Are you considering homeschooling your child? You can do it! As you get started, it’s important to make sure you comply with the education laws where you live. This page helps you understand how to homeschool legally in District of Columbia—step by step.
Children between age 5 (by September 30 of the current school year) and age 18 must attend school or comply with the homeschool law.
If your oldest child is under age 5, click here for information about HSLDA’s free membership for parents of preschoolers.
HSLDA believes that a parent-issued diploma and transcript should be sufficient to demonstrate that a child has completed a secondary education. However, even if your child is beyond compulsory school attendance age, there may be situations where you would want to continue to follow the requirements of a home education option recognized under District of Columbia law until your child graduates from high school (filing a home education notice, keeping attendance and other records, etc.). These records may be requested in some situations, such as obtaining a driver's license if your child is a minor, enlisting in the military, applying to colleges, or demonstrating eligibility for Social Security benefits. If you are a member of HSLDA and would like additional details, please contact us.
If you want to start homeschooling during the school year and your child is currently enrolled in a public or private school, HSLDA recommends that you formally withdraw your child from that school. If you are going to start homeschooling after the school year is over, and your child is considered enrolled for the following year, we recommend that you withdraw your child before the next school year begins, so that the school does not mark your child as absent or truant.
We invite you to become a member of HSLDA to receive specific advice about withdrawing your child from school and starting to homeschool. Local schools may have specific forms or withdrawal procedures. HSLDA members are eligible to receive individualized advice about whether complying with those procedures is advisable or required. HSLDA members are also eligible to use the sample letter of withdrawal for District of Columbia available in Member Resources to correspond with school officials.
We generally recommend that any correspondence with authorities be sent “Certified Mail—Return Receipt Requested.” Keep copies of the withdrawal letter and any other paperwork or correspondence, and any green postal receipts, for your personal records.
Note: If your child has never attended a public or private school, this section does not apply.
D.C. regulations require that you have a high school diploma or its equivalent to homeschool. If you do not have a diploma or its equivalent, you may petition the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) for a waiver by providing evidence of your ability to provide thorough, regular education. Members of HSLDA may contact us for assistance seeking a waiver.
D.C. regulations state that parents who wish to homeschool must use an official form provided by the OSSE. The form should be filed 15 days before you officially begin homeschooling, and every year thereafter by August 15. The form states that it should be accompanied (initially) by a copy of your high school diploma or GED. If you cannot locate your diploma or GED, a cover letter stating that you have one but are unable to locate it is an appropriate alternative. Not filing by August 15 does not mean you cannot homeschool. If you are an HSLDA member and have not filed by August 15, contact us for specific advice about your situation.
D.C. regulations state that a bona fide home education program must provide thorough, regular instruction of sufficient duration to implement the home school program. This requirement does not mean that homeschooling families must provide the same hours of instruction, take vacations at the same time, or teach their children for the same number of hours as public schools, but they should provide instruction during the period of the year when public schools are in session. If you are an HSLDA member, you may contact us for specific advice regarding your situation.
The regulations require you to teach at least the following subjects: language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, art, music, health, and physical education.
D.C. regulations require you to maintain a portfolio of homeschooling material that includes evidence of your child's current work, such as examples of your child's writings, worksheets, workbooks, creative materials, assessments, or any other materials that demonstrate that your child is engaged in thorough, regular educational activities in a range of subjects. The portfolio is to be maintained for one year and should only be reviewed when there is reason to believe that a regular and thorough education is not being provided.
D.C. regulations state that the OSSE may request to review your child’s portfolio up to two times per year. A review request must be made in writing, and the review must be held at a time and place mutually agreeable to the OSSE and you. HSLDA members, contact us immediately if this occurs.
While testing is not mandatory for home school students, your child is eligible to participate in public school sponsored testing in your resident school district without charge.
Here is what may happen if the OSSE determines that your child is not receiving a “thorough, regular education”:
The regulations provide for a series of procedures for review and appeal if there is a disagreement between parents and school officials. Ultimately, the State Superintendent of Education is empowered to issue a decision. If it is determined that a child is not receiving “thorough, regular education,” the child must be enrolled in school within 45 days unless the decision is stayed by court order.
A form must be filed 15 days prior to discontinuing homeschooling.
You can find District of Columbia’s specific recordkeeping requirements, if any, above. Regardless of what state you live in, HSLDA recommends that you keep detailed records of your homeschool program. These records may be helpful if you face an investigation regarding your homeschooling or your student needs to furnish proof of education.
These records should include attendance records, information on the textbooks and workbooks your student used, samples of your student’s schoolwork, correspondence with school officials, portfolios and test results, and any other documents showing that your child is receiving an appropriate education in compliance with the law. You should maintain these records for at least two years. You should keep your student’s high school records and proof of compliance with the home education laws during the high school years (including any type of home education notice that you file with state or local officials) on file forever. HSLDA’s high school webpage has additional information about homeschool recordkeeping.
Home School Legal Defense Association is a national advocacy organization that supports the right of parents to educate their children at home. We are dedicated to protecting the legality of your homeschool while equipping you to successfully teach your children.
HSLDA members have 24/7 phone and email access to our staff of attorneys and legal assistants, who can help you understand the homeschool law in your state and will go to bat for you if a school official or other authority challenges your homeschool. Our 80,000 members—families like you!— also receive personalized advice on everything from homeschooling a high schooler to teaching a child with special needs from our team of education consultants.
Please note: The information on this page has been reviewed by an attorney, but it should not be taken as legal advice specific to your individual situation.
Last updated October 18, 2016