Is It Legal to Homeschool in the US?
If you’re considering homeschooling your child, you may be wondering if it’s legal in the United States. The answer is yes – homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. But that doesn’t mean it’s a simple process. Each state has its own regulations governing homeschooling, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the requirements in your state.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the basics of homeschooling law in the U.S., and provide some guidance on how to stay within the bounds of the law in your state.
History of Legal Controversy
The history of homeschooling in the United States is one of legal controversy. In the early days of the Republic, there was no standardized system of education, and homeschooling was seen as a perfectly acceptable way to educate children.
The legality of homeschooling in the U.S. has been debated by parents, lawmakers, and educators since the start of mandatory homeschooling in Massachusetts in 1852.
Mandatory homeschooling regulations were enacted in each state in the United States by 1918, but homeschooling remained mostly outside the mainstream of the United States education until the 1970s.
The US Supreme Court first addressed the issue of homeschooling in the 1972 case Pierce v. Society of Sisters. In that case, the Court struck down an Oregon law requiring all children between the ages of eight and sixteen to attend public or private schools. The Court held that the First Amendment’s free exercise clause protects parents’ right to choose their own form of education for their children.
However, it wasn’t until the 1972 case Wisconsin v. Yoder that the Supreme Court specifically addressed homeschooling. In Yoder, Amish parents challenged a Wisconsin law requiring all children to attend school until age sixteen.
The Court ruled in favor of the Amish parents, holding that their right to free exercise of religion outweighed the state’s interest in mandatory schooling. This ruling affirmed the legality of homeschooling in the US and helped to quell the controversy over the practice.
Since Yoder, there have been a number of other court cases involving homeschooling, but the Supreme Court has not revisited the issue. As a result, lower courts have been left to interpret the Yoder decision and apply it to specific cases.
Every state in the United States has some form of mandatory law that necessitates learners in a specific age to spend a particular amount of time being taught.
Homeschooling Laws and Regulations in the U.S.
While homeschooling is legal in all fifty states, each state has its own regulations governing the practice. These laws vary widely from state to state, so it’s important to be familiar with the requirements in your state before you begin homeschooling.
Here are some of the most common homeschooling regulations:
1. Access to Resources
A minority of states in the U.S. have statutes that necessitate public schools to provide homeschooled learners with access to district resources, such as academic courses, extracurricular activities, computer labs, or school libraries.
In some communities, homeschooling families occasionally meet with instructors to review curriculums and make suggestions. In some states, laws allow districts to offer homeschooled learners access to such resources.
Additionally, public libraries will adopt homeschooling. Libraries can help in the procurement of resources required for homeschooling, such as interlibrary loan material, database access, and internet access. Talking to a librarian might result in new knowledge regarding available resources, as librarians regularly work with homeschooling clients.
2. Curriculum Requirements
There are no federal or state curriculum requirements for homeschoolers, so parents are free to choose the educational approach that best meets their child’s needs. However, some states do have general guidelines for what should be taught at each grade level.
Some parents choose to follow a traditional curriculum, such as the one used in public schools. Others may opt for a more specialized approach, such as Montessori or Waldorf education. There are also many online and distance learning programs available for homeschoolers.
3. Notice of Intent
In most states, parents who plan to homeschool their children must notify the school district of their intention to do so. Some states require parents to file a notice of intent or affidavit; others simply require that parents send a letter informing the district of their plans.
4. Withdrawal Procedures
Parents who wish to withdraw their child from public school in order to homeschool must follow the withdrawal procedures set forth by their state and local school district.
These procedures vary from state to state but usually involve sending a letter or completing a form indicating the date of withdrawal and the parent’s intention to homeschool.
5. Testing and Assessment
Most states do not require homeschoolers to take standardized tests or have their progress assessed by a certified teacher, although some states (such as Virginia) require students to take standardized tests.
Some parents choose to have their children take standardized tests for a variety of reasons, such as to ensure that they are keeping up with grade-level work or to prepare them for the SAT or ACT.
Homeschool support groups often offer testing services, and many private tutors and learning centers will test homeschooled students for a fee.
6. Recognition of Completion
In most states, homeschoolers are not required to obtain a diploma from a state-approved school. However, some states (such as Georgia) require students to earn a high school diploma from an accredited institution to receive a driver’s license. In other states (such as New York), students may choose to receive a high school equivalency diploma.
Some colleges and universities offer dual enrollment programs that allow homeschooled students to take college courses while still in high school. These courses often count towards both the student’s high school and college requirements.
Most employers will accept a homeschool diploma if it is properly notarized or if the student has earned a GED or high school equivalency diploma.
7. Reporting Requirements
Most states do not require homeschoolers to register with the state or submit any paperwork. However, a few states (such as California) have fairly extensive reporting requirements.
These usually involve filing an annual notice of intent to homeschool and submitting evidence of progress, such as standardized test scores or portfolios of work.
Homeschooling organizations can often help you navigate your state’s reporting requirements.
8. Enrollment in an Umbrella School
In some states (such as Wisconsin), parents are required to enroll their children in an umbrella school, also known as a private satellite program. These schools provide support and resources for homeschooling families and typically charge a fee for their services.
In other states (such as Texas), parents may choose to enroll their children in an umbrella school, but it is not required.
9. Exemption From Compulsory Attendance
All states exempt homeschoolers from the requirement to attend public school, but the rules for obtaining this exemption vary from state to state. In some states (such as Colorado), parents simply need to notify the school district that they are homeschooling their child.
In other states (such as Florida), parents must submit a notice of intent to homeschool and meet certain educational requirements.
Homeschool support groups can often help you navigate your state’s exemption process.
10. Parental Qualifications
Some states require parents who homeschool their children to have certain qualifications, such as a high school diploma or GED. Other states (such as Virginia) require parents to take a training course or participate in an evaluation.
Homeschooling organizations can often help you determine what qualifications are required in your state.
While these are some of the most common homeschooling regulations, it’s important to check with your state department of education for specific requirements in your state.
How to Stay Within the Bounds of the Law in Your State
There are a few key things to keep in mind if you want to stay within the bounds of the law while homeschooling:
- Make sure you are familiar with your state’s homeschooling regulations. You can find this information on your state department of education’s website.
- Make sure you understand what is required of you, and make sure you are able to comply with all the requirements.
- If you have any questions, reach out to a homeschooling organization or other experts for help. These groups can provide you with information about the homeschooling laws in your state and can offer advice on how to comply with them.
- Keep good records of your child’s progress and achievements. This will come in handy if you ever need to prove that your child is receiving a quality education.
- Be prepared to answer questions from curious family, friends, and neighbors. It’s helpful to have a few talking points ready so that you can explain your homeschooling decision in a concise and convincing way.
- The Home School Legal You can also find information about your state’s homeschooling laws online. Defense Association has a website that provides information about homeschooling laws in all 50 states
With these tips in mind, you should be able to stay within the bounds of the law while homeschooling your child.
Homeschooling is legal in all fifty states, but the rules and regulations vary from state to state. If you are interested in homeschooling your child, it is important to understand the laws and regulations in your state. The best way to do this is to contact your local school district or the Department of Education.
At High School of America, we want to ensure that our students have access to a high-quality education, no matter their zip code.
Contact us today for more information about our homeschooling program and how we can help you get started!