Mastering the Basics

Step 1: Write a Letter of Intent
You need to inform the city by mail (Central Office of Home Schooling, 333 Seventh Ave., seventh fl., New York, NY, 10001) that you will be homeschooling your child. Letters are due by July 1, or within fourteen days from when you start home instruction. Include the child’s name, date of birth, grade level, and home address, plus a statement of intention. And while it’s not required, it’s a good idea to send a copy of the same letter to your child’s former school, especially if you’re withdrawing him or her. Within ten business days of receipt, parents will get a copy of the New York State Education Department Commissioner’s Regulation Part 100.10 (the official rule book for urban homeschoolers), as well as a form on which to submit an Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP), due by August 15 of each new school year or four weeks after receiving the response to your letter of intent.

Step 2: Submit Your IHIP
Here, you need to describe the curriculum that you (or those you plan to hire) will teach your child. There are plenty of free online resources to help; the World Book website, for example, lists detailed curriculum requirements by U.S. grade level. (Note: New York State requires you to cover specific subjects for specific grades—see “Required Subjects by Grade” for more.) Some parents choose to write their own IHIP, streamlining the process from year to year and facilitating easier record-keeping, which is important when applying for college or internships.

Step 3: File Quarterly Reports
Four times a school year, parents must send in a report detailing their child’s progress with regard to the curriculum laid out in the IHIP. Parents must also make note of the number of hours of instruction and attendance to date—see “Required Hours of Instruction” for more. Suggested deadlines for quarterly reports are November 15, January 31, April 15, and June 30.

Step 4: Submit an End-of-Year Assessment
Parents have the option to write up a statement confirming that the educational goals for the year, as outlined in the IHIP, have been met; alternately, they can submit achievement test scores. (For more info, read the New York State Education Department Commissioner’s Regulation.) This is due at the same time as the final quarterly report.

Required Subjects by Grade
Grades 1 through 6:
math, reading, spelling, writing, the English language, geography, U.S. history, science, health education, music, visual arts, physical education, bilingual education and/or English as a second language where the need is indicated.

Grades 7 and 8:
English (two units*); history and geography (two units); science (two units); math (two units); physical education; health education; art (a half-unit); music (a half-unit); practical arts; and library skills. While the subjects are defined by the state, parents can define the content of the curriculum.

Grades 9 through 12:
English (four units); social studies (four units), which includes one unit of American history, a half-unit in participation in government, and a half-unit of economics; mathematics (two units); science (two units); art and/or music (one unit); health education (a half-unit); physical education (two units); and three units of electives (such as foreign languages or performing arts).

Additional requirements:
The following courses must be taught at least once during the first eight grades: U.S. history, New York State history, and the Constitutions of the United States and New York State. The following subjects must be covered during grades kindergarten through 12: patriotism and citizenship; health education regarding alcohol, drug, and tobacco misuse; highway safety and traffic regulations, including bicycle safety; and fire and arson prevention and safety.

*Note: 1 unit equals 108 hours of instruction per school year.

Required Hours of Instruction
According to the regulations, homeschooled students are expected to have 180 days of instruction each school year (just like public-school kids). Minimum hours of instruction per school year are as follows: 900 hours (225 hours per quarter) for kids in grades 1 through 6 and 990 hours (247.55 hours per quarter) for grades 7 through 12. Parents are expected to keep attendance records but do not need to submit them unless requested.

How to Find a Great Tutor
The New York City Home Educators Alliance maintains a list of member-recommended tutors in a range of subjects. Professional teachers and homeschooling parents with specific expertise, like an architect who can teach basic architecture and design, advertise in the NYCHEA newsletter.

Tutoring agencies run the gamut from those associated with high schools (the Tutoring School at the Beekman School) or universities (Columbia University Tutoring and Translating Agency) to private businesses, like Partners With Parents, which provides a selection of tutors with advanced degrees and extensive home-teaching experience, and Mosaic Tutoring, which offers college counseling in addition to tutoring services. Fees average $100 to $135 per hour.

Word-of-mouth can also be valuable. Cynthia McCallister, an associate professor at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education and homeschooler to her 11-year-old son, has used family friends and college students, and says parents shouldn’t forget about older kids in their buildings. Always ask for references, and, where possible, try out a tutor for a session before committing.

Additional reporting by Paige Orloff.

Mastering the Basics