Homeschooling laws can change, so be sure to check the Washington State Board of Education and the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction websites for updates.
Are you ready to start homeschooling in Washington? You may have many questions about topics like what you need to do to begin, what recordkeeping and testing is required, and how you need to interact with your local school district. You will want to start by understanding Washington homeschool law. You may feel overwhelmed as you start this process, but there are resources available and other homeschoolers who have already succeeded on this adventure!
Here is some information on Washington homeschool requirements to get you started:
Washington Homeschool Law
According to Washington Statute RCW 28A.225.010, “All parents in this state of any child eight years of age and under eighteen years of age shall cause such child to attend the public school of the district in which the child resides and such child shall have the responsibility to and therefore shall attend for the full time when such school may be in session unless:
- The child is attending an approved private school for the same time or is enrolled in an extension program as provided in RCW 28A.195.010(4);
- The child is receiving home-based instruction as provided in subsection (4) of this section;
- The child is attending an education center as provided in chapter 28A.205 RCW;
- The school district superintendent of the district in which the child resides shall have excused such child from attendance because the child is physically or mentally unable to attend school, is attending a residential school operated by the department of social and health services or the department of children, youth, and families, is incarcerated in an adult correctional facility, or has been temporarily excused upon the request of his or her parents for purposes agreed upon by the school authorities and the parent […].”
Thus, families in Washington state have the option to seek home-based instruction for their children, and they are supported with technical assistance through the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). “RCW 28A.225.010(4) defines instruction as home-based if it consists of planned and supervised instructional and related educational activities, including curriculum and instruction in the basic skills of occupational education, science, mathematics, language, social studies, history, health, reading, writing, spelling, and the development of an appreciation of art and music provided for a number of hours per grade level established for approved private schools […] and if such activities are provided by a qualified parent.
The statute further states that the Legislature recognizes that home-based instruction is less structured and more experiential than the instruction normally provided in a classroom setting. Therefore, the provisions relating to the nature and quantity of instructional and related educational activities shall be liberally interpreted” (OSPI).
Per RCW 28A.200.020, “The state hereby recognizes that parents who are causing their children to receive home-based instruction under RCW 28A.225.010(4) shall be subject only to those minimum state laws and regulations which are necessary to insure that a sufficient basic educational opportunity is provided to the children receiving such instruction. Therefore, all decisions relating to philosophy or doctrine, selection of books, teaching materials and curriculum, and methods, timing, and place in the provision or evaluation of home-based instruction shall be the responsibility of the parent except for matters specifically referred to in this chapter [Chapter 28A.200].”
Essentially, “It is the parent’s responsibility to provide materials and equipment necessary to meet the planned objectives for the home-based instruction” (OSPI). However, “A school district may establish regulations relating to the sale of materials at cost or to the lending or rental of [materials and equipment]” (OSPI).
What do I need to be eligible to be a homeschool parent?
If homeschooling in Washington, “RCW 28A.225.010(4) requires that the instructional and educational activities be:
- Provided by a parent who is instructing his or her child only and is supervised by a person certificated under Chapter 28A.410 RCW. The supervision consists of and includes planning of objectives by the certificated person and the parent, a minimum each month of an average of one contact hour per week with the child being supervised by the certificated person, and evaluation of such child’s progress by the certificated person. The number of children supervised by the certificated person shall not exceed 30.
- Provided by a parent who is instructing his or her child only and who has either earned 45 college-level credit hours or the equivalent in semester hours or has completed a course in home-based instruction at [a] postsecondary institution or a vocational-technical institute.
- Provided by a parent who is deemed sufficiently qualified to provide home-based instruction by the superintendent of the local school district in which the child resides” (OSPI).
Note that a public school district may provide supervision by certificated staff of students and parents in home-based instruction at district expense, but this is at the discretion of the school district (OSPI).
Do I need to notify the school district of my intent to homeschool my child?
Yes! “RCW 28A.200.010(1) states that each person whose child is receiving home-based instruction under RCW 28A.225.010(4) must file annually a signed declaration of intent that he or she is planning to cause his or her child to receive home-based instruction. The declaration is to be filed by September 15 of the school year or within two weeks of the beginning of any public school quarter, trimester, or semester with
- the superintendent of the public school district within which the parent resides, or
- the superintendent of a nonresident public school district that accepts the transfer, in which case, the student is considered a transfer student of the nonresident district” (OSPI).
“The statement shall include the name and age of the child, shall specify whether a certificated person will be supervising the instruction, and shall be written in a format prescribed by the superintendent of public instruction” (RCW 28A.200.010). A sample Declaration of Intent to Provide Home-Based Instruction is provided on the OSPI website.
What educational options are available to my homeschooler?
As a homeschooler, you do have options. You may offer courses through postsecondary institutions or vocational-technical schools, or you may enroll your child in an extension program of an approved private school. See the “Pink Book” on the OSPI website for more information on these options.
Students receiving home-based instruction also may have access to part-time attendance in public schools: “RCW 28A.150.350(2) specifies that the board of directors of any school district is authorized and, in the same manner as for other public school students, shall permit the enrollment of […] part-time students who would be otherwise eligible for full-time enrollment in the school district. A student who is receiving home-based instruction which includes courses at and/or receiving ancillary services from the local school district is by definition a part-time school student” (OSPI).
Refer to the Request for Part-Time Attendance or Ancillary Services Form when making a request for your child to participate in public school courses.
Note: “A part-time student may use school district transportation at normal times and at the designated route stops” (OSPI).
Washington Homeschool Requirements
Even though Washington does not highly regulate homeschooling, there are some Washington homeschool requirements you must satisfy when you homeschool:
- Begin homeschooling by age 8.
- File the required annual declaration of intent by September 15.
- Teach the Washington State homeschool required subjects by providing “planned and supervised instructional and related educational activities, including curriculum and instruction in the basic skills of occupational education, science, mathematics, language, social studies, history, health, reading, writing, spelling, and the development of an appreciation of art and music provided for a number of hours per grade level established for approved private schools” (RCW 28A.225.010(4)).
- Administer a standardized test approved by the state board of education each year.
- Stay current with homeschooling laws and requirements.
Do I need to administer testing to my homeschooler?
Homeschool families in the state of Washington must “ensure that a standardized achievement test approved by the state board of education is administered annually to the child by a qualified individual or that an annual assessment of the student’s academic progress is written by a certificated person who is currently working in the field of education. The state board of education shall not require these children to meet the student learning goals, learn the state learning standards, or take the assessments under RCW 28A.655.070. The standardized test administered or the annual academic progress assessment written shall be made a part of the child’s permanent records.” (RCW 28A.200.010).
The Washington State Board of Education “is responsible for approving standardized achievement tests that parents may use to assess and determine whether their child is making reasonable academic progress. These tests must be listed on the SBE’s website, per WAC 180-52-070” and can be found on the Home Instruction page.
“If the student is at a grade level in which all students in the local school district are tested, the parent may request that the student take the test as an ancillary service. The school district is required to provide this service under the Part-Time Attendance Act, RCW 28A.150.350” (OSPI).
What happens to my child’s annual testing results?
“If, as a result of the annual test or assessment, it is determined that the child is not making reasonable progress consistent with his or her age or stage of development, the parent shall make a good faith effort to remedy any deficiency” (RCW 28A.200.010).
What records do I need to keep when I homeschool my child?
As a Washington homeschooler, “the results of the standardized test or the annual academic progress assessment shall be made a part of the child’s permanent records” (OSPI). In addition to the required recordkeeping, we also recommend you do some personal recordkeeping to provide verification of education in the event you would need to show some form of educational proof to the state or other legal entities or to prepare for re-entry into public school or postsecondary pathways. This includes the following:
- Immunization records
- Lists of texts and workbooks used
- Student schoolwork samples and/or portfolios
- Test and evaluation results
- Correspondence with school officials
You may also be able to find more information on Washington homeschool requirements through your local school district.
Other Washington Homeschool Policies
Once you make sure that you are following Washington homeschool law and meeting Washington homeschool requirements, here are some other things you need to know:
Can my homeschooled child participate in extracurricular activities offered by the public school?
Yes! “RCW 28A.150.350(2) specifies that the board of directors of any school district is authorized and, in the same manner as for other public school students, shall permit the enrollment of and provide ancillary services for part-time students who would be otherwise eligible for full-time enrollment in the school district” (OSPI). These “ancillary services” are defined by WAC 392-134-005 as “any co-curricular service or activity, any health care service or activity, and any other services or activities, except “courses,” for or in which preschool through twelfth grade students are enrolled by a public school. The term shall include, but not be limited to, counseling, psychological services, testing, remedial instruction, speech, and hearing therapy, health care services, tutorial services such as home or hospital instruction for the physically disabled, and sports activities.
To qualify to participate in interscholastic activities, a student must meet eligibility criteria. Such criteria [are] determined by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA). Information may be obtained by contacting the WIAA at 435 Main Ave. S., Renton, WA 98057, 425/687- 8585, and http://www.wiaa.com/” (OSPI).
Refer to the Request for Part-Time Attendance or Ancillary Services Form when making a request for your child to participate in ancillary services.
What if I want to re-enroll my child in public school after homeschooling?
For any number of reasons, you may decide to re-enroll your child in public school. Per RCW 28A.200.010, as a parent, you must “ensure that test scores or annual academic progress assessments and immunization records, together with any other records that are kept relating to the instructional and educational activities provided, are forwarded to any other public or private school to which the child transfers. At the time of a transfer to a public school, the superintendent of the local school district in which the child enrolls may require a standardized achievement test to be administered and shall have the authority to determine the appropriate grade and course level placement of the child after consultation with parents and review of the child’s records.”
Note: “A school district may adopt policies governing the acceptance of off-campus learning for credit but is not required to do so. Acceptance or nonacceptance of course work that is not completed under the jurisdiction of the public school is the choice of the school district” (OSPI).
What are my child’s postsecondary options after homeschooling?
“There are no statutes that authorize the issuance of a high school diploma. Chapter 180-51 WAC High School Graduation Requirements specifies what courses of study are required for graduation from a high school in Washington state. There appears to be nothing that would enjoin a parent from issuing a diploma from a home-based instruction program which meets the requirements found in Chapter 180-51 WAC. Parents may find Chapter 392-410 WAC (Courses of Study and Equivalencies) useful in determining what courses can be used and qualify for graduation.
However, parents and students should be advised that businesses, institutions of higher learning, and branches of the armed services establish their own criteria for determining the credibility of a diploma and may or may not honor a diploma or any other documentation that they deem unacceptable for their purposes” (OSPI). In planning for your child’s life after homeschooling, you may want to contact colleges and universities, branches of the military, or other postsecondary organizations to find out about admissions requirements.
As an alternative, Chapter 180-96 WAC and RCW 28A.305.190 allow persons between the ages of 16 and 19 who have been instructed at home in compliance with RCW 28A.225.010(4) and Chapter 28A.200 RCW to take and successfully complete approved examinations for high school equivalency certificates, including a GED certificate.
See the Home Instruction page on the Washington Department of Education’s website or the Home-Based Instruction page on the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction webpage for even more information on homeschooling in Washington.
Connect With Local Homeschoolers
Remember, too, that you are not alone. You should connect with local homeschoolers from your state, who can help you with Washington homeschool law and Washington homeschool requirements and offer you all kinds of practical advice and suggestions. They can give you guidance on everything from curriculum to daily schedules to recordkeeping, and they may be able to share information about local resources, support groups, and field trips. Click the image below to find Washington Homeschool Groups by county.