The first place to begin is to read our Colorado Homeschool Law CRS 22-33-104. What does all that legal mumbo jumbo mean? Here’s RMEC’s detailed FAQ in a nutshell (a very large nutshell), in plain English. Please remember I’m not a lawyer, but I was trained to understand the law and explain it by those in the know: the folks who actually sat down with former Governor Bill Owens and wrote it.
It’s vital to understand that homeschooling is an exception to our Colorado’s Compulsory School Statute. Simply put, if we don’t comply with the rules of our exception, we’re breaking the law. Parents who do so could be charged with truancy, child neglect, or educational neglect and taken to court. At the very least, such parents might lose the option of homeschooling their children, period. It’s essential to keep in mind that homeschooling in the state of Colorado was a decades-long, hard won privilege — not an automatic right. Prior to 1988 parents had to go through h*ll and high water to home educate their children — and in the early 1980′s homeschooling in Colorado was illegal. Sadly (and scarily), every year without fail, some state or federal busy-body or educational poobah tries to chip away at our home education statute, making it more restrictive, taking away our choices. They’re just looking for a reason to rein us in. Be smart, mom and dad. Follow these simple rules. You’re protecting not only yourself, but all of us.
Alrighty, now let’s get to explaining those rules. When you homeschool in Colorado, you have three options on how to proceed. If you still have questions, Cindy’s available for private phone consultations.
Option 1. File a Notice of Intent to Homeschool. You will be responsible for paying for and providing all curriculum, educational supplies, field trip costs, testing, etc.
Option 2. Enroll your children in an Umbrella School. These independent, private schools provide the perks of immediate enrollment (not having to wait 14 days), not having to file a Notice of Intent or deal with your school district again, curriculum consultations, issuing high school diplomas, and many other services.
Option 3. Obtain a Colorado teacher’s license and teach your children at home. Being a certified teacher is an exemption to the requirements of our homeschool law.
Colorado’s Compulsory School Attendance Law
The “public school” law we’re exempt from.
Colorado’s Home School Law
This is the law we homeschoolers have to comply with.
RMEC’s Sample Colorado Notice of Intent (NOI) to Homeschool Form
Free. Copy it, download it, personalize it for your family!
National Home Education Legal Defense (NHELD)
NHELD protects and defends the legal rights of families who wish to homeschool, unschool or otherwise educate their children in freedom.
The Rutherford Institute
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that parents have a fundamental right to control the upbringing and education of their children. And The Rutherford Institute is dedicated to defending this right.
National Center for Life and Liberty’s Homeschool Center
NCLL can address any current legal compliance questions you might have. They’re also available in the event that you have a homeschooling legal emergency and will litigate your case on a pro bono (no cost to you) basis if they determine that the issues involved will advance the liberty of homeschooling in America.
Tales From The Courtroom
The Court Case
Do you have a blog? A Facebook page? An extra quarter of a million dollars lying around? Be careful what you say. There’s a Homeschool/Cyberschool out there who filed a lawsuit against a homeschooling mom, because she blogged about her concerns regarding the school’s multiple domains and questionable business practices. When the longest-running homeschool magazine in the world reported the story in their News Column, the Homeschool/Cyberschool owner immediately retaliated — online and in court. Long live free speech.
Okay, Now On With The FAQ
What ages does Colorado’s Home School Law apply to?
It applies to all children between the ages of seven-sixteen. However, the Colorado legislature changed the Public School Compulsory School Age to six years old a few years back. Homeschoolers are exempt from this change, thanks to Colorado’s Legislative Liaison/Analyst Treon Goossen’s diligent efforts. but, the legislature did add a section of new wording and a small wrinkle into our law. It states that when your child turns six, you have to let your local school district know that you’re going to BEGIN homeschooling that child at age seven.
You DO NOT have to file an actual Notice of Intent at this juncture. Just send a note to your school district saying, “This is to notify you that my child [insert child's full name] just turned six and we intend to begin homeschooling him/her when he/she turns seven.” Sign it, date it, and mail to your district via Certified Mail, Return Receipt. Make sure to keep a copy of the note and the postal receipt for your files.
Note: This ‘new wrinkle’ has caused much confusion across the state, due to an incorrect interpretation in 2010, written by attorney Mike Donnelly with HSLDA. His E-Alert stated that the six-year-old notification had to be sent in by August 1st if your child had already turned six by that date. This is not true. There is no cut-off date mentioned in our home school statute. The law just says “when the child IS six” (emphasis mine). Which means, whenever your child’s sixth birthday has occurred, be that January or December or any month in between.
The following year, when your child actually turns seven, THEN you must file an actual Notice of Intent to Homeschool (NOI).
For homeschooled teenagers, compulsory school age ends at age sixteen in Colorado. If your child will turn sixteen 14 (or more) days before you intend to start homeschooling, don’t bother filing an NOI. By the time your 14 day required waiting period is over, your child will be past the homeschool compulsory age.
Just FYI: The Colorado Compulsory Attendance Law requires public schooled teenagers to attend public school until age seventeen.
When do I need to file my Notice of Intent (NOI)?
14 calendar days before you begin homeschooling.
Where do I send my NOI?
Send it Certified Mail, Return Receipt to any school district within the state. You do not have to send it to the district you live in. But, if you file it with any other district, send a note to your home district to let them know where you filed it. That way everybody knows what’s going on and nobody gets cranky.
What information am I required to include?
The Notice of Intent/Letter of Intent must contain:
a) The full name, address and ages of the child(ren) you will be homeschooling.
b) The number of days and hours you will be teaching this year. You can write this as “688 hours”, or more typically we all write “an average of 4 hours per day, 172 days per year.” (It’s just two different ways of saying the exact same thing.)
c) The signature(s) of the primary homeschooling parent(s) or guardian(s).
ALWAYS keep a copy of your NOI/LOI for your records. Districts are full of humans, and humans have been known to lose documents.
Do I need to file a new NOI every year?
I just moved to Colorado. When do I need to file?
Welcome! Submit your NOI as soon as possible. The school districts understand moving craziness and rarely enforce the 14-day rule.
I just pulled my 5-year-old out of school. Do I still have to file an NOI?
Yes. Once your child has been enrolled in school, they’ve been processed and counted. It doesn’t matter that they’re ‘not compulsory school age’; the district will still wonder where they’ve gone. If you don’t let the district know, they’ll probably notify Social Services or a truant officer. Who wants a visit from those people? So, make ‘em happy and file that simple paperwork. It keeps you legal and out of hot water.
Where do I get the Notice of Intent (NOI) form?
There is no “official” form, but here’s RMEC’s Sample Notice of Intent you can use as a template.
Do I have to fill out the school district’s NOI form?
No. Especially if they ask for more information than is required by law. Districts can send out all the paperwork they want (wasting our tax dollars in the process) — but guess what? You, legally, DO NOT have to fill them out. In fact, if you complete one, it just encourages them to decimate another national forest and shower us with more paper blizzards. Think green. Save a tree. Ignore them.
But they’re saying I HAVE to fill out theirs out!
Oh, horsepucky. Stand your ground. Insist that they send you a copy of the homeschool law, highlighting the paragraph that says they have the legal right to require such a thing. There IS no such provision.
Does my homeschool year have to begin and end at the same time as my local school district?
Nope. Your home school year may begin and end at any time, as long as you get your 4 hours/172 days in. You can begin in October, take the month of December off for the holidays, start your summer holiday in April, and do your home educating between midnight and 4:00am. It’s all up to you. It’s not up to the district, or your local school, or the CDE. When you homeschool in Colorado, you are your own school district, principle, admin office and classroom teacher. (You’re the janitor, too. But then again, you’ve always been the janitor. LOL.) The public schools decide their ‘school year’, you decide your ‘school year’. Simple as that.
Can my child take outside classes?
Yes, as long you’re still doing the majority of the teaching (51% or more).
Can someone else homeschool my children for me?
No. Designated relatives can help. But you’re the person legally in charge of your children’s homeschooling program, which means YOU still have to do the majority (51% or more) of the teaching.
I enrolled my kids in an Umbrella School. Are we still ‘homeschoolers’?
Not legally. Your child is considered a private school student under Colorado law.
Colorado Umbrella Schools
Homeschooling is an “exception” to our Compulsory School Attendance Law, and in addition, we have another spiffy exception: enrolling our children in an Umbrella School. So, what is an “umbrella school” exactly? What are the benefits of enrolling? Where can I find such a school? How are they different from online virtual academies?
What records do I need to keep?
By law, you’re required to keep:
– Your child’s attendance records.
– Their immunization records, or opt-out document(s).
– A copy of their standardized test or evaluation results.
What subjects do I have to teach?
The Constitution of the United States.
Having said that, understand that Colorado does not mandate HOW, or WHEN, or even THE NUMBER OF HOURS you must teach each subject. Contact Cindy if you’d like more details on curriculum and teaching to satisfy the law.
When does my child graduate?
When you decide he’s done. The state trusts us with homeschooling our offspring through high school, so it naturally follows that we’re also trusted to have enough common sense to know when they’re done. Has your child completed the high school requirements to your satisfaction? Is s/he ready for college? Is s/he emotionally mature enough to be a graduate? My oldest was ready at 16, but the youngest took until 18. If they’re possibly headed for college, have them take the ACT or SAT in their sophomore or junior year (there are practice SATs and ACTs too). Have them take a Standardized Achievement Test if you like. Visit your local Community College and have your child take their placement test (it’s usually free). Most of all, trust your natural parental instincts. No one knows your child better than you.
How does my child get their high school diploma?
Please understand there is no such thing as a Colorado statewide diploma. Each school district in the state has their own academic guidelines (and they’re all different from each other), and if you complete it to their satisfaction, they issue you a high school diploma. You as a Colorado homeschooler can do the same thing. Yes, it’s legal and just as legitimate as any other high school diploma. Read what the Colorado Department of Education’s Homeschool FAQ has to say:
Here’s how I created my boys’ diplomas:
We named our homeschool.
I looked at my own diploma to get an idea for fonts, general formatting and wording. If you don’t have yours handy, here are some samples from Microsoft and DonnaYoung.org.
Then I picked up some nice blank certificates from OfficeMax. They also have Certificate Holders and Picture Frames to put the diploma into for safekeeping. I chose frames, ’cause I know just how rough and tumble my male offspring can be. (The frames are still holding up and it’s 9-14 years later. Heehee, Mom’s so smart.)
Lastly, I played around with the design on my trusty computer. After a few disasters … I got it. “Unschooling I am, said Sam I Am; Unschooling Again with no Green Eggs and Ham!”
Or if you prefer, you can pay Homeschool Diploma to create a diploma for you.
“This is a very dangerous book. It contradicts all the conventional wisdom about dropouts and the importance of a formal education. It is funny and inspiring. Do not, under any circumstances, share this book with a bright, frustrated high-schooler being ground into mind fudge by the school system. This writer cannot be responsible for the happiness and sense of personal responsibility that might result.” —Pat Wagner, Bloomsbury Review
Where do I get the accredited curriculum like the public schools use?
Contrary to popular belief, there is no ‘statewide accredited curriculum’ just as there’s no ‘statewide Colorado diploma’. The CDE doesn’t and cannot tell the school districts what curriculum they must use. Each district chooses what they think best. District A might decide that 2 years of Algebra and pre-Calculus is essential to graduate. District B might say, oh no, we think 2 years of Foreign Language is more important than Algebra.
However, both districts issue valid high school diplomas that are accepted nationwide.
Does My Child Need To Be Tested?
Yes — but we have choices. All homeschooled students in Colorado are required to take a nationally standardized achievement test – OR – be evaluated by a Qualified Person, every other year, during the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th grades. There are many differences between these two options, and several factors to consider.
Colorado Homeschool Evaluations
What are evaluations? Where do they take place and what happens during them? Are they a better choice for my child than achievements tests? Where do I find an evaluator?
Nationally Standardized Achievement Tests
Where do I find the tests and how many different kinds are there? When during the year do I need to have my child tested? Can I administer the test myself? What if my child is not “at grade level” in all subjects?
Current Threats to Homeschool Freedoms
With one stroke of a pen, we could easily lose the right to homeschool in Colorado. Our rights are being eroded now. And it’s sad to note that it’s not because our homeschooling freedoms are being taken from us. We’re giving them away.
A disturbing article by Treon Goossen.
What’s Going On Up At The Capitol?
Treon Goossen is the co-author of our Colorado Home School Law, defender of our rights, and this link is to her public Facebook page. Here she keeps us informed on what’s happening with our law this year, which politicians are attempting to change it and who to contact to stop it.
Personal note from Cindy: No, Treon didn’t ask me to do this, but please consider donating a little something to her (Treonelain@aol.com). For the past 25+ years she’s been homeschooling six kids, driving back and forth from Florissant to Denver, listening to debates, arguing on our behalf, testifying before committees, in hearings, before Senators and Representatives, all to protect us and our right to homeschool ….. for no pay. Not even gas reimbursement.
My child’s been suspended from school. Can I still homeschool?
Yes. The law only stipulates different requirements if your child has been declared habitually truant within the past six months. Keep in mind that ‘warned’, ‘suspended’ or ‘expelled’ don’t count — those aren’t ‘officially truant’. But, if it’s gotten to that ‘official’ point, you will need to submit both an NOI and a written description of your child’s curriculum to the district. The description will only be required the first year. If you continue to homeschool a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. year, you just file a regular old NOI as you normally would.
Can my child take sports at the local public school, or sing in the choir, play in the school band, attend a class?
Yes. All homeschooled students may participate in any extracurricular or interscholastic activity offered by a public school in their district, as long as they comply with the requirements set down by the school district. In other words, you have to abide by whatever they say.
Whew … well, that’s it, the basic nuts and bolts. Remember, if you have further questions, I’m available for private consultations.
Updated February 2014.