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Required Days/Hours of Instruction
~ What does the law require?
The Law requires that you provide
"a minimum of one hundred eighty (180) days of instruction
While the grammar in the law is confusing at best, this section is commonly taken to mean that you must do 180 days or 900 hours per year in grades 1-6 (the elementary level), and 180 days or 990 hours per year in grades 7-12 (the secondary level). Note that you do not need to do both days and hours – just one or the other. It is totally your choice which one to do. Most people find counting days to be easiest. (High school students sometimes count hours, if they plan to document their work in terms of "credit hours".) You can do whichever works best for you.
A bit of common sense:
Keeping attendance records in a homeschool? Aren't the kids home every day? Does this whole thing seem a bit silly? I think so. Counting “school days” or “school hours” is often not a good way to assess or quantify a home education program. For young children, especially, it can be downright impossible, as, in many homes, life and learning, as well as teaching and parenting, are inseparably intertwined.
Was that a bedtime story, or an English lesson? Did you ride bikes, or take a phys ed class? Did your kids buy some candy at the store with their own money, or do a hands-on math exercise? Did you tell them why they have to brush their teeth, or give them a health lesson? Are you playing that game for fun, or to teach counting and probability?
The key is to find a way to play the "school days" game that works for you. Don’t get too hung up on this, OK? Now let’s continue.
There are no legal rules that I am aware of about what "counts" as instruction. Remember that many families consider child-initiated activities, like bike riding, playing board games, bedtime stories, and the like to be part of their schooling. Remember that, along with traditional textbook work, things like weekend trips to museums, sports, active play, summer camp, trips to the library, family vacations, and dinner table discussions are often "instructional time" for homeschoolers. Relax.
There is no legal definition I am aware of for a "day" of home education. Some parents count a day only if they have done textbook work for a certain amount of time, while other parents count any day in which any learning has taken place. (For many homeschoolers, the distinction between a "school day" and "not a school day" is absurd and reflects a misunderstanding of how homeschooling works.) You could drive yourself crazy trying to figure out which days are "school days" and which aren't. Don't obsess about this. Hire an evaluator whose expectations are a good match for your approach to homeschooling.
Records showing the days/hours are not specifically required in The Law. However, as I read the law (and others may read it differently), the <portfolio + evaluator's certification > should "demonstrate that appropriate education is occurring". "Appropriate education" is defined as "a program consisting of instruction in the required subjects for the time required in this act and in which the student demonstrates sustained progress in the overall program". Thus an argument can be made that the <portfolio + evaluator's certification > should contain something that speaks to the idea that the student's home ed program included instruction for 180 days or 900/990 hours.
That "something" could be one of a number of things. Below are some ways that families have shown that they have met the days/hours requirement.
Detailed Daily Log:
Book Log + ...:
Book Log + Attendance Calendar: <--Most Popular
Book Log + Supervisor’s Statement:
Book Log + The Parent’s Word + The Evaluator's Statement:
Book Log + The Affidavit:
Many families keep their attendance records on a piece of loose leaf paper or in a spiral notebook. Others like to have a simple form to fill out. If you wish to keep attendance records (whether or not you turn them in to the district), you may like one of my handy-dandy attendance forms. You'll find several different attendance and log forms for you to print out and use. Choose the ones that work best for you, or make your own, or just use an ordinary notebook.
There are a number of approaches to documenting your days/hours. I cannot tell you what your evaluator (or, if it comes that, a hearing examiner) will expect, what they will accept, or how they will interpret the law. Only they can tell you that.
Your Evaluator: The evaluator must determine, based on the documentation you provide, whether or not "appropriate education", which includes "instruction ... for the time required", has taken place. You decide who to hire as your evaluator. Discuss your approach to documentation with prospective evaluators. Choose an evaluator whose expectations/standards are a good match for your style. Evaluators vary widely, and most folks should be able to find one who accepts their approach to documentation. See my list of evaluators, or ask around to find someone local.
Your District: In October 2014, the home education law was changed. As per that change, you only need to submit the evaluator's certification to the school district at the end of the school year. You no longer need to routinely submit your portfolio to the district.
If you are concerned about potential challenges to your home education program, and you choose one of the more minimal approaches, consider keeping back-up records of your “school days”, so that you will have documentation to fall back on if you need it later on. (See the law and my district problems page.)
Some school districts have a history of asking homeschoolers for things that are not required by law. If you feel this may be the case in your district, see my District Problems Page. Remember - there is no substitute for reading The Law yourself!