Homeschool Legal Requirements | Emergency Homeschool Podcast
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EPISODE 3

How Can I Homeschool Legally in My State?

LISTEN ON: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Play | Stitcher


FEATURING:
Jeremy Newman, Director of Public Policy at Texas Homeschool Coalition
TJ Schmidt, Staff Attorney at the Home School Legal Defense Association
Do you know the homeschool requirements in your state? States have a wide range of potential requirements, from almost zero restrictions to requiring parents to have a teaching license. In this episode, we talk about how to navigate state-by-state homeschool requirements.
Where you live geographically in the United States really has a large determination on how you're going to be able to conduct your at-home learning.
- Jeremy Newman
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State Requirements to Homeschool Legally

We recommend that parents start by researching two areas: 1) The local homeschool support group in their state, and 2) their state requirements for homeschooling.

Where do you find this information? The HSLDA offers extremely helpful state-by-state legislative guidance. Additionally, Jeremy Newman suggests Home Educator, Texas Homeschool Coalition’s own resource, to get connected to your local state organization and learn about your local requirements.

Homeschooling families do have the autonomy to determine their school schedule, choice of curriculum, or whether they'll want to participate in extracurricular activities at the local school. But most of these decisions must still be made within their state’s legal requirements. Connecting with a local homeschool support organization can help you avoid the hassle of trying to research these requirements on your own.

Homeschool, Online or Hybrid

The requirements for each of these at-home learning models depends on your state. Homeschools and online schools might be classified in the same category — or separately. And some states might consider hybrid options in between.

For example, in Texas if your student is working from an online program with the parent providing academic direction, then you're in a homeschool situation. In other states, the legal classification for the same scenario would be different.

Regardless of whether the state requires it, I would recommend that parents find some type of academic metric, likely a national standardized test, that they can use to evaluate their students.
— Jeremy Newman

Homeschool Assessments and Standardized Test Requirements

Even if your state doesn’t require standardized testing, assessments are always a good idea. They can help demonstrate your student's academic progress to a third party, such as a college admissions committee or a government agency in a state with stricter requirements.

If your state requires standardized testing, you can find the list of the tests through your state homeschool organization. Many states will allow families to use national standardized tests, but some states also require state-specific tests.

What About Homeschool Curriculum Requirements?

Many parents ask if there are any rules covering the material you must, can, or cannot teach. No state requires a specific curriculum, but some states mandate that you include certain subjects as part of your lessons.

Are There Homeschool Time and Day Requirements to Consider?

A number of states set a number of required clock hours for parents to teach. In Washington, that's 1,000 hours. In Kentucky, it's 1,062 hours, and in New York, it's 900 hours.

Parents typically don't have to show documentation for each hour of learning — just the substantial equivalent of that volume of educational time.

It is very common for most homeschooling parents to find that their children are able to accomplish much more in a smaller point of time.
- TJ Schmidt

Transitioning from Homeschool Back to the Classroom

Let's say a parent tries homeschooling on a temporary basis, and then decides to transition their student back to the post-pandemic traditional classroom. Will that be difficult?

The answer: No, that shouldn't cause a problem. Several states have established comprehensive policies and procedures to allow public schools to accept homeschool credits. Other states offer broad guidance but permit local districts or agencies to develop their own policies. And still other states leave the decision entirely to local school officials.

So, is there a way to set yourself up well for a potential return and avoid friction from your local school district?

The best practice is to keep meticulous records. Not only is it generally a good idea, but it will also make the transition easier — especially if your child completes more than one grade level in a single year. But in most situations, your public school is likely going to welcome your child back with open arms.

Emergency Homeschool - Episode 3 Transcript

Narrator (00:00):
We've had so many parents reach out to us and say, "We're trying to be prepared for whatever happens this fall. Can you recommend curriculum for other subjects, like what you offer for Math and Language Arts with Beast Academy, AOPS Academy and AOPS online?" To help them out, we surveyed our Art of Problem Solving families to find out exactly what curriculum they use for their curious and motivated students. See their homeschool recommendations for yourself at aops.com/homeschool. That's aops.com/homeschool.

Eric Olsen (00:35):
Do you think that it should be legal to be able to homeschool?

Child (00:40):
I think it should be legal to be able to homeschool because with all that's going on, people should definitely be able to choose if they want to go school or not.

Eric Olsen (00:50):
So if we ended up homeschooling you, how would we know when you're done with the fourth grade and ready to move to the fifth grade?

Child (00:59):
I think that once you know all of the material that a fourth grader needs to know, then you can move on to fifth grade.

Eric Olsen (01:08):
I'm Eric Olsen with Art of Problem Solving. And this is the very first time we've ever considered homeschool options for our nine year old daughter. She loves her public school. She loves her teachers. She loves her friends, but we just don't know what traditional school is going to look like come fall, and want to be prepared either way. So in this series, I interviewed some of the best minds in the education and at-home learning spaces to figure out our options and learn how to craft an at-home learning plan, that's right for our family. This is Emergency Homeschool.

Jeremy Newman (01:40):
In some states, parents need a teaching license and in some states there are basically no requirements at all. So where you live geographically in the United States really has a large determination on how you're going to be able to conduct your at-home learning.

Eric Olsen (01:54):
This is Jeremy Newman, Director of Public Policy at Texas Homeschool Coalition. Depending on what state you live in, what are the different kinds of requirements parents really need to be aware of before they homeschool?

Jeremy Newman (02:08):
Yeah, so I think the very first thing I would say is that the first two things parents should do, if they're considering homeschooling, is that they should look up the local homeschool state support group in their state and then they need to look at their state requirements because they're different in different states. So we actually maintain a national website called homeeducator.com, where parents can go and they can get connected to the state organization that can direct them on what those local requirements are. And I would highly suggest parents start there, but to give a broad overview of it, there are a lot of things that parents will want to decide on related to this school schedule that they want to follow, or the curriculum they'll want to choose, or whether they'll want to participate in extracurricular activities at the local school or join other local homeschool groups.

Jeremy Newman (02:54):
But I would really say that most of those things need to be decided in light of what the actual requirements are in that parent's state. And so I would suggest that the very first thing that they do is they go and look up what the homeschool support organization in their state is and what the laws are in that state. And then they can hopefully avoid a bunch of unnecessary research by getting some direction from those state leaders on what is relevant to them.

Eric Olsen (03:17):
How different are the requirements for homeschoolers versus online schoolers or hybrid homeschoolers?

Jeremy Newman (03:25):
Yeah. So this is one thing that really, really depends a lot on the state that you're in because some States will classify homeschools versus online schools as the same, and some will classify them differently. So in Texas, the differentiation between what it means to be enrolled in a homeschool or what it means to be enrolled in a traditional private school, there's a very ambiguous line with a bunch of hybrid options in between, but there are so many variations that there are some circumstances where you could actually be classified as either one. And it's basically up to the parent to decide.

Jeremy Newman (04:00):
And so the stick with that Texas example, if you're doing a totally online program, but the academic direction is being given by the parent. The parent is the one who ultimately decides if the student is passing or failing. This parent is deciding what classes get taught. The parent is the one awarding credit. Then you're in a homeschool, whether or not you're reading a physical textbook or you're doing an online course. In some states, they will classify those two things completely separately and you'll have a separate legal option with separate requirements for, "I'm doing a homeschool." Versus, "I'm doing an online school."

Eric Olsen (04:34):
How about assessment requirements. What kinds of tests might I need to conduct regularly or annually in order to legally homeschool my students?

Jeremy Newman (04:44):
Yeah. So again, this will depend on your state, of course, but if your state requires standardized testing, you can find a list of the test or the type of test that you're going to have to conduct by talking to your state homeschool organization.

Jeremy Newman (04:57):
So a lot of States will allow families to use nationally “norm” tests like the Iowa test or the California achievement test, or the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills. And other states will require students to use specific tests that are more state specific. So families will want to contact their state homeschool organization to learn what those requirements are. But I would actually recommend that regardless of whether the state requires that the parents find some type of academic metric like that, likely a national standardized test that they can use to evaluate their students because even if you don't need it for your own educational plan, that usually comes in handy at some point, when you needed to demonstrate academic progress to some third party. So this might be something that comes up when you're trying to get into college, or if you're in a really high regulation state, it might be something that you're more likely to run into trouble with, with the average government agency.

Jeremy Newman (05:50):
So in Texas, we often have trouble with government agencies. If there's a reason for them to verify whether a student is in school or was in school, then there's potential for confusion. And if you're in a state that's more highly regulated, having some type of national standardized tests that you can use to demonstrate academic achievement, may be even more useful.

Eric Olsen (06:14):
But what about curriculum requirements? Are there rules to what you can, can't and must teach? This is TJ Schmidt, Staff attorney at the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

TJ Schmidt (06:27):
Universally there's no state that requires that you use a particular curriculum. There are some states that require you teach certain subjects, for instance, like math and science and social studies, English. But there are no states that actually require you to have a particular curriculum or use a state approved curriculum.

Eric Olsen (06:48):
This spring. A lot of us realized that we could get through the school day faster than the time our kids are present in the traditional classroom. Are there class time and day requirements to consider?

TJ Schmidt (07:01):
There are a number of states that do require that you teach, for instance, in Washington state, an annual average of a thousand hours. In Kentucky, 1,062 hours. In New York, 900 hours or 990 hours. In most of those states though, even though there may be some kind of required days or required hour requirements, those are either to be liberally construed, or it may also say, "The substantial equivalent of." So that's just an acknowledgement or recognition that, as you said, oftentimes when you're homeschooling, you're able to accomplish more, than perhaps your child might've accomplished in more of a traditional classroom or school setting.

TJ Schmidt (07:48):
Understand obviously that, public school and private school teachers do an amazing job, but they're also trying to perhaps provide instruction to 20 or 30 kids. Now that may change this fall, in particular because of the COVID-19 situation, but still they're often providing instructions to groups of children and in a homeschooling program, maybe just you and your child, or if you have two or three children, but you're still having a much smaller class size than you would typically have in a traditional school. So it is very common for most homeschooling parents to find that their children are able to accomplish much more in a smaller point of time.

Eric Olsen (08:37):
Let's say a parent tries homeschool on a temporary basis and then post pandemic, they decide to transition their student back to the traditional classroom. Will that be difficult legally? And is there a way to set yourself up well for a potential return where you won't run into much friction from your local school district?

TJ Schmidt (08:55):
There are several states that have very comprehensive and detailed policies and procedures to allow for the acceptance of homeschool credit. There are other states that require local educational agencies, usually your local school district or local educational agency to accept homeschool credit, but to develop their own policy, based on some broad guidance from the state. And then there are some states that just have really nothing to say on how to accept homeschoolers back in. And it's really up to the discretion entirely of your local school officials.

TJ Schmidt (09:33):
So depending on what state you live in and what policies for the acceptance of homeschool credit, the one thing that I would certainly recommend to parents would be as to keep good records, because obviously if you're keeping good records, you could document and demonstrate the coursework or subject that your children have completed. The second thing that I would do though, is relax because in most situations, if you homeschool for a year, the public school is going to welcome your child back into the public school. And given the current circumstances and situations, I think there's going to be a huge number of people who are going to be perhaps after this crisis has passed determining, "It's okay for our child to go back into public school."

TJ Schmidt (10:18):
And so I think that a number of public school officials will likely welcome you back with open arms, particularly if we're seeing significant changes this fall. Now, I think some of the challenges that some parents may see is that their children progress more than one grade level. That's a little bit more difficult. And again, I would encourage you to make sure that you keep good documentation, because if your child does complete more than one grade level, I think having good documentation and evidence that your child is ready for that grade is going to be vital and important to do. But for some parents, they may decide, "We're going to try homeschooling for one year." And they get through this year and they and their child evaluate this past year. And they say, "You know what? We enjoyed it. We had so much more flexibility, so many more options." And they're just going to continue to homeschool.

Eric Olsen (11:14):
TJ, thanks so much for your time today.

TJ Schmidt (11:16):
Well, it's my pleasure.

Eric Olsen (11:19):
In the next episode of Emergency Homeschool, we'll dig into at-home teaching, the role of the parent in the at-home classroom and the very common fear that you're not qualified or credentialed, and therefore can't provide a high quality teaching experience for your student. We hope you'll stay with us. As we interview the experts and navigate our at home learning options together.

Narrator (11:42):
You've been listening to Emergency Homeschool, an Art of Problem Solving podcast. Since 1993 Art of Problem Solving has prepared hundreds of thousands of motivated students for success in prestigious universities and STEM careers, through engaging curriculum, expert online instruction and local academies. To learn more, visit ArtofProblemSolving.com. That's ArtofProblemSolving.com.

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