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What are the State and Federal Requirements for Homeschooling?

written by: Jen Densing • edited by: Noreen Gunnell • updated: 6/6/2012

It seems like the federal government has a great deal of involvement in our nation's schools. No Child Left Behind, standardized testing... seems like they would have a lot of rules and regulations regarding homeschooling, right? Wrong. Read on to learn more.

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    Once you've decided to give homeschooling a try, one of the first steps you need to take is familiarizing yourself with the applicable requirements. In many parts of the United States homeschoolers have to comply with requirements such as preparing written plans of instruction and submitting them to the school district, or participating in standardized testing. It's important for homeschool families to ensure they are familiar with the regulations in their area, and to fulfill any requirements in a timely fashion. Doing so will protect you from legal difficulties that could arise.

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    Federal Regulations and Requirements

    When you choose to homeschool your children, there are no homeschooling federal requirements that you need to fulfill. There are no federal laws or regulations that affect homeschools. This may come as a surprise in this era of increasing federal oversight in so many areas of our daily lives. In fact, homeschooling in the United States is actually protected from federal regulation by the US Constitution. Additionally many people believe that the power of parents to direct their children's education is protected as a fundamental right.

    According to the 10th Amendment of the Constitution the power to regulate all forms of education belongs to the states. As a recognized form of education, homeschooling is included in this protection. The Constitution states that the federal government is not allowed to interfere with or control public or private forms of education.

    In spite of this, it's well known that the federal government interferes in education on a frequent basis. This is done by exercising a federal power included in the Constitution to regulate commerce and to collect and distribute money among the states, often referred to as the "power of the purse." The federal government uses this as a loophole to control education by offering the states money if they enact specific laws. Typically these laws only affect educational institutions that accept federal funds. Since homeschoolers do not accept any federal money, none of these federal rules apply to them.

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    State Requirements

    Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, and each state has its own set of regulations pertaining to the practice. It's vital to make sure that you're familiar with the laws in your state, and comply with them. The requirements vary tremendously, from complete freedom to educate your child as you choose, to state control that requires complicated paperwork and yearly testing.

    States with the lowest levels of regulation, like Oklahoma, New Jersey and Texas, require no notice; parents simply decide to homeschool and then proceed. States with low regulation may only require that parents notify the appropriate authorities; some examples include Arizona, Kentucky, and Nebraska. A few examples of states with moderate levels of regulation include Tennessee, Virginia, and Colorado, and requirements include notification and turning in some form of evaluation such as test scores. States with the highest levels of regulation include New York, Pennsylvania and North Dakota; they require notification, test scores or professional evaluation, and other requirements such as curriculum approval, complex paperwork, or home visits.

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    References:

    National Home Education Legal Defense - http://nheld.com/

    Cornell University Law School - Legal Information Institute - http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/Education