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5 Common Homeschooling Legal Questions

Mother homeschooling daughter.
By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on August 20, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Approximately 1.7 million children are homeschooled in this country each year, and that number is on the rise. People homeschool for a variety of reasons, most notably providing a better education than local public schools, a better curriculum, or a difference in moral values.

If you are interested in homeschooling your child, before you take the leap, here are five common homeschooling legal questions, and answers, to get you started.

Education requirements are mandated by state law. Each state allows homeschooling, but in different ways. Some states specifically grant parents the right to homeschool their children, and provide a host of regulations regarding the manner in which the homeschooling is carried out. Other states, like California, do not have homeschooling laws, but rather require parents to either establish themselves as a private school, or to enroll their children in a private school that allows homeschooling, or a state mandated Independent Study Program, or private tutoring by a certified teacher (which can be the parent.)

2. Do I Have to File Any Forms With the State?

Most states requires some sort of forms to be filed, notifying the state that the child will be homeschooled, either one-time or annually. Check with your state and local public school district for a complete list. Most likely, these forms will include a report of the subjects being taught, periods of instruction, and certification of the administrator.

3. Are There Any Minimums I Need to Meet?

Again, these are dictated by state and local law, so check your state first. Generally speaking, each state sets a minimum number of days (for instance Alabama is 140, California is 175), and minimum number of hours per day (Alabama is 3 hours per day, California is 3.5)

4. Does My Child Have to Get Standardize Tested?

Again, this varies by state. In California, if a parent chooses to homeschool by enrolling their child in a Public Independent Study Program (ISPs.) or a Public Charter School, they must contractually agree to standardized testing. If they opt-out of testing when the testing date draws near, the student may not be allowed to re-enroll with that school the following year. A GED (General Education Development) is not required by most colleges to validate a homeschool high school diploma. However, many do require some form of standardized test results, such as SAT or ACT, as part of the admissions application process.

5. Truancy

Truancy is the one legal issue that can present a sticky situation. As stated earlier, each state has a law requiring a minimum level of school attendance. If this is not met, truancy laws dictate that a police officer, social worker, or Child Protective Services worker contact you about your child's schooling. First contact is usually by letter, followed by a home visit. Certain instances can result in a tip-off to local truancy officials, including if you child was recently:

  • Removed from a public, private, ISP or charter school
  • Involved in a custody battle
  • Became a welfare recipient

If you receive a letter, do not disregard it. Respond to it directly, or contact a local education attorney who can help you with this process.

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