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Homeschool Laws Vary by State
Here are examples of states that vary between very lax regulation of homeschooling and high regulation. I’m comparing Utah and Texas, both relaxed, to Washington, which is considered moderate, and Pennsylvania, which is highly regulated. You can easily see the variation.
Several states, including Utah, do not have strict homeschool laws. In Utah, for example, you have to teach certain subjects for a certain amount of time and you have to provide a signed affidavit saying you will. However, there is no oversight for this. There are no requirements for the assessment, and the state has very little right to ask whether or not you are following these rules. They cannot inspect where you teach, or decide whether or not you are qualified to teach. As soon as you provide the affidavit, you will be allowed to study at home in Utah.
If that seems too difficult for you, groups of families can form a “private school” that is exempt from regulation.
In Texas, homeschool families are also very protected. Similar to Utah in terms of the amount (or lack of) regulation, Texas goes further than Utah and actually protects the rights of homeschool families to choose the method of teaching their children.
The subjects covered must include:
- Good citizenship
In Texas, homeschool families are considered private schools, and as long as they teach “good citizenship” they are free from other regulations. Like many other states, Texas can’t decide if you’re fit to teach, they can’t test you, and they can’t ask you to provide an evaluation. Some states, including Texas, have written into law that homeschooled children cannot be discriminated against when applying to college or university.
History in Texas is litigious: In the 1980s, 80 families were sued for truancy. Fortunately, this opened the door to a legacy in Texas that actually makes homeschooling easier. Hats off to these pioneering families.
Contrast this with Washington, which is considered to have “moderate” regulation.
Washington’s home school law provides two options for families. The “homeschool” option and the “private school” option. The regulations are byzantine compared to Utah or Texas. Subjects to be taught include:
- Occupational education
- Social studies
- development of appreciation of art and music
Another regulation in Washington is that you must use a curriculum and meet certain criteria if you homeschool your children. Specifically,
- the parent is supervised by a qualified person who helps plan the year together, has a minimum of 4 contact hours per month, and this person assesses the child’s progress.
- the parent has forty-five quarterly college credits or the equivalent
- the father has completed a home education course
- the parent “is deemed sufficiently qualified to provide home education by the superintendent of the local school district.”
Also, compared to Texas and Utah which do not require any assessment, Washington requires standardized testing. This test must be done annually and in the prescribed manner. Test results must be archived and retained for a specified period of years.
Under the “private school” option, children are home-schooled by parents with a prescribed curriculum from a private school.
Pennsylvania families have five legal options, some of them perhaps a little strange. Contrasting Pennsylvania with Texas, for example, shows the wide gap that exists from state to state.
Under the homeschool statute, families file an affidavit each year. They must first file this affidavit when they start homeschooling and then every year before August 1st. The affidavit must include the following information:
- Father’s name, child’s name and age, address and phone number
- Guarantee that subjects are taught in English
- outline of the educational objectives proposed by thematic area
- Immunization guarantee
- Ensure that the child has received the required medical and health services
- Evidence that the program will conform to the Home School Statute
- Ensure that parents, all adults living in the household and supervisors have not been convicted of certain criminal offenses within the past five years.
In contrast to Texas and Utah, at the end of the school year, parents must submit a portfolio of their children’s work and, in certain grades, must also include standardized test scores. There are fairly strict rules about what should be included in the portfolio, as well as who can provide an assessment of your child.
Finally, if your child has been identified as needing special education services, his or her education plan must be approved by a special education teacher or school psychologist.
In Pennsylvania, you can also choose to homeschool with the “private tutor” option. You must have a criminal background check and you must be a certified teacher. If so, you can homeschool your children in Pennsylvania. Interestingly, the law states that the guardian (mother or father) must be paid or otherwise compensated for the services.
Homeschooling families in Pennsylvania can teach their children in their home as a satellite campus of a day school or church. This option works if you already belong to or are willing to join a church-based homeschool group. A list of these groups is available.
The curriculum for homeschooling in Pennsylvania must contain:
- History of the United States and Pennsylvania
- Safety Education (I’m not making this up) Includes regular and continuing education about the danger of a fire prevention
- Health and Physiology
The requirements for high school are almost the same, including fire prevention. High school students also need a foreign language, but can skip physical education, music and art.
There is also an accredited boarding or day school option. You can teach your children at home if you are approved for this option.
As I went through all the information about homeschool regulation in each state and province, reading statutes, state parent blogs, information from each state’s department of education, and information published by the Legal Defense Association of the school at home, I became more and more. more surprised by the big difference between each area. We live in British Columbia, which, after reading and writing about this for the past 8 months, I am convinced is the best place to homeschool in North America. I would like to know if there is any correlation between states with the highest regulation and student outcomes.
Another interesting thing I noticed is that some states seem to have an adversarial relationship with homeschoolers, and some seem to encourage it. This is despite the level of regulation. In fact, I noticed that some states and provinces seem to have lax regulation along with strict penalties for not following them. In this case, the ambiguity could be quite stressful. How can you be sure that you have provided adequate instruction if there is no clear definition of what that means? At least in Pennsylvania, you know what you’re up against.
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