A mom in the Sumner area sent a letter to public school officials to let them know she was going to continue her child’s homeschool program.

(She crafted the letter using a form provided by Homeschoolers of Maine.)

A school representative responded by letter with bad advice based on a misguided perception of homeschool law.

“I received your application to continue homeschooling your child,” the official wrote “Unfortunately, I can’t accept this application.”

She added that the homeschool mother needed to resubmit her “application” via a new website portal created by the state Department of Education, or by using “the enclosed paper application.”

Here’s the problem. In Maine there is no such thing as a homeschool “application.” And neither of the paperwork procedures cited by the official are required.

More than a Label

With the state education department calling the notice that homeschool families file a “registration” or “enrollment,” which it is not, it’s no surprise that some local officials might think of the notice as an “application”—which it is not. There is a huge difference!

A “registration,” “enrollment,” or “application” requires the action of two parties: the citizen seeking to register, enroll or apply, and the official who decides if the registration, etc., will be accomplished. With these, the official is in control.

But that’s not the law. Maine law puts the citizen in control.

It does this by saying that what parents file is a “notice.” A notice is the action of one person alone. It does not require a response from another person. The purpose of a notice is accomplished once the notice is given.

Think of the boring legal notices in the back of your local newspaper. They accomplish what they are supposed to do even if no one ever reads them.

It’s the same for homeschool paperwork. Your initial notice and subsequent year letter accomplish their job even if no official ever responds. It makes no difference if an official never opens your letter, or promptly discards it, or (like the Sumner official) rejects it and sends it back. In fact, a letter of rejection is proof that they received your notice!

Your job in this context is to submit paperwork on time that fully complies with the law. That is an important job and should be approached conscientiously.

It is also your job to keep documentation to prove that you sent your paperwork. It could be a printed confirmation of the receipt of a fax or an email receipt. It could be the receipt returned to you after sending your letter via US mail return receipt requested. It could be a copy of your paperwork the school secretary has initialed to acknowledge receipt. Every document you need to prove that you have complied with Maine law should be maintained in your permanent records. This is just common sense.

I called the Sumner official to discuss the letter she sent. After a friendly conversation, she acknowledged that she should not have used the word “application.” She also acknowledged that families can file paperwork without using the state’s forms or portal.