Homeschool 101: the Laws, Rules, and Requirements

Can I legally homeschool?

Homeschooling comes with it’s challenges, to be sure. Whether you are debating if you’ll enroll your children in public school, or if you are going to pull them out, you want to be sure you know all the laws, rules and requirements your jurisdiction has surrounding the process.

It’s always amusing to me when I go out with my children. Because we homeschool, I often will run errands or grocery shop in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day, rather than wait for a weekend and the crowds, and take my children with me. It’s a learning experience for them, and much more convenient than trying to fit it in between all the other many things we do as moms and homekeepers.   But when we go out, we get looks.  Whether its the shock of seeing so many young children with only one adult (and there’s no mistaking they’re siblings and that they’re mine!) or that these school aged children aren’t in school, I’m never sure. But it’s always amusing to see the shock.. usually followed with a smile, for the most part .. on people’s faces.

The few times I get questioned on why my children aren’t in school, the first question usually is “Can you do that?“, meaning is it actually legal to homeschool. Depending on the circumstances, I sometimes flippantly answer that “There’s no law telling me I can’t!

The laws depend on where you live

The reality is that it depends on where you live. The legalities of homeschooling vary from place to place, and who’s making the rules. In most of the world, it’s legal to homeschool. There are a few countries where it’s absolutely forbidden — usually rooted in socialist ideals of government. Germany and Sweden are examples where the laws forbidding homeschooling have caused some tragic results.

Notification laws

Generally speaking, to legally homeschool will mean that you will notify your local school board of your intent to homeschool. Then at the end of the year, you may have to submit some kind of proof of homeschooling.  I happen to live in a jurisdiction where neither is necessary; I neither have to notify my local school board (since my children have never been in school or are registered with the school board), nor do i have to provide anything at the end of the year.  But most places, at least in North America, do require notification and some kind of end-of-year proof.

Notification can be as simple as a form to fill out and send in. Sometimes it is a little more detailed, and requires you send in a copy of your plan for the year, listing such details as subjects or topics to be studied, books to be used, goals to be achieved. The level of detail will depend on your local laws.

Record keeping laws

End of year proofs are just as varied. It could be as simple as sending in an attendance sheet, showing days and hours of school work logged, or perhaps a standardized achievement test result. It could be a little more complicated, involving keeping a portfolio of work completed, test results and attendance, or even having your program (and possibly your children) evaluated by an approved state evaluator. 

During the year, you may have to keep your end-of-year requirements in mind. If you need to submit an attendance log, you’ll need a way to keep track of attendance. It might be as simple as marking off days on a wall calendar, or maybe you’ll use a program such as HomeschoolTracker or HomeschoolPlanet.  If you are required to keep a portfolio, you’ll need to create a system to file away work completed, whether that’s a box to hold the lapbooks you completed or photographs of the to-scale model of the solar system, or simply a stack of completed workbooks.  If you need an end-of-year test, commonly used models include the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or the Brigance Diagnostic Screening tests, or your jurisdiction may require their own standardized test.

Resources on homeschooling laws

For more information on local laws and requirements:

HSLDA Laws
UK government
A to Z Homeschooling
Ontario, Canada
Canada homeschool

Need help getting started homeschooling?

Happy Homeschooling!

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