Homeschool law usually isn't the same as the law covering public or private schools. Homeschooling in Washington State, for example, public school is covered in one area of the law, and homeschool law is covered in an entirely different area. It can be confusing! When researching the laws in your state, make sure you are looking at the law that applies to homeschoolers. I frequently see homeschoolers trying to fit their homeschool into public school law, and it doesn't feel right. It can be like the old square peg and round hole!
Homeschooling in Washington State: Graduation requirements
Here is the key: there is a difference between public high school graduation requirements and requirements for homeschoolers. As a homeschool parent in Washington, you get to choose what your graduation requirements are. You can create your own transcript and award your own homeschool diploma, all within state law.
When you plan for college admission, you will exceed the academic requirements for graduation from public schools. College admission requires more than high school graduation. If you are following a college prep plan, then you are doing more than enough. You can read about college prep academics in this article: 9 Easy Steps: High School Graduation Checklist
Washington state law stipulates 11 required subjects to be taught in your homeschool curriculum. Moms often find it most surprising that Washington State History is not on the list, but Occupational Education is on the list. Occupational Education is an easy class to teach. Simply wait until your child gets a job, count hours on the job, and award credit based on those hours. It's the easiest class you'll ever teach.
Other Washington state homeschool requirements include:
- qualify to homeschool (one parent has one year of college or more, has taken a short class, agrees to work with a certified teacher, or is deemed qualified by the local school district)
- submit a declaration of intent to homeschool
- annual assessment (PSAT/NMSQT®, SAT®, and ACT® count, or you can choose a non-test assessment by a certified teacher)
- required to keep records, but they don't say which records to keep. You are required to keep immunization records with your homeschool records, but you aren't required to immunize your children LOL)
And finally, you don't have to turn anything into the state once you have completed the declaration of intent. After this is turned in, you are completely responsible for your child's education.
You are doing everything right, don't worry. You don't have to be a public school. You are a homeschool. Different laws cover homeschools. For more information, check the Washington Homeschool Organization website.
If you don't live in Washington, please make sure you check the law for your own state.
Homeschooling in Washington State: Running Start program
Running Start is relatively easy to access as a homeschooler, even at a young age.
- Take the COMPASS test at the community college.
- Take your transcript and COMPASS test results to the local high school and talk to the Running Start counselor there.
- The counselor will sign a paper allowing you to access Running Start.
- Take the paper into the community college admission department. It's pretty easy (more time consuming when kids are under 16, but still do-able.)Advantages: Dual enrollment can provide college credit, which can save many thousands of dollars on a college degree. It can provide external documentation of a student's academic achievement, especially in difficult subjects like lab science and foreign language.
Drawbacks: Community colleges will often have lower academic standards than regular universities. Classes will be a mix of academically capable and academically struggling teens and adults. Teens are usually in the minority. "Public school" environment with former drop-outs and students of questionable character. "Adult learning environment" that is sometimes akin to watching an R-rated movie. Community colleges have told me to warn homeschoolers that their student population may include "adjudicated individuals" who have been through the court and prison systems.
If you are thinking about Running Start, I recommend using the "buddy system." One friend had great success by using just evening programs, rather than daytime classes, in addition to using the buddy system.
Homeschooling in Washington State & Community College
When I speak to groups, I sometimes express my dissatisfaction with dual enrollment in community college. Extremely popular with homeschoolers, I often get asked why I am hesitant about such programs and the current trend.
In my own experience, I have determined that community college is a "Rated R" environment. With careful control or the curriculum and selection of the teachers, it is still an "adult" situation. I've even had professors at these schools tell me that they use the "sex sells" approach. They cater to the broad expanse of adults, not the unique subset of homeschool young adults who don't want to mix education with unrelated material. It isn't true of every college or college professor, but you need to know that community college can be an adult environment. Be informed and make the best decision for your child and family.
It's always good to keep your eyes open when looking at any situation you think may be appropriate for your children. If you have ever considered community college, this will be a thought-provoking article for you. If you're interested, you can read what some of my readers have said about their community college experience in my blog post, Facing the Community College. You might relate to one of those readers.
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