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 Homeschooling in NH parts 1 & 2.
Today's blog focuses on the first two of the three legal requirements to homeschooling in NH, providing a notification letter and an end of the year evaluation to your participating agency.
1. Providing a Notification Letter to your PA
Provide a notification letter to your PA within 5 days of starting your homeschooling program, removing your child from school, or the start of the school year. This notification letter needs to contain the following information: (1) your child's name, (2) your child's date of birth, and (3) your address along with the fact that you will be homeschooling for the current school year. That is all the letter needs to contain. Some families like to include a limiting paragraph that they do not give permission for anyone to use the education information of their child for any other purpose than recording the child as a homeschooler. (NH RSA 193-A:5 paragraphs Ia & II)
2. Provide an Evaluation to your PA by July 1st following the end of the school calendar.
Provide an evaluation to your PA by July 1st following the end of the school calendar. This evaluation can be in one of 4 forms: (1) a portfolio evaluation done by a certified teacher that shows progress in line with the child's age and ability, (2) a nationally recognized standardized exam with a composite score at the 40th percentile or higher, (3) a state student assessment used by the resident school district with a composite score at the 40th percentile or higher, or (4) any method of evalution agreed upon between the parents and the participating agency. (NH RSA 193-A:6 paragraph II)
Any of the four choices is a valid option for evaluating your child. The most important thing you can do for a successful evaluation is to match the evaluation method to your child's abilities and your homeschool goals. One parent I know became very discouraged when her daughter went into their local school to take a standardized test with the resident school district (option 3). The results were much lower than she expected and she realized that this test was the first time her daughter had physically stepped into a public school. Her daughter was overwhelmed by the experince of being in a "real" school and was not concentrating on the test. Of course her scores were lower than her parent expected. By the time she retested in the spring, her scores were back to their previously high levels.
Standardized exams have uses beyond the end of the year evaluation. Some parents use standardized exams to measure their child's abilities at the start of the school year to determine the gaps in the child's knowledge. This gives them a road map for teaching during the year. Some parents like to measure their children against the national standards for a personal reality check on their homeschooling program.
Portfolio evaluations offer a less formal method for evaluation. This process also takes into account any special needs your child may have with their education. It is an especially good measure for children who do not take timed tests well or children who may work below grade level in one or more subjects. There are many evaluators available to provide the service. Some want to meet the child involved. Some only want to review the child's portfolio of work. The best way to choose an evaluator is to interview several evaluators early in the school year and find one that matches your homeschooling philosophy and methodology so that they will be in sync with your teaching methods and the contents of the portfolio.