Kindergarten…to notify or not to notify. That is the question. At least that’s the question most frequently asked of the HEAV office staff during the summer months.
Even if you’re a veteran homeschooling parent, you’re faced with this question each time a fifth birthday rolls around. Pressure builds as you watch neighborhood children lining up at the bus stop, and increases even more as “friendly neighbors” (grandparents also) start asking questions about starting school. You still have some choices, even though most parents of public school, private school, and homeschooled students don’t know they do.
According to the Virginia statute, if your child will be five years old on or before September 30, and has not passed his eighteenth birthday, he must attend school (§22.1-254 (A)). But there is an important exemption to this statute.
If, in your opinion as a parent, your child is not mentally, physically, or emotionally prepared to attend school, he may be exempted for that year (§22.1-254 (I)(5)). Your child may be exempted from compulsory school attendance if he is not six on or before September 30, and you notify your local school board that you don’t want him to attend school until the following year. A call to the local superintendent’s office asking what procedure you should follow in notifying the local school board would be helpful. Sometimes this initial phone call is all that is necessary; other times, a letter is required. Procedures vary from district to district. Don’t be surprised if the secretary even tells you that you can’t do this—just quote the statute reference.
If you elect to keep your five-year-old at home, you may still teach your child in a manner suitable for his age and maturity. It’s not necessary to submit a “Notice of Intent to Provide Home Instruction” form until such time as he will turn six by September 30. Be aware, however, that the deadline for notification is August 15. When he is six, you may place him as a kindergartner or first grader, whichever is more appropriate for his maturity level.
What is the advantage of not formally filing a “Notice of Intent” form for a five-year-old kindergartner? Some children are not ready for school at age five. An extra year will give the child time to mature and continue to develop pre-reading skills and eye-hand coordination. For some children another year may be the foundation for a successful school experience—a school experience without the frustration of being forced to learn skills that he is not ready to learn. Remember, when you homeschool you do what is best for your child. You don’t have to force him to move along with the class. Home education is individualized instruction—one-on-one tutoring and working with a child at his optimal level of learning.