There have been many times as I’ve been out and about with my children over the years when I’ve been asked by a random stranger …. how can your kids not be in school? Is that even legal?
And the answer is yes, in all 50 states, homeschooling is legal, despite repeated attempts in many locations to change that.
However, since each state has its own laws governing homeschooling, I strongly encourage you to find out the laws for your state before you begin.
I have to admit that I was terribly naïve when I began 16 years ago. I had no idea what the laws were and no idea how to find out. But I was determined to do it anyway.
During my research, I came across some magazines, one of which had some nearby “schools” advertised. So I called one. It was about 70 or 80 miles away, but I liked the name, and the woman was very friendly and gave me the exact information I wanted to hear: that I could teach my own child at home by registering with her school. It took me a couple more years before I found a local PSP, and transferred schools. (I stayed with this PSP for the next 14 years, and eventually ended up as administrator.)
You must understand that all my research took place at the library, as this was before the days when everyone had a computer, and I was adamantly opposed to them anyway. (I’ve obviously softened quite a bit, but still can’t say that I completely trust them.) But, boy, do inquiring parents have it made now, with all the data you could possibly need only a mouse click away.
It turns out that I inadvertently abided by California state law, which gives four options for homeschooling: enrolling in a public school independent study program, hiring a private tutor, registering your own home as a private school, or joining a PSP (private school satellite program) which then considers the parent, or parents, one of its teachers. In California, children are required to be enrolled in school from the ages of 6-18. The start or end ages in other states may be different, so, again, if you live in any other state, this is something I recommend you find out for your own state.
Considering homeschooling as a private school education gives those of us here in California much more freedom as far as the classes we need to teach, the testing requirements (or lack thereof), and the days/times of our school year.
Since different states regulate homeschooling differently, it is essential that anyone interested in homeschooling learn the requirements of their state personally. For example, CA is considered a relatively low-regulation state (isn’t that surprising?). But there are some states with even lower regulations. In Idaho, for example, after withdrawing their child from school, a parent simply selects an instructor (themselves, a relative, or anyone they choose) and teach the required subjects. That’s it…no forms, no registering.
Florida, on the other hand, is a moderate regulation state. Unless enrolled in a private school program, parents must not only file a notice of intent, but also maintain a portfolio of records and materials that may be viewed by the school superintendent, and evaluate their children annually by prescribed methods. The most highly regulated states are virtually all in the Northeast: New York requires a notice of intent; submission of an Individualized Home Instruction Plan; rigorous requirements as to the number of days and hours of attendance, and subjects taught; the filing of quarterly reports and annual assessments.
As you can see, the requirements of each state vary widely. Therefore, I personally recommend joining HSLDA, a legal organization that, for an annual fee, gives legal assistance, answers questions related to homeschooling, and keeps us informed of legislation pertinent to homeschooling. I have never been without my HSLDA membership, because, for me, the peace of mind was priceless.
In addition, each state also has one or more state homeschool associations, which can assist you in discovering your state’s particular legal requirements.
Yet another reason to join one or more of the above-mentioned groups is to support the advocacy in which they engage, helping to craft, or fight against, statewide or national laws that might affect homeschooling, and protecting our parental rights to educate our own children. And what could be more important than that?
Do you have questions about the laws in your state? Need more information on how to begin homeschooling? Or do you have a story to share about learning the regulations in your state? Then please comment below. We promise to answer any questions we can, or attempt to direct you to the proper channels.