Each state has different requirements for homeschoolers. In Georgia, where we live, the laws are easy to follow. We simply send in a Declaration of Intent to Homeschool each year by September 1, agree to homeschool the equivalent of 4.5 hours per day, 180 days per year, administer a standardized test every three years (beginning in 3rd grade), and write a brief progress report at the end of each “school” year, listing what you studied. The test scores and report do not have to be submitted to anyone. You simply keep them in your own files at home.
Here is how we meet the requirements:
1.) Declaration of Intent — must be filed for homeschoolers between the ages of 6-16. It’s filed online through the GA DofE site. Once it’s submitted, you get a copy of it on your screen with a code added to the signature line. This code is the confirmation that your DoI was received. Be sure to save the document on your hard drive. You can also print out the DoI confirmation and use it to get educator discounts at places like Zoo Atlanta, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Fernbank, Barnes & Noble, Michaels, and more.
2.) Educating 4.5 hours per day/180 days per year — this may sound difficult and rigid to new homeschoolers, but meeting this requirement is incredibly easy. The law doesn’t require that you sit at a desk using textbooks and worksheets 4.5 hours a day, 180 days per year. It simply means that you are learning with and/or educating your child for that amount of time. Reading books together counts. Taking classes outside the home counts. Doing art or science projects counts. Watching documentaries counts. Anything you do that requires learning something new or practicing what you’ve already learned can count towards the 4.5 hours/180 days. To give more examples of how you can fill that time with learning that doesn’t look like school, I’ve written a blog post here.
3.) Standardized testing — some homeschool groups in Georgia offer group standardized testing each spring. We’ve always done ours on our own at home. We order the CAT from Seton Testing — it’s $29, is delivered quickly, and once you send it back in, the results come in less than two weeks. We set aside two or three days to test, clear off a space at the dining room table, set our kitchen timer, and go. Easy peasy.
NOTE: Seton no longer offers the CAT for third grade homeschoolers in GA, though it is still available for grades 4-12. (And their Terra Nova test is not available to any homeschoolers in GA.)
For third grade (or any grade) testing you can still order the older version of the CAT through Family Learning Organization for about $40, or you can administer the IOWA test from Seton for any grade, as long as you have a B.A. or B.S. degree and fill out a Test Administrator form for them.
If you prefer online testing instead of using test books and answer sheets that have to be mailed in, I recommend ordering from Academic Excellence. Their site is easy to use, you can choose from timed or untimed versions of the CAT, and you get printable results immediately after submitting the test answers. This is what we used for our son’s third grade testing last year, and we were really happy with the service.
4.) End of year progress report — to be honest, in our 20+ years of homeschooling, I’ve never written an end of year progress report. No one has ever asked for it, and I believe it’s meant to be informational if your child ever decides to enroll in traditional school. I do keep journals and samples of work, and photos from all the fun educational things we do all year, so if I needed to write a report quickly, I could. It is nice to have something pulled together though, documenting your year. I love to go back and look at all the things we’ve done through our many years homeschooling together. And seeing what I did with the older one back in his younger years helps me come up with fun things to do with our younger son. Plus, I’m just nostalgic. So there’s that. 🙂
To find out what the homeschool laws are in your state, you can do a quick Google search, or check out this page.