Recordkeeping for Washington State Homeschoolers




By Maggie Dail, M.A.

I have often asked graduates of Able to Teach, a state-approved parent-qualifying course for those wanting to teach their own children in Washington, “Based on your understanding of the homeschool law, what records do you plan on keeping?”

Generally, I get parts or all of the following:

1. Copy of Declaration of Intent

2. Copy of the Able to Teach certificate

3. Planner / portfolio that reflect the time spent on the 11 subjects (K-8) or graduation requirements (9-12).

4. Annual Assessments

Since the only document that the law requires you to submit is the Declaration of Intent one might ask, “Why keep records at all?” Here are my answers:

1. First, and most importantly for yourself:

a. To help you plan and assess how you are doing.

b. To help you on one of those “bad days”- when you or someone else is “beating you up”- (you know the kind that every parent has whether you are homeschooling or not).

2. Second, it is always better to have records if any one of the following occasions mentioned below occurs. Do not let this scare you, because if you are ready you will have the records to show the appropriate authorities (not just anyone who comes to your door).

a. CPS – Even if a well-meaning neighbor makes a call with erroneous information, CPS is required to investigate. If you have records it will more than likely be a brief investigation.

b. Custody battles – Sadly, in my experience, this is the most frequent request for records.

c. Homeschool child is in trouble with the law.

3. Transferring to a school. It is always the receiving school that decides the requirements for enrollment.

a. Elementary /Middle School – usually children are placed according to age, but they may want records.

b. High School – Credits and graduation requirements now matter. (State Approved Private Extension programs like Academy Northwest, which is also accredited, help with transcripts, diplomas and so much more.)

c. College Entrance – varies with college – survey your desired colleges as soon as possible. Again, will help.

I also encourage parents to consider having a conversation with their children about their “grade level and school.” While Washington State’s truancy laws (Becca Laws) do not target homeschoolers, occasionally they might be mistaken as truants. Older children may be out of their home during school hours if they are part of homeschool activities or even work. More than likely any one questioning them will be satisfied with “I homeschool” at the least or “here is a copy of my declaration of intent” at the most.

Parents may want to talk with their children to be sure they understand that homeschooling is legal and a good choice for their family. Also, if the child is working at a different grade level for different subjects they may not know their grade. For the most part it doesn’t really matter, but if someone asks a child, “Where do you go to school?” or “What grade are you in?” they will be more confident if they know how to answer.

There is no one right way to keep records! You can keep what is most helpful to you and that reflects that you follow the homeschool law. Happy Homeschooling!

Maggie Dail has taught for over 40 years and worked with homeschoolers full time since 1994. She has been teaching Family Academy’s Able to Teach, parent qualifying class since 2003.


Unlocking Math: Choosing Elementary Math Curriculum

math-lesson-plans (1)

            Many homeschooling families use annual assessments to guide you in choosing curriculum for the next year. As you begin your search for a math curriculum that works for your elementary aged child, you need to remember that there are three areas of math to cover: facts, computation and concepts. If math has already become a struggle for your child, then you will especially want to break math down into these three areas. Spread math over the course of the day with short sessions covering these areas in separate sessions.

1. Math Facts – Math facts are primarily a function of auditory memory so be sure you present this new information to your child auditorily as well visually. Whether you have a full math curriculum or find materials that cover the different parts, you must include this in your child’s day.

My Best Recommendation for Learning Math FactsRapid Recall System



2. Math Computation – At a different time of the day work on computation skills. Computation is primarily a function of visual memory so I recommend 75% visual instruction. That is you do three problems for your child as he watches. You say only a few words to identify steps as you go along. Then your child does the fourth one. Repeat for the duration of the session of say, 10 minutes. You start with simple addition and work up to long division, fractions etc. If the child doesn’t remember a math fact, tell them so that the process of computation is learned without interruption. You work on the math facts during a separate time. You can get the computation problems from any math book, but if you just want to pay for the computation problems, get a book that has only those problems in it.

My Best Recommenation for Learning Math Computation: Straight Forward Math and Keys to Fractions (Decimals, Percents, Measurement)

3. 3. Math Concepts – The first two items are the nuts and bolts of math. Concepts are how the basics are applied to real life. If you want a regular curriculum, look into Math U See, Singapore Math and Right Start Mathematics. They cover the whole spectrum of math in a fresh way, but it makes it harder to separate out the three parts and concentrate on one at a time. There are a host of math games available that apply these math concepts in an interesting way. You can spend big bucks. Perhaps a better way is a book of games that you can play as a family. My best recommendation is actually a series of books, but the original is the best overall for K-8 math games. Family Math arranges the games in sections according to the different math concepts. Each game has an objective, instructions and sometimes a page that serves as a game board. You may need to add some household items for game pieces. Each game is labeled for one or more of the three age groups within K-8.


My Best Recommendation for Learning Math Concepts: Family Math

Bonus Recommendation for Mental Math / Auditory Skills: The Verbal Math Lesson Level 1 and 2 for early learners or those who struggle.

For some learners, Life of Fred provides math instruction in a story format.

Since math skills build on each other, home educators find it helpful to use a “Scope and Sequence” for navigating through math. Downloadable lists of skills can be found on the Internet. By including math facts, computation and concepts you can prepare your children for Algebra, Geometry and beyond.

Unlocking Learning and Reading – Webinar

Free-E-Book with purchase of an Unlocking Learning Potential Service.

Free shipping and discounted price on final print copies of
Rounding the Bases – Chris Learns to Read!

Other discounts offered in Webinar: Unlocking Learning and Reading

Learn how you can help your loved one unlock learning and reading! 

Feel free to share with others.

Brain - SciLearn


Webinar: Overcoming Learning Challenges – Live- May 18 at 6:00 pm MT

Rounding Cover (496x640)

Free E-Book with purchase of an Unlocking Learning Potential Service.

Free shipping and discounted price on final print copies of
Rounding the Bases – Chris Learns to Read!

Other discounts offered in Webinar: Overcoming Learning Challenges

Learn how you can help your loved one overcome learning challenges!

Join us for this live webinar:  Thursday, May 18 at 6:00 pm Mountain Time

We will be on at 5:30 and begin promptly at 6:00 pm.

Feel free to invite others.

Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:

Or iPhone one-tap (US Toll): +16465588656,180817637# or +14086380968,180817637#

Or Telephone:
Dial: +1 646 558 8656 (US Toll) or +1 408 638 0968 (US Toll)
Meeting ID: 180 817 637
International numbers available:

  Check out Maggie’s E-Books

Personal Reflection 2017 – 16 -Another Graduation – Achievements Recognized

During Academy Northwest graduations, graduates give speeches and perform musically. This year, one of our students played the harp. Overall, ANW graduates do well academically and go on to college having earned scholarships. In our learning center we offered a customized program depending on the needs of the students. Many have gone on to earn undergraduate and some graduate degrees.  Some go into to trade school or join the work force.  Education is not one size fits all. We enjoy hearing the Grad bios as they stand on the top, center step learning about the graduates from other learning centers. Hearing of their hopes and dreams encourages to keep working with these students. I love to to see their families grow on Facebook even though we live far from most of them.

Personal Reflections 2017 – 2 How does time fly so quickly?

During my last year at Heritage Christian School, I began my first year with Academy Northwest / Family Academy.  Master Enterprises Learning Center met in the evening, Tuesday evenings, if I remember correctly. I believe I also met with a couple of the students individually in their homes. You can see from the pictures that we enjoyed activities like a puppet show and trips to Point Defiance Zoo and Snake Lake Nature Center in Tacoma. Of course, these first students from the 1994-1995 school year are all adults by now. Unless I see them on Facebook, I still think of them as upper elementary through high school age. How does time fly so quickly?  Psalm 31 reminds us that our times are in God’s hands and we can safely trust him. Whether our way is rough or smooth – most of us have times of both – He protects and leads us.  While reading the context is best, you can see the particular verses in bold.

Follow this blog for the rest of the story…..

Psalm 31 – NKJV

In You, O Lord, I put my trust;
Let me never be ashamed;
Deliver me in Your righteousness.
Bow down Your ear to me,
Deliver me speedily;
Be my rock of refuge,
A fortress of defense to save me.

For You are my rock and my fortress;
Therefore, for Your name’s sake,
Lead me and guide me.
Pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me,
For You are my strength.
Into Your hand I commit my spirit;
You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.

I have hated those who regard useless idols;
But I trust in the Lord.
I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy,
For You have considered my trouble;
You have known my soul in adversities,
And have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy;
You have set my feet in a wide place.

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble;
My eye wastes away with grief,
Yes, my soul and my body!
10 For my life is spent with grief,
And my years with sighing;
My strength fails because of my iniquity,
And my bones waste away.
11 I am a reproach among all my enemies,
But especially among my neighbors,
And am repulsive to my acquaintances;
Those who see me outside flee from me.
12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind;
I am like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the slander of many;
Fear is on every side;
While they take counsel together against me,
They scheme to take away my life.

1But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in Your hand;
Deliver me from the hand of my enemies,
And from those who persecute me.
16 Make Your face shine upon Your servant;
Save me for Your mercies’ sake.
17 Do not let me be ashamed, O Lord, for I have called upon You;
Let the wicked be ashamed;
Let them be silent in the grave.
18 Let the lying lips be put to silence,
Which speak insolent things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.

19 Oh, how great is Your goodness,
Which You have laid up for those who fear You,
Which You have prepared for those who trust in You
In the presence of the sons of men!
20 You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence
From the plots of man;
You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion
From the strife of tongues.

21 Blessed be the Lord,
For He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city!
22 For I said in my haste,
“I am cut off from before Your eyes”;
Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications
When I cried out to You.

23 Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints!
For the Lord preserves the faithful,
And fully repays the proud person.
24 Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the Lord.


Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina

Brain Rule # 7b – Sleep Well, Think Well

Dr. John Medina continues his thoughts on Sleep in the remainder of this chapter. See Brain Rules 7a for the previous part of the chapter..

Sadly, Medina cannot answer this question definitively; How much sleep do we need? There are so many variables including: age, gender, pregnancy, puberty, etc. He proposes that a better question would be: How much sleep don’t we need? Or, at what point would the amount of sleep we get disrupt what we do during our waking hours? P. 158-169

Perhaps we should follow the example of our former president, LBJ, who apparently locked his door, changed into his pajamas during the day to take a 30 minute nap. Or maybe we should have a “siesta” during our work day as other cultures practice? Some researchers found that a 26 or 30 minute nap could increase productivity during the day and another study found that a 45 minutes nap would have the same benefit. P. 158-160

Some studies verify that Sleep Loss = Brain Drain. In one study a successful female student getting under seven hours of sleep during the week and only 40 minutes more on the weekend scored lower than standardized tests. In another study soldiers responsible for complex equipment lost 30 percent proficiency after just one lost night of sleep. After two nights of lost sleep, the lose of performance stretched to 60 percent. In yet other studies considerable loss of function was documented after less than six hours of sleep each night for five days study participants suffered loss of cognitive abilities equal to a continual 48 hour sleep deprivation. P. 162-165

Given that the USA loses $100 billion each year in productivity due to sleep deprivations,  Dr. John Medina makes the following recommendations:

  1. Match chronotypes  – since there are measurement tools to determine this, schedules can be determined by what type the individual is.
  2. Promote naps – provide time and place for naps in the work or school day.
  3. Try Sleeping on it –don’t make decisions or do important work without proper sleep. P. 165-



Dr. John Medina summarizes Brain Rule 7 – Sleep Well, Think Well

  • “The brain is in a constant state of tension between cells and chemicals that try to put you to sleep and cells and chemicals that try to keep you awake.
  • The neurons of your brain show vigorous rhythmical activity when you’re asleep –– perhaps replaying what you learned that day.

Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantative skills, logical reasoning, and even

Highlights of Webinar by Dr. Martha Burns” Neurobiology of Autism (Sponsored by Scientific Learning)


Dr. Burns covered recent research on the brains of individuals with autism. While she discussed some complicated genetic factors one thing that researchers have observed is that the brain of individuals with autism have a unique development of long trace fibers. This white matter runs along divisions of the different lobes and actually intersects with many areas of the brain.

Burns reported that research supports the following contributing factors to autism: age of parents, environmental chemicals and other neurotoxins, immune factors. What surprised me was her denial that any research connected vaccinations as a contributing factor.

Mind Institute is developing a test that will identify antibodies that exist in some, but not all individuals on the autism spectrum. Others are working on a scan of the eye that can identify those who are at risk in the early months of life. Early identification and intervention produce hope for families.

Researchers also recognized value in specific therapies’ as well as computer software (such as Fast ForWord).While computer software provides a valuable contribution other areas of intervention must include: perceptual and sensory.

More and more new research leads to a greater understanding of the underlying causes of autism spectrum disorders. Not only does it explain why new technologies work, it also explains why interventions used as early as the 1930s by founders of the neurodevelopmental approach work. All of this leads to more effective interventions and hope for families.

Family Academy Online Unlocks Learning Potential With a Variety of Learning Accelerators

Last December, we announced that Family Academy Online planned to offer Scientific Learning’s Fast ForWord this year. Well, we did that in February. We are currently in our 4th ten week session. Thirteen different students have participated for one or more sessions.

One parent who has had their children in the program since February reports, “My child has taken off with reading.” Another likes the option of having a child work a little more independently with the assurance that the time is spent productively. Even a mom whose son just began in September is thrilled with progress just a few weeks into the program. 

Scientific Learning’s Fast ForWord develops and strengthens memory, attention, processing rate, and sequencing – the cognitive skills essential for reading. By strengthening these skills, we see improvement in a wide range of critical thinking and reading skills such as phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, decoding working memory, syntax, grammar, and other skills necessary to learn how to read or to become a better reader. In over 250 studies, research indicates that learners can see achievement gains of 1-2 years in as little as 8-12 weeks. While Fast ForWord is a literacy based program, studies that monitor progress confirm that it also improves other areas because Fast ForWord teaches one how to learn. Fast ForWord is definitely based on the now, well accepted concept of neuroplasticity that extends throughout life. Interactive activities of this program follow the important concepts of short, frequent, intense (i.e. full focus) that distinguish neuroplasticity. Fast ForWord is a learning accelerator with recommended protocols of 30 – 50 minutes 5 times a week (ideally the daily sessions are spread throughout the day in 10-15 minutes sessions.)

Now in November, we are adding Scientific Learning’s Reading Assistant which improves reading fluency and comprehension. Once a student has progressed far enough in the Fast ForWord products, we have the option of moving them into Reading Assistant for one or more ten week session. Our next Fast ForWord / Reading Assistant session begins November 18. Those interested should contact us as soon as possible to get on the list.

We also provide online Brain Training. This option begins with an assessment and then the student and parent have frequent video conferencing (some time with student and some time with parent to help with brain training at home). For example our neurodevelopmentalist meets with the family two times a week for 30 minutes. Further assessment occurs as the ND guides the parents in observations at home, allowing the ND to build an individualized neurodevelopmental plan (INP) in concert with the parent at a pace that fits the family’s schedule. \

To learn more follow the Family Academy Online tab to the Getting Started tab on Steps will include free information in video seminars and articles. Finally, the parent submits a client history form and schedules a 30 minute free phone or Skype consultation to get questions answered and to discuss the different options.

Questions?  Call Maggie Dail 253.581.1588 or email at For more information about the products visit:  www.scilearncom.


Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina Brain Rule # 6 (part 2)– Long-Term Memory – Repeat to Remember

In the previous rule, Medina presented Short-Term Memory and in the beginning of rule 6 he explained Working Memory, now he begins discussing Long-Term Memory. Up to this point, memory is short lived. However, understanding how to get something into our long-term memory remains very useful.

Next, our long-term memories are consolidated with other memories by current stimuli. For instance, a childhood memory of a German shepherd dog may be stimulated by watching a documentary about a dog of the same kind. Without the stimulus to remember, that childhood memory would remain dormant. Therefore, the ability to retrieve memories gains importance. “…our retrieval systems are powerful enough to alter our conceptions of the past while offering nothing substantial to replace them. Exactly how that happens is an important but missing piece of the puzzle.” (p. 127)

Two models of long-term memory have emerged: 1) memory passively imagines libraries; and 2) memory aggressively imagines crime scenes. (p. 127) Both of these models are correct. Early on our memory is like a library, but as time goes by it is more like a detective’s search. Sometimes a long-term-memory can be distorted as the detective fills in the missing pieces in an attempt to come up with the complete story.

Knowing that our memories can be inaccurate, it behooves us to provide our brains with repetition. “The typical human brain can hold approximately seven pieces of information for less than 30 seconds. If something does not happen in the short stretch of time, the information becomes lost.” (p. 130)

Three ways to reinforce memory:

  1. Space Out the Input – the left inferior pre-frontal cortex is stimulated when one is retrieving a memory. (p. 132-133) According to the neurodevelopmental approach, we encourage short, frequent input.
  2. Sparking Interest – As in a romance or what we often call falling in love, “long-term potentiation” is the idea that increasingly limited exposure can result in increasingly stronger responses. (p. 133-136) Neurodevelopmentalists recommend “intense” or “focused” input as a part of learning.
  3. Steps in Long-Term Memory

1)      “Sensory information comes into the hippocampus from the cortex, and memories form in the cortex by way of the reverse connections.”

2)      “Long after the initial stimulus has exited the hippocampus and the relevant cortical neurons are still yapping (communicating) about it.”

3)      “While these regions are actively engaged, any memory they mediate is labile and subject to amendment. But it doesn’t stay that way.”

4)      “After an elapsed period of time, the hippocampus will let go fo the cortex, effectively terminating the relationship. This will leave only the cortex holding the memory of the event.” P. 137-138

Finally, the last step is “forgetting.” “Forgetting allows us to prioritize events. Those events that are irrelevant to our survival will take up wasteful cognitive space if we assign them the same priority as events critical to our survival.’ (p. 143)

Medina summarizes Rule 6 with the following statements:

1)      “Most memories disappear within minutes, but those that survive the fragile period strengthen with time.”

2)      “Long-term memories are formed in a two-way conversation between the hippocampus and the cortex, until the hippocampus breaks the connections and the memory is fixed in the cortex – which can take years.”

3)      “Our brains give us only an approximate view of reality, because they mix new knowledge with past memories and store them together as one.”

4)      “The way to make long-term memory reliable is to incorporate new information gradually and repeat it in time intervals.” P. 147

With this, Medina completes his discussion of memory. As time goes on, we begin to understand more and more about how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, and yet we must be reminded that our understanding is still very limited because the Psalmist asks “who can know it?” (Psalm 139).