Wisconsin is a great state in which to homeschool!
For one thing, it’s a beautiful place with something for just about everyone. Our cities – Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay, among others – offer a wide array of family-friendly activities: zoos, museums, children’s theater, and bands and orchestras, to name but a few. The Mississippi River, which runs through some of the most beautiful bluffs in the country, comprises our western border, and the little river town of Pepin in the state’s northwest corner holds the title of birthplace to Laura Ingalls Wilder. Our more rural areas contain innumerable locations for outdoor recreation – swimming, boating, and camping in summer; hunting in fall; skiing and ice fishing in winter – and Door County, the state’s eastern “thumb” and major tourist attraction, draws visitors from around the world. Then, of course, there is our “little” football team, the Green Bay Packers, which holds the titles of both oldest and “winning-est” team in the NFL.
In addition, Wisconsin is, a “low-regulation” state in terms of homeschooling. In fact, the only paperwork we must complete is a brief notification form, the PI-1206, to be filed online with the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) by October 15 each year. On the form, we list parental names and a home address, but need not provide any identifying information (names, birthdates, etc.) for the children themselves. Instead, we simply tally the number of students between the ages of six and 18, and can even classify them as “Grades 1-8 Ungraded” or “Grades 9-12 Ungraded” rather than listing specific grade levels. We then provide online signatures indicating our intention to comply with the state’s home education statute, submit the form, and – just like that – become legal “home-based private education” sites in the state.
It’s easy to comply with the law itself, too, which requires “875 hours of instruction each year” in a “sequentially progressive curriculum of fundamental instruction in reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and health.” Other subject areas can be included at parental discretion, we can use whatever materials and methods we see fit, and outside activities such as co-op participation, field trips, and community-based classes can count toward the 875 hours. In addition, each family is free to determine its own start and end dates for what defines “an academic year,” as well as the particular days of the week and daily hours for instruction.
The DPI suggests keeping a record of attendance and course outlines, but neither is required and no governing body in the state can legally request such information without due cause. In fact, I’ve been involved with home education here since 2004, and I’ve never heard of anyone being asked to provide any such documentation during that time. Furthermore, we aren’t required to participate in standardized testing of any sort, are not placed under the authority of any governmental body (i.e., a public school district or “facilitator”), and needn’t submit year-end reports or portfolios. Thus, we can spend our time and energy on what really matters: providing the best possible education and training for the children with whom the Lord has blessed us.
Two statewide groups, the Wisconsin Parents Association or WPA and Wisconsin CHEA, exist to provide advocacy and support, and each group offers an annual spring convention. In addition, virtually every county has at least one local support group – some secular and some faith-based – many of which can be located by contacting the appropriate regional WPA coordinator.
I personally advocate for home education wherever and whenever I can and, as such, have heard of other Wisconsin homeschoolers’ interactions with friends and neighbors and have myself taken advantage of opportunities to discuss the topic in many settings. Of course, as is the case anywhere, I’ve come across a few who are altogether hostile toward the idea. However, I’ve been surprised to find that the vast majority is at least genuinely curious. And, in fact, many are openly supportive, even if they also believe in the efficacy of government-run schooling. Wisconsin has a historic reputation as a “progressive” state and, while that’s not an ideal worldview in some areas of life, it does benefit the cause of home education because most people here generally maintain a welcoming, “live and let live” attitude toward those who are “different.”
Thus, if you’re contemplating a move to America’s Dairyland (a.k.a., Land of the Cheeseheads or The Frozen Tundra), you can rest assured that you’ll be able to freely exercise your God-given right to educate your children at home while you’re here.