Did you know that there is a special age, mentioned in each state law, for when a child must enroll in/attend school? This is referred to as the Required Attendance Age, and it is different in every state.
Tradition vs. Law
Traditionally we think that a child must enroll in Kindergarten at the age of 5, but not so! This would only be true if you live in a state where the required attendance age begins at 5 years old. In the state of Washington, the minimum required attendance age is 8 years old! This means that parents can legally keep their child at home until the age of 8. On the child’s 8th birthday, the law requires that their parent, or legal guardian, enrolls them in a public, private, or an umbrella school, or that they send a declaration of intent to homeschool to the school district.
We also traditionally expect that a child will attend school until the age of 18 years old, but this is also not a legal requirement in every state. Just as there is a varied minimum age, there is also a varied maximum required attendance age. In the state of Alaska, the maximum age for school attendance is 16 years old! This means that after a child’s 16th birthday the state does not legally require them to attend school anymore.
What Does This Mean For Homeschoolers?
So why is this important for you to know if you choose to homeschool? Well, for two reasons:
- If you decide to homeschool your child from the beginning (i.e. from preschool age on), and you live in a state that requires notification, then knowing what your state’s minimum required attendance age is will help you know when to notify the school district of your choice to homeschool. For instance, if your state’s required attendance age is 6 years old, then you would not need to notify the school district that you are homeschooling the year your child turns 5. If you never enroll your child in public school, then you won’t need to notify the school district of your choice to homeschool, until your child reaches the required attendance age.
- If you feel your child is not ready for school at the age of 5 and the Required Attendance Age in your state is 6 years old then you can legally keep your child home another year worry free and give yourself time to decide what to do about their education, and give your child time to grow and mature.
- If you decide to homeschool your child during their high school years, then knowing what your state’s maximum required attendance age is will help you know when you can stop notifying your school district, teaching the required subjects, keeping a log of homeschool hours, etc.. If your child is past the maximum required attendance age then you no longer need to follow your state’s regulations for that child.
What If My Child Already Attends A Public School?
If your child is already attending a public school, but they are younger than your state’s required attendance age, then you will still have to legally withdraw your child in order to homeschool. This may involve notifying the school district of your choice to homeschool and filling out a withdrawal form for your child’s school. Once you enroll your child in school, no matter the age, you can’t just keep them home without informing anyone. Once you give your parental educational rights over to the school you will need to formally ask for them back if you want to homeschool.
If your child is older than the required attendance age and you want to withdraw them from school you will need to follow the same procedure. You will have to notify the school district and formally withdraw them from school. This can sometimes require more than just a withdraw form. Some states require a meeting with the school principal or counselor (i.e. an exit interview) to ensure that you as a parent are fully aware of the implications of your choice on your child’s education.
Find out what your state’s Required Attendance Age is! Use the menu at the top of this page to find your state’s homeschool law and read all about it.