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Can Homeschooled Families Access Public School Services?

written by: Deidra Alexander • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 8/2/2012

Though we tend to believe that they are, equal opportunity and equal access are rights not always guaranteed. When parents have decided to teach their own children, they may still want to know if homeschooled families can access public school services. Well, the answer all depends on the state.

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    Homeschoolers enjoy their freedom from what can feel like shackles upon the ankles of both parents and their children. Homeschoolers are recognized and are free to homeschool in each state of the union. Sometimes, however, with these freedoms come questions of what parents can get from public schools in the way of classes and sports. Students want to be included and parents want them to be included, to a limit. But many parents still wonder if homeschooled families can access public school services.

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    Does the Government Have a Say?

    When exploring what public school services they can access, some parents wonder whether the government can mandate it. The answer is no - the government cannot force a district to allow services for a homeschooler. Though parents have a constitutional right to homeschool in respect to a mandate that extends students rights to a free and equal access to an education, there are no federal regulations to direct states on how to run their districts.

    In fact, when parents sign paperwork to release their child from public school and enter them into a private school setting, all rules change for how the child is treated as a student in the state. The state is no longer responsible for the student’s progress or achievement. Yes, states do set regulations for how a child must be homeschooled (time spent, documentation kept, who can teach the student, etc.) but they do not get involved to a major degree with the daily happenings of the school. States take the role of general overseer of the child’s education but they do not stick their hands in other than to assure that the student is taught and to observe how well they are doing, though only a handful of states do even this much. Many choose not to get involved at all and yet do not require notice of intent to homeschool.

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    These States Include Homeschoolers

    In states where the student is granted access to public services and extracurricular activities, this is only so because of specific laws put in place to ensure this right. Students can partake in events, join clubs and teams, and take classes sponsored and given by the school on a part-time basis depending on the state within this small number of states that actually include homeschoolers.

    States that include homeschoolers:

    • Arizona
    • Colorado
    • Florida
    • Idaho
    • Iowa
    • Maine
    • North Dakota
    • Oregon
    • Utah
    • Washington
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    Nevertheless, Where’s the Catch?

    Few things in life are without strings attached in some form or fashion. Generally, homeschoolers need to prove themselves eligible to use public school services. Maintaining a certain performance level is, of course, a major requirement here. Standardized tests, reports and homeschool report cards are sent in to show that the student is achieving in order to demonstrate student functioning.

    Other requirements fit what the students in public schools must submit to play sports, take certain classes, or join clubs. This is great for homeschoolers who mirror everything that is being done and taught in public school but a problem arises for homeschoolers that use a different grading scale and induct their own courses. These differences can be hard to measure and assess, leaving homeschoolers on the outside of the activities that they want to join.

    In some cases, the problem may not be with the state-run schools at all and more to do with the agencies and associations that maintain the interscholastic campus activities. Schools are highly reluctant to appeal to these administrative groups on behalf of homeschooled students, so a resolve is in order where there is a no-win for the student who does not attend public school.

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    Calling a Truce

    When the cons of going to battle to get services severely outweigh the pros, homeschoolers must know when to cut their losses and move on. There are cases where homeschoolers have challenged the system and won, but the reality is there are too many times they have lost to count.

    That does not mean that a homeschooler should never fight what they feel they should have, but one must analyze what they actually stand to gain from the war that they set out to start. Due to the broken ties between the state and their children’s education, homeschoolers have the ability to create their own opportunities, which exceed far and beyond what many public schools have to offer.