Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Friday, June 15, 2007


For a while now, a debate has taken place amongst homeschoolers in my state about whether a one-page document known as a “notice of intent” should be filed with the public school system. To me, filing this form is not problematic; however, it is voluntary and therein lies the debate: since filing the notice of intent is voluntary (as is participating in a portfolio review at the end of the academic year as part of that filing), why should I comply? Well, one reason is because the attorneys at HSLDA, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, recommend it. Yet, the attorneys for NHELD, or National Home Education Legal Defense, do not recommend that homeschoolers file a notice of intent. Why the difference?

This question was posted on a homeschool loop yesterday and I responded to the individual who inquired. I thought I would share a portion of that response on Gooseberry Lane:
You probably already understand that the current CT law (10-184) has two components: compulsory education and compulsory attendance. The former component has been around since the 1600's, the latter is more recent. Under the compulsory attendance portion of the law, public school is the default/assumed mode of instruction UNLESS one of two conditions is present:

- the child is a high school graduate OR
- the parent (or person in charge of the child) is able to show that the child is receiving equivalent instruction to what is taught in the public school

Please note that the statute says "able to show," not "required to show" equivalent instruction. Practically speaking, this means that the school authorities should not promulgate a regulation making it mandatory for homeschoolers to demonstrate equivalent instruction; however, it does mean that homeschoolers should be able to demonstrate equivalent instruction if asked.

It is my understanding that sometime in the early 1990's, the regulation of homeschoolers and/or the definition of equivalent instruction became an issue. I am not sure why, but it did. At that time, based on discussions between various state homeschool organizations, the state Department of Education, and HSLDA , "equivalent instruction" was agreed to be ASSUMED if a notice of intent was filed with the school district and the follow-on portfolio review was also performed. Because this procedure could not be a requirement, the entire NOI/portfolio review system was written as a guideline and the organizations involved in this agreement promised to encourage their members to comply with the suggested procedure. Any "refusal" by HSLDA to help homeschoolers who do not "comply" with the "suggested" procedure is, most likely, based on the fact that (as Christian attorneys) they gave their word to uphold that original agreement. Also, HSLDA does not necessarily believe that the filing of a notice of intent is setting a negative precedent or giving ground to the government. They do, however, encourage parents to be very careful about setting precedent in their portfolio reviews. Parents should take only one sample of work from each subject listed on the notice of intent. They should not try to show educational progress or try to "wow" the school with Creative Memories albums of fields trips and the like because that is not required or ASSUMED under the law. Engaging in such behavior at a portfolio review may indeed set a precedent that all homeschoolers should arrive with the same items for their end-of-year reviews.

NHELD differs with HSLDA in that the precedent concern is placed at the NOI level, not the portfolio review level. NHELD also believes that if the suggested procedure is voluntary, it is and should be just that --- voluntary. No one should even suggest that homeschoolers need to "comply" with it, nor should homeschoolers be denied specialized legal assistance based on the fact that they did not "comply" with a "suggested" procedure.

My personal position is this: as a Christian, I am supposed to give unto Caesar what is Caesar's. If I file a notice of intent, I am giving the authorities what is ASSUMED to be equivalent instruction under the law (because remember, I am supposed to be able to demonstrate equivalent instruction when asked and, remember, it is the agreement that was made). I am giving the school district a piece of paper; I am not giving them my child. I have intermittently filed notices of intent over the years and have NEVER had so much as a request from them for additional information. I have never even had a portfolio review.
To this I add: …because the school district did not feel it was necessary. Just as it is voluntary for me to comply by filing a notice of intent, it is also voluntary for them to comply by holding a portfolio review.
It has also been my experience, after almost a dozen years of homeschooling, that parents who file a notice of intent have no problems with the school.


Anonymous said...

According to Deborah Stevenson of NHELD, parents are NOT required to provide"equivalent instruction" to the public schools. The "equivalent instruction" applies to private school, not home schools. She said it is the only reference in law to private school. Parents in Connecticut must provide instruction in certain subjects, but are not mandated to try and recreate school lessons or school schedules in their home instruction.
In my opinion, it is best not to involve the government or government schools in the rearing or education of children whenever possible. The government does not own our children.

Plush Duck said...

You are correct, parents are not REQUIRED to provide any evidence of equivalent instruction. In fact, it is impossible to define that concept, even between public or private schools. However, if I personally and voluntarily file a Notice of Intent and, then, am subsequently asked to attend a portfolio review, I believe I should follow through with the commitment I made by filing the Notice of Intent in the first place. That is what I was trying to get across. Thank you for your comment.