Homeschoolers in Arkansas have very few legal restrictions. Aside from mandatory testing and filing of yearly form, the state leaves homeschoolers alone. This did not come easily. Many families have fought to get the laws where they are today. If homeschools were a school district, they would be the third largest district in the state. A total of 17,215 families homeschooled in 2012-2013. Families who decide to homeschool should be aware of the laws in Arkansas.
Every year prior to August 15, families who wish to homeschool their children for that school year must fill out a Notice of Intent, and a Waiver form. For the 2012-2013 school year, parents can file online. Parents who are homeschooling for the first time or those filing for the first time in a new school district must hand-deliver their forms to the local superintendent’s office.
I do not recommend filing online because the wording contained in the parents manual gives the State Board of Education legal rights to approve or deny your ability to homeschool. Nothing in the law gives the Board of Education this power. Until the wording is changed, I recommend mailing in or hand-delivering your forms.
For parents who wish to opt into homeschooling after the first semester, the same forms must be filed no later than December 15 of that school year.
Parents who want to pull their students in mid-semester must file the forms and wait 14 days before pulling their child.
All students in grades three through nine must take a norm-referenced, standardized test each year. Parents can opt to take the state provided test, which is free, or they can have the test administered by a private company. Parents pay for the private option. Students with certain disabilities or health issues may be issued a waiver if they meet specific criteria. Usually a physician’s note is required.
High school students are allowed to participate on local high school teams and activities. Any activity covered by the Arkansas Athletic Association allows homeschool students to participate. Parents must contact the school no later than July prior to the school year in which the child wishes to participate. If there are fees or try-out, students are responsible for the fees and the law only guarantees the right to try out for activities like sports, choir, or band.
The State of Arkansas does not issue high school diplomas to homeschooled students. Parents can issue their own diploma or a student can attend an accredited homeschool program which will issue its own diploma.
Arkansas does not require homeschoolers to teach specific courses. For high school students, parents should look into the admission requirements for the colleges and universities that the student wants to attend. Parents do not have to follow the Arkansas Smart Core recommendations for high school students. Homeschool students do not get high school credit from the state for taking these courses.
High school and college credits
Homeschool students can receive college and high school credit for taking AP courses an passing the exam at the end of the course or they can dual enroll in a local community college. AP exams and dual enrollment are the most common ways to document advanced courses in high school. Parents have to pay for the courses and tests, but in many instances it is worth it.
Parents are responsible for putting together their high school students transcripts when the student is homeschooled. This can be a daunting task, so start in grade nine and keep very accurate records. Some homeschool support groups will provide parents a transcript for a fee. Good record keeping is very important when it comes to transcripts.
Where to go for help
Your local homeschool support group can be a great resource for you. If you have questions about how to legally homeschool in Arkansas, contact the Department of Education’s Homeschool Division. Please note, the group, Education Alliance, is not affiliated with the Department of Education and it has no legal authority over homeschools in Arkansas. This group is a faith-based homeschool support group, affiliated with Jerry Cox and Family Council. Any advice they give you about homeschooling is not legally binding. Check with the Department of Education if you have legal questions.
Lynda Altman has homeschooled her 4 children over the last 16 years and she continues to homeschool her youngest child. She believes that homeschooling is a parent’s G-d given right. Lynda writes a blog called Homeschooling When Mom has Cancer. Get notices when this page is updated by clicking on the subscribe link, by email, or contact Lynda @fusgeyer on Twitter.