As a new homeschooler, you may be worried about abiding by state homeschooling laws. Since this is a vital part of your homeschooling experience, we have some tips for helping you to understand terminology, your rights as a parent, and how to make the most of what is available to you within your individual state.
Tips For Understanding Individual State Homeschooling Laws
State homeschool laws vary state to state, and in some cases district to district. Since there is no one standard for homeschooling in the United States, we are going to share some basic tips that will help you to make sure you don’t do something wrong and get into trouble along the way in your homeschooling journey. Don’t worry. Most state homeschooling laws are simple to follow and won’t be too difficult for you to understand and put into practice in your classroom.
Locate your state board of education homeschool liaison. Most states will have a representative that works for the board of education and homeschoolers to make sure that the two are in sync with requirements. While you may not be able to talk to them or go to them directly with questions always, it is a good idea to know their name, have their contact information and to also get to know their staff.
Ask questions if you are unclear about any requirements listed. Never hesitate to ask questions. Whether you are unsure if their “suggested” items are actually required, or if you are not happy about standardized testing and want to find out how to opt-out, ask for information. The state homeschool office is obligated to answer your questions and help you to understand.
If you are new to homeschooling, I recommend making an actual appointment to visit them face to face rather than just grabbing what is listed online. This gives you a chance to make sure you understand and are not interpreting something differently than they intended.
Ask for special needs advocates assistance. Not all states are required to assist you as you homeschool if you have a special needs child. That said, there still are many ways that your local Department of Human Services or state board of education can connect you with individuals and programs that can help.
Since more and more parents of children with disabilities are opting to homeschool, advocates are becoming more common. The best place to go is first to your homeschool liaison, and next to the Department of Human Services for your state. Just as you might be able to secure an IEP for a student in a traditional classroom, you may be able to get similar assistance as a homeschooling parent.
Talk to your local public school district administration. While this may be tough for some, getting to know the local public school system administration is a great way to learn more about state requirements. This doesn’t mean that all will be knowledgeable, but it is a great place to go for questions about if your child can participate in standardized testing at their locations, or even if you can have your child participate in extracurricular activities like clubs and sports associated with the local school district.
Suggested questions for your local public school district:
- Is standardized testing offered to homeschoolers at your location?
- Am I required to fill out any local district paperwork regarding my intention of homeschooling my student that falls under your jurisdiction?
- Are there any homeschool advocates that work with the school district in this area?
- Do you provide any curriculum for rent or free to parents homeschooling in your district?
- What are the district or state requirements about my child participating in sports, clubs, and events at your school?
- Can my child walk the stage at your graduation ceremonies if I provide proof of testing?
Don’t just take the word of a friend as law. You will likely be joining many homeschool groups, forums, and even participating in online groups or sites like this. While there are many very knowledgeable people out there that have been homeschooling for years, it is always best to get your answers directly from the source. Instead of asking your local homeschool group what laws are, ask the homeschool board directly. Asking anyone else leaves things subject to interpretation, and if you make a mistake, telling the homeschool board a friend told you something is not going to be enough.
Questions to ask when you begin homeschooling: Below, we are sharing a list of questions that are recommended you ask when you begin homeschooling. Some of these things may seem obvious, but as each state has a different set of requirements, you need to stay on top of your individual state homeschooling laws.
- What subjects are required for each grade?
- What paperwork is required to the state annually? Quarterly?
- Will my child be evaluated in person, or simply by paperwork and reports provided by myself?
- Do I have to report to the local public school district for anything?
- Can I opt out or opt in to state standardized testing? If so, what are the requirements?
- How do I secure a high school diploma for my homeschooled child? Is an equivalence exam required, or will it be issued by the state?
- Are special needs advocates and programs available for homeschooling students?
- Am I required to fill out paperwork annually expressing my intent to homeschool my child?
- Is there free curriculum available through the state or local school districts?
- Are there any free online homeschool programs offered by the state?
- What are the requirements to participate in local public school district sports programs, bands, or clubs?
These questions may seem like a lot of random things, but as you begin homeschooling, you’ll find they are important to know. The more you ask, the better off you are as a homeschooling parent.
Learning about state homeschooling laws is really about being willing to ask questions and become an advocate for yourself and your child. These tips are the things, places, and people you should go to for more information to really understand and be able to implement your individual state homeschooling laws in your own classroom.