WHO’S IN CHARGE:

Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction is the state agency charged with advancing public education.

It is headed by a Superintendent, an officer elected every four years.

Created in 1848, when the newly enacted state constitution provided for the establishment of local school districts and a free education for all students in the state.

More Information

OVERVIEW

Wisconsin defines homeschooling as a home-based private educational program, provided by a parent or legal guardian to their child or children, to comply with the compulsory school attendance law.

In Wisconsin, the requirements for a homeschooling program are for 875 hours of instruction each academic year, in a program with a sequentially progressive curriculum of fundamental instruction in reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, and health.

The state has no authority to monitor home-schooling programs, but it is recommended that parents maintain records for use in the future by employers, enlistment for military service, or college admission.

Parents electing to homeschool may do so with a simple online form to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. When the parents submit this paperwork, they are ensuring that what they are teaching meets the required criteria.

In Wisconsin, parents are not required to have any particular level of education or teaching certification or licensing to educate their children at home.

The hours of instruction need not be at a table, sitting down, in a book. Instruction may take place in any environment, as long as the criteria the state provides for, is met. Students can be reading books, listening to others reading aloud, listening to books on tape, following a purchased curriculum and completing the worksheets provided, using computers (with parental supervision as necessary), participating in community activities - including field trips and volunteer service, exploring careers through job shadowing, learning practical skills (cooking, driving, home maintenance, engine repair, etc), playing educational games or even playing individual sports and on community sports teams.

Some families shared that they made the decision to Homeschool because it was a better fit for their child. They felt that Homeschooling lends itself well to shorter days (just more of them) and greater flexibility (sensory breaks, different approaches, etc). They seek out social opportunities wherever they can be found – including Gym class at the local YMCA, or the local library may host Literature or English courses with peer homeschooled students.

Special education services

School districts are not required to provide special education or related services to homeschooled children with disabilities. That being said, there is also no regulation forbidding it. If a public school chooses to provide any assistance to a homeschooling family, they do so without the financial support of the State or Federal funding agencies.

For children undergoing intensive ABA therapy in their home, therapy time would not be considered educational time, as the instruction needs to be by a parent (in most cases, ABA therapists are not parents).

Role of the local school district

The local school district does not receive State or Federal funding for homeschooled children. They have no requirement to provide assistance, and they receive no financial benefit for any assistance they lend to you. But there is also nothing precluding them from providing assistance, if they choose to do so.

While the intention of the state is for there to be minimal interference upon home based educational programs by the local school district, this can still happen. Usually triggered by a complaint, a school may ask families to meet with them to share documentation that the criteria for hours of instruction, and having a productive curriculum are being met.

Homeschooled students do not participate in standardized public school testing.

Supplies & curriculum

Parents that homeschool are not usually provided a curriculum, supplies, or textbooks by the state or their school district. Families assume these responsibilities when they choose to educate their children at home. That being said, you can still contact the local school to see if they can be of assistance in this area. The state doesn’t require them to help, but it may be worth the phone call or visit to see if they would help anyway.

Some families develop their own curriculum; others might purchase them from a variety of online sellers. Some families use a combination of both, modifying a purchased-program to better fit the needs of their child.

Part-time public school & part-time homeschool?

Under Wisconsin’s part-time attendance law, Wisconsin students may take up to two courses at the local public school, per semester, space permitting. Courses can be core or extracurricular. That being said, the reverse is not possible. Students enrolled in a public school may not be homeschooled for some courses and not for others.

How to make it happen

For families choosing to homeschool, Wisconsin makes it fairly easy. At any time, even in the course of the academic year, a family can choose to homeschool their child. This change becomes effective when the state receives the completed paperwork. This form must be submitted again each year, no later than October 15th, for the following academic years you wish to continue to homeschool.

The form is not an ‘application’, and you will not receive a response. Rather, it gives-notice to the State and to your local School district of your decision to educate your child at home. If you move from one school district to another, the form should be resubmitted. The day that the form is completed and submitted, your child is considered a homeschooled student.

Families offered some advice to those making the transition to homeschooling:
You never know where opportunities might come for group activities with other homeschoolers. Check with your local library, church, and YMCA or healthclub… and check back frequently.
Don’t give up, and don’t be afraid of setbacks. You’re learning too!

More information

The Wisconsin Parents Association is a Wisconsin-focused organization that supports and informs homeschoolers. They offer families Regional Coordinators to answer questions or provide resources, including assistance with curriculum, and hosts an annual springtime conference of Wisconsin homeschoolers.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction: Frequently Asked Questions about Homeschooling

ONLINE / VIRTUAL SCHOOLS

Virtual charter schools are Wisconsin public schools, operating in a virtual or online environment. Although children who are enrolled in a virtual charter school receive instruction at home, each virtual charter school is “located” in a particular school district.

If the school district in which you live does not offer a virtual charter school, or you wish to enroll your child in a virtual charter school offered by another school district in Wisconsin, you would need to apply for open enrollment (discussed below).

For virtual schools located out of state, the student would be considered homeschooled and the typical homeschooling paperwork would apply. In this case, parents are responsible for ensuring that the out of state program meets the requirements of Wisconsin law.

SCHOOL CHOICE / OPEN ENROLLMENT

Wisconsin’s public school open enrollment program permits a parent to apply for their child to attend a public school, (which can also be a virtual charter school) in a school district other than the parent’s resident district. This is available to students of all grade levels.

The open enrollment application must be approved by both the originating district and the requested one.

The open enrollment law does allow a school district to deny open enrollment if it does not have space in the school, program, class or grade. If the student needs special education or related services in accordance with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), the school district may deny the application if the special education or related services are not available in the school district or if there is no space in the special education or related services.

However, an application for open enrollment may not be denied simply because the student has a disability.

The timeframe to apply for Open Enrollment for the next academic year is from early February to the end of April. Families are notified of decisions in June.

Information on applying for open enrollment is available on the Department of Public Instruction’s website.