Homeschool Doorframe Day

PAHSI is declaring September 9, 2013, the first annual Homeschool Doorframe Day in New York City. That’s because in NYC it’s the first day of public school (if you live elsewhere in New York State, the date may be different).

It’s the day by which, if you haven’t already, you might want to put some paperwork up just inside your door/s (for example, tacking it to the inside doorframe/s). That’s just in case you end up being one of the (relatively few) homeschool families visited this year at home, for whatever reason, by someone official, most typically from child protective services (ACS or CPS, depending on where in NYS you live).

This doorframe precaution may sound familiar if you’re a regular reader of this blog because we addressed it more specifically for NYC “kindergarten-aged” kids in the 08/12/2013 blog post titled “The NYC Mandatory Kindergarten Mess”.

If you live in “mandatory kindergarten” territory (Syracuse, Rochester, or NYC); if your child is of “mandatory kindergarten age” in the eyes of your local authorities (note: in Rochester and Syracuse that seems to mean age 5 by December 1, but in NYC it definitely means age 5 by December 31 – see “December Birthdays and Compulsory School Age”, 05/25/2013); and if you’ve already read “The NYC Mandatory Kindergarten Mess”, then you don’t need to read this blog post. If you haven’t read “The NYC Mandatory Kindergarten Mess”, please do read it now because it describes what we see as the full range of options – including not filing homeschool paperwork, but still preparing your door for the onslaught of confused social workers we’re expecting in 2013-14 and beyond, due to all the misreporting on “mandatory” kindergarten.  

But for other homeschool parents, here’s a more generally applicable run-through of our suggestions:

If you already have the “letter of compliance” for your IHIP (Individualized Home Instruction Plan), we suggest that you keep a copy handy by your door/s (both front and back doors, if you have more than one). The “letter of compliance” we’re talking about is the one that begins (in NYC – the wording will vary elsewhere in NYS): “The Central Office of Home Schooling is pleased to inform you that the Individualized Home Instruction Plan you have submitted for the 2013-14 school year is in compliance with Commissioner’s Regulation 100.10 of the New York State Education Department.” Some people like to fold this copy of the letter in thirds; write on the outside of it something like “Official paperwork – make sure you get the name, title, and contact info of anyone you give this to”; tack it up on the inside doorframe/s; and tell all family members and babysitters about it.

If you don’t have your letter of compliance yet (some local authorities have to be prodded to send one out), you can use a copy of whatever you’ve sent in so far – the letter of intent and/or the IHIP (plus a copy of the registered or certified mail receipt, if you chose to send it that way).

Whatever you use, make sure it’s a copy and not the original. You wouldn’t want to give away the original, and anyone official who does come to your door will probably want to take something back to their supervisor. Having to go make a copy (assuming you have a copier at home) would partially defeat the purpose of tacking something up in the first place – you wouldn’t want to have to decide either to close the door in this person’s face or invite them in, just to make a copy. (It can get especially awkward if you live in a single-family home and it’s raining hard.)  

If you haven’t yet sent in your letter of intent (maybe because you read the 06/15/2013 blog post titled “The Real Homeschool Letter of Intent Deadline”), you might want to put up a copy of the Regulations, with subsection b-2 highlighted. If you haven’t read that blog post, please do. Be sure to think it through and be able to legitimately say, “Our first day of homeschooling was/will be X.” (And then don’t forget to put up a copy of your letter of intent, IHIP, and/or letter of compliance once you have it.)

Whatever you keep handy inside your door/s might also be something you’ll want to keep handy in your bag (or have your kids carry, if they ever travel alone).

Some parents also like to keep handy by their door/s some paperwork from the previous year. This is partly because, years ago, the NYC DOE (Department of Education) once sent “attendance teachers” (this is a euphemism for anti-truancy workers) late in the school year to the doors of a large number of homeschooling families who had duly been submitting paperwork all year long. As far as we were able to work out, a computer had spat out a list of kids for whom paperwork was supposedly missing, and no one had checked the filing cabinets to see whether it was in fact there, but simply hadn’t been “logged in”.

We haven’t heard of this happening on a massive scale outside of that one time. And if your paperwork seems to be missing, you will normally get either a letter or a phone call or email (if you chose to give whoever processes the paperwork your phone number and/or email address) before you’ll ever get someone at your door. But keeping the annual assessment and one or more quarterlies handy isn’t a bad idea. (In some cases that year, the “attendance teachers” gained entry to the lobby of the apartment building, put a letter about the supposedly missing paperwork in the family’s mailbox, and then said to a neighbor in the lobby something like, “Did you know that there’s a child in this building who doesn’t go to school? Could you make sure they get our letter? Because we haven’t heard from them in a VERY long time!” We were, obviously, horrified at this breach of privacy.)

As the year progresses, you might also want to tack up your quarterly reports. Some people do. Some don’t, but instead plan to say confidently, if ever asked about a quarterly, “Let me take your card and I’ll send you another copy.”        

If you still don’t see why you should keep anything at all handy by your door, please read the blog post “Why Comply with the Homeschool Regulations” (08/08/2013).

As explained in that post, homeschool paperwork doesn’t so much keep someone from coming to knock on your door (after all, the ACS isn’t hunting down kids of compulsory school age based solely on records of birthdates), as it does protect you once they get there during some kind of unexpected crisis (having to do with an accident, injury, fire, or illness, or a complaint lodged against you by someone like a neighbor or relative).

Remember: no matter what causes them to show up at your door, ACS (or CPS) workers will often want to inspect your refrigerator, count your bedrooms and beds, see your financial records, speak with your child, get a list of personal references, etc.

So if you would find any of that unpleasant or intrusive, you might want to take five minutes now to post a piece/s of paper that might head them off at the pass. It couldn’t get you out of trouble if there were well-founded accusations of some other kind, but it would give the person on your doorstep pause on the “Why isn’t this child in school?” issue – by giving them something to take to their supervisor.

As we are wont to say, it’s like changing your smoke detector batteries.