So you’ve decided to homeschool your children, and you live or are moving to Ohio. What needs to be done?
Here is a simple list that will help you make the transition smoothly and with surprisingly little trauma.
First, head over to Ohio Home Educators Network (OHEN) and download a copy of the state homeschooling regulations and the notification form. These are invaluable. You might even consider joining OHEN and thus connecting to other Ohio homeschoolers and supporting their effort to keep homeschooling legal in Ohio. You can begin homeschooling at any time of the year. You do not need to keep the same schedule of hours or days that the local schools keep.
Then, decide on your intended curriculum. Notice that the wording in the State Regulations says “Intended.” You are by no means married to the booklist that you send to the local school board. You may switch curriculum or use library books and the Internet at any time, so don’t feel pressured to pick the perfect tomes. It is also perfectly acceptable to list Internet sites, videos, and other less traditional educational sources, though it looks nice to have a few textbooks sprinkled throughout the list, even if they are used mainly for reference.
Be sure to check out the list of subjects that are required to be taught. Remember: you don’t have to teach all of them completely every year! Teaching, say World History, Ohio History and American History all in the same year is a bit much!
Next, print and fill out your notification form. DO NOT give any more information that is required by law. For your “Outline of Intended Curriculum” and list of materials, there are a few options. Some families simply copy the Tables of Contents from any textbooks that they plan to use, and also attach a list of other materials, i.e. lab equipment, videos, tutors, classes, software, open source materials, etc. Others choose to list materials for each subject and then write a short paragraph about what is covered in the lessons.
When you check off the “900 hours” section of the papers, remember that lessons don’t always have to be from books. Playing outside is Phys Ed, reading is Language Arts, drawing is art. If you establish an atmosphere of education, then anytime is learning time. If you like, you can keep a calendar with ‘official’ school days circled.
Next, make sure that you sign and date the form. Check it over well to make sure that there are no errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. Make copies of all papers for your files.
Then, find out where you should send it. You may be able to ask local homeschoolers. Failing that, try finding your county Board of Education. Give them a call and ask if they are the ones to accept your papers. If not, try your local school district offices. You may even want to call both, just to be sure that there is no conflict.
Once you’ve established who to send your information, mail it to the office, preferably by Certified Mail or with Delivery Confirmation. If you decide to deliver it personally, be sure to have the person who accepts it stamp, sign and date your copies of the papers.
You have now notified your district and are officially homeschooling!
If you have not already done so, remove your children from school by calling the office and requesting that they be unenrolled. Have copies of their records sent to you. If they need papers signed, you can choose to have them sent to you rather than visiting the office to sign them in person. This can be helpful if you have previously had a tense relationship with the school.
According to Ohio law, the Superintendent has two weeks in which to ask for more information about your homeschool. It is very rare for this to happen, but if it does, be sure not to give any more information than is demanded in the regulations, You are under no obligation to give Social Security Numbers or other private information. If the request persists, ask for advice on the Ohio Homeschool Group or the OHEN group on Yahoo! Groups. Generally, the problems can be resolved quite easily.
Remember also that it is common to homeschool children with learning and/or physical disabilities. There are many online groups available for homeschooling special needs kids.
If you have not received a letter asking for more information within two weeks, you are home free. You should get an “official” letter of acceptance of your notification within a few weeks. Make copies of this letter. Some stores, museums and such give educator discounts, and this is your proof of eligibility. Some people also keep a copy of their letter and Ohio Homeschool regulations in a folder by their door in case a wayward truant officer shows up. This almost never happens, but it may make you feel better.
Now that you’re legally homeschooling, welcome to the community! Be sure to link with other homeschoolers, both online and in local groups.
You may want to give your children a few weeks or months off of formal lessons in order to decompress them from school. Visit all your local parks and museums, read by the fire, make dishes from other lands, try weird science experiments that you find on Youtube…in short, have fun! They’ll be all the more ready to learn.