State Law: Wisconsin

Wisconsin compulsory school attendance age

Beginning when your child turns 6 (on or before September 1) and until his or her 18th birthday, your child must be enrolled in school or in compliance with the Wisconsin homeschool law (see below).

Exceptions: If your child is enrolled in 5-year-old kindergarten, your child must continue to attend school regularly unless he or she is officially withdrawn from school.

The law says a child is exempt from compulsory attendance once he or she graduates from high school. Wisconsin’s courts have not ruled on whether this would apply to a homeschooled student.

HSLDA believes that a parent-issued diploma and transcript should be sufficient to demonstrate that a child has completed a secondary education. However, even if your child is beyond compulsory school attendance age, there may be situations where you would want to continue to follow the requirements of a home education option recognized under Wisconsin law until your child graduates from high school (filing a home education notice, keeping attendance and other records, etc.). These records may be requested in some situations, such as obtaining a driver’s license if your child is a minor, enlisting in the military, applying to colleges, or demonstrating eligibility for Social Security benefits. If you are a member of HSLDA and would like additional details, please contact us.

Withdrawing your child from his or her current school

If you want to start homeschooling during the school year and your child is currently enrolled in a public or private school, HSLDA recommends that you formally withdraw your child from that school. If you are going to start homeschooling after the school year is over, and your child is considered enrolled for the following year, we recommend that you withdraw your child before the next school year begins, so that the school does not mark your child as absent or truant.

We invite you to become a member of HSLDA to receive specific advice about withdrawing your child from school and starting to homeschool. Local schools may have specific forms or withdrawal procedures. HSLDA members are eligible to receive individualized advice about whether complying with those procedures is advisable or required. HSLDA members can also use the sample letter of withdrawal for Wisconsin available in Member Resources to correspond with school officials.

We generally recommend that any correspondence with authorities be sent by “Certified Mail—Return Receipt Requested.” Keep copies of the withdrawal letter and any other paperwork or correspondence, and any green postal receipts, for your personal records.

Note: If your child has never attended a public or private school, this section does not apply.

Complying with Wisconsin’s homeschool law

Wisconsin law allows for “home-based private educational programs” (which is the term used to officially describe a homeschool program). To homeschool, you’ll need to follow these requirements:

1. File an annual report. 

Every year on or before October 15, you must file a statement of enrollment (PI-1206 form) with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). This can be done online via the DPI’s website.

Your statement must state how many students in the elementary and high school grades were enrolled in your homeschool as of the third Friday in September. It must also certify that:

  • your homeschool’s main purpose is to provide private education or religious-based (and not to circumvent the compulsory school attendance laws);
  • your homeschool is privately controlled;
  • your homeschool will provide at least 875 hours of instruction during the school year; and
  • your homeschool will provide a sequentially progressive curriculum in reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and health.

Be sure to save copies of all your completed PI-1206 forms. If you cannot prove you filed the statement of enrollment during the years your child was in high school, some employers and government agencies may not recognize your student’s high school education as legitimate.

2. Have the main purpose of providing private or religious-based education. 

Under Wisconsin law, the main purpose of your homeschool must be to provide private or religious-based education—not to circumvent compulsory school attendance laws.

3. Be privately controlled. 

Your homeschool must be privately controlled. (In other words, a public school or other government agency cannot operate a homeschool program.)

4. Provide the required period of instruction. 

Your homeschool program must provide at least 875 hours of instruction each school year (July 1 to June 30). Keep track of your hours well enough that you could document 875 hours of instruction per year. Your records showing your student received 875 hours of instruction for each of his or her four years of high school should be maintained in your permanent records.

5. Teach the required subjects. 

You must provide instruction in the following subjects:

  • reading,
  • language arts,
  • mathematics,
  • social studies,
  • science and health.

Your records showing your student received instruction in these subjects during all four years of high school should be maintained in your permanent records.

6. Move your curriculum from simple to complex concepts. 

The curriculum must be “sequentially progressive”—in other words, as you teach, you move from simpler to more challenging concepts or skills.

The importance of recordkeeping

You can find Wisconsin’s specific recordkeeping requirements, if any, above. Regardless of what state you live in, HSLDA recommends that you keep detailed records of your homeschool program. These records may be helpful if you face an investigation regarding your homeschooling or your student needs to furnish proof of education.