THINKING OF HOMESCHOOLING BUT DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START?
One of the first things I advise new homeschool moms (or dads, grandma, neighbor, etc.) is to know what your state homeschool laws are.
I know. Homeschool laws. Ugh.
But, you know what? It’s gotta be done.
Once you get this out of the way, trust me, you will be relieved knowing that you are not going to have some homeschool popo knockin’ at your door. Well, at least the chances are lower. 😄
So, let’s knock this boring (but important) stuff out of the way today, shall we?
HOMESCHOOL LAW GUIDE & CHECKLIST
This guided checklist is what I use when we move to a new state. We have lived in California, North Carolina, and now Illinois.
Each state has different homeschool laws and I want to make sure I know what they are.
Consider downloading my homeschool law guide and checklist by signing up below.
Note: Please keep in mind that this post is geared towards those who choose to homeschool independently or privately. If you are homeschooling under a satellite, umbrella, or charter school, please make sure you consult with them. Some of this information may not be relevant since you may have to follow the rules and regulations of the school, especially when it comes to curricula.
IS HOMESCHOOLING LEGAL?
Alright, so if you didn’t know that homeschooling was legal, it is.
Yes, homeschooling is legal in the United States.
However, homeschool laws and requirements will differ depending on the state or territory that you live in.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE COMMON REQUIREMENTS THAT STATES MAY HAVE:
- Compulsory age to start (most states and territories start 5-7, Washington state is 8)
- Language in which your homeschool is to be taught in
- Required subjects
- Filing a notice of intent or affidavit
- Immunization records
- Required teaching qualifications
- Hours of homeschool
WHERE TO FIND STATE HOMESCHOOL LAWS?
STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION WEBSITE
- Most accurate and current information on homeschooling in your state. If you need to submit any documents like a notice of intent or affidavit you should be able to find it here.
- You can also find your state’s commissioner or local school district’s school superintendent.
- Contact information of representatives or assistants are usually made available on your state’s website so you can contact them if needed.
- Here is a list of state contacts from the U.S. Department of Education.
HOMESCHOOL LEGAL DEFENSE ASSOCIATION (HSLDA)
- Instructions are easier to understand than certain state’s department of education website.
- There are detailed homeschool laws for each state and U.S. territory.
- They also offer a membership and if you need help with filling out affidavits or any other legal homeschool documents, you do have to be a member.
- If your state is one of those states where it’s hard to obtain accurate, easy-to-understand, legal homeschool information, I would highly consider HSLDA.
COALITION FOR RESPONSIBLE HOME EDUCATION
- Another great resource for homeschool parents.
- They are very strong advocates for children who may be abused at home.
- Here is their website.
STATE OR LOCAL COALITIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS
- Your state associations can be very helpful, I would definitely keep them in mind as a resource.
- Here is a list by state.
STATES BY MONITORING LEVEL
I listed states below to help us quickly glance at the monitoring or reporting level of each state.
We are a military family and this list really helps me as we move around quite a bit.
STRICT MONITORING STATES
MODERATE MONITORING STATES
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington D.C.
- West Virginia
LOW MONITORING STATES
- New Mexico
ULTRA LOW MONITORING (NO REPORTING REQUIRED)
Even though no reporting may be required, there may still be other requirements. Please do your research.
THE EASIEST, MOST HOMESCHOOL-FRIENDLY STATES
WHAT DOES “EASIEST AND MOST HOMESCHOOL-FRIENDLY” STATES MEAN?
For the most part, this means states require:
- No notification
- No testing
- No record-keeping
- No teacher qualification
- No immunization records
- No evaluation
The required subjects are those typically taught in public schools like language art, math, science, fine arts, social studies, P.E./health, etc.
Even though these “easiest and most homeschool-friendly states” are pretty relaxed with their rules and regulations, you should still make sure that you are meeting all the requirements.
Also, if you think there’s a possibility of moving to another state (like those of us in the military), I would just keep a record so you have some proof.
We never know if we might end up in a state that will require some sort of testing or evaluation.
Here is what I keep:
- A list of curricula we use for each child starting in Kindergarten.
- A sample of work done by the child (math, drawings, spelling, etc.), usually we have plenty of pictures, artwork, and workbooks to show. I try to go through them at least once a month and select a few special worksheets or art pieces. I keep them in an accordion folder with labels from January to December. One accordion folder for both my kids per year.
- Attendance record (days of the week homeschool was done).
THE STRICTEST STATES FOR HOMESCHOOLERS
Hands down, I would say Pennsylvania is one the strictest homeschool states.
If I ever move there, I would definitely consider a HSLDA membership. Just sayin’.
Those of you in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island…I would consider that HSLDA membership too.
Just to name a few of those requirements for those of you in some of these strict states (but PLEASE refer to your state’s education/homeschool website or HSLDA):
- You have to file a NOTARIZED affidavit with your local superintendent by a certain date.
- Homeschool educators must have a high school diploma or equivalent.
- Immunization record (unless you claim religious exemption, but you need the paperwork for that too).
- Subjects must be taught in English.
- You must show proof of health or medical care of your children.
- Must proof that adults in the home have no criminal offense in the last 5 years.
- 180 days or 900 hours for elementary students, 180 days or 990 hours for high schoolers.
- Specific subjects must be taught and are outlined on your states education website.
- Must be evaluated and obtain an evaluator’s certification.
- Of course, testing must be done and it is specified when and how on the state’s education website.
When I wrote down my notes on the requirements for homeschooling in Pennsylvania, it was one full page of handwritten notes. I was sweating for you Pennsylvanians.
PROOF OF HOMESCHOOLING
So, what qualifies as “proof” that you are homeschooling.
A good way to show proof is to keep a binder and/or portfolio of some sort for each child and each academic year.
- Attendance record
- Copy of filed notice of intent
- Records of your teaching qualifications (if needed)
- Immunization records (if needed)
- Tests given and scores
- Your homeschool curricula
- Each subject’s worksheets or tests
- Even pictures or videos of your homeschool activities, including extracurriculars
However, please ALWAYS refer to your state’s recommendations as to what will qualify as proof of homeschooling.
HOW MANY DAYS A YEAR SHOULD YOU HOMESCHOOL?
Certain states require 180 days. Some states don’t have any requirements on this.
180 days is the typical number of days required for school in the U.S.
HOW MANY HOURS A DAY SHOULD YOU HOMESCHOOL?
If you are in a state that has specific hours of instruction per day then by all means, follow that. If not, and you are looking for some guidelines here it is.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average number of hours per school day is 6-7 hours. This is for public and private schools.
The average hours of school is 6-7 hours per dayNational Center for Education Statistics
Bear in mind that this includes recess, field trips, breaks, and lunch (or when Miss Long took about 10 minutes every other day telling Johnny to stop flicking his boogers at his classmates).
But, I can tell you this. Six to seven hours of homeschool hours per day is mighty long.Tired homeschool mama
Generally speaking, homeschoolers will spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours of “sit-down” or “one-on-one” teaching per school day.
The older the child gets, the more direct schooling he or she will be able to tolerate.
The rest of the day can be for projects of interest and/or extracurricular activities like music, sports, digging in the sand, painting in the park with friends, building a fort, eating, bathroom breaks, snack time, and more snack time.
Depending on your state laws, you can usually count hours spent doing or learning how to do chores, baking or cooking, gardening, community service work like visiting the elderly, or picking up trash at the beach. As long as they are learning, I would log those hours.
Or just allow them the time to explore and play. I consider this a very important part of learning, especially for those in the early elementary school age group.
CAN I GET PAID AS A HOMESCHOOL MOM (OR HOME EDUCATOR)?
Girl…don’t I wish!
Nope, we don’t get paid to homeschool our kids.
We can’t even use 529 college savings money for homeschool (if you didn’t know, parents can actually use 529 savings towards approved K-12 schools, but NOT homeschool). What is up with that? Anyway, I digress.
However, you may be able to receive compensation for tutoring other homeschoolers. Review your state and local homeschool laws and regulations if this is of interest to you.
CAN I RECEIVE MONEY FROM MY STATE TO HOMESCHOOL?
Yes, certain states have this option.
However, receiving money from the state may have regulations on how the money is spent.
Some homeschoolers will opt out since they prefer the freedom to choose their own curricula, rather than having the state or local district limit them on which curricula they are allowed to use.
I would search your state’s education website or local homeschool organizations if you have further questions.
CAN I CLAIM EDUCATOR’S EXPENSE ON MY TAXES?
Federal taxes, no.
State taxes, maybe.
There are very few states who give homeschoolers tax credit or deduction, you should consult a tax accountant and/or research your state’s Department of Revenue’s website to verify.
I find this article on Homeschool Tax Credits and Deductions very helpful. However, I believe this was written back in 2018 so there may be updates or changes since then.
*Disclaimer: As always, please consult a CPA if you have any questions on tax-related issues or concerns. I am not a CPA.
WHICH STATE’S HOMESCHOOL LAWS SHOULD MILITARY HOMESCHOOLERS FOLLOW?
We move around so much that it can be hard to keep up with all these different state laws! Do we follow the laws of our home of record or the current state we are stationed in?
The answer is the current state we are residing in.Militaryspouse.com
WHAT ABOUT MILITARY FAMILIES WHO ARE OVERSEAS?
Well, as of the time of this writing you are not bound by any homeschool state laws, not even your home of record.
However, according to the DoDEA:
A host nation, state, commonwealth, possession, or territory where a DoDEA-eligible sponsor is stationed may impose legal requirements on home schooling practices.
DoDEA encourages DoDEA-eligible sponsors who choose home-school as their dependent’s educational option to communicate this through their chain of command to determine whether there are any command policies or other guidelines that ensure home-school practices meet host nation, state, commonwealth, possession, or territory requirements.
DoDEA-eligible sponsors are responsible for complying with all applicable requirements.DoDEA
Also, it is a good idea to keep in mind that when you return to stateside, the state you will reside in next may (or may not) have strict homeschool regulations.
If testing or evaluation is done annually in that state, you may have to show your child’s homeschool portfolio and your child may be tested for that school year.
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED TO HOMESCHOOL MY CHILD?
The strictest states will require at least a high school diploma or equivalent.
If you hold a high school diploma from another country, I would verify with your state if they accept that.
Here is more information on homeschooling parent qualifications.
DO I NEED TO BE A CERTIFIED TEACHER TO HOMESCHOOL MY CHILD?
No, you don’t. However, certain states require at least a GED or high school diploma.
If you are feeling extra nerdy (nothing wrong with that), you can look into this homeschool certification course.
THAT’S A WRAP!
Phew! Okay, see it’s not that scary right? 😉 Well, maybe for you guys over there in Pennsylvania.
There are plenty of resources online to help you start this homeschool journey. Don’t let these laws scare you.
We just have to know what is required of us and then move on to something more important, like our children.
Please leave a comment below if you have any questions.
While I am not a homeschool law expert, I am more than willing to guide you in the right direction.