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Compulsory Education Laws: The Dialogue Reopens

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Home Schooling and Private Schooling at the Same Time

Home schooling families who are not part of a private school must annually submit to the Maine Department of Education a detailed “Application for Equivalent Instruction Through Home Schooling,” and an end-of-the-year assessment. Home schooling families who do not wish to give this much personal information to the government can, however, join (or create) a “Non-approved Private School” (or NAPS). Only the NAPS administrator, not individual NAPS families, has any contact with the government whatsoever.

Under department of education guidelines (not regulations), the chief administrative officer of a NAPS must annually send a letter to the department confirming that the school:

1) Will provide instruction appropriate to a child’s grade level in reading, writing, spelling, grammar, math, science, American and Maine history, Maine geography and civil government, health, and fine arts;

2) Has examined and approved all teachers for competency;

3) Will operate at least 175 days or 875 hours;

4) Complies with all state and local fire, health, and safety laws that apply (if the “classroom” is in a residence, only fire, etc., codes pertaining to a residence apply);

5) Will give parents four academic progress reports each year; and

6) Will tell parents in what grade levels, in what subjects, and in what manner the students will be academically assessed.

This letter is to be submitted two weeks after the opening of school, or by October 1, whichever is later. The letter should be sent by certified mail since the department does not ordinarily send any acknowledgment. Finally, by the same deadline the school must submit the name, residence and grade level of all students enrolled in the school. To qualify as a school, at least two unrelated students must be in the program, but the students do not need to meet together in one building, have the same teachers, follow the same schedule, etc.

When a school satisfies the above requirements for a NAPS, each parent is considered a teacher of the school. Enrollment in the NAPS satisfies the compulsory attendance law.

The NAPS can reduce paperwork and reporting requirements for individual families. On the other hand, the home schooling option enables families to home school who cannot find a comfortable philosophical “fit” with a NAPS. Having both options available strengthens the position of home schooling in Maine. — Scott A. Woodruff