skills of reading, writing, and speaking, mathematics, history, civics, literature, science, and regular courses of instruction in the constitution of the United States…” Please keep in mind, these are subjects you need to include throughout their education; they do not need to be taught every year, and the government does NOT dictate curriculum.

  • When the child completes the third grade, he or she must be evaluated, and these evaluations must be performed after every uneven grade thereafter. This can be done either by taking a nationally standardized achievement test, or a qualified evaluator can assess the student’s academic progress. The results must be sent to the district along with the NOI for the following year.

  • Homeschool parents are required to keep certain records, including attendance, test or evaluation results, and immunization records. These are to be kept on a permanent basis, and though they are virtually never solicited, they are to be produced to the school district if requested.

These are the main requirements to homeschool in Colorado, but it’s important to read the CDE website in full for expansion of these instructions and other information.  Please note that Colorado homeschool law does not dictate having a dedicated homeschool room, holding any parental teacher certification, placing or keeping your child in any particular, state dictated grade (3rd, 8th, etc.), or which curriculum to use.

As an alternative to Colorado’s homeschool statutes, many families choose instead to enroll in an umbrella or satellite school while continuing to teach at home. We will explore more about that option, as well as finding good homeschool groups, in Part 2 of From the Schoolhouse to Your House! And coming up in Part 3, we’ll wrap up this series with homeschool methods and the cost of homeschooling. Until then, send in that NOI and enjoy the adventure!

Part 2 of From the Schoolhouse to Your House here, incase you missed it.

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