This post, How to Homeschool Legally, is the first of a How to Start Homeschooling series. If you would like to have more help getting started with homeschooling, check out How to Start Homeschooling, a comprehensive guide to establishing your homeschool.
When you’re first thinking about homeschooling, you might wonder if it’s even legal. After all, everyone sends their kids to school, right?
The good news is that homeschooling is legal in all 50 United States and in many countries around the world. While there are a few countries where homeschooling is not legal, it’s still possible to take an active role in your child’s education outside of school hours, if you so choose.
Even if you find out that homeschooling is legal where you live, navigating the details and complying with the law can feel overwhelming and intimidating. You might feel worried that you’re going to do something wrong and get into trouble.
Never fear. In most cases, it’s relatively straightforward to homeschool legally.
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to be one. None of this post is meant to be taken as legal advice. Always consult with your local school district or department of education if you are ever in doubt about what the law entails. Also, know that I am most familiar with how homeschooling legally works in the United States, but much of the information in this post should still help you if you live elsewhere
1. Find out the homeschool law where you live.
First thing’s first- you have to find out how to homeschool legally where you live. I am not a lawyer, nor is it feasible for me to give you the law for every country or US state. However, I can tell you how to find the homeschool law where you live.
There are three main ways to do this.
- Google your state/place of residence + homeschool law
- Visit your area’s department of education website and search for homeschool law.
- Visit Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) online. (You can visit the page for the United States, Canada, or International.)
Any of these methods will work, but what is most important is to know that you are finding legal information from a reputable source. It is for this reason that I don’t recommend getting it from a blogger, or even relying on what your homeschooling friend says. Laws can change from year to year and in place to place, and it’s easy for the information you heard to quickly become outdated or incorrect.
My favorite of the above methods is using the HSLDA website. This is because they make it their job to keep all posted legal information updated and accurate, and they put them in easy to understand language. They also have premium services for members, such as homeschooling advice and legal help if ever you find yourself in the middle of a dispute. At the time of this writing, I have been perfectly happy with using what HSLDA offers for free.
Once you know what is required of you, then you can move forward with the process of filing to homeschool.
2. File legally.
This step can feel really intimidating, but don’t be afraid of it! Once you know your homeschool law, it’s pretty simple to follow through and file as a homeschooler.
In the US, you file directly with your local school district. Always check to make sure that you submit your paperwork to the right place, and that all your paperwork is complete and on time.
- Contact your local school district and tell them of your intent to homeschool.
- Prepare whatever legal paperwork is required in your state, province, or country.
- Go to your school district with the paperwork, or submit it via certified mail. Make sure you get a receipt of your paperwork.
- Find out from them if they have any specific expectations from you, or if there’s any follow-up paperwork that you will need to submit at the end of the year.
That’s it! You’re official homeschoolers.
A few notes.
Know what you are responsible for.
In the US, every state has varying levels of requirements for homeschoolers. In some states, all you need to do is notify your local school district that you’re homeschooling. In other states, you’ll be responsible for a fair amount of paperwork.
Compulsory school age differs from state to state. Curriculum and standardized testing requirements vary depending on location. Some places require you to keep a portfolio of your child’s work and/or be evaluated at the end of the year; others require very little accountability for homeschoolers. Many require a minimum number of days or hours of schooling per year.
Find out what you need to keep track of in order to homeschool legally where you live and be prepared to keep careful records.
Compulsory School Age
You don’t need to file as a legal homeschooler until your child is of compulsory school age where you live. For example, if you wanted to homeschool your 5 year old, but the compulsory school age isn’t until age 6 where you live, then you wouldn’t need to file until your child has turned 6. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but sometimes it helps to have it spelled out.
If your child is enrolled in a public cyber school that is under the umbrella of your state’s department of education, then you will not need to file as a legal homeschooler. However, if your child is taking an independent, non-government, online school course, you will likely still need to file in order to homeschool legally.
Obviously, you will need to keep records to satisfy the homeschool law where you live. However, I do recommend that you keep records, even if your place of residence doesn’t require it. I would suggest including at least a book list, school “attendance,” samples of student work, and any grades or standardized testing results. Again, always double check the law where you live to see what records you are expected to keep.
I hope this post was helpful to you! Tell me: is it easy to find and follow the homeschool law where you live? Leave a comment and let me know.