13 December 2008

Is it legal to homeschool?

It has been a while, but I have recently been told (again) by well meaning people that homeschooling is illegal. As this idea seems to be brought up so often, I thought I would address it where the answer can help other people. I think a lot of the confusion comes from the fact that each state sets their own requirements, as well as their own compulsory age requirements.

It is legal to homeschool in every state of the United States of America. But, each state has different requirements to follow. Home School Legal Defense Aid has a wonderful website at www.hslda.org to find out the current laws for each state and any legislation or legal action that is occurring in every state. The website has good basic information about getting started homeschooling, different styles of homeschooling, and finding homeschooling groups to be a part of also. The website is a bit on the religious side, but the legal information is accurate, and a handy place to see everything at once.

I have specifically chosen states to live in where the requirements are extremely basic, or there are none. I believe that every child should have their own individual learning plan, and that they should be taught in the style(s) that they learn best in. This is not always the way that the public system is using. They have too many students to follow my thinking. They use what they have found works for the majority of the students, and is the easiest for the teachers to grade.

Meanwhile, even my mother was surprised to find out that in IL, (where I grew up and two of my children where born), has such simple requirements. Paraphrased, the law says that children between the age of 7 - 17 must be taught the same subjects as the public school teaches at approximately the same age, in the English language. There is no paperwork to be filed, no testing, no teacher requirements, no time to be kept track of, no records that must be kept. And NO ONE has a legal right to ask for any of this information from a homeschooler.

Where we currently live in AZ, homeschoolers must notify the state when homeschooling begins, and if it stopped, by filing a ONE TIME affidavit of intention for each child between the age of 6 -16, with a copy of the child's certified birth certificate. Illegal immigrants is a problem here, the certified birth certificate proves citizenship. (In NV, you have to prove that you are the child's parent because they have such a problem with kidnapping within the state!) Again, there is no testing, teaching requirements, record keeping, etc. Also, the state of AZ has separated homeschooling questions from the Department of Children and Family Services. They have clearly stated that homeschooling is never considered a form of abuse. (I don't understand who would think it is a form of abuse, but there you have the states official take on it.)

In WI, where my mother currently lives, you must file an affidavit at the beginning of each school year for each child, between 6 - 18. Here ALL schools must follow certain requirements including “provides a sequentially progressive curriculum of fundamental instruction”, are privately owned, are run for the primary purpose of providing education, and provides 875 hours of instruction within a year. But again, there is no testing, no teacher requirements, no record keeping, etc.

TX and ID are another two states where you are not required to notify anyone, and there are no testing or record keeping to do.

To sum it up, I urge that anyone considering homeschooling simply find out what their states legal requirements are. After all, homeschooling is about what is best for the children. As their teacher, it is in their best interests that we comply with the law and model being a law abiding citizen for them.

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