How do I start homeschooling in Maryland?

Welcome! I am glad you are considering taking the education of your child(ren) into your own hands. Since there are many ways to provide an excellent education outside of school, I have not included any advice on finding curriculum or activities here, but you can read about my own choices in some of my other posts. This article provides only a guide to navigate the official legal aspect of removing your child(ren) from public school.

Step 1 – Read COMAR 13a.10.01.01

It is commonly referred to as just COMAR in Maryland homeschooling conversations. You can find it at http://www.dsd.state.md.us/comar/comarhtml/13a/13a.10.01.01.htm. I know it looks intimidating with all the outline levels, but seriously, if you learned the rules to pass the driving test, you can understand this law.

No really, read it yourself! Do not rely on your local school to tell you what the law says (because they are likely to have no clue) or ask for the Cliff Notes version on Facebook. Read it now and keep a copy accessible if you need to find it in the future.

Step 2 – Find out who to contact

Once you have understood your responsibilities under the law, you need to let your county school board know that your child will not be attending school. If your child has been in private school prior to homeschooling, you still need to let the county know that they will be homeschooled now. Some counties make it easier to find out how to contact their homeschool office that than others. The Maryland Department of Education (MSDE) maintains a list of homeschool contacts for each county. My recommendation is to email the person listed. You can just send a quick email asking what you need to do to notify the county that you will be homeschooling. If you don’t get a response to that email within a couple of days, call the number. I don’t know how often this list is updated, but the phone number to the office should still work even if the individual listed no longer works in that position. Particularly in the summer, you may only reach a voicemail box, but hopefully the message will tell you when someone will be available.

Step 3 – Send the Home Instruction Notification

Most likely, once you have reached a human, they will send you information including something that looks like this form. Before you can complete that form, you have to make some decisions about standardized testing and oversight.

First, decide whether you want your child to participate in the standardized testing that public school students are mandated to take. If you check “no”, you won’t find out about the testing that is available (usually that would be PARCC and HSA). If you check “yes”, you may be contacted about testing, but you can still decline to participate in any individual test. If you really want your child to take part in a test, like the 11th grade PSAT, make sure that you are on top of when that happens and when you need to do what for your child to participate.

Second, the form asks if you want to be supervised by the county school system or by, what is commonly know as, an umbrella. If you don’t know yet because you haven’t researched umbrellas yet, just choose the school system for now. You can always notify the school system later if you change your mind and have joined an umbrella. You can read my thoughts on reviewing with the school district versus an umbrella. MSDE has a list of umbrellas, however, it is extremely long, outdated, and not searchable by criteria. This is an area where it would be a good idea to ask on local Facebook groups for recommendations. Some of the secular umbrellas that are Maryland Homeschool Reviews, Goodloe HUGS, and Many Paths of Natural Learning.

Hopefully, the person you contacted will tell you the best way to send the form to them. If not, some people recommend emailing it, so that you have a time-stamped record of having sent it. Some people send it by certified mail. Some people drive up to the office and hand-deliver it. Whatever you do, you want to make sure you know that it was received by the office. If you do not get some kind of confirmation within a week, follow up with the county contact person. Eventually, they will send you an official letter that states that you are providing home instruction to your child(ren) for that school year, however, it may take weeks or even months before you get that letter.

Now you are all set to focus on educating your child at home. Yes, it is a very daunting task and you have an overwhelming amount of curriculum choices to sort through. Just start somewhere, especially if your kids are still very young, and you will find the right path for your family. It is also very liberating not to be tied to the school calendar for appointments and vacations and to be able to follow your child through rabbit trails of interests.Good luck!