Lorelei homeschooled her only child through high school using an eclectic style of home education.
Homeschooling is currently legal in all 50 states. One of the biggest myths about homeschooling in the United States is that you must have a college degree to do so. This is not true—and when states have tried to pass legislation to do so, they have been fought down in court or by public opinion.
Having said that, every state has its own specific guidelines. Some have few to no requirements while others have you jump through hoops to allow you to school your children.
I homeschooled my own son through high school. He actually had one semester in his sophomore year of high school when he wanted to try going to a public school, but that was his only non-homeschool experience. (By the way, he hated it!)
Let me tell you a little bit about my experience with the laws in several states. Keep in mind that I refused to move anywhere where I had to jump through a lot of the hoops I spoke of above.
According to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) quoted below, there is only one state that requires you have a higher education than high school diploma or the equivalent. But even that is only an option, there are three other choices to choose from.
You must be qualified to operate a homeschool program by either:
- instructing only your child and being supervised by a certificated person (i.e., the certificated person and the parent together plan the educational objectives; the certificated person has a minimum average of one contact hour per week with the child; and the certificated person evaluates the child’s progress); or
- instructing only your child and having either 45 college quarter credits or the equivalent in semester credits (approximately 30 semester credits, since one quarter credit equals two-thirds of a semester credit); or
- instructing only your child and having completed a course in home-based education at a postsecondary institution or a vocational-technical institute (these courses generally do not require an extensive time commitment); or
- instructing only your child and being “deemed sufficiently qualified to provide home-based instruction by the superintendent of the local school district.”
We technically started homeschooling our son when we lived in the state of Oregon. although our son was under six years old and therefore was not required to be registered. As most people who homeschool I wanted to get going early in life. Oregon asks homeschoolers to register their children and students must also be tested in grades 3, 5, 8, and 10.
Again, my son was not yet of compulsory age for attending public school, which is usually anywhere from seven to eight years of age in most states. I did however look into the state laws for home educating. Indiana is very homeschool-friendly. They only require that your schooling runs for as many days as the public school. And that you provide schooling in English with equivalent studies to that of public schools, however they provide no definition of what that is. You must also take daily attendance for generally 180 days and have those records available if anyone asks for them. You do not have to register unless asked to by the state superintendent. That's unlikely unless you bring some negative attention to yourself.
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This is a great state for homeschooling, as they tend to leave you alone. They do require you keep a precise number of hours for specific core subjects, a journal and keep some samples of work. Core subjects include reading, math, language arts, social studies, and science. The other classes are chosen by the homeschool. I chose subjects like life skills, foreign language, and history. 1,000 hours per school term. Homeschoolers normally do not keep an actual hour. Instead they count an hour as how long a subject takes to do. A math assignment may take 30 minutes, but it is counted as an hour. The easiest way to keep track was to create a journal that listed the subject and what we were doing that day. I usually schooled year-round and split the hours for the year accordingly. What I disliked about this futile process was that you did all the journaling and hour counting and no one ever looked at it. It was a “just in case” kind of ritual.
Texas was very homeschool-friendly in that the only requirements were to use a written curriculum—which technically could be anything—and you were to teach math, reading, spelling, grammar, and good citizenship. I especially liked the idea of good citizenship. It's a skill we could all use in life.
This is also a great state to homeschool in. They only require you to name your school and then register that name with the board of education. This can seem intimidating, but they just keep it on file. This must be done when your child turns seven. You must also teach the equivalent hours that a public school would keep and test periodically. You are also asked to plan and schedule your instruction, but there is no time frame to that precondition, so this could technically be the night before.
This was the last state we homeschooled in as my son graduated. It requires a few things, but again nothing major. You must file an intent to homeschool with the school superintendent of the county, provide a copy of your child’s birth certificate, and teach reading, grammar, math, social studies, and science. You are also supposed to file a termination of homeschooling letter, but I did not do that when my son took a semester off to attend public high school. I gave my son a certificate of graduation and we were done. He then went on to college.
The things you must do to homeschool really come down to which state you live in. In some states a homeschool is treated as a private school, others require religious or some other kind of exemption forms. Those who do ask for a college degree also offer other options to sidestep that requirement.
For me, it was important to live in a state that had low expectations because I did not use formal programs for the most part. We ran an eclectic homeschool program which consisted of a variety of teaching styles and free-form schooling (another article for another day).
Others do not really homeschool as such; they school at home, meaning they use an online or formal program that grades on its own. Most states readily accept such programs because they are more like attending a private school in which the teacher is not the parent, or in that the parent merely reviews the student’s work.
In short, homeschooling is legal in all states. You do not have to have a college degree. Different states have different guidelines for homeschooling. That is how it stands today. If you choose to homeschool your children be sure to check the laws of your state and keep informed on any new legislation.