By Jeanne Faulconer
Q. Is homeschooling legal?
A. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states in the U.S., and homeschooling laws are unique in each state.
VaHomeschoolers explains Virginia’s legal requirements for homeschooling.
Q. Are there families like ours homeschooling?
Sure, homeschooling is not for everyone, but it is for anyone.
There are all kinds of families homeschooling in Virginia – the stereotypes do not apply. We see homeschoolers from a variety of income levels, a range of religious and political beliefs, all ethnicities, and all kinds of family and work situations.
Additionally, their reasons for homeschooling are varied: some want to spend more time with their children, some seek a more meaningful and customized education rather than focusing on test-based minimums, some seek to impart religious or moral values, some want more consistency since they move frequently with jobs or military service, some have children whose needs have not been met in public school, some want a more positive social situation with more mentors per student.
Once you look into homeschooling, you are sure to find others who are homeschooling for similar reasons.
Q. I want to homeschool this fall. When do I sign up?
August 15, 2014 is the deadline to provide written notice to your school division if you will homeschool in 2014-2015. This is called a “Notice of Intent to Homeschool” (NOI). VaHomeschoolers provides information about how to file your NOI, which is not as hard as it sounds.
If you’ve already been homeschooling, the deadline to file your evidence of progress (testing or evaluation) based on the 2013-2014 year is August 1, 2014.
You’re not really “signing up” for anything the school will provide and you’re not seeking their approval to homeschool – you’re notifying the school that you’re meeting the compulsory attendance law in a way other than sending your child to school. You can also decide later to begin homeschooling mid-year. You don’t need a school division’s “approval” to do this, but here are some helpful ideas for beginning homeschooling once the school year has started.
Q. I have a young child, just transitioning from preschool. How do I know what curriculum to use?
Read a lot about homeschooling to learn the different ways people approach early education at home.
Many people do not use a formal printed curriculum with five and six year olds, preferring a flexible and developmental approach that includes read-alouds, generous creative playtime, arts and crafts, nature walks, gentle learning of letters, sounds, and numbers, and exposure to the world of ideas through field trips, interactive websites, and educational videos.
Others use a Montessori approach, focusing on creating a positive educational environment at home.
Some parents choose a curriculum that does not seem much like a traditional school curriculum, such as Five in a Row or Oak Meadow.
Others choose to use textbooks and workbooks that are used in some schools or closely mirror them. The main thing to know about curriculum is that homeschoolers successfully use hundreds of different curricula successfully, and most if not all homeschoolers change curricula and homeschooling “style” quite a few times over their years of homeschooling. You are not locked in to one curriculum, and the beauty of homeschooling is that you can customize to fit your child’s needs.
Q. Is there any financial help or tax deduction for homeschooling?
A. The cost of homeschooling is completely the parents’ responsibility, and there is no tax deduction for expenses in most states, including Virginia.
Some school divisions may offer “virtual school” such as internet-based curriculum that is provided by the public school. Keep in mind that in Virginia, such a full-time school-provided virtual curriculum and enrollment is still public school, and your child will have to follow school requirements and testing.
This approach to education may be the right choice for your family, but keep in mind, it is much less customizable and flexible, and therefore you won’t get all the benefits of independent home education.
Fortunately, there are many ways to homeschool independently and frugally, especially by using the library and internet extensively and by joining in and contributing your skills to learning cooperatives (“co-ops”).
Q. How can I learn more about homeschooling?
VaHomeschoolers offers a free and comprehensive online Homeschool Guide. Additionally, VaHomeschoolers has a dozen free videos about getting started with homeschooling. If you join VaHomeschoolers, you get a subscription to the professional-level full color print magazine that is written, edited, and photographed by homeschoolers right in Virginia – VaHomeschoolers Voice. The VaHomeschoolers website itself is a wealth of free information that has been tried and tested by real homeschoolers, including a special article for parents of kindergarten-aged children.
Jeanne Faulconer is a popular speaker at homeschooling conferences and community meetings. She has homeschooled her children for sixteen years and is a volunteer and former board member for The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, also known as VaHomeschoolers. Jeanne also blogs for TheHomeSchoolMom.com. Read more by Jeanne at her website EngagedHomeschooling.com, where you can also learn about her service providing evaluations for annual homeschool evidence of progress.