OMG! Mom you got a lot to learn...

OMG! Mom you got a lot to learn...

Before you take the plunge into homeschool, get the facts on what’s involved and
resources to help your child have the best learning experience possible

By Angela E. Thomas

School choice empowers parents to make the best possible choice for their children’s education, and for many parents the best choice is homeschool. In Arkansas, nearly 19,500 students “attended” school provided by their parents or legal guardians in 2016-17. 

Is homeschooling right for your family? Following are the most frequently asked questions regarding the topic, with information provided by Kimberly Friedman, MPA, director of communications for the Arkansas Department of Education.

Why do most parents choose to homeschool? 
Arkansas does not require parents/legal guardians to provide a reason for their choice. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, most parents cite concerns about the environment in schools as well as their desire to provide religious and/or moral instruction as their reasons. And according to statistics provided by the Arkansas Department of Education, the majority of students who are homeschooled are high school age. 

What’s required, legally speaking?
By law, Arkansas parents who have custody or charge of any child 5 to 17 years of age “shall enroll and send the child to a public, private or parochial school or provide a homeschool for the child in accordance with the requirements of the homeschool law.” 

Parents/guardians who choose to homeschool must complete a Notice of Intent (NOI). The form is posted on the Homeschool page of the Arkansas Department of Education’s (ADE) website. It can be completed online or can be downloaded and printed. The paper version of the form can either be hand-delivered, emailed, mailed or faxed to the resident school district’s superintendent’s office. The notice must be filed at the beginning of each school year, no later than Aug. 15. 

What is the time commitment? Am I required to follow my local school district’s schedule? 
Homeschool students’ schedules are determined by their parents or legal guardians. State law does not require parents or legal guardians to have prescribed schedules for schooling their child(ren).

Am I required to use their instruction materials?
In addition to setting their instruction schedules, parents may choose the books, curriculum and materials they use. The ADE publishes a Fact Sheet on Homeschooling and lists several websites for testing. Of those, A Beka and Bob Jones University each offer homeschool curriculums. Google the term “homeschool materials” or “homeschool curriculum,” and you’ll find a good number of online programs. 

What about testing?
Arkansas no longer requires parents/guardians test their students; however, if parents/guardians choose to do so, they are responsible for the costs. Seton Home Study School, A Beka Testing, Bob Jones University and Brewer Testing Services are just some of the companies the department lists as a resource. 

Additionally, the department does not monitor student activity or work, so it’s a good idea to maintain attendance records, a portfolio of the students’ work and a transcript. This is advisable as the Arkansas Department of Education does not provide diplomas for students who are homeschooled. 

May my child(ren) participate in my nearest district’s extracurricular activities? 
Yes. When a student leaves a public school to be homeschooled, he or she is required to wait a full calendar year before he/she competes in sports activities for grades 8-12. The year begins the day the student withdraws from a public school. Homeschool students may participate in sports activities but cannot compete until the waiting period is completed. This means that students can practice but cannot compete.

As far as other extracurricular activities, such as band, choir, etc., homeschool students can immediately begin to participate without having to wait a calendar year.

Can my child(ren) receive a high school diploma through the Arkansas Department of Education? 
No; however, a student who has been taught at home may enroll or re-enroll in his/her local public school and attend classes for at least nine months immediately before graduation to become eligible to graduate from public school with a diploma. 

Students 16 and older who are not enrolled in a high school may earn an Arkansas high school diploma by passing the GED (General Educational Development) assessment. The test and free instruction to prepare for the test are available through Arkansas Department of Career Education. For more information about their programs, log on to aalrc.org or call 877-963-4433. 

 

For more information about homeschooling your child(ren) in Arkansas,
log on to arkansased.gov or call 501-682-1874.