This is a reminder that if you homeschool in Wisconsin, you are required to file form PI-1206 with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction by October 15 of each year (DPI form here). For families new to homeschooling, you do not need to file this form until the year your child turns 6 on or before Sept. 1. If your child is enrolled in public or conventional private school and you withdraw your child from school, you will need to file the form before you start homeschooling. Please note: if your child is enrolled in a virtual school, your child is not homeschooled and you do not need to file form PI-1206 for that child. Wisconsin Parents Association has accurate information about filing this form here. For parents of younger children, information about the 2010 Kindergarten Law can be found here.
Please remember that the language we use is important and helps us maintain our homeschooling freedoms. By filing this form, we are simply reporting the enrollment of our homeschool. We are not requesting permission to homeschool or registering or enrolling our child in our homeschool. Our child is enrolled in our homeschool when we begin homeschooling – there is no enrollment form or additional form to complete.
How is it that I unschool yet feel comfortable signing a form that reads as follows:
Wisconsin Statute 118.165(1) specifies that a home-based private educational program must provide “… at least 875 hours of instruction each school year.” In addition, the program must provide a “… sequentially progressive curriculum of fundamental instruction in reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and health.”
I am perfectly comfortable signing this form because I know that I have the right to raise and educate my children according to my principles and beliefs. Children have learned for thousands of years without the imposition of compulsory schooling; indeed, schools as we know them have only been around for the past 100 years or so. (To learn about the fascinating history of compulsory schooling in the U.S., please read some of John Taylor Gatto’s books.) As homeschoolers, we can use a packaged curriculum, make our own curriculum, unschool, or use any combination of those in whatever way works for our individual children. The Wisconsin statute does not require our children to spend equal amounts of time on reading, math, science, etc., so we can emphasize whatever we choose.
I have no doubt that my children receive well over 875 hours of instruction each year. I know that my children are learning all the time as we talk, explore, and work together as a family. They do not need to be sitting at a desk working through a pre-made curriculum for learning to take place (indeed, the statute simply says “instruction”, not ‘seat-work’ or ‘time at a desk’). When we cook together and I share information with my children about a book that I am reading on the importance of Vitamin K2 and the foods that contain it (like eggs from our foraging chickens), my kids are learning more about healthy eating than they will ever learn from a unit on nutrition in a workbook manufactured by a publishing company. When we spend a fall day hiking at Copper Falls and my children pause to read the signs along the trail about the geology of the area, they are receiving ‘instruction’ in science, no chalkboard, worksheet or test required.
When learning is viewed more broadly than time at a desk is it clear that we are covering all the required subjects and many more and that learning is taking place for far more than 875 hours per year. And the requirement that my children be presented with a “sequentially progressive curriculum…?” My children continue to learn very much as they did when they were young, before the ‘magical’ age of kindergarten. For the first five years of their lives they absorbed vast quantities of information about our language, culture, and environment. They learned things according to their own abilities, taking in what they understood for their level of development and building upon what they already knew; this type of ‘sequential, progressive’ learning continues today. For example, my kids are two years apart and when I read aloud to them, they are each absorbing what they are ready for. When they both read Little Women and Little Men a couple of years ago (and then had cute little book discussions with one another) I have no doubt that because of their age difference they understood and interpreted the books differently but at the level each child was ready for, not at the level that some curriculum publisher chose for them based on their age. Honestly, is there any other way to learn? Isn’t all learning sequential and progressive, even if we start in the middle of something?
Wisconsin has one of the most reasonable homeschooling laws in the country, but you are not legally homeschooling in Wisconsin unless you have filed form PI-1206. Some of the information on the DPI website is not accurate, so if you need further information, please contact WPA. Enjoy this beautiful, colorful fall and the start of this new school year!