This question sometimes also looks like this:
Do you have to participate in standardized tests?
What are you required to teach?
What standards are you held to by higher levels or state guidelines?
Does the state really allow that?
I think that what most people really want to know is what the legal requirements for a home school are. The simple answer is, it depends on where you live. In the U.S. each state gets to set their own laws about education. It is legal to home school in all 50 states, but the specific requirements do vary.
If you want to know what the laws are in your state, here are some things you can do.
- Ask a home school family. As a former resident of Oklahoma and a current resident of Utah I can tell you from experience about home school in those two states. Oklahoma has outlined in their state constitution that parents are allowed to choose alternate forms of education for their children. It is recommended that parents choose options that would have their child schooled for an equal amount of time in similar subjects as those who attend public school. Because there is no oversight beyond that and no reporting it is really easy for each family to decide what they think that alternate form of education should look like for them and then follow it. In Utah we do have to report to our local school district. Each year I have to send in a notarized affidavit that states which of my children will be educated at home and that I agree to school for the amount of time and in the same subjects as they would be taught at a regular public school. I get back a copy and a signed letter stating that it was received and we are good to go. There is no reporting after that, so we are free to cover that time and subject requirement however we see fit.
- Find a local home school association. In Oklahoma we had OCHEC. In Utah we have UHEA. A home school association or other local group can help you discover not just how to operate within the legal guidelines, but how to thrive and make the most out of your home school experience. Many sponsor conventions, conferences or workshops where the new can learn about what home school is. I loved attending the OCHEC convention. I haven’t participated in any UHEA events yet, but their website provided me with a sample letter of intent and linked me with groups that were more specific to my area, beliefs and home schooling style.
- Check out HSLDA. HSLDA is the Home School Legal Defense Association. Their website covers information on legal issues surrounding home schools. On their site you can find a map where they have categorized each state by the amount of regulation over home schools. It’s very interesting to get the snapshot of which states have no regulation and which states are highly regulated. From there you can link directly to each state to find out what the specific regulations are. They also track legislation at the state and federal levels and post about laws that may have an impact on those who have chosen to home school. If you choose, you can become a member of their association as well and if you come up against any legal issues related to home school they will represent you.
So, what about outside the U.S.? I think it’s pretty fair to state that each country or region will have its own view on education in general, not just on home school. If you already live in another country or are planning a move it’s a good idea to find out what the requirements are. HSLDA also has an International information page on their website. Sometimes it’s kind of fun to go look at the posted headlines to see what is happening for home school families in other countries or to check out how another country’s laws compare to ours.
In short, yes, home schooling is legal in the U.S. Yes, some states require reporting and some do not. Yes, there are families who don’t follow the rules, but most work well within the guidelines set by their state. And, yes, we do our best to work together and offer resources to help each other meet those legal requirements.