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,
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,
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
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.