How to Homeschool in Texas: A Beginner's Guide
Homeschooling in Texas
Texas is among one of the friendliest states when it comes to homeschooling. Even though homeschooling is allowed and legal throughout the United States, many states have some extremely stringent standards and many layers of red tape. States that are lenient with strict standards and regulations, aside from Texas, include Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Alaska, Idaho, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Eleven states require a teaching degree to homeschool the kids! Texas doesn't require such a thing.
You Have a Right to Homeschool in Texas
The beginning journey towards homeschooling can be a time filled with anxiety. You know and feel what's best for your child, but you are have heard stigmas and rumors about homeschooled kids. You may feel that you, as an educator, are not prepared. You're probably afraid of law enforcement knocking down the door, ready to take the kids away from you. Luckily for you, you're a Texas, and you have rights as a homeschooling mother or father.
Texas School Attendance Age
In Texas, a child within the ages of six to nineteen has to attend school, whether it's public or private. Homeschools are considered private schools in Texas. Children cannot be pulled from Pre-Kinder, Kindergarten, or the first grade if they have already been attending for the year (even though the child may not be six years old yet).
Protect Your Homeschooling Rights!
To Protect One's Right's, it's important to research a few organizations. One is The HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association), and the other is THSC (Texas Homeschool Coalition). These are organizations that work hard to defend the parent's rights to homeschool their children. Even though you may be in Texas, some individuals (law enforcement, child protection services, public schools, and dismayed family members) may still try to lie to you, threaten you, entrap you or deceive you in regards to your rights as a homeschool parent. Both of these organizations have a low monthly cost, and costs for the year can even be paid in advance. Once you're a member, you can have access to a lawyer that can be called at any time for emergencies. These organizations should be joined the day that you remove the child from the public school system and begin homeschooling.
What Does Texas Require from Homeschoolers?
The instruction has to be bona fide. This means that the instruction can't be a sham. The instruction has to be visual, meaning that the child's progress can be seen in a visual form. This can happen through different Medias, like through books, or computer, online, videos, etc. Finally, the student must learn good citizenship, reading, grammar, math, and spelling. Parents can send their child to the home of other parents for homeschooling, such as co-op situations. In Texas, homes that homeschool is considered private schools. They are not regulated. Homeschool teachers do not require any degree or certification. They do not require approval from a stranger, and families that homeschool are exempt from Texas attendance laws. Local schools in the area are allowed (and have a right) to inquire about the child's attendance in a private school if the child is school age.
Withdrawing the Child from Public School
Some schools may ask the parent to sign a withdrawal form. Others will be okay with a certified mail with a return receipt sent to them. It's best to send a certified letter to the school with the intent to withdraw. Not withdrawing can be dangerous, as failing to withdraw the student can give the school grounds to file truancy charges against the parent and the child. When writing a withdrawal letter, include the date that homeschooling will begin. Students must be withdrawn before the beginning of homeschool, and homeschooling needs to start as soon as the student is withdrawn from school. A withdrawal letter example can be found here:https://www.thsc.org/mailing-a-withdrawal-letter/This is to avoid any issues with truancy or absence. If sending a letter, it is wise to send a copy of the Commissioner's letter, which can be found here: https://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/News_and_Multimedia/Correspondence/TAA_Letters/Home_Schools/
When withdrawing the student, ask for their up to date report cards and any school records. Also, ask for their immunization records for your reference.
If the school mentions that you have to do more to withdraw the child, it's best to not go to the school. It's best to respond by letter. The TEA, or the Texas Education Agency, has let school districts know that these letters of Assurance comply with Texas attendance laws. An example of a letter of assurance can be found here: https://www.thsc.org/mailing-an-assurance-letter/
After this, choose a curriculum and start homeschooling! Be easy on yourself as a parent. Be flexible and don't go overboard with supplies. All you need to start is a tablet, Acellus or ABCMouse, or even both if you'd like! Keep in mind that ABC Mouse is excellent for Pre-K to Second grade. Acellus is for all grades. Do not compare progress that the child is making with anything in public school. Enjoy waking up later, and not having to rush to a busy, loud place so early in the morning!
Ease Your Way Into Homeschooling in Texas
Homeschooling can seem like a huge challenge. You have probably envisioned expensive stacks of books, tons of educational wall decor, a desk, a dedicated work space. You have probably even almost talked yourself out of homeschooling because it may seem like an expensive enterprise. Honestly, homeschooling can begin on a tablet. Most children have access to a phone, computer or tablet. For those who are Kindergarteners through Second grade, a great, easy to use tool to start homeschooling is ABC Mouse. It can be accessed online or as an app. It's bright, easy to use, and it separates knowledge by grade level. Another tool that can be used, as an app or online, is Acellus. Acellus Homeschool and Acellus Tutor Mode is an online academy that has educational material separated by grade level. Acellus Tutor Mode gives parents more freedom to pick and choose what they want their kids to learn from the curriculum. Children can take up to six classes at a time, and they can also take less if you desire that. Both ABC Mouse and Acellus are affordable and easily accessible once the apps are downloaded, and accounts are created. Acellus Homeschool Mode goes at its own place, which is quite reasonable and gives the student freedom to do as many lessons as they want. These options are useful starter tools to begin homeschooling right away after the kids are pulled out of a Texas public school. If you would like your child to read, but don't have many books around or the means to get to a library on a constant basis, download an app called Epic. For a small monthly fee, the child will have continuous access to age-appropriate books that are tablet-friendly.
After you feel more comfortable with your decisions, you can include workbooks with material that the child is struggling in. You can include spelling words as the weeks go on, or even have the child learn about an artist or musician on Fridays. You can even schedule a day per week to go to a museum or do some other educational activity. After you get into a little routine, the work that the child does daily is up to you. That's why I feel that Acellus and ABC Mouse are excellent starters. They enable you to get your feet wet with homeschooling, without the anxiety and stress of planning a curriculum all by yourself. The curriculum, with these programs, is already set out for you. To begin homeschooling, using these simple apps, all you have to do is help the child login, sit with them, and watch as their minds expand and reach new heights.
Keep Student and Attendance Records
These programs like Acellus and ABC Mouse are excellent in that they also record attendance, grades and progress reports, in case they are ever required in the future. Keeping track of this is essential because you will need to create a diploma and organize the transcripts when the child graduates school. IT's best to print out monthly and semester grades and keep them organized in a folder to make this task easier. The reason that a diploma and transcript might be needed in Texas is to obtain a driver’s license, attend college, join the military, and even apply for social security benefits later on in life. Keeping records in Texas is not required, but one can easily see how important it is. Record attendance, grades, progress, and exam scores. Again, apps that have these tools built into them make homeschooling and record keeping so much easier.
What is Unschooling? Is it Legal in Texas?
Unschooling is where the parent decides that the child learns through performing a variety of activities. Unschooling removes the stress of rigorous, conventional schoolwork and may even forego tight, unyielding schedules. Usually, in regular homeschooling, the parent tries to emulate a classroom and attempts to be the child's teacher. In unschooling, the child leads their learning by asking questions about things they are interested in. Of course, in Texas, parents can do a mixture of these. But keep in mind that Texas does require that homeschooling parents teach their children the following: math, grammar, reading, spelling and good citizenship. Remember that while unschooling is great, Texas law dictates that in addition to the subjects mentioned above, the curriculum has to be in a visual form, whether it's through books, workbooks, a computer, or any other visual, tangible media.
Homeschoolers and Socialization
In public schools, socialization is limited to students of the same age group. Socialization is limited to the same faces 180 days a year. Socialization is limited to recess and maybe breakfast and perhaps after school while waiting for the bus or parent pick up. Either way, socialization is limited. Texas homeschooling parents can enroll their kids in a plethora of activities. Parents can sign their kids up for Boy Scout/ girl scouts for homeschoolers, or church groups. They can sign them up for soccer or any other kind of sports. They can enroll them in museums, such as the DoSeum in San Antonio, Texas. They can get memberships to places like The Witte Museum, the San Antonio Museum of Art, or the McNay art museum. Those places have many activities they host every month for kids. Parents even have the options of having their kids be part of a co-op, which is like a school environment for a day per week if one desires that. Parents can sign up on a site like Meet Up to find local play and homeschooling groups.
What is "Good Citizenship"?
In Elementary levels, good citizenship happens in public schools in ways that may be considered controversial, depending on the parent's feelings of current political environments. Grade school children, in public schools, practice good citizenship by learning about the meanings behind American flags and Texas flags. They also say the Pledge of Allegiance and also the Texas Flag Pledge. They learn songs that are considered patriotic. They learn about the voting system, the White House, and other related law-making institutions. They learn about the justice system and equality. They are taught about historical persons, in the past and present that have changed America. They also learn about United States customs, and celebrations held to remember freedoms that we share. Older students may take government in high school. They may also participate in mock voting events. Parents can include any or all of these ideas in their child's curriculum. They can also choose to include truthful information on Native Americans, as they were the original occupants of Texas.
To make this easy, this website helps children learn about the United States government. It is broken up into three tiers. The first is for children that are four to eight years old. Then children that are nine to thirteen years old. Then children that are fourteen and beyond. This is the website: https://bensguide.gpo.gov/. Again, some information may be controversial depending on the political viewpoints of the parents.
Take a Leap of Faith Concerning Your Child's Education
In conclusion, homeschooling in Texas is legal. You can either choose to homeschool through an accredited academy or a non-accredited one. Either one is fine, as long as you keep records and teach the minimum of what Texas requires for curriculum. Homeschooling doesn't have to start off as some complicated, mind-boggling thing. You can gently ease into it with an app that already records your child's progress, something that can easily be printed out and put into an ongoing student folder. As you and your child progress and gain confidence, you can add extra workbooks, change the curriculum, add extracurricular activities and expand and evolve with your child's mind. No more bullies, no more worries, no more doubt. Now you can help your student's creativity grow in ways that public school could never reach.
© 2018 Charlotte Doyle