Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom
The idea of homeschooling feels overwhelming enough when you’re first considering it, but tackling the legal side of the process can almost make you want to throw in the towel.
I remember attending a lecture on the legalities of homeschooling many years ago. I found myself feeling quite nervous as a lawyer explained the forms we needed to complete. He went on to describe pending legislation against homeschoolers in other states and countries. I found myself wondering just what I had gotten myself into.
But rest assured, understanding the legal side of homeschooling isn’t as complicated as it may at first seem. Just follow these four steps and you’ll be on the right side of the law.
1. Know the laws in your state or country.
To answer the question posed in today’s title, yes, currently homeschooling in the United States is legal in all 50 states. The laws of other countries vary–some allow home education and others don’t. That’s why it’s important to research the policies in your area.
If you’re in the US, consult this map to find an overview of the laws in your state.
For international prospective homeschoolers, this page from A to Z Homeschooling contains helpful resources organized by region/country.
2. Stay connected with others in your region.
The best way to stay connected is to join one of the state or area organizations that exist for homeschoolers where you live.
Separate from homeschool groups or coops, these organizations exist as advocates for homeschoolers in your area and will help you stay up to date with any pending law changes or legislation. Many state groups also organize annual conferences or conventions where you can gather materials and inspiration for the upcoming year.
You can find a list of statewide organizations through youcanhomeschool.org.
Photo by Ingorrr
3. Follow the necessary procedures.
Once you’ve taken time to research your local laws, the next step is to actually follow through on the required procedures. Find out what they really mean–your state or area group can help you translate the laws practically.
In some places the legal guideline is more of a suggestion and isn’t compulsory. In my state, for example, the powers that be request that I complete a one page form for every homeschooled child seven or older. It is not mandatory at this time, but it is a very easy guideline to comply with.
Other states are known for being more challenging to work with–asking for a portfolio of assignments at the end of the year or requiring homeschooled students to receive testing at selected intervals. One of the best ways to find out what is necessary is to talk with an experienced homeschooling parent in your community.
4. Get some backup.
Certain nationwide organizations have been created to legally defend homeschoolers. In the United States, one of the most well-known is called HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association).
HSLDA offers yearly memberships to homeschooling families. Think of it a bit like an insurance plan for your homeschool, offering you protection in case you ever have problems with the authorities in your area. (I don’t receive any commission by recommending them to you; I just feel the service may interest some families.)
If you’re new to homeschooling and the legal aspect begins to overwhelm you, take a few deep breaths and repeat after me: “I can do this.” Many have gone before you, figured out the process, and lived to tell about it. You will too.
What has your experience been like with the legal side of homeschooling?
Good advice…most homeschool laws look more daunting on paper than they are in practice.
I did have one comment regarding HSLDA however. I recommend anyone who is considering joining them to do a bit of research first. In addition to their homeschool advocacy, they also have a history of advocating for conservative political and religious issues that are not related to homeschooling. Even if you agree with them on these views, there are many (myself included) who feel that this mixing of causes hurts homeschooling by aligning homeschooling with a particular political and religious point of view.
In reality, homeschoolers are a diverse group encompassing all political views and coming from all religious backgrounds. It is in homeschooling’s best interest for this diversity to be acknowledged. Something which HSLDA’s political activities fail to recognize.
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Fantastic post, Jamie. This is one topic that is kind of sketchy, but really, homeschooling parents can -and should- feel confident that what they are offering their children is indeed, legal and legit!
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Great checklist to consider! Thanks for making an overwhelming topic very simple and straight-forward!
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this article was really helpful to a mama who is considering homeschooling. My son is 4 and will be in pre-K at our co-op nursery school and my daughter is 2 1/2 and will be at the same nursery school. I live in Virginia and just finished reading the “legal requirements” on vahomeschoolers.org. Good gracious it does sound like a lot of paperwork. Though the laws are written with less specificity, it sounds like it is up to the superintendent at each school to decide whether the homeschool child has indeed “made educational progress.” The law certainly makes standardized testing the easy-out for passing assessment. Too bad.
Would you recommend local support groups as a knowledgeable source for information on state-compliance?
Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool
I’m so glad you found this helpful, Abbie. Yes, state groups will be able to give you a very practical idea of how the laws play out in reality.
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