The “letter of intent” (sometimes abbreviated as “L.O.I.”) is the first piece of paperwork you submit when you start homeschooling in New York State, and it’s probably the easiest to write.
But the New York State Regulations on Home Instruction don’t give any details on the wording (they just say that you have to “provide written notice” of your intentions), and some parents choke up when they go to write the letter, maybe because deciding to homeschool can feel so momentous that it seems to call for legalistic language.
Here’s a formula you can start with:
We are homeschooling our child, [NAME], beginning on [DATE].
If you have taken (or are taking) your child out of school, you can add this:
[NAME] previously attended [NAME OF SCHOOL, PLUS BOROUGH IF IT’S A PUBLIC SCHOOL IN NYC THAT GOES BY A NUMBER, LIKE “P.S. 51”, BECAUSE THERE CAN BE AS MANY AS ONE OF THOSE PER BOROUGH]. The last day s/he attended school was [DATE].
If your child was in a public school and has an I.D. number (in New York City, it’s a nine-digit “OSIS number”), you might want to add this (it can help prevent your child’s records getting mixed up with another child’s):
His/her public school I.D. number was [NUMBER].
Yes, the school district (or “megadistrict”, in the case of NYC) can require you to give them proof of compulsory school age and proof of residence within the school district (or in the city, in the case of NYC) before it will process your letter of intent. (If you don’t believe us, please have a look at question #1 in the NYSED’s “Q. and A. on Home Instruction”, available through the link contained in point #2 of the document “How the Homeschool Regulations Really Work”, which you can get to by clicking on “About NYS Regulations”.) And if they don’t process your paperwork, you are without the protections afforded by the Regulations.
If you’ve heard from other homeschoolers that the office you’re sending this letter to routinely requires proofs of age and residence, and if you want to go ahead and send those in before being asked (which can speed things up), you can add something like this:
I am enclosing copies of [NAME’S] birth certificate and our utility bill.
The NYC Central Office of Home Schooling does require the two proofs, and it prefers copies of the child’s birth certificate and of a recent ConEd or National Grid bill. But it accepts certain alternative documents if you don’t have those (there’s a list, but they start out by asking for what they prefer). If you don’t have the proofs immediately at hand, you may want to go ahead and send in a basic letter of intent, and deal with the proofs later. But without the proofs, you may have to wait for the computer code to be switched to the one for homeschooling, so be sure to keep the former school in the loop on what’s happening.
No, you can’t use a P.O. Box for your home address for homeschool paperwork purposes (at least not in NYC).
And it’s very important to be consistent about the address you’re claiming. If you send in various addresses on the different pieces of paper and without any credible explanation, it’s going to be a mess.
You don’t technically have to provide your child’s birth date, or even age, in the letter of intent. But you will have to provide the age in the next piece of paperwork (the IHIP – Individualized Home Instruction Plan), and they’ll get the birth date off of the proof of age anyway (if they require that proof).
And in practical terms, giving the age and/or birth date helps them not confuse your child with some other child (at least, in NYC, where they are filing paperwork for almost 3,000 kids) and (again, at least in NYC) send you the right info packet (by grade level chunk). So you may want to add this to your letter:
[NAME’S] date of birth is [DATE].
Yes, it’s probably best to send in one letter of intent for each child if you’re going to be homeschooling more than one, at least in a larger place like NYC. (They will need to put something in each child’s file, and the less they have to go through extra steps, the less likelihood of error.)
We’ve now told you all about what goes in a letter of intent – just make sure to include your home address at the top, plus whatever additional contact info you might want to provide. (Some homeschoolers advise new ones “never, under any circumstances!” to give a phone number or even an email address, but we think it’s better to get a heads up if there’s a problem than have someone knocking at your door – more on that in a future blog post.)
If you’re taking your child out of school, it’s a good idea (though it’s not required) to make sure the school gets a copy of the letter of intent. You might want to send the letter of intent and/or the copy for the school by certified mail (with or without Return Receipt Requested), or take it in by hand and get someone to date and sign a copy of it (and to print their name and title legibly below the signature).
How careful you want to be about this depends on what you’ve heard about how the local authorities behave, and on your relationship with the former school (if any). When it comes right down to it, a certified mail receipt and/or the card that you get back after your letter is delivered may show that you sent something somewhere on a certain date (though often the date, recipient address, and/or signature are missing), but it doesn’t prove what was in the envelope. So keep a copy of your letter of intent for yourself, and that’s probably good enough to demonstrate your good faith attempt to comply with the Regulations, if there’s ever a question.
You’re done. Now, wasn’t that easy? This is the shortest blog post we’ve written so far – and not a “herein”, “hereafter”, or “hereunder” in sight!
For context, see “How the Homeschool Regulations Really Work” (by clicking on “About NYS Regulations”. You may also want to read any other blog posts of ours that are tagged with categories like “Taking Your Child Out of School”, especially if you’ve had a fraught relationship with your child’s former school.
Welcome to homeschooling in NYS!