Is Homeschooling Legal?
Yes, it is legal in all 50 states to homeschool your child. Each state has its own laws regarding homeschooling, and the legal requirements vary enormously across the country.
Some states have moderate or heavy regulation of homeschooling, while other states have few or no regulations at all. In some states, parents simply withdraw their children from school and begin educating them at home. In other states, parents are required to report regularly, show proof of progress, or keep certain kinds of records, like attendance records, lists of subjects being taught, etc. Then there are the “private school” states, where homeschooling is considered to be a type of private school and parents who educate their children at home comply with the same regulations as private schools. With many states, there are multiple ways to homeschool legally, and different laws for each approach. It can be very confusing and bewildering for beginners.
Here in Virginia, there are many different legal filing options for homeschooling families. Most families are required to report annually to the school division at the beginning of the school year, and to submit some form of testing or evaluation at the end of the school year. Other legal options in Virginia include the approved tutor provision and the religious exemption.
Know the Legal Requirements
Because each state’s laws are so different, it is important to find out the requirements that govern your home state. Legal requirements change often, and Internet webpages and school division offices often have inaccurate or out-of-date information about homeschooling laws. Your state homeschool organization is usually the best resource for the most accurate, up-to-date information about the laws in your state. If you do not have a state homeschool organization, consult your local homeschool support group for information on your state’s laws.
School Access for Homeschoolers
Many states and local school divisions are now allowing homeschooled students to enroll in classes on a part-time basis, participate in school extracurricular activities like clubs or marching band, or even play on interscholastic sports teams if they so choose. However, laws, policies, and regulations on school access vary greatly from state to state, and sometimes even from one community to another.
For instance, here in Virginia, some school divisions allow homeschooled students to take classes part-time at the local high school, while others do not. Access to special education services and programs varies greatly from state to state as well. Contact your state homeschool organization or local support group for the latest information on state laws and local policies on this subject.
Online Public School Classes
Some states offer regular and online classes, services, programs or special funding to homeschooling families through the public schools. These opportunities may be regulated at the state level or by local school divisions. At best, these programs can offer helpful alternatives to families at low or no cost. However, some of these programs may come with strings attached.
For instance, some states and school divisions are encouraging parents to enroll their children in public school “homeschooling” programs where the child works from home using an online-based public school curriculum. These programs are a good option for some families, but they are public school programs, not homeschooling programs. Families who participate in these programs may not have the same rights or privileges under state law as homeschooling families, and they may not have the flexibility to tailor these programs to meet the needs of their children and family. Before enrolling your homeschooled child in any public school-based program, you may wish to research the pros and cons of this program by talking with your state homeschool organization or with other families in your community.
You can find more information about how this impacts Virginia families on our website.
Returning to Public School
Some homeschooled students choose to transfer to public or private school for some or all of the high school years. Each state has different laws and regulations governing the transfer of credit from homeschool to high school, and what works in one state may not work so well in another. Some of your homeschool coursework may transfer more easily than others, depending on where you live and what curriculum you are using. You may need to take some sort of test or evaluation to receive credit for certain courses. Your state homeschool organization, local support group, and the counselor at your local high school may have more information for you.
Do I Need “Homeschool Insurance”?
Finally, some families have asked us whether homeschool legal insurance is necessary for families who educate their children at home. Most homeschooling families feel no need for any sort of special insurance. Homeschooling is legal across the nation, and families who comply with the laws of their state are extremely unlikely to encounter legal difficulties with the school system during their homeschooling years. The most common legal problems for homeschooling families these days involve divorce and custody issues, which unfortunately are not covered by many homeschool legal insurance programs. Before purchasing any homeschool insurance, be sure to investigate thoroughly before committing to a contract or sending any money.
The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers is a volunteer-run, non-profit organization dedicated solely to homeschooling issues. Created in 1993, VaHomeschoolers is a state-wide, inclusive organization that provides information on homeschooling and protects and promotes homeschooling freedoms at the state and local level.
We provide a comprehensive website on homeschooling in Virginia, answer questions through our toll-free homeschool help line and email homeschool help desk, publish the bi-monthly journal Voice, as well as several electronic bulletins, and offer conferences and seminars on homeschooling throughout the year. We represent homeschooling interests in the state legislature and across the state, and help parents and school divisions resolve homeschooling issues.
Our organization has no political or religious affiliations; we focus exclusively on issues related to homeschooling. Our website does cover the specific legal aspects of homeschooling in Virginia but it is also filled with information and resources on homeschooling that apply universally. It is a great place to gather further details and support on all the topics discussed in this series.
If you have found the Guide to Homeschooling Your Child helpful, please consider supporting our efforts on behalf of homeschoolers.
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Leslie Nathaniel has been a member of VaHomeschoolers since she began homeschooling and is now a member of the Board of Directors. Her children began learning at home as soon as they were born, but they became official homeschoolers when her eldest reached kindergarten age in 2002. Prior to children, Leslie worked in information technology consulting. She is a homeschooling mother of two. As a volunteer for VaHomeschoolers, she answers telephone and email requests for information; writes articles for the VaHomeschoolers Voice homeschool journal; speaks at conferences and seminars on a variety of topics; and organizes homeschooling seminars around the state of Virginia.
Celeste Land is a member of the Board of Directors for VaHomeschoolers and the director of our Government Affairs department. Her two children began homeschooling in 1996, and are continuing to learn at home right through the teen years. Her daughter has recently graduated from homeschooling high school and will be attending college full time this fall. Celeste has lobbied on behalf of homeschooling interests here in Virginia and Washington, DC, for 10 years. Her articles on homeschooling have been published in the VaHomeschoolers Voice and the VaHomeschoolers website, as well as several homeschooling magazines in the USA and Canada. She also has been a speaker at many homeschool seminars and conferences.
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