Legal Aspects of Homeschooling

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Disclaimer: this is not legal advice.  The advice given in this article is for information purposes only.

You made the great decision to start homeschooling your children, but now what? The initial steps you take to remove your children from public school (or not enroll them when they become school age) are the most important. If you fail to follow government homeschooling laws, you could be arrested on charges relating to the facilitation of truancy or in the worse case scenario, child abuse.

Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but the home education laws and procedures that parents must follow, vary widely in each.

• Some states do not require parents to make any contact with either local or state officials if they intend to not enroll their children in public school.

• Other state laws mandate that parents must only file a notice of intent to homeschool in order to remove or never enroll, their children in the public education system.

• Assessment with Exceptions – Parents in states with these type of homeschooling laws must submit their children for academic assessment, typically annually – but offer some exceptions to the rule.

• Moderate Assessments – Homeschooling parent in states with these type of home education laws must permit their children to take some type of academic assessments throughout their school years.

• Stringent Assessment – States with these type of homeschooling laws mandate not just scheduled academic assessments, but enforce other types of educational, curriculum, or intervention type reviews.

Most states require notice only or notice with assessments that can include exceptions.

Homeschooling Options

Some states have specific homeschooling laws and other allow home education to occur under long-standing private school laws.

• California
• Texas
• Kansas
• Nebraska
• Alabama
• Kentucky
• Indiana
• Illinois

Multiple different legal options for varying types of homeschooling exist in some states, depending largely upon the manner of instruction and mobility of the family, with home academic instruction also sometimes following private school “umbrella” laws.

• Washington
• Colorado
• Alaska
• Louisiana
• Michigan
• Ohio
• Florida
• South Carolina
• Tennessee
• Virginia
• West Virginia
• Maryland
• Maine

Homeschooling is sometimes referred to as “Alternative Instruction”in state statutes. In all remaining states home education is conducted under either specific homeschool laws or alternative instruction laws.

When homeschooling is the manner parents choose to educate their children in states that govern the process using private school laws, a large amount of paperwork is usually required before the child is removed from public school. States that govern homeschools in this manner usually view them as individual private schools. At the time of this publication, none of the states that treat homeschooling in this manner do not require academic assessments, but some do require periodic or annual paperwork, such as a copy of the curriculum the children are learning.

The eight states that allow homeschooling under private school umbrella laws can mandate the parents to subject themselves to the supervision of a traditional private school or religious school. Sometimes, perhaps in the majority of cases, the state only requires the parents to complete registration, enrollment forms, and attendance records be completed through the host umbrella school.

As of the publication of this report, seven states have enacted private tutor provisions in their homeschooling related laws. The laws originally intended to permit parents to hire a private tutor with a valid teaching certificate to educate their child in the home. Some homeschooling parents who have a teaching certificate have used the law to avoid being mandated to follow the academic assessment rules imposed on homeschooling families by the state.

A growing number of public schools are offering online education or independent study programs for students who live in their respective districts but learn at home. This type of education is not technically a homeschool scenario, but does offer an easy option for prepper parents who live in states with stringent home education laws who may not feel comfortable suddenly becoming their child’s teacher. Online public and private charter school programs are also gaining in popularity throughout the United States.

Homeschooling Parent Qualifications

As of this publication, a total of 11 states require homeschooling parents to have some type of educational qualifications to educate their children at home.

1. Ohio
2. North Carolina
3. Georgia
4. New Mexico
5. Tennessee – for high school students only
6. Pennsylvania
7. South Carolina
8. West Virginia
9. Washington
10. North Dakota
11. Virginia

Typically, the qualifications involve the parent running the homeschool to have either a high school diploma or a GED. Washington, however, mandates parents to have completed either some college credit or pass a course in home based study.

In Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Dakota, and Washington there are some exceptions to the high school diploma or GED regulations.

• Ohio, North Dakota, and Washington permit parents to operate a homeschool under the supervision of a person with a bachelor’s degree. In North Dakota and Washington, a certified teacher is required to supervise a homeschool operated by a parent who does not possess either a high school diploma or GED.

• Virginia, Washington, and Tennessee permit parents who do not meet the state homeschooling requirements to operate under an umbrella school or can permit a religious exemption.

• West Virginia, Washington, and Virginia state homeschooling laws permit a public school district superintendent to waive the high school diploma and GED requirement at his or her discretion.

• New York, California, and Kansas require homeschooling parents to be “capable or teaching,” “qualified,” or “competent” if they are going to educate their children at home. No detailed requirements relating to what it means to be deemed any of those qualities, are currently spelled out by the state legal statutes. Local officials are not permitted to make a determination about the fitness of a parent home educator.

• Idaho, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma state laws do not require “alternative instruction” students to submit attendance records.

• South Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Tennessee may offers the most varied type of homeschooling statutes and permit an array of ways in which home education can be conducted and/or monitored. Becoming a member of a homeschool association is one of the options available to parents pulling their children from public school in South Carolina.

Homeschooling Curriculum

Some states mandate academic assessments in order to “provide accountability.” Other states require specific subjects to be taught in homeschools but do not mandate any accountability reporting. Parents have the flexibility to operate a homeschool without either any academic subject or assessment oversight, in some states.

Maine, North Carolina, Georgia, Washington, Minnesota, and New Hampshire do levy academic assessment requirements, but do not either require a minimum score be met on the assessment or do not force parents to turn in the results of the testing.

Five states, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, Louisiana, Maryland, require homeschooling parents to teach specific subjects and/or also have academic assessment rules.

North Dakota, Ohio, and Colorado offer a pathway to avoid state assessments but the exceptions to the testing rules are typically only granted in very few circumstances. Ohio homeschool students must score in the 25th percentile overall on state tests. North Dakota students educated at home must reach the 30th percentile overall on mandatory assessments.

West Virginia, Hawaii, and Oregon do not require homeschooling parents to adhere to minimum academic instruction time nor do they mandate specific subjects be taught inside the home. But, these three states do require assessments with proof of at least some level of academic achievement by the child or children – in West Virginia homeschooled students must score in the 50th percentile overall on state achievement assessments.

Oregon and Colorado mandate homeschool students score at least in the 13th or 15th percentile overall on assessments.

Some states mandate parents operating a homeschool instruct their children in a list of subjects but other states require the parents to adhere to a strict list of subjects taught at public schools while giving “equivalent instruction.” Other states require homeschooled students to be taught for a set number of hours and/or days per year.

Homeschooling parents in Utah, Alaska, Virginia, Delaware, Mississippi, and Arkansas can instruct their children at home without adhering to any subjects, formal learning time, or assessments rules set forth by the state.

In Oklahoma, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Kansas, homeschools must be in operation for a certain “term” or give formal instruction for specific number of days and hours to meet state guidelines – the subjects taught are entirely up to the parents.

Homeschool Curriculum Requirements By State

1. Alabama- No assessment requirement exists and church supervised schools are permitted to offer instruction at all grade levels.

2. Alaska – Homeschools in this state are not required to complete assessments, there are no attendance hours or days rules, and the subjects taught are left entirely up to the parents.

3. Arizona – Homschooling parents have to teach math, reading, grammar, science, and social studies. How much instruction the children should receive in the subjects, and at what grade levels, is not spelled out in existing state laws. No assessments are required for homeschooling students in the state.

4. Arkansas – There are no state mandates pertaining to subjects taught or time the children spent receiving a formal education. An achievement test must be completed at the end of every school year. The child’s score is collected and compiled by the state but no minimum score to pass onto the next grade level, is required.

5. California – While there is no state academic assessment requirement, homeschooling laws do required parents to offer instruction in “several branches of study required in public schools.” Exactly how long the public school subjects are taught, is not outlined in the statute.

6. Colorado – Homeschooling parents in the state must offer formal instruction to their children a total of 172 days per year. That amounts to about four hours per day spent in a homeschool classroom setting. Required subjects for home education students include math, speaking, writing, reading, history, literature, civics, the United States Constitution, and science. Homeschooled students must take an achievement test in grades 3, 5, 7, 9, and their junior year of high school. A student must score incredibly low on the tests for intervention to be mandated by the state.

7. Connecticut – No achievement assessment is required, but homeschooling parents must provide the “equivalent” of public school subjects.

8. Delaware – This state does not require the teaching of specific subjects, achievement tests, or day and hour attendance minimums.

9. District of Columbia – Homeschooling parents must offer educational instruction in the subjects of art, music, physical education, science, health, language arts, math, and social studies. No achievement tests are required by district laws mandate the homeschool instruction must be “regular, thorough, and of sufficient duration.”

10. Florida – Homeschooling families in the Sunshine State do not require specific subjects be taught. The state’s private school laws require 180 days of formal instruction be achieved each school year. Every year the homeschooled children must take an assessment text to prove they are making progress at a “level commensurate” with their ability.

11. Georgia – Subjects homeschooling parents must teach include science, math, language arts, and social studies. Homeschooled children must be given formal instruction for the “equivalent” of a four and a half hour daily session for 180 days. Once every three years the children are mandated to take an achievement test – the data is for parental evaluation and is not share with the local public school district.

12. Hawaii – A list of suggested subjects has been handed down by the state. An annual achievement text must show the homeschooled child is making “adequate progress” to continue on with a home education learning model.

13. Idaho – Homeschooling parents must provide formal instruction on subjects that are routinely taught in public schools. No achievement testing is required.

14. Illinois – Homeschool children in this state must be taught information that corresponds with their grade level in public school and in “the branches” of material their traditional school peers are receiving. Assessments are not mandatory in the state.

15. Indiana – Homeschooling parents must provide education “instruction equivalent” to what is being offered in public schools. The children must be in the homeschool classroom for the same number of days as their local traditional school peers. No achievement tests are required for homeschooling students in the state.

16. Iowa – Homeschooled children must be taught social studies, math, language arts, and science. How often or how much these subjects are taught is left up to the parents, no assessments are required by the state. The children must make “adequate progress” and receive formal instruction for 148 days per school year.

17. Kansas – No subject requirements or achievement assessments are currently mandated by the state. Homeschooled children must receive formal instruction for a “period of time which is substantially equivalent to the period of time public school is maintained.”
18. Kentucky – Parents must teach subjects in the “several branches of study” offered in public schools. The homeschooled children have to receive formal instruction for at least the same number of days as traditional school students. No assessment tests are required.

19. Louisiana – Homeschooling parents must offer a “Sustained curriculum of quality at least equal to that offered by public schools at the same grade level.” Each school year the students must submit to an achievement test to prove acadeic progress is being made. The private school laws in the state mandate a 180-day school year be completed.

20. Maine – Homeschool children must be taught 175 days per year and be instructed in the subjects of math, social studies, language arts, library skills, computer proficiency, physical education, math, health, fine arts, science, and Maine studies. Students must take an academic assessment annually but it is only the parents who determine if progress is being made by the child.

21. Maryland – When the children are being homeschooled under the supervision of a church or private school, the hours and days of learning, subjects taught, and assessment requirements are determined by the school. When the children are being homeschooled under the supervision of the local public school district, parents must offer instruction in studies taught to children of the same grade by the district. Schools officials can require parents to show them a portfolio of the work completed by the children, but are not mandated by law to do so.

22. Massachusetts – Homeschooling parents must offer formal instruction that equals in both “thoroughness and efficiency” what is being taught in the public school where the family resides. Local school districts are allowed to create assessment requirements for homeschooling students.

23. Michigan – Parents educating their children at home must offer an “organized educational program” in the homeschool classroom that includes the subjects of science, reading, math, spelling, writing, grammar, civics, literature, and history. Homeschooled children do not have to take achievement assessments unless their parents elect to register the homeschool as a private school. If the homeschool classroom is registered, the students must be taught subjects “comparable” to the material offered at public schools.

24. Minnesota – Required subjects for homeschool children in the state include math, geography, history, reading, literature, writing, fine arts, government, physical education, and health. Each school year the homeschooled children must submit to an assessment test, but the results are only given to parents.

25. Mississippi – The state has not handed down any subject, school day, school year, or assessment requirements related to homeschooling.

26. Missouri – Homeschooled students must receive 1,000 hours of instruction each school year. A total of 600 of those instructional hours must be used to cover the subjects of science, math, language arts, reading, and social studies.

27. Montana – Homeschooling parents are required to mirror the basic instruction offered by public schools. Students must receive a minimum of 720 hours or 1,080 hours of formal lessons, depending upon their grade level. No achievement tests are mandated by the state.

28. Nebraska – Children being educated at home must receive 1,032 or 1,080 hours of formal learning, depending upon their grade level. No achievement tests are required in the state. Homeschooling parents must offer a “sequential program of instruction” created to achieve at least basic mastery of health, language arts, science, math and social studies.

29. Nevada – Homeschooling parents must submit an education plan for the instruction they will give in the subjects of social studies, history, geography, government, math, economics, language arts, and science. No achievement tests or school day or school year requirements are imposed by the state.

30. New Hampshire – Homeschooled students must receive instruction in reading, math, government, health, history, science, langauage arts, music, art, both the state and United States Constitution, No school day or school year requirements are mandated by the state. Academic assessments must be taken annually but are only shared with the parents.

31. New Jersey – Homeschools in the state must offer academic instruction that is the academic equivalent to public schools. No achievement testing is required, nor are there a minimum number of hours per day or days per school year, rules.

32. New Mexico – Subjects required to be taught in homeschools in the state include science, language arts, math, and social studies No daily or annual attendance or achievement tests are required.

33. New York – Homeschooling parents must offer formal instruction in a laundry list of subjects at each grade level. Homeschooled children must be taught a total of 900 to 990 hours per year, depending upon their grade level. Each year the homeschooled children must submit to an academic achievement test and prove they are making “adequate progress.”

34. North Carolina – Operating the homeschool on a “regular schedule” is required by the state. Subject matter introduced to the children is left entirely up to the homeschooling parents. Each school year the children are required to take an achievement test and the results are shared solely with the parents.

35. North Dakota – Homeschooling parents must teach subjects that are required by law to be offered in public schools. The children must be taught for at least four hours per day and attend homeschool for 175 days per year. The homeschooled student must take achievement tests when the are in grades 4, 6, 8, and 10. The children must register in at least the 30th percentile. Parents who hold a bachelor’s degree can opt out of the assessment testing if they have religious, philosophical, or moral objections to such testing.

36. Ohio – Children homeschooled in the Buckeye State must be taught the subjects of geography, language arts, history of both Ohio and the United States, fire prevention, science, local government, first aid, safety, math, music, and art. The children must receive 900 hours of instruction per year. Each year the homeschooled children have to undergo an academic assessment and demonstrate either academic progress or reasonable proficiency. Homeschooling parents who possess a bachelor’s degree can opt out of the achievement test rules if they register as an “08” school.

37. Oklahoma – Homeschooling parents must offer their children 180 days of formal instruction, but the subject matter is at their discretion. No achievement tests are required by the state.

38. Oregon – The state does not mandate either the subjects taught or how many instructional hours or days the homeschooled children must be in the classroom. Achievement testing is required when the children are completing grades 3, 5, 8, and their sophomore year.

39. Pennsylvania – Homeschooled children must receive formal instruction for 900 or 990 hours depending upon their grade level, or for 180 days. Each year the children are mandated to take an achievement test to demonstrate they are being educated adequately.

40. Rhode Island – Required subjects for homeschoolers in the state include: math, language arts, United States history, Rhode Island history, geography, and government “principles.” The learning sessions must be long enough to be “substantially equal to that required by law in public schools,” and also be “thorough and efficient.” Local public schools are permitted to hand down achievement assessment requirements.

41. South Carolina – Homeschools in the state, after being granted approval by the public school board, must teach language arts, science, math, and social studies at each grade level. When the children reach grades seven through their senior year, they must also be taught literature and composition. Students must be instructed for four and a half hours per day for 180 days.

The children are subjected to annual achievement tests, which they must pass, before moving onto the next grade level. The achievement testing rules do not apply to parents who become part of a homeschool association and adhere to its policies.

42. South Dakota – Homeschooled students must be taught math and language arts. Achievement tests are required in grades 2, 4, 8, and in the junior year of high school. The students must score well enough to demonstrate “satisfactory academic progress.”

43. Tennessee – Parents who homeschool under the local school district must offer four hours a day of instruction for 180 days. The subjects taught are left up to the parents. Achievement tests are administered at the end of grades 5, 7, and during the freshman year of high school.

The homeschooled children cannot test more than six to nine months behind in math, language arts, or science. If the family is homeschooling through a religious school, the children must attend class for at least 180 days. The subject matter is again left up to the parents. The religious school sets any assessment testing requirements – so do and some do not, administer achievement tests.

44. Texas – Homeschooling parents in the Lone Star state must teach math, reading, spelling, grammar, and citizenship. The state does not mandate any day or school duration rules nor are achievement tests required.

45. Utah – Homeschooling decisions are basically left up to the parents in this state. No academic assessment, school day and year attendance, or subjects taught rules are governed by state law.

46. Vermont – The state minimum courses of study requirements include teaching basic reading, communication, writing, math, government, history, citizenship, physical education, health, state and American history and government, fine arts, and natural sciences. Annual achievement tests are mandatory, the students must demonstrate at least a minimum proficiency based upon their studies.

47. Virginia – Homeschooled students must be taught at least 990 hours of 180 days per year. The selection of subjects is left up to the parents. The children must achieve test scores that put them in the 23rd percentile for the state on an annual basis – or use the portfolio evaluation option to demonstrate their academic progress. Religious exemption laws in the state lessen these requirements.

48. Washington – Required subjects for homeschool classroom include: math, social studies, language arts, science, art and music appreciation, and health. The children must be given either 1,000 hours or 180 days of instruction. Annual academic assessment results are shared solely with the parents. If the parents homeschool under a private school umbrella, all of the state requirements remain the same, with the exception of the annual evaluation being conducted on the private school campus by a certified teacher.

49. West Virginia – Homeschools operating under the “approval” option have to offer instruction for 180 days The public school board makes subject and academic achievement requirement decisions. Families that homeschool under the “notice” option do not have to adhere to any school day or hour rules, and the subjects taught are decided entirely by the parents. Annual achievement tests must show “acceptable” advancement in the subjects of science, math, language arts, and social studies.

50. Wisconsin – Homeschooling parents must offer a “sequentially progressive” curriculum based on the fundamentals of science, language arts, math, health, and social studies. Students must attend homeschool for 875 hours per year. No academic assessments are required.

51. Wyoming – Homeschooled children in this state also have to be offered a “Sequentially progressive” curriculum based upon the basics of science, literature, math, writing, civics, reading, and history. There are no school day, year, or achievement assessments mandated by the state.

Homeschool Record Keeping

The majority of states to not mandate homeschooling parents maintain any type of record of the child’s academic progress. Some states do require parents to keep a record of the academic assessments taken by their children and/or portfolios containing their work. Some states that require a record be kept of the test scores mandate the records be given to public schools, but this is not the norm.

Attendance records are required in some states that place a minimum on the number of hours or days required during a single school year.

This report offers only a fairly detailed overview of the current state guidelines pertaining to homeschooling. Visit your state’s department of education website to garner an exhaustive list of the steps that need to be taken (in some states) to begin homeschooling and to learn what is required by law that you do on a daily or yearly basis.

Teaching your children at home is probably one of the most wise choices you will make as either a parent or a prepper!

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Tara Dodrill
About Tara Dodrill 46 Articles
Tara lives on a 56 acres farm in the Appalachian Mountains, where she faces homesteading and farming challenges every single day. her homesteading skills are unmatched, she raises chickens, goats, horses, a wide variety of vegetables, not to mention she's an expert is all sorts of homesteading skills such as hide tanning, doll making, tree tapping and many, many more.

5 Comments

  1. I’m not sure where the information came from that Pennsylvania homeschoolers must “take an achievement test to demonstrate they are being educated adequately.” We are only required to test in 3rd, 5th and 8th grades. The Pennsylvania law does give a list of the subjects we are required to teach. I find it ironic that I am required to teach my children Civics, when it seems that the public schools have completely abandoned Civics. Very few people, especially some folks in Washington D.C., seem to understand Civics anymore.

    • Bob,

      Thank you! I hope the article is helpful to parents considering homeschooling. Some states create more hurdles to the process than others, so getting squared away early, legally speaking, allows parents to focus on the joy of learning with their kiddos!

  2. I home schooled my kids from kindergarten to 6th grade. I used Abeka Academy based in Pensacola, FL. I chose this program for all legal issues. They are academically incorporated, and legal. All transcripts and report cards are legal. I used the DVD program so I had back up if there were ever any questions about someone having an educational background to teach. They are all licensed teachers. So all on all I was covered legally.

    • Tracy,

      I have always heard good things about the Abeka Academy, thank you for sharing the tip. Parents with concerns about legalities etc. can definitely make good use of such a program and still incorporate their own learning extension and interactive activities, as well as field trips into the provided units.

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