After moving from Mississippi to Kansas, and not being required to do much more in terms of homeschooling compliance, I was surprised to learn that some US states make you jump through a lot of hoops. Each state is given the power to regulate as it sees fit, and this means there’s a really wide variance. For example:
Alaska is one of the freest states, requiring only that children start school at the minimum age of 7. Beyond that, no notice is needed from parents; nor must they get approval, submit records or do testing.
Vermont law, on the other hand, is more invasive. Parents must first give official notice, and then provide a written “narrative,” which outlines the course of study for every subject. Then you have to wait on a decision from the commissioner, who may call you in for a hearing (fun!). As if that wasn’t enough, you then have to teach more than 10 required subjects over the course of your child’s educational journey. There are also required tests/assessments every year. Note: A reader informed me that for this required assessment, you can have a certified teacher look at samples of your student’s work and fill out a form, or you can provide a parent-led portfolio containing 2-6 samples of work for each subject.
In Pennsylvania, requirements are very similar to Vermont, but there’s an affidavit you have to sign and have notarized every year. Besides the usual personal information and outline of your lessons, you must provide evidence of immunization and other “required” health and medical services.
Washington state is very choosy when it comes to parent qualifications. You have to (1) be supervised by a certified teacher, or (2) have 45 or more college credits, or (3) complete an approved course in home education, or (4) be deemed qualified by the superintendent (not really sure how that plays out).
Now I realize that if you’re transitioning children from an institutional setting to a homeschool setting, some of these statues might not seem burdensome to you. It may very well be a lot less paperwork and red tape than you are used to dealing with each school year.
But homeschool laws, if any, should still be as “hands off” as possible. Why?
Many Americans believe that states are responsible for educating children. It is more accurate to say that states may provide educational options. Public schooling is the government’s offering; if I choose the homeschool option for my family, then I should not be burdened by unnecessary government rules.
Our rights to educate at home are protected by the 1st and 14th Amendments.
If something in you still cringes at the thought of those 1.8 million unregulated children learning at home, consider this. Ian Slatter, of the Home School Legal Defense Association, says “Homeschool performance doesn’t change between students in the easy states and those in the difficult ones. There’s a lot of regulation and work placed on parents in the difficult states with no benefit.”
To see what’s required in your state, click here.
If you’re curious, though, here’s the HSLDA’s list of the least and most restrictive. It’s based upon things like age and instructor requirements, notice, records and testing.
Some of the least restrictive:
- New Jersey
Some of the most restrictive:
- New York
- Rhode Island
My state of Kansas is not on either of these lists, because I suppose it falls somewhere in the middle. We are asked to register our homeschool, but that only takes 2 minutes online. Parents are also required to teach “about” the same number of days as the public school, and plan/schedule their instruction. But there seems to be no real enforcement, as far as I can tell.
In all our years of homeschooling in Kansas, we have never had any contact with the government about our homeschool, with the exception of the registration we initially filed 9 years ago. I do keep records, though, just in case.
Are you familiar with the homeschooling laws in your state? Have regulations ever made it more difficult for your family to homeschool?