This series of blog entries is designed to answer the most common homeschooling question: What do I have to do in order to homeschool in NH?". For the basic requirements, please see the prior blog entry Homeschooling in NH.
Today's blog focuses on the participating agency, how to select one, and how they fit into your homeschooling plan.
What is a participating agency? Your participating agency (PA) is one of the following: your local school district, a private school, or the Department of Education in Concord, NH. The PA provides a record that you are a homeschooling family, acknowledges your notification letter, and receives your evaluation at the end of the school year. (NH RSA 193-A:5 paragraph Ib)
It is easiest to use your local school district. They provide the service free of charge and they are usually close to your location, so an in person visit is more convenient. There is no need for an in person visit. However, if confusion arises, sometimes an in person relationship with your local school can help smooth the way. It is also useful to use the local school district if you have any plans to introduce your children into the local school system either as full time students in the future or as part time students for special classes such as art, music, or extra curricular sports. In that case, a working relationship with your local school can mean the difference between access to part time special classes or not.
In some cases, using the local school district may not be feasible. Perhaps you have had a difficult history with the local school district and that situation lead to your homeschooing in the first place. In these situations, a private school is a good alternative. Private schools can act as a PA for a homeschooling family. They may charge for their services, so if costs are a consideration, it may not be the best fit for your family. Also, private schools are not as likely to allow your student to participate in special classes unless you pay their tuition costs.
It is legal to use the Department of Education (DOE) in Concord, NH as your participating agency. However, it is generally discouraged since their office is very small and the workload of processing homeschooling notification letters and evaluations may overwhelm their office. I would only recommend using their office as a last resort solution.