State Laws: Ohio


OHIO HOME EDUCATION LAW
by Katie Marino

Read the actual statute HERE.
All regulations are state-wide and mandated. There are no local or regional laws.

PARENT REQUIREMENTS
Parents must have one of the following: a high school diploma, a certificate of high school equivalence, standardized test scores that demonstrate high school equivalence, or another credential approved by the local public school superintendent. If you do not possess one of these, you must work under the direction of a person who holds a baccalaureate degree from a recognized college until the child's test results demonstrate reasonable proficiency, or until you obtain a high school diploma or certificate of high school equivalency.
PAPERWORK REQUIREMENTS
Ohio is a notification state. You will notify the superintendent of the local school district in which you reside of your intent to home educate. The notification, hereafter referred to as the NOI (Notice of Intent), must include the following information:
  1. Parent's name and address (and if someone other than the parent will be teaching the parent’s child(ren), the name and address of that person must also be included);
  2. Current school year;
  3. First and last names and birthdate of each child to be homeschooled;
  4. Except in cases that interfere with a parent's sincerely held religious beliefs, assurance that the home education program will include instruction in language, reading, spelling, writing, geography, history of the United States and Ohio, government, math, science, health, physical education, fine arts (which includes music), first aid, safety, and fire prevention;
  5. Assurance that the parent will provide 900 hours of home education per year;
  6. Assurance that the parent possesses one of the requirements mentioned above, but NOT which one s/he possesses;
  7. Parent's signature and the current date.
In addition to the NOI, you must include a BRIEF outline of intended curriculum for the year. The law clearly states this is for information purposes only, so don't sweat it. The state just wants to see that you have some kind of plan, but you are in no way obligated by law to follow that plan. The outline must include a list of textbooks, courses, programs, OR other basic teaching materials. That word “or” is in large letters because it is important. You do not ever have to use any "curriculum!" You may piece together your child's education in any way that you wish.

The notification must be sent to the superintendent of your local school within a week of the beginning of the first week of school in your district. In addition, it must follow the actual start date of the building in which your child would be, if he were attending. However, Ohio law is written in such a way that a parent may elect to withdraw his/her child from school at any time in the year, and the NOI serves as the legal means of doing so. There are no other statutory requirements for withdrawing a child.

For first-time notification, the NOI is all you must send in. In subsequent years, you must also submit, at the same time, an assessment. That will be covered later in this article.

It is highly recommended that the NOI be mailed to the superintendent via certified mail, return receipt requested. Another option, but one that is not used often, is to hand-deliver the NOI and ask for a time/date-stamped receipt. Both serve as proof that you have fulfilled the law and when you did so. That is important because the superintendent has 14 calendar days in which to ask for more information if the NOI is deemed insufficient in some way. Once you put your NOI in the mail, you are good to go and are considered to be legally home-educating. And then, when the superintendent deems the NOI to be in compliance, s/he must send a letter excusing the child from compulsory attendance for that school year. Sometimes parents forget an item, and once it is supplied, the NOI is in compliance and the superintendent must excuse the child. But, if the superintendent asks for more information that is not required by law, the parent should remind him/her of the law, and request the excusal letter. If the superintendent asks after that 14-day window, s/he is out luck and must excuse the child whether the NOI is in compliance or not. It is highly recommended that all communication between parent and superintendent be in writing (paper communication) only. No emails, no phone calls - just in writing.

Please remember that the superintendent does not give permission for home education, nor can s/he not let you do it. By law, s/he must simply excuse your child from compulsory attendance for that school year (and, actually, it applies to the entire subsequent 12 months). In addition, while state law says that the superintendents “may” supply the parent with their own NOI form, there is no requirement for them to do so, nor is there any obligation on the part of the parent to use that. In fact, it is better to use only forms that strictly comply with the law, as school systems regularly overstep the law within their own forms. Notification should be complete and minimum. We must obey the law completely, but no more and no less than required.

AGE REQUIREMENTS
The compulsory school attendance age begins when a child is 6 years old by the time school begins in the district of residence. It ends at 18 OR when the parent deems the child has completed the course of study laid out by the parent. This means that you may graduate your child before s/he turns 18.

OVERSIGHT REQUIREMENTS
Except as noted above when the parent does not have a high school diploma or equivalency, there are no oversight requirements. The parent is, in fact and in law, the final authority of his/her child's education and is not answerable to any governmental entity to prove or demonstrate anything beyond that which is required in the assessment.

SUBJECT REQUIREMENTS
In the NOI, the parent merely provides assurance that specific subjects will be covered at some point in the child's education. Many of these can be covered simply through living life together, so don't panic at the list and think you have to buy curricula that covers all these subjects and teach them every day!
  • Language, reading, spelling, and writing are all parts of language arts and can be covered simultaneously. There is no need to buy or use separate curricula for each one. You may integrate them in any way you choose;
  • Geography, United States and Ohio history, and government can also be easily integrated. You do not need to study each every year or even all through the year. You may cover each as much or little and as often as you see fit. Reading the newspapers; following local, state and national politics; reading original sources; watching relevant movies and videos and much more can all count towards this;
  • Science can be taught every year and every day, or not. Again, formal curriculum may be used but it's not required, and you can choose from a wide variety of scientific areas of study. For instance, being outdoors a lot can teach a children much about the natural world, and contributes to their overall good health. Or cooking can teach science and math at the same time;
  • Math is usually, but not necessarily, studied through books or videos, but, again, the parent decides how to pursue this;
  • Health and physical education, first aid, safety, and fire prevention can be taught most effectively by the parent modeling a healthy lifestyle, cooking with the child, exercising together and talking about the importance of taking care of ourselves and living responsibly. Team sports or leagues can also fit the bill. Lifeguard training is a great health and safety subject and provides a useful skill. Also, some communities offer babysitting training for tweens. Think outside the box and you will find many experiences that will fit into this area of knowledge. There is no need to buy curriculum for these (although you certainly can buy some), as life itself tends to be a great teacher;
  • Fine arts can be studied through music or art lessons, hobbies, listening to all manner of music and visiting museums, watching live performances, or studying artists. Kids are naturally creative and, when left to pursue their own interests, will surprise you!

All subjects can be combined in any way the parent sees fit. A parent may teach multiple ages from the same curriculum if s/he so wishes.

TIME REQUIREMENTS
Ohio requires assurance that parents will provide 900 hours of education per year. This includes every waking hour in a child's life, so don’t worry about that. In fact, if you “count” a child’s every waking hour, you will hit 900 hours in mid-October if you start after Labor Day! Also note that we do not have to track hours or take attendance, just give an assurance that the child is learning something for at least 900 hours per year. There are no restrictions on the time of day, day of the week, or what months you must instruct your child. It's completely up to you. The parent is in charge of the schedule. All of life is learning, and all of it counts as instruction, whether it comes from the parent, a neighbor, a coach, or the child himself.

GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS
This is my favorite part. There aren't any! You, the parent, decide when your child is done with his/her education. You issue the diploma, and you are done! You may, however, want to consider what plans your child may have after graduation, and customize his/her education accordingly. If the child is college-bound, you can check with the colleges in which s/he is interested and see what they require for admission. The same would go for trade schools, community colleges, the military etc.

Ohio law recognizes parent-issued diplomas and transcripts as legal and acceptable in every way, the same as public or private school diplomas and transcripts. Contrary to popular opinion, the GED is not needed at all.

The cited code at the beginning of this article does not mention the age at which at child may graduate, but the Ohio Revised Code does cover it, in section 03(A). A parent-issued diploma is, in fact, from a governing authority under the law, so a parent may graduate the child when the parent deems the child to be done. When the child completes his course of study and graduates, parents do not notify the school district or turn in an assessment. However, it is important to keep your excusal letter from the child's last year of compulsory education. While Ohio recognizes the diploma as valid, the law also allows colleges, the military, and employers to verify that the child was lawfully home-educated, and the final excusal letter will fulfill such a request.

ASSESSEMENT REQUIREMENTS
Ohio law requires an assessment to be turned in with subsequent notifications (i.e., every year after submitting the initial NOI). For first-time notifications, no assessment is required. There are three assessment options under the law:
  1. The composite scores from a nationally normed standardized test. Note that only the composite score is required, and the parent fills out a short form with the score written in. The actual test results are not turned in. The parent is on the honor system to report the actual composite score, and nothing more. The law requires that a child score at or above the 25th percentile to be deemed working at a reasonable level of proficiency. But, if your child does happen to score lower than that, don't fret! The local superintendent does not receive these scores. And in such a situation, you may choose to have an assessor handle things, and turn in a written narrative instead;
  2. A written narrative from a currently certified public school teacher in Ohio OR a person mutually agreed upon by the parent and the superintendent. The mutually agreed upon person can be anyone the superintendent agrees to, though s/he reserves the right to reject an assessor as well. A narrative sounds long, but it's actually just a form assuring that the child is working and progressing at his own pace and proficiency. The child's name and school year are filled in and the teacher or other person signs it. The teacher will meet in-person or virtually with the parent and look over a sample of the child's work, which is typically kept from the beginning and end of the school year. This can be done using the actual work on paper, or it can be shown to the assessor via digital means. The child need not be present. There is no state standard for the child to achieve; the child's ability is the standard. Beware of an assessor who wants to test your child or see if s/he is up to any standard other than the child’s own. You can circumvent most of that by choosing to not have your child present, although you certainly may, if you wish. It is completely up to the parent; the parent is the boss, and the assessor works for the parent;
  3. A person mutually agreed upon by the superintendent and the parent may prepare an alternative assessment for the child. This would most likely be in cases where the child has special needs, either mentally or physically, or would otherwise not be sufficiently assessed via traditional methods.

VACCINATION REQUIREMENTS
None

OTHER

Public school extracurricular participation:
Participation in public school extracurriculars is allowed, as described here.
Sports are included in this, as well as any non-graded extracurriculars. Other than sports, extracurricular activities can vary from district to district, so a parent should contact a school to ask what is available. If an activity is a non-graded one, then the schools will usually allow a child to participate. There is some confusion and arbitrariness about what is required as far as grades to determine eligibility for sports. The law seems to indicate that the NOI should serve in place of grades, and home-educated athletes should not have to submit anything else. However, some athletic directors require letter grades and the Ohio Athletic Association can suspend a team's season if they find an athlete has not submitted grades. Most parents simply submit a pass/fail “report card” and assure that the athlete has at least a 2.0 GPA in at least five classes and is failing no more than one of them.

"08" Schools:
Home-educating for sincerely held religious belief – governed under a different law HERE - is an alternate way to home-educate in Ohio. Passed in 1983, this form of home-educating is referred to as “08” and has different rules and procedures than the most commonly used law (passed in 1989), which is the focus of this article. “08” schools are legally defined as private, non-chartered, non-tax supported schools. Some of the differences between “08” schools and that which is described above are that the parent must hold a bachelor's degree, the notification is sent to the Ohio Department of Education instead of to the local superintendent, and a list of attendance is sent to the local school board treasurer. Additionally, the time requirements are slightly different, and the “08” school must comply with local fire and safety laws. There are no requirements for assessments. Other than that, parents are free to educate their children in the same ways as described above.

Support:
Finding support and accurate information is important. The primary source of our information about homeschooling in Ohio is, of course, the law itself. It's not very difficult to understand, and I highly recommend that parents become very familiar with it. Secondly, websites and social media can provide support and information. Ohio Homeschooling Parents has a Facebook group and a website that provide step-by-step instructions for writing the NOI, clarification on the law, up-to-date changes with the law, and many other things. It is the largest online home education group in Ohio, and its Facebook group is the largest as well. Christian Homeschoolers of Ohio (CHEO), which also has a Facebook page, is fairly large as well, and it welcomes Christians and non-Christians alike. In addition, there are many regional and local Facebook groups with which you may want to connect. It is wise to steer clear of the Ohio Department of Education's website and your local school board for any information. Both known to be inaccurate, for whatever reason, and are therefore not recommended as reliable resources. Finally, co-ops can be a great way to connect with others, make friends, and get in-person support and encouragement. Ohio has many of them, varying widely in purpose and focus.

Virtual Schools:
There are virtual schools in Ohio; some are public schools, and some are not. It is important to distinguish between the two. Even if a child is at home, if he is enrolled in a virtual public school, he is legally defined as a public school student, not a homeschooled student, and is subject to the laws and regulations that govern public school.

Flexibility and Customization:
As mentioned in the assessment section, a homeschooled child is never held to any standard other than to himself. This allows a lot of freedom and flexibility in educating a child. Most kids are good in some things and not so good in other things. Thus, you as the parent decide what level each child is at in each subject, and educate accordingly. Ohio law does not require a grade level on the NOI (although some schools will “assign” one, but it is meaningless) and that allows a child to work and progress at his/her own pace in each area of study. Testing is never required in Ohio; it is simply one option. Further, your child need never take the tests offered by the schools. If you test, you get to pick which one, as long as it is nationally normed.

CONCLUSION
Ohio home education law may seem complicated, but once it is broken down into manageable parts, it is not overwhelming. It was designed to give parents a lot of freedom within its parameters and to remain mostly autonomous. It has been legal to homeschool in Ohio since 1989 (via “08” since 1983), and some parents were jailed in the struggle to win the right to educate their own children. Like it or not, there are laws that govern home education, and it is imperative to fulfill the law, but not offer anything to “Caesar” that is not required, lest we lose our hard-won rights to educate our children as we see fit. Home education is much more than an educational choice; it's a lifestyle choice as well. You will learn and grow alongside your children. Every year is different with new challenges and opportunities. Welcome to the journey.

*****

Katie has been home educating in Ohio since 2000. She has seven children, and has always educated them at home. She likes to help new home educators, or those thinking about it, by providing encouragement and accurate information. She is fairly active in Ohio Homeschooling Parents on Facebook, so you might bump into her there as well. Once in a while she blogs on random topics such as recipes, mothering, marriage, and home education. She loves God, her family and her country.