Letter of Intent or Education Plan: Is There a Difference?
A lot of people talk about writing a Letter of Intent or LOI to the school district in order to begin homeschooling. A Letter of Intent simply states that you plan to homeschool. Did you know that the phrase "Letter of Intent" is never mentioned in Massachusetts law? Further confusing the situation is that some schools and even some homeschool support groups say that the first action a prospective homeschooler should take is to send a Letter of Intent to the school.
In some towns in Massachusetts, submitting such a letter will suffice; the town will be satisfied with just being notified that you have chosen to home educate your children. However, in most towns, the school officials will respond to you with their possibly outdated and overreaching policy on homeschooling. They may ask you to provide all kinds of information that isn't necessary. Common requests include a daily schedule of instruction, the qualifications of everyone who will be teaching your children, and the need to set up a face-to-face meeting. None of these are outlined in Charles as information a homeschooler must provide to the school district in order to be approved to homeschool. However, even if you have read up on your rights and responsibilities as a homeschooler, receiving this misinformation from the school can be intimidating and confusing.
That is one of the reasons why AHEM recommends submitting, instead of a Letter of Intent, a simple education plan, with subjects, hours, materials, parental qualifications, and your chosen form of evaluation. If the school, upon receiving your education plan, asks that you provide information above and beyond what is required by law, you can simply assure them that your plan is in compliance with Charles.
But the most important reason to submit an education plan that is in accordance with the Charles guidelines is that doing so fulfills your responsibilities as a homeschooler. Filing an education plan moves the ball into the school's court. This is especially important for a smooth transition if you are pulling a child out of school midyear and time is a concern.
Once you have submitted an education plan, school officials are in a position to approve or disapprove your plan, or ask for a revision. If they complain that you are homeschooling without approval, maybe even threatening you with a visit from the truant officer or worse, you can ask them to expedite approval, which precedent indicates is the remedy a court would apply for someone who has already submitted a home education plan and is awaiting approval. Submitting a Letter of Intent does not protect you in this way; all it does is put you on the school's radar screen.
One last thing: although prior approval is required to homeschool in Massachusetts, parents do not need to request permission to homeschool, as some schools suggest. As parents, we have the right to choose home education for our children. What requires approval is the education plan, which must equal the local public school's "in thoroughness and efficiency."
A lot of people don't realize just how simple an education plan can be. AHEM has a sample one on our web site that has been used successfully by many families in Massachusetts.