Homeschooling laws may seem confusing, but here is the first thing you should know: homeschooling is legal in all states, but homeschool laws vary by state. No two states treat homeschooling the same.
To find out what laws apply to you, check with the state that you physically live in. An excellent starting point is the Home School Legal Defense Association, or HSLDA.
Some states, such as New York, have very stringent regulations. They may require you to send achievement test scores or professional evaluations, and notification that you intend to homeschool your child. You may also be required to use a state approved curriculum or allow home visits by state officials.
Moderate regulations are more common. These usually include things such as sending in an intent to homeschool your child, test score, or professional evaluations. States with this level of oversight include Arkansas, Louisiana, and Colorado.
States with low regulation usually just require the parent to send in the notification of intent to homeschool. Some states, like Texas, don’t require any notification.
States have three ways of handling homeschoolers: one way is to clearly define homeschooling and have specific homeschooling statutes, the second way is to set requirements via compulsory attendance laws, and the other is to lump homeschooling in with private schooling and have the homeschools subject to the same statutes as private schools. Some states offer a choice as to how you want your homeschool viewed.
The freest states, based on a study by Mercatus Center, lists Alaska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Indiana, and Mississippi as the “freest” states to homeschool in. At the opposite end of the spectrum there is South Carolina, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Ohio, with Maryland being the most strict.
Let’s discuss some legal terminology to help you navigate your state requirements.
Attendance: This refers to the minimum number of days or hours that a student must receive instruction.
Compulsory school age: This refers to the age range for which a child must be receiving some type of formal instruction.
Notification: As we have already mentioned, some states require you to send a notification, which may be one time or annual, of your intent to homeschool your child.
Qualifications: This refers to the specific criteria that must be met by a homeschooling program, tutor, or parent. In some states, there is no qualification requirement. In others, the state may require that anyone teaching the child have at least a high school diploma or GED. Some states, of course, have even more stringent requirements.
Records: Records refer to information that your state requires, such as attendance records, portfolios, or quarterly reports. What kind of records are required varies by state.
Subjects: There are some states that require certain subjects be taught. You might be expected to follow the same subjects taught in public high school, or it may just refer to certain topics such as the effects of alcohol. Some states have no requirements in this area.
Testing: Some states will require regular testing to verify the quality of your child’s education.
Homeschooling laws are primarily state-based. The HSLDA has an excellent resource to help you track down your state requirements, and the terminology provided in this article should help you interpret what you need to do in order to meet state requirements. Just keep this in mind: homeschooling is 100% legal in the United States!
For 15 years Mimi Rothschild has been privileged to help hundreds of thousands of homeschoolers educate their children at home. The MorningStar Academy is a private online Christian school offering diplomas and teachers. The Jubilee Academy is an online Christian curriculum provider offering over 150 full year online Christian courses for PreK-12.