Know Your Rights and Responsibilities
It is important for all homeschooling families to understand what is and is not required by law and rules.
- New Hampshire Chapter Law 193-A Home Education
- New Hampshire Education Rules ED 315 Home Education
- NH DOE technical advisory September 2020
Kind and friendly school officials and education providers may be less familiar with home ed requirements and may inadvertently misrepresent them to families. For example, a teacher that offers evaluation services may misspeak to say that families must have an evaluation conducted every year, that the assessment has a specific due date, or may believe that home-educated students must follow public-school standards. However, those expectations are not consistent with state home-education law. Likewise, many districts have outdated policies and are unaware that the home ed law changed significantly in 2006, 2012, and 2022. This is why families should be familiar with the requirements and seek out support from in-state organizations that know the requirements and community best.
Background and Details
Homeschoolers, particularly those who are relatively new to it, may not know that families are not required to share their children’s annual assessment results. The law changed in 2012 to allow families to keep the test score or evaluation private as part of their children’s portfolios. Prior to the statute change, homeschoolers were required to submit their results to their Participating Agency each year. Families had to prove that they were sufficiently educating their children; presumed guilty until proven innocent. No other educational option, even today, has to show proof of a child’s learning or has such extreme consequences. Although public school students take the NH Statewide Assessment System exam each year, students do not face removal from their local school if they fail to test at or above a proficient level nor are schools closed for poor academic performance. Private schools may have their own academic standards, but that is a policy, not a statutory requirement by the state.
I can't underscore this enough, friends: please do not over-comply with the law. That means, please do not ask your SAU to do your teacher evaluation or share your assessment results with schools.
Homeschoolers worked hard for the freedom to keep the annual assessment private. Prior to 2012 when the law changed, families were required to submit their annual assessment to their Participating Agencies. If the child did not meet the performance requirement -- 40th percentile or higher on a standardized test or "progress commensurate for age and ability" on an evaluation --for two years in a row, then the child would be forced out of the home education program and into a public school. This was an academic standard that no school or student had to achieve and was a discriminatory requirement.
In 2018, there was an effort to return these requirements to NH law, and over 600 homeschoolers showed up in Concord to oppose it.
In 2022, the home education law was improved in several major areas:
- All districts must adopt an Equal Access policy per RSA 193:1-c.
- Termination language mirrors initial notification language.
- Language that could imply home-ed programs need approval by Participating Agencies was removed.
- Verbiage about who to notify and when was clarified.
- Unequitable academic achievement requirements were eliminated for annual assessments.
- Explicit protection for home-educated children with special education differences was added.
- Statute explicitly states that the child’s portfolio remains the private property of the family.
These legislative victories required hundreds of people working to defend and expand home education freedom over many, many years. Please don’t take it for granted that they are secure or guaranteed.
In the last couple years, hostile legislation was filed that would decrease the autonomy and flexibility that homeschoolers value, and add new requirements. Thankfully, the community is vigilant and engaged in defending and promoting home education freedom.
Further, there are national efforts to have more regulation of homeschoolers. A Harvard professor has been an outspoken critic of home education and contacted the Biden administration asking for more national regulation. This is a very real issue for homeschoolers and many of us believe it is important to protect the freedom we have worked so hard to obtain.
Common Over-Compliance Situations
There are common circumstances when you may be prompted or encouraged to over-share information; GSHE prepared tips and alternatives that do not go beyond NH's home ed law.
Enrolling in Public Schools
When families end their home ed program and enroll in their local public schools, it is common for high-school principals to determine if credits will be awarded towards graduation. Although you should not share your portfolio or the annual assessment results, we encourage families to seek placement tests, prepare a transcript, and pursue other ways to demonstrate mastery. We have a video with tips and resources. Transcript resources are available on our High School & Beyond page towards the bottom of the page.
Increasingly, elementary-school principals request homeschoolers’ portfolios and assessment results, too. This is a more recent development and GHSE recommends requesting placement tests and preparing transcripts, just as we suggest for older students.
If your child thrived in your home ed program, that is wonderful, and though it may be tempting to share your child’s successes, there are ways of doing so without sharing the portfolio or assessment.
New School Year Inquiries
Some districts contact formerly enrolled families to inquire if they plan to return to their local public schools. While it would help the district's planning, homeschooling is “until further notice” and families do not need to renew or repeat their intention to home educate their children per RSA 193-A:5.
The law changed in 2012 to one-time only notification at the beginning of a child’s homeschool program. Districts may not have updated their policies to reflect the law, so may be genuinely unaware of this change. However, the NH Department of Education sent out a reminder in fall 2020 because over half of NH’s SAUs had outdated and incorrect policies regarding home education.
You can choose to respond to these inquiries with a simple note, not another homeschool notification letter, if you choose, but you have no obligation to do so and GSHE generally advises not to reply.
Once a child is six years old by September 30th of the current school year, families are required to send in an initial notification within five days of beginning a home ed program. We have the details on our Where to Begin page along with optional form letters. Families have a choice to notify their local SAU (not the individual public school), a private school that offer Participating Agency services, or the NH Department of Education. There are trade-offs with this decision, but families are able to make the choice as suits them best.
Some districts provide their own form, but use caution. Some districts ask for information beyond what is legally required such as the child’s grade level, assigned local public school, language spoken at home, the child’s ethnicity, and vaccine status. This goes beyond the law and rules and any additional information should not be given to the district.
Kindergarten is not required for NH children, so please do not send in your notification in prior to your child becoming "school age." There is no benefit in doing so, and if your goal is to qualify for educator discounts, there are other ways to obtain an ID card.
Refusal of Special Education Services
If your child has an IEP on file with the local district, they may tell you to sign documents to formally decline special education services. You are not required to sign these papers in order to withdraw from the school or begin a home education program.
Children do not "lose" their IEP once they leave public school. It is still available, but not in use. When a school-aged child is not enrolled full-time in a public school (local district or charter) the child is no longer receiving a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and this removes the SAU's legal obligation to provide special-education supports and services. Districts may but usually do not offer any special-ed services to children who are not enrolled full-time. By signing the papers, families waive any option to receive these services, even if the district makes them available.
Through the federal Child Find law, local education agencies must provide special education evaluations to resident families if requested. There is a formal process, but they must work with you on the evaluation if you request it. There is more information on the GSHE Children with Special Needs page.
IEPs are only valid for three years and then need re-evaluations. If your child re-enrolls after the IEP lapses, the IEP process needs to be restarted with a new evaluation.
Keep in mind that IEPs are intended to help children fit into that education model. By comparison, home education is a customized learning plan and environment entirely selected and directed by families to fit each child's unique education needs and goals.
Your chosen Participating Agency – your local SAU, a private school that offers this service, or the NH DOE – must send an acknowledgement letter within 14 days of receiving your notification letter per state law. This letter should not be specific to a single academic year because home ed law requires one-time only notification. The home ed program is in effect until you inform them otherwise.
If your acknowledgement letter incorrectly specifies only one academic year, contact the Participating Agency's office and remind them that the legal requirements are one-time only notification and request a new, corrected acknowledgment letter be issued. Do not refile a notification; that rewards them for their error and the mistake is theirs, not yours. If needed, send them the links shared at the top of this page -- the home education law, rules, and department technical advisory -- so they are reminded of their legal responsibilities.
Lost Acknowledgement Letter
It happens. Maybe the acknowledgement letter was placed in one child’s portfolio and then buried in the box or put in a pile and forgotten. That’s ok. There is no need to refile a notification because the law is still one-time only per child. If you realize your acknowledgement letter is missing, reach out to your Participating Agency and ask them to reissue one. They are supposed to have your original notification on file, so this shouldn’t be a problem.
All homeschooling families are required to do some kind of annual assessment. The broad choices are a standardized test of some kind, a teacher evaluation with the education professional of your choice, or something else that shows your child’s progress that is agreed upon by your Participating Agency.
Families may work with their local district to have their children participate in the public schools’ statewide tests, but that is only one option. The downsides are that the homeschooled students’ results are incorporated into the schools’ aggregate results, and often use methods and covers subjects that the home ed program may not have included. While it is free to families, parents should communicate with their local schools ahead of time if they want to participate in the NH Statewide Assessment System.
Alternatively, there are many other standardized tests available to homeschoolers such as the Iowa Basic Skills Test, Personalized Achievement Summary System (PASS), Terra Nova, Classic Learning Test, and many others as well as numerous providers. Refer to our page on testing here for additional information and resources.
If a family chooses to conduct a teacher evaluation to satisfy the annual assessment, GSHE generally recommends to not necessarily contact a teacher on-staff at their local public school. The requirements for public education are very different from home education, and a public-school teacher may have little to no familiarity with home ed. Homeschoolers have no requirement to follow the public-school standards, scope/sequence, grade-level expectations, calendar year, attendance minimums, daily schedule, or other elements of a public education. GSHE has an extensive list of teachers who are familiar with NH’s home ed requirements and may provide an evaluation. Per NH’s requirements, a person can perform an evaluation if he/she has an active NH teaching certification or one from a state with reciprocity, or is currently teaching at one of NH’s nonpublic/private schools.
Regardless of the type of assessment, results must show “progress commensurate with the child’s age, ability, and/or disability,” are kept private – not submitted to anyone – and remain the private property of the family. Also, there is no specific due date per RSA 193-A:6.
In 2022, a law passed to require all districts to adopt a policy that allows resident home-educated children to have access to curricular and co-curricular programs offered at the local public schools. This is often referred to as Equal Access; refer to the GSHE page for details.
Many districts have not updated their policies or have discriminatory policies in place.
If your request to participate in the local school's classes or "extras" are not successful, look up your district's policies; they should be online. They are likely to be IHBG or IHBG-R. They use different naming conventions, so look around a bit. Keep in mind that even though it is mandatory for districts to have an Equal Access policy, local control allows them to structure it in their own way, but it must be nondiscriminatory.
Also, know that for just about any class or extra curricular program, the private sector likely has something even better available without the hassle. Also, more schools are cutting back on programs so they might not have things that were available a few years ago. There are tons of private sports leagues and program for everything from golf to football to cheer to martial arts to soccer to volleyball and more. Same goes for extra-curriculars and academic classes such as world languages, art, theater, music, and hands-on learning opportunities and internships. Think outside the "school box." The GSHE website has tons of opportunities to help with Enrichment Classes & Programs of all kinds.
Be Your Own Superheroes
It is your responsibility to be informed and aware of the legal requirements and how to fulfill them. While GSHE makes every effort to keep the homeschool community informed and works with school officials, it is ultimately up to families to know the law for themselves, communicate with any education provider with whom they choose to work, and be their own advocates as needed.
GSHE cannot be everything to everyone or be everywhere. There are over 150 districts across the state and dozens of private schools. We cannot be deeply familiar with the precise policies of every SAU and potential Participating Agency in the state. Neither can GSHE scrutinize and censor the growing number of education providers to ensure they all know and represent NH’s home education requirements fully and accurately. We communicate this information with private providers listed on our website, but ultimately it is your responsibility to perform due diligence on any education provider you select.
GSHE is not a law firm and does not offer legal advice. We provide support, information, resources, and equip you with the tools needed to conduct your home education program without undue or inadvertent interference from officials.
Our goal is to empower families to be their own best advocates and experts so they can be their own superheroes.
Where to Begin – This is the best spot to begin your home ed journey. It explains the simple requirements, your options for fulfilling them, and will lead you to explore the rest of the website based on your individual needs and goals.
Videos – There are several brief narrated slides explain over a dozen topics including Getting Started, an Overview and Requirements for Home Education, How to Build a Customized Learning Plan, Deschooling, the Annual Assessment, and more. Our videos also serve as a guided tour of the entire website so you can explore more based on your needs and interests.
Children with Special Ed Needs – This page has info about how to pursue a referral for a special education evaluation by your local district, services available through the state, favorite resources, and more.
Developmental Testing & Counseling Services – This is a curated list of private service providers that other NH families have recommended over the years. Some provide initial evaluations; others provide various therapeutic services.
Participating Agency Services – This page is a detailed explanation of the function of a PA and our list of NH private schools that offer this service to the homeschool community.
Make a Difference – There are many ways to be active in supporting home education, from super easy and quick to more involved efforts.
There are many additional pages on the GSHE website to find information, resources, tips, organizations that offer services to the community, and support groups to connect with more people. Have fun and enjoy the journey!
By Michelle Levell