MHLA logo  
 
Information
Support
Advocacy
 

Ages to Begin and Stop Reporting to the Local School District

In Massachusetts, the Board of Education is delegated by the legislature to set the minimum and maximum ages of school attendance. The Board of Education, through the Department of Education Regulations, has set ages 6-16 as those required for attendance.

When to Begin Reporting?

The relevant Department of Education (DOE) regulation states: Each child must attend school beginning in September of the calendar year in which he or she attains the age of 6. http://www.doe.mass.edu/lawsregs/603cmr8.html?section=all

Therefore, you will need to have your homeschooling paperwork in order with the local school district before September of the calendar year in which your child turns 6.

Massachusetts is an "approval" state; to find out more about how this process works in Massachusetts, visit the Getting Started pages of our website at http://mhla.org/information/gettingstarted/index.htm. The issue of approval for 6 year-olds, however, contains some gray areas which may cause confusion. The following information should help to clarify some of this confusion.

Each school district establishes a cut-off date by which a child must turn 5 in order to be eligible to enter kindergarten. By extension, the cut-off dates also tell us when a child must turn 6 in order to be eligible to enter first grade. These dates are not always in September. To view your local district's cut-off date, visit this Department of Education website, http://www.doe.mass.edu/ess/kindergarten.aspx, OR call your local school district for updated information. Knowing your district’s cut-off date will help you determine if your 6 year-old would be eligible for kindergarten or first grade in September of the calendar year in which he or she turns 6. This may affect what further action you may need to take beyond simply notifying the district that you will be homeschooling.

The following Question and Answer section may help you understand what you need to do in terms of reporting.

Q: My child turns 6 before September 1, what do I do?

A: Submit a letter of intent to homeschool and education plan to the local school district before September of the calendar year in which your child turns 6. Generally, in this situation, your child would be considered by the district to be in first grade in September.

Q: My child turns 6 after September 1, do I need to report and if so, when?

A: First, determine your local district's cut-off date by visiting this Department of Education website, http://www.doe.mass.edu/ess/kindergarten.aspx, OR by calling your local school district for updated information. The cut-off date will tell you whether your child would be considered eligible for kindergarten or first grade in September. Whether your child would be eligible for kindergarten or first grade according to local cut-off dates, you are still responsible for notifying the school district that you will be homeschooling by September of the calendar year in which your child turns 6. (Note that this refers to the "calendar" year and not the "school" year, which spans two calendar years.) According to the DOE, kindergarten is, in effect, mandatory for those children who will be 6 between September and December 31 of that calendar year, but who are not yet eligible for first grade according to local districts.

Q: My child turns 6 after the local cut-off date, and my district considers my child in kindergarten. After I send in my letter of intent to homeschool, will I have to submit an education plan for kindergarten for my child?

A:This varies by district. Local officials, at their discretion, may simply choose to approve your "otherwise educated" child without the need for any paperwork until the child reaches first grade age according to district cut-off dates. In practical experience, many districts do not consider kindergarten reporting for homeschoolers to be necessary. So you might not be asked to submit an education plan for kindergarten, but only to send in notification that you intend to homeschool. If your district tells you they want to see an education plan for kindergarten, you might be able to persuade them otherwise by letting them know that not all districts require such an education plan, and that you would prefer to wait until your child is first grade age to send in a formal plan.

To find out if your district has required kindergarten education plans in the past, you can speak with other homeschoolers in your district before contacting the school system. Get in touch with local homeschool support groups, http://mhla.org/support/masupportgroups.htm, or post to the MHLA discussion list at Yahoo!Groups for this purpose, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/masshomelearningassoc/. If you need to find out what others have submitted for kindergarten plans, visit the archives of the MHLA yahoo group and search for "kindergarten curriculum,” or post a question on the egroup list.

Q. My child turns 6 after the local cut-off date and my district says my child would be in kindergarten but we are using a first grade education plan. What do I submit?

A: After you submit your notice of intent to homeschool, you may find your district does not ask for an education plan for kindergarten. In that case, submit nothing. However, if your district requires an education plan for kindergarten, you have a choice of what to submit. Again, hearing the experiences of other homeschoolers may be valuable here, and you may want to gather the opinions of homeschoolers in local support groups or on the MHLA egroup (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/masshomelearningassoc/) before deciding what to submit. You may want to consider sending the district only the minimum information required to cover a kindergarten level plan even if your child has surpassed this level, or not specifying grade level in your education plan, leaving you and your child maximum flexibility for learning in these early years.

When to Stop Reporting?

The day a child turns 16, he or she is no longer bound by the compulsory attendance statutes. When developing an education plan for the school year in which a child turns 16, parents may legitimately include only that portion of the year in which the child will still be under 16. While there is no regulation requiring this, we recommend that when your child turns 16, you write the district a farewell letter, informing them that you will no longer be reporting for your over-16 year-old child. Even though you can stop reporting your child at age 16, be sure to continue keeping records of your child's homeschool experiences in case he or she wishes to attend college or pursue a post-homeschool program which requires documentation that the student completed high-school level work.

Please take note, however, that if your child is playing varsity school sports (many districts permit this), the school principal is responsible for determining whether or not your child meets the academic eligibility requirements that other students must meet. (See Requirements for Participation in Interscholastic Athletic Programs on this website at http://mhla.org/information/massdocuments/miaareq.htm.) In this case, the principal will probably expect you to continue some form of reporting, in order to maintain compliance with the Massachusetts Athletic Association requirements for varsity sports.

Some homeschooled teens also participate in other school activities, such as band or academics. Whatever arrangements are made in these areas are at the discretion of the local district. However, if your teen is interested in participating in school activities, we encourage you to investigate what arrangements work in other districts and to approach your district about setting up such arrangements. Frequently, homeschooling families and their school districts can arrive at mutually satisfactory agreements about participation in school activities or classes. Knowing the experiences of other homeschoolers may be valuable during these interactions with school officials. Contact local support groups, or inquire on the MHLA egroup at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/masshomelearningassoc/ to find out what arrangements have been made in other districts.

 

Massachusetts Home Learning Association

Contact MHLA by email
Copyright© 2004-2012 Massachusetts Home Learning Association