There are three methods of homeschooling a parent can choose from to homeschool in the state of Colorado.
Decide which method to use: homeschooling under Colorado’s homeschool statute, with a certified teacher, or through an independent school. Make sure to notify the school district 14 days before starting, maintain record-keeping, choose a curriculum that includes state required subjects, and follow testing schedules.
Homeschooling offers a variety of ways to learn and grow as a student and individual. Having scheduling flexibility within a semi-structured routine is a great benefit to not overlook for busy families.
Colorado’s Homeschooling Options Explained
Colorado law requires children between 6 and 17 to attend school. If a child does not turn six before August 1st, enrollment may be waived until the following school year. A notice of intent to homeschool must be on file with the school district for any student attending school outside of a public school. Withdrawal from public school is essential to avoid any truancies reported to the school board. A withdrawal form can be submitted mid-year, end of the year, or before school starts for the upcoming year; if a decision is made during summer, the student will not be returning to public school.
Under the Colorado homeschool statute, a parent or guardian can act as the child’s teacher. Notification of intent to homeschool must be on file with the local school district 14 days before starting with home-based learning. The notice of intent must include names and ages of all children being home-taught, residence address, and the cumulative number of hours designated for learning each day. There may be circumstances where the school district will request a curriculum plan to verify the student’s learning goals.
A homeschool year consists of 172 instructional days, with each day being four hours in length. Mandatory subjects included in the curriculum are Language Arts (reading, writing, speaking), Math, History, Civics, US Constitution, and Science. Attendance records, test and evaluation results, and immunization records are the parent or guardian’s responsibility. The school district may request these records at times deemed necessary. The student’s parent or guardian has 14 days to reply to a school district or superintendent’s records request.
A second option for homeschooling in Colorado is known as an independent school. Parents are allowed to teach their children at home through established independent schools that supervise their learning. Two or more homeschool families can develop their own schools with proper record-keeping, complying with state regulations, and teaching state-required subjects. Student withdrawal from public school and intent to homeschool forms should still be on file to keep students from appearing absent or truant.
If a parent, guardian, or someone else designated as the student’s instructor is a Colorado certified teacher, there are no requirements that need to be met for notifications or testing. The designated teacher can create or use a pre-made curriculum and follow individual testing goals to monitor where the child is academically to set new goals or re-evaluate the parent, teacher, and child’s previous educational goals.
There is a fourth option available to families who want to enroll through a private or religious school and still teach at home. An umbrella school is an independent private or religious school that permits instruction and schoolwork to occur at home. The school will keep some student records, freeing the parents from the record-keeping responsibility. Enrolling through an umbrella school bypasses the intent notifications, attendance, and testing requirements of the first two homeschooling options.
Homeschoolers and Public School Access
Any student who is enrolled through a homeschool program has equal access to public school activities. However, it is up to each school district to make any final decision on allowing homeschooled students access or not. If an activity is not available through a non-public school, the student can try out and join public school teams and clubs within their zoned school district, when allowed. If the student’s local school does not offer the desired activity, they can look at the nearest public school outside of their immediate school boundaries and participate there if the activity is provided. Homeschool students must comply with public school policies, fees, and participation requirements. Academic reports and medical records may be requested, dependent on the activity. Student responsibilities and behavior standards are to be followed, as well.
Special Education While Homeschooled
Families choosing to homeschool a child with special needs only need to follow the state regulations for the method of homeschooling they are using. There are no additional requirements that need to be met. Under Colorado law, homeschooling can be a form of a private school, which may help a child with special needs be eligible for services funded through state programs and IDEA, the Individual with Disabilities Education Act. Contact the local superintendent or the Colorado Department of Education for more information on qualification requirements.
What to Look for in a Homeschool Curriculum
With the choice to homeschool comes the option to choose the curriculum. It is vital to choose a curriculum that meets state requirements on mandatory subjects and works well with the student’s learning style. Some companies provide pre-made curricula packages, and others will allow the parent or teacher to create a more individualized lesson plan based on the student’s abilities and learning growth. An online search for homeschool approved lessons will open a new doorway to many different pathways available.
Home-based learning does not need to be expensive. There are free lessons and lesson add-ons that work just as well as paid memberships and subscriptions. Khan Academy is a free resource that is well-known among online learners, both young and older. K12 is a tuition-free online program that brings public school home. Schedules and classes are set up similar to public schools and will keep students on track with their peers. Duolingo is free to use for children and adults who want to learn a new language or freshen up on skills they have already learned elsewhere.
For a small monthly membership, ABC Mouse will introduce early learners between 2 and 8 years old to math, reading, colors, and science in an engaging, interactive “classroom” setting. To continue with the interactive classroom and lesson exploration, Adventure Academy will further dive into science, math, reading, and social studies for children 8 to 13. There is a 30-day free offer to try both ABC Mouse and Adventure Academy before becoming members. AOP, or Alpha Omega Publications, is a Christian based company that offers online, digital, student-paced, and teacher-led programs.
Creating lesson plans is easy with School House Teachers. With a yearly membership, parents and educators gain access to hundreds of lessons found by age, grade level, subject, or learning pathways. Lessons and answer sheets are available to print, download, or be used online with group teaching and video access. There are many more resources available than those listed here, but this is a good start to compare different ways to utilize resources for home-based learning.
There will be state-required testing and evaluations throughout homeschooling to ensure each child is learning the minimum of what they should be. Nationally standardized achievement tests or a qualified person can determine if they pass the learning expectations for their age and grade level. A qualified person is a Colorado certified teacher, a public school teacher, a licensed psychologist, or a person with a graduate degree in education. Students are to be tested in 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th grade.
Test results, or evaluations, must be sent to the school where the intent to homeschool is on file. If a student scores at or below the 13th percentile on the standardized tests or evaluations, an alternate version of the same test will be given to retest the child. If the student continues to score below the 13th percentile, the school district can require the child’s parent to enroll him or her in a public, independent, or church school until the next testing window. If a student’s evaluation determines they are not making academic progress within their abilities, the school district can require enrollment into a public school, independent school, or church school until the next testing period.
Graduation Requirements for Homeschool High Schoolers
Colorado recently adopted a revised guideline for graduation requirements. The graduating class of 2021 is the first class to use the new guidelines. Each school district must implement graduation requirements following the guidelines, but there is more room for choice with the newly adopted plan. Students must earn a minimum of 30 credits throughout their high school years. Of those 30 credits, 18 need to be from state-mandated subjects and the state-wide requirement of a civics and government class that covers knowledge on Colorado as well as the United States.
Homeschool Associations, Groups, and Co-Ops
The Colorado Homeschool Association is a state-wide organization that answers questions families have about state regulations, laws, and other educational items. Homeschool groups and co-ops are smaller localized groups within a county, town, or neighborhood. Co-ops will host group teaching, field trips, plan social events for parents and students, and serve as a resource for questions and answers to other homeschooling families.
Field Trips for Homeschooled Students
Field Trips are not limited to only public schools. Home-based learners can also schedule field trips based on lessons, seasons, or serve as a break away from the textbook or online learning. Using schedule flexibility, parents can adjust lecture days with field trips, turn them into learning adventures, or reschedule lesson plans for another day.