You’ve read the Colorado homeschool law CRS 22-33-104 and 22-33-104.5. What does all that legal mumbo jumbo mean? Here’s the explanation, in a nutshell, in plain English. Please remember this page is for your info only, it is not meant to be legal advice.
Current Threats to Homeschool Freedoms
Are you giving up your rights to homeschool? Many of you are … without even realizing it.
Deschooling: The Mental Vacation You Didn’t Expect
If your child’s been in school for any length of time, an unexpected mental vacation may be in your future. Your child’s mental vacation, I mean — not yours.
Cindy’s available for private phone consultations if you have more questions.
What ages does Colorado’s home school law apply to?
It applies to all children between the ages of 6-16. If your child will turn 6 by August 1st of this year, you must file A Notice of Intent to Homeschool. However, you do not need to actually BEGIN homeschooling until age 7. (See CRS 22-33-104.5)
For teenagers, remember: compulsory school age ends at age 16 in Colorado. If your child will turn 16 fourteen (or more) days before your homeschool year starts, don’t bother filing an NOI. It’s moot, nada, no longer required.
I’m new to Colorado. When do I need to file?
If you’ve recently moved here, submit your NOI as soon as possible. The state understands moving craziness and rarely enforces the 14-day rule.
What information am I required to include?
All Notice of Intent letters 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 that year. Per Colorado Revised Statute (CSR), this is written as “688 hours (or) 4 hours per day, 172 days per year.”
c) The signature(s) of the primary homeschooling parent(s) or guardian(s).
ALWAYS keep a copy of your NOI for your own records. Districts are full of humans, and humans have been known to lose documents.
Must I file a new NOI every year?
I just pulled my 5-year-old kindergardner out of school. Do I still have to file an NOI?
This is an exception to the rule, and the short answer is yes. Once your child has been enrolled in school, they’ve been processed and counted, sorted and filed. It doesn’t matter that they’re ‘not compulsory school age’. Once you remove them to homeschool, the district will wonder where they’ve gone. They may even notify Social Services or a truant officer if they’re not sure. 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 can I find a sample of how the NOI should be written?
There is no “official form”, but RMEC’s Sample Notice of Intent can be found here.
Where do I file my Notice of Intent?
Send it 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 another district, send a note to your home district. That way everybody knows what’s going on and nobody gets cranky.
Also, please remember that once you file, your child’s local school is out of the picture. You don’t have to communicate with them anymore.
Do I have to fill out the school district’s NOI form?
No. No no no no no. Especially if they ask for more information than is required by law. Districts can send out all the forms and letters 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 send out more paperwork blizzards. Think green. Save a tree. Ignore them.
But they’re saying I HAVE to fill out it out!
Oh, horsepucky. Mail it back, along with a note asking that they send you a copy of Colorado’s current homeschool statute, highlighting the paragraph that says they have the legal right to require such a thing. There IS no such provision. Districts have been doing this nonsense since before I started, and they’ll continue to do it until our grandchildren have grandchildren. It’s important that we keep ourselves informed and stand up for the homeschooling rights our predecessors fought so long and hard to win.
Does my homeschool year have to begin and end at the same time as the school district?
Nope. Your home school year may begin at any time. It’s not tied to the traditional ‘school year’, or when your local school decides to start and stop. Their school year is up to them. Your school year is up to you. Our family used to start in early October and take the entire month of December off. A friend homeschooled through the summer so they could take November and December off to enjoy extended holiday time with family overseas. As long as you get in your 688 hours of learning each year, which months you do it in doesn’t matter.
My child takes outside classes. Do I still have to file an NOI?
It depends. How much of the teaching are you doing? Let’s say your child takes a class or two somewhere else, but you’re still doing the majority of the teaching (51% or more). This means you’re still a homeschooler, and you need to file an NOI. If you’re teaching only 49% of the time (or less), your child is considered a private or public school student.
I enrolled my kids in an umbrella school. Are we still ‘homeschoolers’?
No. Your child is now a private school student. Ergo, he/she falls under private school law. You are no longer ‘homeschooling’ by legal definition.
Also remember that per Colorado law, ‘enrolled’ does not automatically mean ‘attends’. Your child can be enrolled in a cover school, but never step foot on campus or attend a single class. This is commonly how homeschooling parents use ‘umbrella’ or ‘cover’ schools. The school counts your child as a private school student, while you continue homeschooling as usual. Don’t you just love those Colorado homeschool pioneers who wrote this provision into the law?
Do I have to keep records?
Yes. By law, the only records you’re required to keep are:
Your child’s attendance records.
Their immunization records. Or their opt-out document(s).
Their standardized test or evaluation results.
What subjects do I have to teach?
Reading, writing, speaking, math, history, civics, literature, science, and the constitution of the United States.
Having said that, understand that Colorado does not mandate how, or even when you teach the subjects. You can cover a subject at the age of 4, 9, 12 or 16 — or anywhere in between. And you can use any means you like: field trips, volunteering, movies, video games, Grandpa’s back-in-my-day stories, baking cookies, grocery shopping, boy scout projects, etc. Tip: Just document what you do each day (trust me on this — make entries every day) so you can put it into a transcript later.
When does my child graduate?
When you decide he’s done. When you homeschool in Colorado, you are in charge: you are your own classroom teacher, principal and school district. Which means, you get to make all the decisions. 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. No one knows your child better than you. Trust your natural parental instincts.
Where do we get a diploma?
First, there is no such thing as a statewide diploma. Each school district issues their own diploma, and the only way to get one of those is to put your child back into public school so they can graduate there. Who wants to do that? Colorado homeschoolers make our own diplomas. It’s easy. Name your homeschool, visit your favorite office supply store, pick up some blank certificates, and design one on your trusty computer. That’s what I did. Ann Zeise of A to Z’s Homeschool did too, and you can download her diploma template here. Or visit Homeschool Diploma and they’ll create a diploma for you.
But, is it really legal to do that?
I understand your hesitation. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Check the Colorado Department of Education website; they’ll tell you the same. 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.
I issued my sons their diplomas. They’re adults now; the youngest is working on getting his Bachelors degree in Mathematics, the oldest has an Associates in Computer Science, and both are working. Not a single soul has so much as blinked at that nice piece of paper I designed in between loads of laundry.
Come to think of it, have you ever stopped to question the validity of your own diploma?
How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education
“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
Better Late Than Early
Dr. Raymond Moore, homeschooling pioneer, explains why formal schooling before ages 8-10 can be harmful.
Where do I get the accredited curriculum like the public schools use?
There is no such thing. Surprised? I was, too. But, I worked with the Colorado Department of Education and heard it straight from the horse’s mouth:
In Colorado, public, private and homeschool law are three separate things. What’s legally required for public schools, isn’t required of private school or homeschool students. And even if it were, contrary to popular belief, there’s still no such thing as ‘a statewide accredited curriculum’. The Colorado Dept of Education doesn’t dictate which curriculum the districts must use. Each district decides their own. District A might decide that 2 years of Algebra is essential to graduate. District B might think that 3 years of Spanish or German is more important than Algebra. However, both districts issue valid high school diplomas that are accepted nationwide.
The DOE also does not mandate statewide graduation requirements. The individual school districts wouldn’t stand for it; they’ve always been autonomous and want to keep it that way.
Standardized Test? Or Evaluation?
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. Please keep in mind that grade level has nothing to do with the child’s age. Example: You could have an advanced 7 year old who is doing 5th grade-level work. Or visa versa. If your child is doing 5th grade-level work, it’s time to do a 5th grade test or evaluatation.
What’s the difference between tests and evaluations?
Nationally standardized tests are pretty much what you think they are: a white booklet, a No. 2 pencil, don’t start until the instructor says so, fill in the little circles to indicate your answer. Evaluations are in-person, friendlier and not as stressful. You and your child meet the evaluator at an agreed-upon location (most often, your home) and the person doing the evaluating talks to your child, asking to see books they’ve read, worksheets they’ve completed, lego structures they’ve built, etc.
By law, the goal of evaluations is ‘to determine if the child has made academic progress’.
Evaluations have to be done by a Qualified Person: a certified teacher, a private school teacher, a licensed psychologist, or a person with a graduate degree in education.
Can I act as my child’s Qualified Person?
Yes, if you’re any of the above. Remember, that 4th option means your graduate degree must be in Education. A graduate degree in any other field doesn’t count.
Where do I file the test/evaluation results?
A copy of the results must be submitted to either a private, parochial or independent school within Colorado, or any Colorado school district. Make sure to keep a copy of the results for your own records.
If your child’s composite score falls at, or below, the 13th percentile, the school district will require your child to be retested. After retesting, if your child’s score still falls at, or below, the 13th percentile, the district will require that you place the child into a public, independent or parochial school until the next testing period.
Where do I find the tests and/or an evaluator?
See Standardized Tests and Evaluations.
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 — they aren’t ‘officially truant’. But, if it’s gotten to the ‘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 beyond the first year, you just need to file an 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.
NOTE: Homeschoolers may be charged up to 150% of the normal fees. This increase was added into our law during the 1997 legislative session. (Don’t you love it? Our kids are no longer there, they still have our tax money, and now they want more.)
Everyone everywhere is welcome to print this page for their own reference, or link to it. Remember, if you need me, I’m available for private consultations. Happy Homeschooling!
Updated August 2012.