Homeschooling in New York State

Advice and Support for Dealing with NYS Regulations

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New York has the reputation of being a tough place to homeschool. Not so!

Yes, it's true that New York, unlike some other states, requires parents to submit written reports and students (in some years) to take standardized tests.

But as someone who has homeschooled two children from kindergarten through high school here, I know it's possible for almost every family to educate their children at home, just the way they want to.

 

If you are thinking of homeschooling in New York State, don't let the rumors and misinformation scare you. Here are the facts about what it is like to homeschool in New York -- along with tips, tricks, and resources that will help you cope with the regulations as painlessly as possible.

Who Homeschools in New York?

In New York you will find homeschoolers from all backgrounds and philosophies. Homeschooling may not be as popular as in some other parts of the country -- perhaps because of the large number of select private schools and well-funded public school systems.

But homeschoolers themselves run the gamut from the deeply religious to those who choose to teach their own children in order to take advantage of all the learning resources the state has to offer.

According to the New York State Education Department (NYSED), the 2012-2013 numbers for homeschooled children in the state between the ages of 6 and 16 outside New York City (which keeps its own records) totaled more than 18,000.

An article in New York Magazine put the number of New York City homeschoolers for roughly the same period at nearly 3,000.

New York State Homeschooling Regulations

In most of New York, parents of students who are subject to compulsory attendance regulations, between the ages of 6 and 16 must file homeschooling paperwork with their local school districts.

(In New York City, Brockport and Buffalo it's 6 to 17.) The requirements can be found in state Education Department Regulation 100.10.

"The regs" specify what paperwork you must provide to your local school district, and what the school district can and can't do in terms of overseeing homeschoolers. They can be a useful tool when disputes between the district and the parent arise. Quoting the regulations to the district is the quickest way to resolve most problems.

Only loose guidelines are given as to what material should be covered -- math, language arts, social studies including U.S. and New York State history and government, science, and so on. Within those topics, parents have a lot of leeway to cover what they wish.

For instance, I was able to cover World History every year (following the Well-Trained Mind philosophy), including American history as we went along.

Getting Started in New York

It's not hard to get started homeschooling in New York State. If your children are in school, you can pull them out at any time. You have 14 days from the time you start homeschooling to begin the paperwork process (see below).

And you do not have to get permission from the school to start homeschooling.

In fact, once you begin to homeschool, you will be dealing with the district and not the individual school.

The district's job is to confirm that you are providing educational experiences for your children, within the general guidelines set out in the regulations. They do not judge the content of your teaching material or your teaching techniques. This gives parents a lot of freedom in deciding how best to educate their children.

Filing Homeschool Paperwork in New York

(Note: For a definition of any terms used, see the Homeschooling Glossary.)

Here's the timetable for the back-and-forth exchange of paperwork between homeschoolers and their school district, according to New York State regulations. The school year runs from July 1 to June 30, and every year the process starts over. For homeschoolers who start midyear, the school year still ends on June 30.

1. Letter of Intent: At the start of the school year (July 1), or within 14 days of starting to homeschool, parents submit a Letter of Intent to their local school district superintendent. The letter can simply read: "This is to inform you that I will be homeschooling my child [Name] for the coming school year."

2. Response from the District: Once the district receives your Letter of Intent, they have 10 business days to respond with a copy of the homeschooling regulations and a form on which to submit an Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP). Parents are allowed, however, to create their own forms, and most do.

3. Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP): Parents then have four weeks (or by August 15 of that school year, whichever is later) from the time they receive the materials from the district to submit an IHIP.

The IHIP can be as simple as a one-page list of resources that may be used throughout the year. Any changes that come up as the year progresses can be noted on the quarterly reports. Many parents include a disclaimer like the one I used with my children:

Texts and workbooks listed in all subject areas will be supplemented by books and materials from home, the library, the Internet and other sources, together with field trips, classes, programs, and community events as they arise. More details will appear in the quarterly reports.

Note that the district does not judge your teaching materials or plan. They simply acknowledge that you have a plan in place, which in most districts can be as loose as you like.

4. Quarterly Reports: Parents set their own school year, and specify on the IHIP what dates they will submit quarterly reports. The quarterlies can simply be a one-page summary listing what was covered in each subject. You are not required to give students a grade. A line stating that the student was learning the minimum number of hours required for that quarter takes care of attendance. (For grades 1 through 6, it's 900 hours per year, and 990 hours per year after that.)

5. Year-End Evalution: Narrative evaluations -- one-line statements that the student has "made adequate academic progress according to the requirements of Regulation 100.10" -- are all that is needed until fifth grade, and can continue every other year through eighth grade.

The list of acceptable standardized tests (including the supplemental list) includes many like the PASS test which can be given by the parents at home. Parents are not required to submit the test score itself, just a report that the score was in the 33rd percentile or above, or showed a year's growth over the previous year's test. Students can also take tests at the school.

Since parents are not required to submit paperwork once the child reaches age 16 or 17, it's possible for those wishing to minimize standardized tests to only have to administer them in fifth, seventh and ninth grade.

However, there are reasons to keep submitting reports (see below). I received permission from my district to have my children take the SAT in 10th and 11th grade. In 12th grade, they took the GED to show high school completion, so no further tests were necessary.

The most common disputes with districts occur with those few who refuse to allow the parent to write their own narrative assessment statement or administer the standardized test. They can usually be resolved by finding a homeschooling parent with a valid teaching license to provide one or the other.

High School and College

Students who homeschool through the end of high school do not receive a diploma, but they have other options to show they completed the equivalent of a high school education.

This is particularly important for students who want to go on to earn college degrees In New York State, since showing some form of high school completion is required to receive a college degree (although not for college admission). This includes both public and private colleges.

One common course is to request a letter from the local district superintendent stating the student received the "substantial equivalent" of a high school education. While districts are not required to supply the letter, most do. Districts usually ask that you continue submitting paperwork through 12th grade to use this option.

Some homeschoolers in New York earn a high school equivalency diploma by taking a two-day standardized test (formerly the GED, now the TASC). That diploma is considered the same as a high school diploma for most types of employment as well.

Others complete a 24-credit program at a local  community college, while still in high school, or afterwards, that grants them the equivalent of a high school diploma. But no matter how they show high school completion, both public and private colleges in New York are welcoming to homeschool students, who are generally well-prepared as they go on into adult life.

Helpful Links

  • New York State Education Department Codes, Rules, and Regulations include information on homeschooling, compulsory attendance, student employment, and other issues.
  • NYHEN (New York State Home Education Network) is a free online support group open to all homeschoolers. It includes a website with easily-accessible information on state regulations and several email lists where parents can ask questions and get advice from experienced homeschoolers (including, occasionally, me!).
  • LEAH (Loving Education at Home) is a statewide Christian-only membership organization with local chapters throughout the state. It presents two homeschool conferences every year. Participants are usually asked to sign a Statement of Faith before participating in LEAH activities.
  • PAHSI (Partnership for Accurate Homeschooling Information) is a New York City-based group offering information on homeschooling in the city and state.