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Determining the Legal Requirements in Your State

As a homeschooler, you must understand your state's education regulations that impact your homeschool. Then, you must make sure that your homeschool complies with these regulations and that you can document that it does so.

Types of State Regulations Related to Homeschool

There are four basic levels of state regulation regarding homeschooling, as summarized in the following list:

  • Least. In these states, such as Indiana, Texas, Illinois, and Idaho, parents aren't required to provide any information about their homeschool to the state. Although there are regulations that provide general guidelines about how children should be educated, parents are under no obligation to inform the state about how they educate their children.

  • Minimal. In these states, such as California, New Mexico, Alabama, and Kansas, you only need to inform the state that you are homeschooling your children. After that, the state assumes you are meeting its general guidelines and doesn't attempt to oversee your homeschool.

  • Moderate. States with moderate regulation, such as Colorado, Iowa, Arkansas, and Florida, require that you formally notify the state about your homeschool. You must also submit some sort of progress report to the state, such as test scores or professional evaluation of your students' progress.

  • Significant. These states, including Washington, Minnesota, New York, and Maine, are the most difficult in which to homeschool. In addition to notification and progress evaluation, you also may be required to use approved curricula, have a teaching credential, or submit to home visits by state officials.

How to Determine Your State's Regulations

There are several ways to determine which general type of regulation your state has, and then to determine what the specific regulations are.

One way to do this is to contact your state's department of education and request copies of the relevant regulations. You should be able to find a phone number for this department in a telephone book. You probably can get this information from your local public library as well. You can locate your state's education department's Web site, which also will provide the information you need.

However, a better way to find this information is to use the Web to visit the HSLDA Web site. On this Web site, you will find excellent summaries of the legal requirements for each state. To do so, use the following steps:

  1. Use Web browser to visit http://www.hslda.org, which is the home page of the HSLDA.

  2. From the site's Homeschooling menu, choose Homeschool Laws. On the resulting screen, you will see a diagram of the United States. Each state is color-coded to indicate its relative level of regulation (see Figure 3.1).

Figure 3.1

Figure 3.1 This map on the HSLDA Web site shows the relative regulation of each state in the United States.

  1. Click your state's icon on the map. The screen will be refreshed to show specific information about your state (see Figure 3.2).

Figure 3.2

Figure 3.2 Here you can see the regulation information for my home state Indiana.

  1. Read the information related to homeschool regulations for your state. Note that for some states, there are multiple sets of regulations, called "options," which could impact your homeschool. Make sure you explore each option.

The tables presented on the screens for your state will tell you about the specific regulations with which you will have to comply. The tables generally cover the following information:

  • Legal options. A description of the various options under which homeschools can be operated.

  • Attendance. Information about attendance requirements, such as the number of instruction days that must be provided per year.

  • Subjects. Curriculum requirements for the state are defined here.

  • Qualifications. This information will tell you if your state requires that you have some sort of teaching certification to operate a homeschool in your state.

  • Notice. If you are obligated to notify the state that you are operating a homeschool, information here will let you know.

  • Recordkeeping. Information here tells you the kind of documentation you are required to maintain, such as attendance records, test scores, and so on. You should consider this as only the absolute minimum. You will want to keep lots of documentation for your homeschool (you'll learn about that throughout the rest of this book).

  • Testing. Testing requirements your state might have, such as for standardized tests your students might be required to take, are outlined here.

The following sections provide an example of a state in each category to help you interpret the requirements for your state.

Indiana: An Example of a State with Least Regulation

If you are fortunate as I am, you live in a state with little regulation, such as Indiana. Such a state provides you with the most freedom and requires the least amount of work dedicated to meet or document regulations (which means you can spend more time on your homeschool).

Indiana's legal requirements are summarized in the table shown in Figure 3.3.

Figure 3.3

Figure 3.3 Indiana has very few legal requirements as you can see in this table (lucky me!).

As shown in the figure, you can see that there is one option for homeschoolers in Indiana, which is to operate as a homeschool. In Indiana and similar states, the only requirement is that school is held at the same time as the public schools, which requires 180 days of instruction. The only records Indiana homeschoolers are required to maintain are attendance records—an Indiana homeschooler has to be able to show that the 180-day requirement was met. What all this means is that homeschoolers in Indiana (and similar states) aren't really impacted by state regulation in any significant way.

California: An Example of a State with Minimal Regulation

Next up on the regulation category list are states with minimal regulation, an example of which is California (see Figure 3.4). California has four options. One is to qualify as a private school, which means that as a homeschooler you have to meet the same requirements as a private school. Another is to use a private tutor. The third and fourth options are to use an independent study program administered by a private school (option 3) or administered by a public school (option 4).

Figure 3.4

Figure 3.4 States with a minimal level of regulation, such as California, aren't much more difficult to homeschool than those with the least level of regulation.

As you can see in the figure, the requirements for each of these options vary slightly. The one that is most relevant for homeschoolers is to qualify as a private school. To do so, you are required to teach the same subjects as the public schools and teach in English. You must provide a formal notification that you are homeschooling with the Superintendent of Public Education. The only required documentation is an attendance log. No testing is required. As you can see, homeschoolers in states like California won't have to spend a lot of time dealing with government regulations, which is a good thing.

Iowa: An Example of a State with Moderate Regulation

As we move up in complexity, we get to states with moderate regulations, such as Iowa (see Figure 3.5). Iowa has two options. One is to operate a homeschool. The other is to operate a homeschool that is supervised by a licensed teacher.

Figure 3.5

Figure 3.5 Rated as moderate in regulation, Iowa's most significant requirement is that students demonstrate progress by submitting standardized test results or a portfolio to the local school district.

To operate a homeschool without supervision, you must have at least 148 days of instruction. A formal notification must be submitted to the local school district. No records are required, but standardized test results or a portfolio must be presented to the local school district each year to demonstrate progress.

The requirements to operate a homeschool with supervision are the same except that the supervising teacher must have a license, and the testing requirement is that the parent must meet with the supervisor twice per quarter.

New York: An Example of a State with Significant Regulation

Even states with significant regulation, such as New York, still make it possible to homeschool without huge amounts of effort to demonstrate that you meet all requirements (see Figure 3.6). New York offers one option, which is to operate a homeschool. It has an attendance requirement of 180 days that is further defined with hours of instruction for specific grade ranges. Specific subjects must be taught at each grade level. While first appearing to be limiting, a closer look reveals that most of these topics are likely to be taught whether they are required by the state or not. A specific teaching certification is not required. A formal notice is required as are attendance records along with quarterly documentation regarding the specific instruction that has occurred. Standardized testing or written evaluations are also required.

Figure 3.6

Figure 3.6 Although New York's table looks more intimidating than those from the other example states, its regulations aren't really all that restrictive.

CAUTION

As is clear on the HSLDA Web site, its summaries of state law are only summaries of the laws and not the laws themselves. If you want to be absolutely certain of the exact requirements of your state, you can locate and review the actual laws that govern homeschool. That assumes they are written in such a way that they will be understandable to regular people of course, which isn't always (or often) the case.

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