We’re typical law-abiding citizens, so imagine our surprise when one of the first questions that we got asked when we decided to homeschool was whether or not it was legal!
Rest assured that it is indeed legal in each state in the United States to educate your children at home; however, the laws differ from state to state.
Learn the Law in Your State
To make sure we followed the law correctly, we became members of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), but we were fortunate to never have to use them for legal aid when it came to dealing with our local school district:
HSLDA: Home School Laws by State [Not an affiliate link]
This website has a color-coded US map that shows the degree of control each state (territories and the District of Columbia are also included) is given over homeschoolers:
- States requiring no notice: No state requirement for parents to initiate any contact. (AK, CT, ID, IL, IN, MI, MO, NJ, OK, TX; Guam, Puerto Rico)
- States with low regulation: State requires parental notification only. (DE, AL, AZ, CA, KS, KY, MS, MT, NE, NM, NV, UT, WI, WY; Virgin Islands)
- States with moderate regulation: State requires parents to send notification, test scores, and/or professional evaluation of student progress. (AR, CO, DC, FL, GA, HI, IA, LA, MD, ME, MN, NC, NH, OH, OR, SC, SD, TN, WA, WV, VA; American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands)
- States with high regulation: State requires parents to send notification or achievement test scores and/or professional evaluation, plus other requirements (e.g. curriculum approval by the state, teacher qualification of parents, or home visits by state officials). (NY, MA, ND, PA, RI, VT)
HSLDA also provides their legal interpretations of each law and outlines the applicable responsibilities of the homeschooling family. Some states, for example, list how many years of each major school subject, such as English and Math, are required to graduate and identify what forms, if any, are required to be filed with the local school district.
We homeschooled in Pennsylvania all thirteen years of our son’s education—and you see that Pennsylvania is a “high regulation” state—so if you’ve got questions about that, please use the comment form below. Of course, we’re not lawyers and we aren’t qualified to offer legal advice, but we can tell you how we did it in our local school district and hopefully help you make contact with the right people to get you going.
Find Mentors and/or Legal Advisors
If you find that the laws in your state are not clear, it’s best to consult with someone who has successfully home educated in your local school district or find a legal representative. One place where many homeschoolers have connected with each other is the public library (a place that we called our “second home” during our homeschooling years). Organizations such as HSLDA require membership dues, but we considered it a type of security blanket, and we rested much easier knowing that if we had questions, we’d get prompt answers.
Certainly, there are stories at the HSLDA site that will make your jaw drop in disbelief and perhaps even scare you away from the homeschooling idea entirely, but consider that HSLDA is for law-abiding homeschooling members and will do everything they can to help if these members are ever challenged.