actual homeschool law does not delineate such a requirement, and the law actually doesn’t (absent a legitimate, verified accusation of “educational neglect”) permit school/state employees to request “proof” of any aspect of our private home education programs. Yet the DPI includes a “recommendation” on both its website and the PI-1206 form that we keep “a school calendar,” leading some to believe that doing so is part of the actual law. Additionally, some who have analyzed education-related law in Wisconsin believe it indicates that homeschoolers must keep attendance. However, other legal analysis has come to the opposite conclusion.
of this confusion, some have chosen to err on the side of caution by
keeping an annual attendance record. I understand that motivation –
and I always encourage parents to keep records of their choice. But
it also grieves me to see people living in fear based on an activity
(i.e., a possible but highly improbable bureaucratic request for attendance records) that
has never occurred (outside of occasional court cases specific to
families under direct investigation) in the 35+ years since the
current Wisconsin homeschool law was passed.
fact, feeling compelled to keep attendance runs afoul of the great
freedom we have under the letter of the homeschool law. The
law itself mandates
that we “provide” at least 875 hours of “instruction” per
it doesn’t require a certain number of “school days,” or
mandate that we “do school” on particular days of the year or for
a certain amount of time each day. Indeed, it doesn’t require us to
“prove” the hours to anyone; the actual language of the law
presumes we have the integrity to comply without
verification by any outside source. And – even more importantly –
the law does not define the nature of “instruction” or limit what "counts" to the six content areas it specifically lists. So we are permitted under the law to include any other subject areas of our choice and to "count" all of it as legitimate components of our educational programs. And, because “instruction” is not limited to school-style seatwork and textbooks, it includes the use of any resource or participation in any activity - in any "subject area" - that can reasonably contribute to a child’s overall education in any way. So “instruction”
can legitimately include living books, media, hands-on activities,
project-based learning, field trips, software and online resources,
etc., in addition to (or instead of) textbooks. In a nutshell, if a child learns from it, it "counts" as "instruction" under the actual language of the homeschool law.
if we feel compelled to keep attendance, we suddenly worry about
which activities are “legitimate” (in some anonymous bureaucrat's eyes...even though the law does not grant permission for any bureaucrat to review our records) and what amount of time in a day is
“enough” to warrant counting it for “real” attendance.
And then before we know it, we have lost our freedom to define our
hours and means of instruction even though the law grants us that
right as the legal administrators of our own home-based private
educational programs. What a tragedy!
like to propose a solution - grounded solidly in the actual language of the homeschool law - for those who really cannot get past the
fear (no matter how irrational and unfounded) of random bureaucratic
“audit.” Homeschooling in Wisconsin is defined under the law as “a
program of educational instruction provided to a child by the child’s
parent or guardian or by a person designated by the parent or
guardian,” and the law doesn’t mandate particular days or
hours of instruction, limit the content, or define the nature of “instruction.” Thus, in order to "keep attendance," I
suggest printing out a one-page annual calendar similar to this one
and indicating – as I have with red X's – that “instruction” occurs each
and every day of the year. Keep
the pre-marked calendar in a file with a paper copy of that year’s
PI-1206, and then forget about it.
will suggest that such an idea is an attempt to flout the law, but
nothing could be further from the truth. Again, the nature of “instruction” - i.e., content, resources, and activities that contribute to a child’s overall, holistic
education – is not dictated by the law. Neither are we mandated
under the law to view “instruction” as only occurring on weekdays
or on the same days as children attending local institutional
schools. And (in contrast to the law governing public/government
schools), “instruction” need not occur for
a certain amount of time for a day to “count.” Thus, it
matters not if a child engages in something of educational merit for
30 minutes or nine hours on any particular day; if
education/learning/instruction occurs under the direction of the
parent/guardian or a person designated by the parent/guardian, it counts as a real, legal day of "attendance."
That said, if
we can conceive of a day during the year when a homeschooled child
would somehow not learn anything at all and/or not be under the direction of
his parent or a person designated by the parent, that day could not be legitimately
marked as a day of attendance. Though such a day is realistically quite unlikely to occur, if you feel it's possible, just mark a calendar as you go - but be absolutely sure to indicate a day of attendance every day the child is being "instructed" (i.e., learning of any sort in any content area you deem valuable for the child's overall well-being) for any length of time under the direct tutelage or indirect guidance and supervision by you or your designee.
Otherwise, keeping a pre-marked calendar indicating that every day of the year is a day of real attendance in a home-based private educational program is honest, maintains our legal freedom as administrators of our individual homeschools, and is completely viable and defensible under the real language of the actual homeschool law.
Be responsible, yes. But be free as well.