This Primer is a “how to” on the Ohio homeschool law (the Ohio Administrative Code section 3301-34, linked below. This is a step-by-step guide to the notification and assessment process in Ohio, with examples and forms to print and use.
The following Primer information should not be taken as legal advice; we encourage everyone to be personally familiar with this homeschool code. Please read it – never take for granted what *anyone* writes on the Internet. Read the code for yourself and compare what you read against the source. Ohio homeschooling regulations are found here:
OAC § 3301-34: http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/3301-34
This is Ohio Administrative Code Section 3301-34, which amplifies Ohio Revised Code 3321.04 (a medical excuse for non-attendance). Our homeschool code was enacted in 1989 as an amplification of this ORC.
Hey visual learners! Did you read through the Primer but would prefer to see a quick completed example form? Click here! (Just make sure you read through the step by step Primer information too, because it will give you the "why" information.) :)
Our homeschool law was written to be very clear and simple to follow. However, some school districts and offices have tried to impose their own rules which supersede what we are legally required to do here in Ohio. Wrong information is also rampant on websites and some local Facebook groups.
When districts send out their own “informational” letters and forms, they often include requests for things such as enrollment into their school before notifying for homeschooling, requiring phone numbers, email address, and other extra information, requesting proof like birth certificates and parents' diplomas, and some are including wording that makes it sound like the district has the power to approve or deny curriculum choices or your state right to homeschool. All of these things are false.
Despite all the confusing and sometimes wrong info out there, homeschooling in Ohio *is* very easy, and the process by which we do so legally is actually simple - once it's clearly written out. We notify for one purpose: to obtain a legal excuse for a compulsory aged child, from compulsory attendance. We do not notify to announce we are homeschooling, or to gain approval to do so – you are approved to homeschool simply by being a parent in Ohio!
If you are new, know that we have all been where you are, we've all had questions, and even felt intimidated, at times, by the process. You aren't alone!
What follows, then, is a step-by-step “primer” on the process. There are sometimes nuances, of course, but consider this to be a "getting started" guide. Following the Primer, you can dig a little deeper by reading through the Ohio Homeschooling FAQ page.
First is a quick step by step guide. Following that are details on each step noted.
Building blocks - The Primer: getting started
If you are feeling overwhelmed, just read through this Quick section, and then jump to the number you are more interested in for more details. Each step in this quick step by step section matches up with the detailed numbered steps in the following section.
1. Do I need to notify for my child for this school year? You should notify to homeschool if:
You should NOT notify to homeschool this year if:
2. If notification is necessary, complete a Notification of Intent to Homeschool (“NOI”).
3. Complete a curriculum addendum to fulfill items 6 and 7 on the homeschool notification.
4. Make copies of all your paperwork and put it in an envelope.
5. Send in your notification.
6. Enjoy your homeschool year!
If your child is not yet age 6, is not currently attending public school grades K and up, and will not be age 6 by your district’s first day of school, then - congratulations! Just have a wonderful year, enjoying your children and beginning your homeschooling adventure.
Compulsory school age is age 6 by the district’s first day of school, so if your child does not yet hit that age 6 mark, you do NOT notify for that entire year. Even if he or she turns six a day later, you would still not notify until the following year. (For example, if your school district’s first day of school is August 17, and your child turns 6 on August 18, you will not notify until the next school year.)
If you have plans to send your child to 1st grade in public school next year, and he or she is not yet 6, YOU STILL DO NOT NEED TO NOTIFY, as Ohio homeschool code (linked at the start of this document) gives three specific ways the superintendent can determine grade level placement for your child’s enrollment, and one of these three things must be done regardless of whether you notified for your child's K year or not.
IF you enrolled your 5 year old into Kindergarten but change your mind PRIOR to the start of the school year, you do not need to notify. Simply let your school know you have changed your mind and your 5 year old will not be there. (This is called “red shirting”, and many people do it, regardless of if they decide to continue homeschooling or not. If you decide to 'red-shirt' your 5 year old, do not even mention homeschooling. Just tell them your child is not ready/not going to be there this year.)
If your child is in preschool, even public preschool, you do NOT notify to homeschool. You simply tell the school you are removing your child. See more in the Homeschooling FAQ doc.
If you are homeschooling a child who is over age 6 (by your district’s first day of school - generally first grade age and up), OR your child has already been enrolled and started in public Kindergarten or higher - even prior to compulsory age - then you will notify your school district superintendent's office of your intent to homeschool.
(Side note: There is another option by which you can stay in compliance with attendance laws and homeschool, and that is by setting up your home as an “08” school, if you have a bachelor’s degree. This is one of the original ways of homeschooling in Ohio. It is a valid option, but is not described in this document, which focuses on compliance with Ohio homeschool regulations.)
The following is the longest section of this document. It provides step by step instructions for filling out each line of the NOI. You can see an example completed form here.
New for 2019, for typical annual notifications (not a school year public school withdraw) your notification needs to be sent to your local district superintendent within a week of school starting in your district. To be sure the notification is received by then, without needing to watch a public school calendar every year, we recommend sending your notification by the second week in August, annually. (We recommend between Aug 5th through 10th.) Get in the habit of sending it the same week every year, and you will not forget. It is best to send notifications close to the start of school, and not early in the summer, when office staff is reduced and mail could get lost.
Withdrawing your child from school and notifying to homeschool at ANY time during the school year is completely legal and should not be dissuaded by school officials.
There is no waiting period or approval process in Ohio. When withdrawing from school during the school you should send the notification and keep your child home the same day. Your notification to homeschool IS your legal withdraw from public school. Anything else would be a courtesy. If you are withdrawing from a public school or e-school, you could simply email or call the school to let them know your child HAS been withdrawn, and you need to send back their materials or pick up your child’s things. You can fill out a form, if you wish, but this is simply a courtesy for the school's internal processes. Your withdraw is the notification.
Form for Notification:
When you are sending in your notification of intent to homeschool, no form is required by law - you can do it in a letter format. However, we HIGHLY suggest most people use the simplicity of a form, especially for a new or mid-year school withdraw, to make sure you are giving all the required information, but *nothing* extra. Using a form also makes the notification “scannable”; meaning, the office worker will not have to carefully read anything you write in order to see that you have covered Ohio requirements.
This form is provided on our Forms page. The form is taken directly from the Ohio Administrative Code 3301-34-03, and contains only those items that you are required by law to provide. This form is strictly law-aligned, and is identical in content to forms that can be accessed from homeschooling legal associations such as HSLDA. If the PDF is opened in a PDF writer such as DocHub or Acrobat, it can be filled in online, but it will still need to be printed out to sign and date.
We do NOT suggest using **any** form provided by your school district, or downloaded from the Ohio Department of Education's website. These typically do not strictly align to state law. (The schools’ forms ask for more information than required by state law, typically things like phone numbers, email addresses, and grad level, they leave out small but important words from the law code, and usually do not include a privacy notice for protecting your family’s data.)
Also, please don't call school offices for homeschooling advice or use information about homeschooling from their websites, as they are not usually accurate according to Ohio law. Again, we encourage you to read the actual law code (linked at the start of this document) and be familiar with it, so you will be able to spot the misinformation when you come across it, and not be confused.
How to Fill Out the Notification Form, Step by Step:
LASTLY: If your form (if you used a letter, or a form other than one provided by our group or HSLDA) does not contain the following statement above your signature line, add this line for your privacy protection. It is YOUR right to opt out of the school district releasing your information:
“Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Section 3319.321(B)(2)(a), we hereby inform the school board that no personally identifiable information, including directory information, should be released without our prior written consent.”
In addition to your notification, items number 6 and 7 on the notification ask for a list of curricula you plan on using, OR other materials or supplemental items, and your “intended plan”. We recommend doing one section for each part of the code for 6 and 7, such as in Example 1 (linked here).
This is just your "intended” curriculum - if you decide to change materials or curriculum from what you wrote on your notification, at any later time, it is completely fine. You do not send in any amendment.
Remember that this is just your "intended" curriculum plan, and note the wording of the law that states it’s a list of curricula or materials. That little word “or” is important. You do NOT need to have a list of commercially available textbooks. There is no hard and fast rule about what needs to be included on this addendum - only that you should remember that Ohio law also states that this curriculum addendum is to be "for informational purposes only", and what is written has NO bearing on whether or not you will be permitted to homeschool. We are a notification state, NOT an approval state.
Repeating: Ohio is a NOTIFICATION state only – it is not an "approval" state. There is no one "right" way to write your addendum, but there are a few examples posted on our Forms page, for anyone who would like to see an example of some ways they can do it.
If this is your second (or later) year of notifying to homeschool in Ohio, then you also need to include your signed portfolio assessment form or composite standardized test results form from the previous year. (For more information on the assessment process, see step 6 below.) Only include the signed assessment form, or the test composite score - you do NOT send in portfolio samples to the district. According to state law, you ONLY include an assessment with subsequent notifications- NOT your first.
Shortest step ever. Make copies of all your paperwork for your own safe keeping, and then put the originals into an envelope. Any envelope is fine – regular, long white envelopes are typical.
Don't let the shortness of this step fool you - this is a VERY important step. Make copies! School offices sometimes misplace notifications (and even signed assessments).
Mail your notification packet to the attention and address of your district's superintendent. Some districts ask for you to send your notification to a different location that is contrary to Ohio law - the law was noted in July 2014 to specify that notifications must be sent to the *local district superintendent ONLY* - not other offices such as educational service centers. (This was additionally noted in 2017 by a letter from the Ohio Department of Education to school superintendents). The district can forward your paperwork on if they wish, but our responsibility is to follow the law; what they do with it once it arrives at their office is now their responsibility, and on their watch. We should send it to the local district superintendent, so that we can know exactly what date it was received by the superintendent.
You are withdrawn, if you are removing your child from school, and now homeschooling, the day you send it. No wait time, no approval.
Can’t find your superintendent’s address?
To find the location of your superintendent’s office, if you do not know it - you can often quickly find who and where this is, by Googling "<your district name> Ohio superintendent address". (Use the quote marks.) Doing this often brings up a page with the superintendent's name on the page, with the office address in a header or footer of that page.
Send this notification by certified mail, and additionally purchase the physical return signature receipt. Request the green physical card option they give you at the post office, not the electronic signature receipt. It’s important to keep hard copies of all your correspondence.
If you instead choose to walk in/ hand deliver your notification to the superintendent's office instead of mailing it certified, make sure you print out a receipt for the person who takes your notification to sign and date, stating the date and who your notification is received by. As many issues we see with first notifications are when people walk their notifications in, we HIGHLY RECOMMEND mailing certified, instead, for first and especially mid-year notifications.
That date of receipt by the office is VERY IMPORTANT. If your superintendent’s office worker complains or won’t sign for your paperwork, first, assure them that you are only requesting a signature of receipt, not for the NOI to be reviewed right then. If they still balk, or refuse to sign a receipt, turn around with your paperwork and take it to the post office. The $6-7 is worth your sanity.
Then...you are DONE with your side of the legal obligations! You may start homeschooling, or inform the school or e-school of your withdraw, the same day. There is no wait period, no approval. The district has 14 calendar days to get back with you if there is something missing from your paperwork. Again, this is not an "approval" of your right to homeschool, it is simply 14 days in which they can ask for additional information before providing an acknowledgement of your child's excuse from compulsory attendance laws. If you sent your NOI certified and with the return signature card, you will know exactly what date the superintendent’s 14 calendar day "clock" starts, and also who signed for your notification at the superintendent's office. Please don't forget to do the important step of getting that signature receipt!
The superintendent will notify you (it must be in writing and it must be from the superintendent) that your notification is in compliance and your child is excused from compulsory attendance. It may take longer than 14 days for this letter to arrive. If, for some reason, the superintendent states that your child is instead not excused, he or she MUST notify you of this IN WRITING within 14 days of their receipt of your paperwork. If you are asked to provide more information, this may or may not be a legal overstepping of your rights - but Ohio code provides ways to prove your compliance with the Code, and gives ways to mediate the process with your district, should the situation arise. We will help direct you to resources, such as the Home School Legal Defense Association, if that occurs. However, it is rare.
If you have filed your notification of intent appropriately, the only correspondence you should get back, within a month or so, is a letter stating that you are in compliance, and your child is excused from compulsory attendance for the school year. This letter should be from your local district superintendent, as per Ohio Administrative Code 3301-34-03 (C)(1).
Save that excuse paper - particularly if you have a high school aged child, as a 2015 law clarification now provides that a copy of the final compulsory year letter can be shown if your homeschooled high school graduate's diploma is challenged. But you do NOT need to (nor do we recommend you) keep it with you when you are out with your child. Our Bill of Rights (the 4th Amendment!) requires any government agent to produce a court order to compel you to "show your papers". You do not need to show your excuse paper just because some officer on the street says they want to see it. Remember your Constitutional rights.
Go about your school year! Make lots of memories with your child! Everything you do, every part of living life, is educational. Ohio does not require you to keep track of hours spent. You gave an assurance of at least 900 hours of home education on your notification - this is on the honor system. This is "home education", not "school hours" or "instruction time". What does home education mean to you? It is so much more than worksheets and desk time, and our law was specifically written to reflect this reality.
Remember that every moment of every day is a learning opportunity for your child. You will not need to track, log, or report your hours. If you decide to track these things on your own, that is for your own purposes, and is not sent or seen anywhere. But if you feel unsure and decide to try to track for your own assurance, be sure to “count” every learning experience and conversation, every trip to the park, everything you do, to be accurate. :)
At the end of the school year, you then choose an option for assessment - either a nationally-normed, standardized test, or a portfolio review (“narrative assessment”) with an Ohio licensed or certified teacher. (There is actually a 3rd option as well: a mutually-agreed upon other option - but as it is not as typically utilized by new homeschoolers, it won't be described in full detail here.)
The portfolio review sounds like an intimidating prospect, but it can be one of the most helpful and easy things about homeschooling in Ohio. Some people have strong opinions either way on these two options, and that's beyond the scope of this Primer.
If you choose a standardized test, the only thing you send into the superintendent is the overall, composite score, written on the Standardized Test Assessment Form.
If you choose the portfolio review, all you send into the district is a signed assessment form which states:
“ I hereby attest that a portfolio of samples of <child name>’s work was reviewed by me for the 20____ -20____ academic year and is in accordance with his/her abilities.”
This is signed by the Ohio licensed/certified teacher who performs the assessment. You do not send in portfolio samples to the superintendent -- only this signed assessment form. That one statement IS the “narrative assessment”.
Copies of these forms are available on the Forms page. You will send in one of these two options, along with your next notification of intent to homeschool. This notification with test or assessment review form must be sent in every year following your first notification year (“subsequent notification”), if you intend to continue homeschooling your child in Ohio.
A completed assessment form should not be sent on its own without the subsequent notification, even if your school asks for it “at the end of the school year” unless you are also notifying again at that time. If you are instead enrolling your child in school or have moved to a new state, then you will not send in an assessment.
Recommended Homeschool Assessors
If you do the portfolio review option, it is highly recommended that you use a HOMESCHOOL assessor, not a current classroom teacher who simply tells you they are “okay” with homeschooling, but has no personal experience in or knowledge about homeschooling or homeschool laws. Homeschooling is often a vastly different experience than in a classroom, and it’s best to have someone who understands that difference and is not looking to judge your child by that classroom model.
The assessor’s only job is to look for “progress for the year in accordance with the child's abilities”. This is not the same thing as “grade level”, and your assessor does not have the power to promote or hold back your child or assign a grade level. He or she simply signs his or name to that statement attesting that a sample of work has been reviewed and your child is working to his or her level of ability. Your assessor must be an Ohio licensed or certified teacher, of any grade level. There is a list of Recommended Assessors is available to OHP members. These are all assessors who have been interviewed and vetted as homeschooling advocates, and have been homeschooling according to Ohio law at least 3 years. They are former teachers, who understand and live the homeschooling life just like you do.
I hope this Primer was helpful to you, and eases any confusion you may have. We have a wonderful homeschool Code here in Ohio, which was written very specifically to keep us as homeschoolers legal, yet limits intrusion into our day to day lives by the State. This is why we want to be VERY clear about what is and is not required of us as homeschoolers - the law was written BY homeschooling families themselves, to protect our rights (rights that were hard fought for us, at the expense of jail time, the loss of children, and even some homeschooler's lives, by homeschoolers just a few decades ago), and we want to be able to pass down these same rights we enjoy, to future generations of Ohio homeschoolers. If we give in just a little here and a little there, doing more than the law requires, just to “be nice” to an unlawful request, we dishonor those who fought for our rights, and we will see our rights slip away. We follow in the footsteps of those who fought for and wrote our law, who advocated for "full and minimal compliance with the law".
Let’s make sure our children have the same right to homeschool that we have, by doing the same!
Have a wonderful year, and welcome to the adventure of a lifetime!
Ready for more info? Have some other questions that you didn't see covered above? Or you just didn’t think that was quite enough words and want to keep reading?
Copyright © 2020 Ohio Homeschooling Parents - All Rights Reserved.
Please note, we are fellow homeschooling parents, not legal counsel. Information shared should not be taken as legal advice. We highly recommend being well-versed with the applicable administrative code and your rights to home educate. The regulation codes pertaining to Ohio homeschooling are linked on this page.