Friday, July 6, 2012

Beginning homeschool: Let’s look at homeschooling laws

Every family is different and the reasons for homeschooling are vast and varied. Just as no two families are the same, there is not a one-size-fits-all homeschooling method and the way each family decides the homeschool environment is best for them is often an individual choice. When contemplating homeschooling, it is imperative that each family spend time researching their state and local laws, homeschool curriculum choices, and plan for extra-curricular activities. Understanding your state’s homeschool laws is the starting point for determining the best strategy for your needs. It should be noted that homeschooling is legal in every state within the United States and is legal in U.S. territories as well. One of the best places to keep track of homeschooling state laws is the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).

HSLDA features laws for every state and includes U.S. territories as well as federal and state legislation that could directly affect the status of homeschooling nationwide. You can access a map that shows which states require no notice, low regulation, moderate regulation and high regulation by clicking here: HSLDA Homeschool Laws

You will also find that many states offer multiple avenues for legal homeschooling. These may include homeschooling under the supervision of your local school board, joining other homeschoolers in a private school setting, or using an umbrella school.

States that have very little homeschool requirements and do not require parents to notify school districts of their intent or plans to homeschool include New Jersey, Connecticut, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Idaho, and Alaska. U.S. territories that require no notice include Puerto Rico and Guam.

States that are considered to have low regulation, such as parents are only required to notify the school district include California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, West Virginia, Montana, Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Delaware and the U.S. territory the Virgin Islands. States with moderate regulations, such as you must notify the district, provide test scores or evaluations regarding a child’s progress include Maryland, Washington D.C., Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Colorado, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, and the U.S. territories American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands. States that have the highest regulation and require parental notification, curriculum approval by state board officials, testing and evaluation, and home visits by state officials include Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, and North Dakota.

As homeschooling has gained in popularity and the benefits of homeschooling have been realized, many school districts nationwide now offer a learn-at-home program through your local public school. It’s important to realize that children who learn-at-home through a public school are not considered homeschool students but public school students and those who finish high school in this manner earn a high school diploma from their local school board. Programs such as K-12, however, do offer a separate homeschooling program   based upon a subscription fee.

As there are often multiple ways to begin homeschooling in each state, it is advisable to take time and familiarize yourself with your state’s laws. You will find out your state’s laws regarding compulsory attendance, whether tests or evaluations are required, what subject areas must be taught (this varies from one state to the next), if there is a private school option available, and how many days or hours of instruction are required per year.

Due to the many avenues available for homeschooling, more families nationwide are choosing homeschooling as their preferred educational choice for their children.

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