HS Question #2: Is Homeschooling Legal?

I'm continuing my series of articles, "A Question of Homeschooling."   Last week I shared the four best ways to answer the question, "Why do you homeschool?"  This week, I answer the question, "Is homeschooling legal?" With all the buzz about homeschooling these days, not as many people believe homeschooling is illegal, but you do run into folks who question the legality of certain things when it comes to homeschooling.  This week I'm going to focus on the legal aspects of homeschooling.  This is not to be taken as legal advice and since homeschooling laws vary from state to state, I recommend visiting http://www.hslda.org for more detailed information on homeschooling in your state.  I found a very helpful resource on their website that has a summary of homeschool laws in all 50 states. First I'd like to give you some background before I get into just how to answer these issues.  Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, yet there are different legal requirements a homeschooler must adhere to in each state. I have homeschooled in two states so I can share some of the rules for homeschooling in those states as an example. In California, you are not really considered a homeschooler.  You are a considered a private school and must fill out a form each year (which asks you among other things to name your private school).  The form is found online for only about a month or so.  It's available sometime in October and must be filed before some a specific date in November.  You must keep attendance records and conduct school for 180 days each year.  In Arizona, you are considered a homeschool and are required to file a form notifying the state the year you begin homeschooling.  There are no other requirements unless and until you want to stop homeschooling in which case you need to fill out another form. While most folks these days probably won't ask you if homeschooling is legal, they might ask you if it is legal for a mom who does not have a teaching certificate to homeschool.  Additionally, they may ask if a homeschooled student can get into college or get a job if they do not have a "legal high school diploma" from an accredited school.  I'm not an expert in the homeschooling laws of all 50 states, but it is my understanding that none of them require a parent to have a teaching certificate in order to homeschool her own children. Most people don't ask if I have a teaching certificate or if my children would have an accredited high school diploma because they are interested in the law as much as they are interested in the results.  Usually they are wondering how I can teach subjects I haven't been trained in.  If you have more time, you can go into all the details, but usually I simply say that there are so many resources out there now for homeschoolers to use that help us to present the information easily and often we learn right along with our kids.  I may add that I know several public school substitute teachers who are not at all familiar with the material they are to teach and they often do a little quick research or rely entirely on the text books to teach the students.    Most traditional school text books are written with "Teacher's Notes" or have a Teacher's Manual that includes all the answers, lesson plans and additional resources.   That is why you may see a PE coach who is teaching a biology class. Additionally, some homeschooling parents have a background in a particular topic and have written studies for homeschoolers.  I have a degree in Speech Communication and have a passion for teaching communication skills, so I have authored several speech communication studies for homeschoolers that require no preparation time for the homeschooling parent who is not familiar with the subject. I want to address a secondary and quasi legal issue that comes up under this topic: what can a homeschooler do with a non accredited high school diploma?  While most of the after graduation concerns are not a real problem for homeschool graduates, some are of a little concern. An accredited diploma simply means that the school a student graduated from is approved in a particular way by the state.  Public schools are accredited (though not all of them are as highly rated by college admissions boards).  Most private high schools are not accredited, though nobody questions whether a private school graduate will be able to get into a good college.  Though a homeschooled student may need to provide more or different information, there has not really been a big issue having a homeschooler accepted into the military, getting into a prestigious university, or when applying for a good job.  I have personally  known or interviewed homeschool graduates who have  gone on to work for NASA, become lawyers and been accepted to elite colleges like Harvard.  My own daughter attends Vanderbilt University. The question of what a homeschoolers options are after graduation is a really easy one to answer these days because more and more prestigious universities and companies recognize what the studies have shown for many years now about homeschoolers.  Homeschoolers are well-educated, industrious, self-reliant and well-adjusted.  In fact, most prestigious or elite universities like Harvard, Princeton and Yale actually have a section of their college application for homeschoolers and are actively seeking them as students! In the two years we took to prepare our daughter for college, we learned so much about what a homeschooler needs to know to prepare for college, that my daughter wrote it down in an eBook to help other homeschoolers understand what their options are and just how to go about it.  It's called the Homeschooler's Guide to Preparing for College and it's a great resource for homeschoolers to help guide them during this time.  So you see that the information is out there to make it easier for homeschoolers! Homeschooling is legal and it's easier than ever before because of all the resources available to homeschoolers and the fact that homeschoolers are now sought after employees and college applicants. ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ JoJo Tabares holds a degree in Speech Communication, but it is her humorous approach to communication skills which has made her a highly sought-after Christian speaker and writer.  Her articles appear in homeschool publications, such as Homeschool Enrichment Magazine and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, which also endorses her Say What You Mean curricula, including Say What You Mean Defending the Faith.  You can also find JoJo on web sites such as Crosswalk.com and Dr.Laura.com and hosting her weekly podcast, Communication Comedy Network.  For more information on communication FUNdamentals and Christian-based communication skills for the whole family, please visit http://www.ArtofEloquence.com Stay tuned next Monday for more in my article series, “A Question of Homeschooling” when I will share another answer to a typical question homeschoolers are asked. If you have a question you are frequently asked and would like me to include it in my blog series, please post a comment here or email me at jojo @ artofeloquence.com


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  • jojosblog

    There are so many ways to homeschool and so many options for private school. I love that parents have the right to decide these educational issues for each child.

  • Laurie Neumann

    This is a great article, JoJo. I know there are many questions about homeschooling, even though it has grown so much in the past years.

    We were actually enrolled in a program where we reported to a private Christian school, met their requirements, and they issued my kids diplomas at the end of their high schooling years. However, now the school has closed, so I"m not so sure if that would stand or not.

    Either way, they have never needed a diploma. My son got into two good private colleges with no problem. My daughter has pursued a dental assistant education – no problem there either.

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