By Mia Anderson
Part 3 of 5 in the series: Knowledge is Power: Know Your Homeschool Law
This is the third in a series of articles discussing the Washington State laws that affect and regulate homeschooling. The more informed we are about the law and our rights, the more able we are to defend those rights.
While you are reading, remember that all laws are open to interpretation. Please be aware that what follows is one interpretation. We encourage you to take the time to read the RCWs presented here for yourself. They are available in numerical order on the web.
RCW 28A.200 is the chapter of the law that addresses homeschooling, or home-based instruction specifically. The first section of this chapter, RCW 28A.200.010, is titled, "Duties of Parents." It delineates, as you may have guesses, the responsibility of the homeschooling parent not already outlined in the mandatory attendance law. This article will deal with the second duty listed, record keeping.
Record keeping is often overlooked in conversations about the homeschool law because it is an easily met requirement, and seems to have no great impact. And yet, the very fact that we compile and maintain our children's records, and store them in our homes, is one of the strongest indicators of how truly independent homeschooling is from public or private education in Washington State.
The law requires that parents keep their child's immunization records, annual testing or non-test assessments, and vaguely, ".any other records that are kept relating to the instructional and educational activities." as part of their educational records. These records (we suggest copies) must be forward to any public or private school into which the child enrolls full-time.
Your child's educational records can be as detailed and creative, or streamline and brief as you wish. Some homeschooling parents have a file in a cabinet with the bare minimum. Others use the record keeping to document their homeschooling experience with pictures, scrap books, projects, you name it, and it fills up boxes and boxes.
There are really only a couple of instances when a homeschooling parent will be asked to produce records. As mentioned before, one is for enrollment in a public or private school. The law is very clear that in these cases it is the prerogative of the administrator of the receiving school to assign the student to a grade level. Further, it has been our experience that said administrator is usually uninterested in seeing your child's educational records. So, if you are enrolling your child full-time in a public or private school, present copies of your records, but don't be surprised if they are filed immediately, without serious examination, and your child is assigned a grade level by age.
The second situation in which you may be asked to show your records is potentially more serious. Divorce and child custody situations are dicey at best. You may be asked to produce your records in court to demonstrate that you have been homeschooling legally, that you have been responsible about the educations of your child, and that he, she, or they are making progress. This may occur even when your spouse or partner has been very supportive of and active in your family's homeschooling efforts.
So, compile and store your educational records. They are yours, stored in your home, proof that you are independent of private or public education oversight. And, in those times of doubt that assail every homeschooling parent, looking back through your records of what you and your children have accomplished, and the experiences that have been part of your homeschooling efforts, will reassure and inspire you.
The fourth topic is testing and compliance.
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