- How do I start homeschooling?
- Compulsory attendance laws.
- How is homeschooling defined in WI?
- If my children don’t “go” to school, does that mean we’re homeschooling?
- What do I need to do to homeschool my child?
- Are there things I do NOT need to do?
- Do I need to have my child tested?
- Who may homeschool in WI?
- From whom do I obtain permission to homeschool?
- What if I want to start homeschooling in the middle of the year?
- What if I move to Wisconsin in the middle of the school year?
- How do I withdraw my child from a school?
- What if my child goes back to conventional school midyear?
- Do I file separately for each child?
- How much does homeschooling cost?
- Where do I get homeschooling books/materials/curricula?
- Can I hire a tutor?
- Can my child’s grandparents/aunt/other relatives homeschool them?
- Can I homeschool my sister’s kids?
- Do I have to continue filing the PI-1206 once my child turns 18?
- Wisconsin Laws Relating to Home-Based Private Education Programs (Homeschooling)
- Are there tax breaks for homeschoolers? What about the educator expense deduction?
- Still have questions?
The first thing to do, when considering homeschooling, is to fully understand what you are committing to. Homeschooling in Wisconsin requires a parent/guardian to take full responsibility for their child’s education. As the administrator of your homeschool, you are agreeing to provide a program that meets these requirements:
Section 118.165(1) (a) The primary purpose of the program is to provide private or religious-based education. (b) The program is privately controlled. (c) The program provides at least 875 hours of instruction each school year. (d) The program provides a sequentially progressive curriculum of fundamental instruction in reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and health. This subsection does not require the program to include in its curriculum any concept, topic, or practice in conflict with the program’s religious doctrines or to exclude from its curriculum any concept, topic, or practice consistent with the program’s religious doctrines. (e) The program is not operated or instituted for the purpose of avoiding or circumventing the compulsory school attendance requirement under s. 118.15(1)(a).
Once you have done the research and decided that you are willing and able to begin homeschooling, you must file a PI-1206 form with the Department of Public Instruction.
In filing that form, you are not asking for permission or approval, but reporting that you will be homeschooling the number of children on your form.
If you do not file the PI-1206 at the correct time (see flow chart), you are not legally homeschooling and your child will be considered truant.
You are required to provide 875 hours, so having some documentation of those hours (they do not have to be detailed as to how you spend them) is required. WPA suggests keeping a calendar as an attendance record in what ever way works for you. Since Wisconsin law requires compulsory attendance, not compulsory education, no one has a right to ask you to prove what your child has learned, only that they have been in attendance of your homeschool program for the required number of hours.
In summary, If you chose to homeschool you are required to:
*File the PI-1206 form and adhere to the agreement that you have made on this form
*Keep an attendance calendar documenting hours that your child has been in attendance of your homeschool, showing a minimum of 875 hours for the year, as required by law.
*Provide your students with a sequentially progressive curriculum of fundamental instruction in reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and health.
What is the difference between compulsory attendance and compulsory education?
In Wisconsin, we have compulsory attendance laws (s. 118.15), which require children between the ages of 6-18 to attend school regularly. These laws do not require children to become educated. There are other laws that require that certain subjects be covered and there are often other requirements for schools receiving tax dollars, but homeschools and other private schools, not receiving public funding, have the freedom to determine what will be taught and at what age.
A copy of your attendance calendar and your PI-1206 fulfills the legal requirement of compulsory attendance.
As the homeschool administrator, you are not under any obligation to use a certain type of curriculum at any certain time. You, as the administrator of your homeschool, have the freedom to choose what your children learn and when they learn it, as long as you are complying with what you have agreed to on the PI-1206.
Homeschooling by law and practice in the state of Wisconsin is a parent/guardian taking full responsibility for a child’s education. If you choose to homeschool, you decide which curriculum you use, if there will be testing, what your schedule looks like, how your children are taught, their assignments, how you deal with discipline and the principles and beliefs reflected by your homeschool. You are responsible for record keeping and attendance. If you do not file the PI-1206 form at the proper time, you are not legally homeschooling and your child is considered truant.
WPA uses homeschooling to mean a home-based private educational program as defined by 1983 WI Act 512.
If you did not file a PI-1206 for current school year (if your child has reached at least 6 years of age on or before September first of the current year), your educational program does not meet the definition of a home-based private educational program (homeschooling).
For a more detailed look at some of the differences between homeschooling and other types of programs, click here.
Many people confuse online virtual schooling with homeschooling. This chart can help you understand the differences.
If you are committed to taking responsibility for your child’s education, you can homeschool. (See Getting Started for more information.)
- Homeschool parents do NOT need to ask anyone’s permission or approval to homeschool in Wisconsin.
- Homeschoolers in Wisconsin are NOT required to follow a curriculum chosen, approved and/or reviewed by the state or local school district.
- Homeschoolers are NOT required to take state-mandated tests. In fact, no testing is legally required of homeschoolers in Wisconsin.
- Homeschooling parents do NOT have to possess certifications or specific educational degrees.
As the administrator of your own homeschool, you choose whether or not to test your child. If you feel that testing is the best choice for your child, you choose the test that you administer and you decide how to use the results. When your child is homeschooling, you DO NOT send any of your test results to any school or state officials.
There are no special requirements or certifications for parents who choose to homeschool. (See above for specifically what is required of homeschoolers in Wisconsin.)
You do not need to ask permission from the state, local school district, or any other public official to commit to homeschooling your child. When you sign the PI-1206, you are reporting the enrollment of your homeschool.
If your child is enrolled in a private or public school and you want to begin homeschooling you need to go online and file the PI-1206. You will be able to print a copy with a time/date stamp and then you are legally homeschooling. Many parents notify the school as a courtesy and so their child is not marked absent.
What if I move to Wisconsin in the middle of the school year?
If you move to Wisconsin and are actively homeschooling, file the PI-1206 immediately regardless of date.
If your child is enrolled in a public or private school and you wish to begin homeschooling, go to the DPI’s website and file the PI-1206. When you print a copy for your records, you will see a time and date stamp on the form. This is the official time when your child was reported as enrolled in your homeschool.
If your child is leaving a public or private school – the school your child was enrolled in, whether that is in your resident district or a district to which you open-enrolled – it is prudent to set up an appointment with the principal of the school and bring a copy of your filed PI-1206 form with you for him/her to sign and date as proof that he/she is aware that your child will no longer be enrolled in that school. Then ask the principal to remove your child from the attendance rolls, so your child will not be marked absent. Meeting with the principal is not required by law. It can prevent problems if your child is marked absent on the attendance rolls.
If your child returns to conventional school (public or private) after you have filed the PI-1206 for the current school year, you must go back into your PI-1206 and change the number of students to zero (or the correct number minus the returning child).
No. One PI-1206 form reports enrollment for your entire homeschool, whether for one child or more. Do not include children who are not yet age 6 on or before September 1st of the current school year.
Homeschooling can cost as much or as little as you’d like it to. It is often said that with a library card one can create a wonderful education for their child. Many people use life experiences and free/inexpensive resources to homeschool. Others spend a great deal on the curriculum that is just right for them.
Homeschooling books/materials/curricula can be found in a variety of places. From your local public library to brick and mortar stores to online resources. Click here for more ideas.
Wisconsin statute 115.001 (3g) states, “‘Home-based private educational program’ means a program of educational instruction provided to a child by the child’s parent or guardian or by a person designated by the parent of guardian. An instructional program provided to more than one family unit does not constitute a home-based private educational program”
So, as long as the person you have hired is teaching only your family unit, you may hire a tutor.
Wisconsin statute 115.001 (3g) states, “‘Home-based private educational program’ means a program of educational instruction provided to a child by the child’s parent or guardian or by a person designated by the parent or guardian. An instructional program provided to more than one family unit does not constitute a home-based private educational program”
So, as long as the person you have designated is teaching only your family unit, you may designate the person of your choice to homeschool your children.
Possibly. If you are not homeschooling any children of your own and your sister designates you as the person that she wants to homeschool her children then the answer is “yes”.
However, the statute reads: 115.001 (3g) “‘Home-based private educational program’ means a program of educational instruction provided to a child by the child’s parent or guardian or be a person designated by the parent of guardian. An instructional program provided to more than one family unit does not constitute a home-based private educational program”
So, if she is homeschooling children in her household then she cannot homeschool another family’s children (creating an instructional program provided to more than one family unit). The two of you could look into starting a private school.
Wisconsin statute 118.15 requires compulsory attendance between the ages of 6-18. Wisconsin does not have a law that requires compulsory education, only attendance.
Home-based Private Educational programs (homeschools) that meet the criteria outlined in this statute can be substituted for attendance at a public or private school.
- Your child is truant if you have not filed the PI-1206 at the correct time and received electronic confirmation that it has been processed.
- 118.15(5) outlines the penalty for truancy, which includes monetary fines and imprisonment.
- If you consider yourself to be homeschooling a child between the ages of 6-18, but have not filed the PI-1206 form, your child is truant.
- Filing a PI-1206 form cannot be done retroactively.
- The Department of Public Instruction only keeps forms for 7 years. You must keep a copy of every PI-1206 you file.
While the laws requiring compulsory attendance only apply until your child finishes the last term after turning 18, in order to be legally homeschooling in Wisconsin, you must file a PI-1206.
If your child turns 18 prior to his/her last year of homeschooling you must file the PI-1206 to be legally homeschooling.
This is particularly important if your child wishes to go on to higher education, apprenticeship programs, or jobs requiring a high school diploma.
Having four years of completed PI-1206 forms, one for each year of high school, shows that you have complied with the state homeschooling laws of Wisconsin.
Note: If a homeschooler has not received a diploma and you haven’t filed a PI-1206 the year they are homeschooling and 18 (or older), they could be considered a drop out under Wisconsin Statute sec. 118.153(1)(b)
Are there tax breaks for homeschoolers? What about the educator expense deduction?
The short answer: There are no federal or state income tax breaks for homeschool parents in Wisconsin. Homeschool parents may not claim the educator expense deduction, nor can tax-favored funds from a 529 plan be used to pay expenses for homeschool students.
Homeschooling expenses are not deductible in Wisconsin.
The long answer: The definition of an eligible educator for the purpose of the deduction is found at 26 USC §62(d)(1)(A) which says, “For purposes of subsection (a)(2)(D), the term ‘eligible educator’ means, with respect to any taxable year, an individual who is a kindergarten through grade 12 teacher, instructor, counselor, principal, or aide in a school for at least 900 hours during a school year.”
The definition of school is detailed at 26 USC §62(d)(1)(B), which defines a school as “any school which provides elementary education or secondary education (kindergarten through grade 12), as determined under State law.”
In Wisconsin, homeschooling is legally known as a “home-based private educational program” and is statutorily different than a “school” as defined in federal and state tax code. The authority for statutory adjustments to income (the technical name for above-the-line deductions) is found in the statute at 26 USC §62(a)(2) titled “Certain trade and business deductions of employees.” The deduction was designed and is intended to reimburse paid employees for out-of-pocket expenses, not to serve as a catchall for educators.
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