We recently intervened on behalf of our members in an upstate school district after it tried, not once, but twice, to get families to hand in their homeschool notice of intent (NOI) and Individualized Home Instruction Plans (IHIP) earlier than required.

Officials with the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District sent the first letter to homeschool families on May 18. It stated that NOIs were due on June 9—three weeks earlier than the earliest deadline set by state regulations.

After we spoke with families and they raised objections with school officials about this wrong date, the district mailed a correction. The follow-up correspondence noted the earliest deadline for submitting the NOI—July 1. However, the district didn’t mention that parents can also submit their NOI within 14 days of beginning their homeschool program in the new school year.

The district also encouraged families to send in paperwork before July 1 to “ensure timely and efficient processing of the required documentation by the district and to allow families sufficient time to develop the IHIP.”

Keep the Focus on Students

We found this attempt to rush families into submitting their homeschool paperwork early especially concerning. Instead of focusing on parents’ efforts to develop customized learning plans that best meet their children’s needs and interests, these letters seemed aimed at easing the administrative burden for district officials.

It’s not that we don’t sympathize. New York requires a lot of homeschool paperwork, and some districts struggle to process it in the time allotted by law.

But until the regulations are changed for the benefit of all, they are what they are, and they can’t be altered on a whim for the convenience of overwhelmed officials.

In fact, New York’s homeschool regulations include flexibility for homeschool families. As mentioned above, parents who are still finalizing their education plans or who begin homeschooling during the traditional school year can submit an NOI after July 1. And the regulations guarantee parents at least four weeks to complete IHIPs.

What really needs to happen is for New York lawmakers to recognize that the success of modern home education shows homeschool families deserve to be empowered, not regulated. Just this year, legislators in Vermont and Ohio attested to this truth by streamlining homeschool laws in their states.

Meanwhile, HSLDA remains happy to help our members navigate the Empire State’s regulations. I promise you, we’ll never tell you we’re too busy to assist.