Fun facts about homeschooling in Indiana: there are very few regulations, and no top-down guidance.
If you're a confident and conscientious homeschooler, this is great news. You can follow your kids' interests, let them learn at their own pace, explore whatever inspires them without having to worry about state standards. You can study Ancient History instead of State History in fourth grade, let your kid learn everything possible about astronomy instead of following along with the second grade science standards, mind your own business while they drop every other academic goal and simply read for most of their waking hours. Essentially, your kids can study what they want,when they want, and how they want, and the state of Indiana does not care.
If you don't know where to begin, though, don't know what to encourage your kids to study, or when to encourage them to study, or how to encourage them to study, this can be terrifying. The state of Indiana won't give you curriculum advice. It doesn't employ consultants for you. It won't offer you any kind of testing, portfolio review, or any other way of making sure your kids are on track, at-level, and learning well. You are responsible for ALL of that.
That means, of course, that if you're lazy or don't prioritize, you might not do any of that. Yes, I DO know parents who shouldn't be homeschooling their kids. I know parents who do a much better job educating their kids than could be done in any local school, and I know schoolkids who'd be much better served by homeschooling instead, but I also know kids who are homeschooling but would have a better academic and social experience in school.
Don't be those parents.
ANYWAY... I'm mostly here to talk to you uncertain Indiana parents today. I know that generally, when a blogger says something like, "Everyone is asking me about blah blah blah," nobody is actually asking them anything; they just want to talk about blah blah blah. But when I tell you that EVERYBODY is asking me how to homeschool in Indiana these days, I promise you that this is metaphorically true. I've been spending some time every single day lately talking someone or other through Indiana's very few homeschool regulations. So here, and mostly so I can copy-and-paste my own words more easily into various Facebook Message and Comment boxes and text conversations, is what I've been saying.
HOMESCHOOLING IS ALLOWED IN INDIANA
This state code tells you that homeschooling in Indiana is allowed:
Sec. 1.5. As used in this chapter, "school" includes a public school, a charter school, a state accredited nonpublic school (as defined in IC 20-18-2-18.7), and a nonaccredited nonpublic school.
A homeschool is a nonaccredited, nonpublic school. Just flows melodically off the tongue, yes?
BEGIN HOMESCHOOLING BY THE AGE OF SEVEN; PROVIDE AN EDUCATION EQUIVALENT TO THAT GIVEN IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
This state code tells you the age at which you must begin homeschooling your child:
IC 20-33-2-8Students not bound by requirements
Sec. 8. A student is not bound by the requirements of this chapter until the student becomes seven (7) years of age, if, upon request of the superintendent of the school corporation, the parent of a student who would otherwise be subject to compulsory school attendance under section 6 of this chapter certifies to the superintendent that the parent intends to:
(1) enroll the student in a nonaccredited, nonpublic school; or
(2) begin providing the student with instruction equivalent to that given in the public schools as permitted under section 28 of this chapter;
not later than the date on which the student becomes seven (7) years of age.
The magic age is seven! If you've kept your kid home from first grade, though, you've likely begun to homeschool them before their seventh birthday, but before the age of seven, you don't have to even call it homeschooling; school in Indiana is not mandatory until the age of seven.
This code is a little strange in that it seems to imply that you can EITHER enroll your kid in a "nonaccredited, nonpublic school," OR begin providing them with instruction equivalent to that given in the public schools. But both of those things are homeschooling! The key phrase in there, though, is "instruction equivalent to that given in the public schools." Although there are no curriculum requirements (as you'll see below), your kid's education must be "equivalent." There is no definition of this term, either! Here in Indiana, homeschooling parents take this to mean that we should be able to show our local school corporation's superintendent, if so requested, that we are educating our children. This means that you should be keeping some records and a portfolio of work, even if you unschool.
HOMESCHOOL FOR AT LEAST 180 DAYS PER YEAR
When your homeschooling kid is seven, this compulsory attendance code comes into play:
IC 20-33-2-5Days of attendance
Sec. 5. A student for whom education is compulsory under this chapter shall attend school each year for the number of days public schools are in session:
(1) in the school corporation in which the student is enrolled in Indiana; or
(2) where the student is enrolled if the student is enrolled outside Indiana.
Right now, Indiana public schools are in session for 180 days each school year. You should have some kind of method for proving that your child homeschools that number of days yearly, as well (although at least in our family, we homeschool FAR more than that...). Your method can be as simple as a calendar on which you've written "absences will be marked with a red x." If your calendar is blank, there have been no absences!
HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS TRANSFERRING TO HOMESCHOOL MUST SIGN A FORM OF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
If your student is in a public high school, however, and wants to transfer to homeschooling, there is another regulation that applies to you:
IC 20-33-2-28.6Transfer to nonaccredited nonpublic school; acknowledgment of legal requirements; notification to bureau of motor vehicles
Sec. 28.6. (a) This section applies to a high school student who is transferring to a nonaccredited nonpublic school.
(b) Before a student withdraws from a public school, the principal of the student's school shall provide to the student and to the student's parent information on a form developed by the department and approved by the state board that explains the legal requirements of attending a nonaccredited nonpublic school located in Indiana. The principal and a parent of the student shall both sign the form to acknowledge that the parent understands the content of the form.
(c) If the parent of the student refuses to sign the form provided by the principal under subsection (b), the student is considered a dropout and the principal may report the student to the bureau of motor vehicles for action under section 28.5(g) of this chapter. The student is considered a dropout for purposes of calculating a high school's graduation rate under IC 20-26-13-10.
The reasoning behind this is that apparently, some schools that wanted to get rid of students would convince their parents to withdraw them to homeschooling, instead, so that the school didn't have to count those students as drop-outs. The kids generally essentially were drop-outs, however. So now if you withdraw a high school student to homeschooling, you have to sign a form saying that you understand what you're doing. You still may NOT understand what you're doing, but at least the school's butt is covered!
Here's the problem with homeschooling a high school student in Indiana: you can transfer from public high school to homeschooling, easy-peasy, but you do not want to transfer from homeschooling to high school mid-way through. That's because the state calls courses that are standardized to meet their minimum requirements "accredited," and ONLY the public schools, private schools that have jumped through the hoops, and a couple of online providers count as "accredited." So if your kid homeschools through ninth grade, then wants to transfer to the public high school in tenth grade, they'll take her, but they won't count her as a tenth-grader, because they won't accept anything she studied at home as "accredited." My kid has a rocking PSAT score and three stellar AP exam scores under her belt, not to even mention her super challenging math classes and all the other kick-ass stuff she's studied in the past two years, but if I tried to put her in our local high school, she'd have absolutely nothing they would accept as a credit towards graduation.
So in Indiana, if your kid thinks that they might want to go to public high school AT ALL, they need to try it in fall of their freshman year. They can always transfer back to homeschooling if they don't like it, but if there's even a chance they'll want to graduate from a public high school with that accredited diploma, they need to start in ninth grade.
INDIANA HOMESCHOOLERS HAVE NO PRESCRIBED CURRICULA; INDIANA HOMESCHOOLERS "MAY" PARTICIPATE IN PUBLIC SCHOOL ACTIVITIES WITH PERMISSION
Here are two state regulations wrapped into one:
IC 20-33-2-12Nonpublic, nonaccredited, and nonapproved schools; curriculum or content requirements; student enrollment or participation
Sec. 12. (a) A school that is:
(2) nonaccredited; and
(3) not otherwise approved by the state board;
is not bound by any requirements set forth in IC 20 or IC 21 with regard to curriculum or the content of educational programs offered by the school.
(b) This section may not be construed to prohibit a student who attends a school described in subsection (a) from enrolling in a particular educational program or participating in a particular educational initiative offered by an accredited public, nonpublic, or state board approved nonpublic school if:
(1) the governing body or superintendent, in the case of the accredited public school; or
(2) the administrative authority, in the case of the accredited or state board approved nonpublic school;
approves the enrollment or participation by the student.
(c) A student who attends a school described in subsection (a) who also enrolls in a particular educational program or initiative as permitted under subsection (b) may be offered the opportunity to participate in state standardized assessments, but such participation is not required.
Here's where Indiana tells you that there is no prescribed curriculum or content for homeschooling. You're a "nonpublic, nonaccredited" school, and they wash their hands of you!
Here's also where they tell you that your homeschooling kid CAN participate in a public school--a class or a club or, as Will does, a standardized exam--IF the superintendent or school board (or often just the principal) say they can. What they don't tell you is that depending on the district, more often than not the school will say a flat-out no. The school district we live in, for example, is extremely unwilling to let homeschooling students participate in anything, including College Board exams that are ONLY hosted at schools. Will has had to go out of district to take both the PSAT and AP exams, because the school that our property taxes go to refuses to host her.
Pro tip: if you want your kid to do something that only happens at school, like the PSAT or AP exams, start asking far and wide several months in advanced, and be prepared to travel when your local schools refuse.
And that's all the Indiana-specific regulations for homeschooling! You can see that other than some rules about compulsory education, you're quite free to plan your child's educational experience with them. It can be intimidating, at first, not to have any guidelines about curricula, but you can always peek at the state/national standards if you're curious to know what's being studied at every grade, and the freedom to let your kid study at their own pace, within their own passions, and as adventurously as they desire is so worth it!
P.S. If you want to see more about the day-to-day of our homeschooling, check out my Craft Knife Facebook
page for pics, works in progress, resources, and all the weirdness that encompasses my kiddos' education!