GA HB 39: Georgia Homeschooling Law Changes Beginning 2012 / 2013 School Year

{How to Homeschool in Georgia}

Since the deadline for submitting a Declaration of Intent to Homeschool is September 1st, I thought I would repost this column I wrote earlier in the summer.  Last night I submitted our Declaration of Intent to Homeschool on the Georgia Dept. of Education’s website, and it could not have been easier!  Please note that since this is our first year, I have not had to submit attendance forms yet. I sent a query with some questions about that form. I will write more about this and our “back to homeschool” (starting next week) in an upcoming column.

I understand that some homeschoolers are concerned that this online form requires the child’s birthdate. The law states we only have to give their age.  I have read in a Georgia homeschooling e-mail list that the Georgia Dept. of Education should be updating the form at some point to reflect this.  Let’s hope so.

******

UPDATE: Since writing this column, the Georgia Department of Education has updated their website.  All the instructions and online forms (which are very simple!) can be accessed by clicking here.

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on May 30, 2012.  For information on the homeschooling law for kindergarten in Georgia, see this post.

Some changes have been made to the homeschooling law in Georgia, and they will go into effect July 1, 2012. There are two major changes that homeschoolers need to be aware of.  The first is that they will no longer turn in their paperwork to their local school districts.  Now they will report directly to the Department of Education.

The second major change is that homeschoolers will only be required to turn in attendance forms once a year to the Department of Education.  Currently homeschoolers have to turn in a monthly attendance form to their local school district.  This change will no doubt come as a relief to many homeschooling parents.

I called the Department of Education (DOE) and a spokesperson told me that they hope to have all the instructions and forms on their website by mid-June. (UPDATE: The Department of Education’s instructions and online submittal forms are posted here.)  They will try to make the process as easy as possible, and the forms will be available on their website to submit electronically.  There will be other options for turning in the forms as well.

I’ll wager that the DOE will make the process easy because it’s in their interest to do so.  In the 2010/2011 school year, there were 107,509 homeschooled students in Georgia, and that number may increase in coming years.  This coming fall, my eldest son will be added to that number for the first time.

The spokesperson said they would also find a way to help students who require proof of attendance to apply for a driver’s license at age 16 so that they won’t have to wait until the end of the school year to do so.

With these changes in mind, the following are the requirements that parents or guardians must follow in order to homeschool in Georgia:

  • Parents or guardians of homeschoolers are required to submit a declaration of intent to homeschool within 30 days of establishing such a program and thereafter by September 1 each year.  Compulsory attendance is for children between the ages of six and sixteen, but any child under seven who has been enrolled in public school for 20 days or more will need to submit a declaration of intent to homeschool.
  • The declaration needs to list the names and ages of the students, the address of the home study program, and a statement of the 12-month period that is to be considered the school year.
  • Parents or guardians may teach only their own children, and they must possess at least a high school diploma or GED, but they can employ a tutor who holds a high school diploma or GED.
  • The law states, “The home study program shall provide a basic academic educational program which includes, but is not limited to, reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science.”
  • The home study program must provide instruction each 12 months to the students equivalent to 180 school days with each day consisting of at least 4.5 hours unless the child is physically unable to comply.
  • Attendance records must be kept and submitted annually to the Department of Education.
  • The law states, “Students in home study programs shall be subject to an appropriate nationally standardized testing program administered in consultation with a person trained in the administration and interpretation of norm reference tests…” beginning at the end of the 3rd grade and every three years after that.  The spokesperson at the DOE recommended that parents use a nationally recognized test.  Homeschoolers can find a list of such tests here: http://www.ghea.org/pages/testing/standardizedTests.php. Note that a parent can administer the test after consulting with someone at the test’s publisher, or they could ask a local teacher to administer the test.  The results of the tests do not need to be shared with anyone, and parents need only retain them for their own records.
  • Finally, the home study program instructor needs to write an annual progress assessment report which will include her assessment of the student’s academic progress in each of the subject areas listed above, and parents need to retain these reports for at least three years.  (These annual reports do not have to be submitted to anyone either.)

The spokesperson also stated that the exams and annual progress report are important for homeschooled students because they may be needed in case that student ever needs to enroll in public school (though several homeschoolers have told me public schools have not required these items upon enrollment of their homeschooled child), or they may be used as part of a portfolio for applying to college.  He said that homeschooled students who are considering college should look at the requirements of the colleges they will be applying to and consider those requirements as they proceed in their course of study for high school.

See the following links for more information.

Georgia House Bill 39

Department of Education

Since I’m writing what was related to me by the spokesperson at DOE, I welcome any comments from seasoned homeschoolers Re: their experience homeschooling in Georgia and compliance with the law.

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