There are four homeschooling options to choose from in Alaska. The steps you need to take before beginning depends on the homeschool method you choose to follow.
The four ways to homeschool in Alaska are; homeschool statute, private tutor, school board approval, or a religious private school. Immunization records, assessments, and annual notifications are required for religious private schools. Private tutors must be certified teachers. There are no requirements under the homeschool statute or by school board approval.
Knowing which homeschooling method is right for your family can be daunting. Each option offers valuable education, but the lesson delivery and learning process are where they can differ.
Homeschooling in Alaska
Children in Alaska can start attending school as early as six years old. However, it becomes state law to enroll a child in an educational program when they are seven years old for the current or upcoming school year. At the age of sixteen, a student can choose to continue learning, or if all requirements are met, they can pursue graduation.
If your child has already enrolled in a public school, a withdrawal form will need to be completed for the current school year or the upcoming school year, depending on the time frame you want to start homeschooling. The withdrawal form will ensure your child is not marked absent or truant for no longer attending public school. Before you begin homeschooling, it is essential to choose one of the four allowed methods and make sure you have completed all the requirements each one needs since they do not all require the same documents and steps.
Homeschooling Under the Homeschool Statute
Under the homeschool statute, there are little to no requirements that need to be met on the state level. You are free to educate your child in your home, as long as you are a legal guardian or parent of the student. The only notification that needs to be done is filling out and submitting a withdrawal form from public school should your child be currently attending or going to attend in the next school year.
It is not mandatory to have the student take state tests or assessments. As the teacher, you are not required to have any teaching certifications. Any work or files that you choose to save would be for the benefit of the student and yourself. Creating, buying, or borrowing a curriculum is also your responsibility. The typical school year in Alaska is 180 days. You can check with your county and local school district to determine how many days your student will need.
Homeschooling with a Private Tutor
If you choose to homeschool with the help of a private tutor, the tutor must be an Alaska-certified teacher. Homeschooling can occur in your own home and with a schedule that works for your family and the tutor. The average homeschool day lasts from two to three hours in length. Weeks can vary between three to five days, with approximately 180 days marked for learning. Either you or your tutor can check with the local superintendent to get the exact number of days needed for a homeschool year. Curriculum options can be discussed and agreed upon with your child’s tutor to maximize learning potential and incorporate positive teamwork.
Homeschooling with School Board Approval
When there is an opportunity for a student to receive an equally served education through homeschooling rather than public school, permission can be given from the school board. After a written request to grant homeschool permission has been approved by your local school principal or school administration, you will receive an “excuse from school attendance” letter in return.
The letter to the school administration should state how the student would be gaining an equally served education experience when homeschooling will begin, and any other essential information about the curriculum or student. Once you receive an approved letter from the school board, you can start homeschooling.
Homeschooling with a Religious or Private School
While the requirements are easy to accomplish, out of all four homeschool options in Alaska, this one has the most. Each school year, you will be responsible for filing an annual private school enrollment reporting form with the local superintendent. The yearly enrollment form must be submitted by the first day of school for public school.
Before October 15 of every year, you will need to file a school calendar form, exempt religious, and any other private school enrollment forms to the Department of Education. If the school your student will be attending has more than one family enrolled, a corporal discipline policy must be on file with the Alaska Department of Education.
The school is responsible for maintaining monthly attendance logs to record 180 days of school year attendance. It is up to the parent or guardian of the student to save and update permanent records for student immunizations, courses, standardized testing, physical exams, and any academic achievements earned throughout the educational career.
Standardized testing takes place for 4th, 6th, and 8th-grade students. The parent of the student can choose which nationally recognized test the student will take. Each test measures knowledge in English grammar, spelling, math, and reading. There is no state or federal funding for religious or private schools.
Homeschooling and School Sports
In July of 2013, Alaska laws partially changed to allow homeschoolers to join public school sports, events, and other appropriate activities. Students between ninth and twelfth grade who meet the criteria to participate are authorized to do so while maintaining enrollment through homeschool.
The criteria homeschool students need to meet to join public school activities include:
- A parent and student residence address must be within the school district of the desired public school.
- The student needs to show good cause for why he or she should be allowed to join.
- The student needs to be eligible based on pre-established requirements public school students also need to meet.
- The student must provide full-time homeschool enrollment documentation, any disciplinary records, and requested medical records.
- The sport, activity, or event must be during the same school year for homeschool and public-school students.
Full-time homeschoolers should be enrolled in at least five classes from 9th to 11th-grade, while 12th-grade is at least four classes.
Homeschooling and Special Education
Alaska does not have any additional requirements for homeschooling children with special needs than they do for other students. The same four homeschooling options are available to families with special needs, just as public schooling is also an option should homeschooling not work in your favor.
Private schools and homeschools working under the Alaska Private School Statute may be eligible to receive extra funding from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, also known as IDEA. To see what you might qualify for in IDEA funding, contact the special education branch of the Alaska Department of Education. If they do not have the answers you are looking for, they can lead you in the right direction of who will have the answers.
Homeschool Groups, Co-Ops, and Field Trips
Before you start homeschooling, it is a great idea to look for local homeschool groups and co-ops that get together in your town, neighborhood, and even your subdivision. Homeschool groups and co-ops are wonderful resources for adult and child social networking, group events, sharing curriculum, providing tips, study groups, and even field trips. If you feel nervous, anxious, or unsure what your next steps are, it is safe to assume someone else has been in the same spot before. Homeschool groups and co-ops help each other to learn, understand, and provide the best experiences for their children that they can.
Alaska is the largest state in the U.S. The number of field trips and experiences is near unlimited. Whether it be a day trip, weekend trip, or summer camp, there is much that can be gained through living the lesson compared to reading about the experiences. Homeschool groups will often put together field trips for other homeschoolers and parents to join. Field trips can be an exciting learning adventure, scavenger hunt oriented, P.E. related, history and geography aimed, or a simple break away from the stress of traditional-style learning.
Choosing a Homeschool Curriculum
If you are in charge of choosing a homeschool curriculum, it can be overwhelming at times. There are numerous options available for online-based learning, materials purchased and used in the home, or even borrowed books from the local library. School House Teachers is a website packed full of lessons from early learning through high school.
The information can be printed, viewed online, or a mix of both if you are looking for a more subject-focused, parent-made curriculum. K12 is an online, teacher-led program that follows a class schedule similar to public school. Alpha Omega Publications is a Christian based company that has a variety of online, digital, student-paced, and teacher-led options. There are many others to consider, as well. This is simply the start of the curriculum choices.
Homeschool Graduation Requirements in Alaska
Parents determine when graduation happens for each individual, homeschooled student. Diplomas can be issued but must be prepared and provided by the parents or guardians. It is in the best interest of the student for parents to follow the graduation guidelines of the student’s career goals. It is often that employers, colleges, universities, and even the military will want to see specific courses or credits completed before acceptance or admittance.
Public school students must complete a minimum of 22.5 credits to graduate. Those credits are broken down into seven electives, 3 Math, 3 Science, 4 English, 3.5 Social Studies, 1.5 P.E., and 0.5 in a health-related course.