As any homeschooler will know, wrapping your head around the legalities of teaching your children from home can seem as difficult as actually doing the job itself.
From questions around notifying your local school district, to not knowing when — or even if — you need to send in an annual school report, the laws around homeschooling can be unclear and pretty confusing at best.
Not to mention the fact that they change from state to state!
To help you know where you stand, we’ve written this comprehensive guide on all the homeschool laws you need to know about, broken down by state.
We’ve covered everything, so sit back and prepare to become an expert in all things homeschool law!
Firstly, which state law should I follow?
Don’t worry, this isn’t a silly question! And, actually, the answer might be a little more confusing than you’d think.
Homeschooling is legal throughout the United States — but each state is free to create its own laws and states do differ from one another when it comes to legal requirements. Therefore, it’s important to know, and abide by, the laws of the state you’re teaching in.
It’s also important to note that teaching in and living in, although different, are held to the same legal measure when you’re homeschooling your kids — even if you’re not really at “home.”
So, if you’re teaching your children away from your home state for, say, a month or two (perhaps for military service or out-of-town work) you would be legally required to follow the homeschool laws of the state you’re temporarily staying in.
To put it simply: the state law you should follow is always the state that you’re physically teaching in, irrespective of whether that state is your permanent home.
Now, you might be wondering why any of this really matters.
You’d be surprised just how different state homeschool laws can be. So, let’s break it down and explore the core differences across the country.
Homeschool laws by state: the four “categories of notification” and what they mean
When it comes to homeschool laws by state, each state in the US is divided into one of four categories of notification — categories that refer to, and are measured by, the level of notification and regulation involved when you homeschool your kids.
For example, some states require parents to undergo professional evaluation via the confirmation of test scores, while other states don’t demand notification at all.
The four categories, and states within them, are as follows:
- States requiring no notice: Idaho, Alaska, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
- States with low regulation: Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, and Delaware.
- States with moderate regulation: Washington, Oregon, Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Maine, and Hawaii.
- States with high regulation: New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
But what do these categories actually mean?
Well, it’s not quite as simple as some states require notification of your homeschooling intent while others don’t.
These four categories, beyond the matter of notification, also relate directly to the overall level of homeschool regulation exercised in each state.
So let’s unpack these categories a little more.
States requiring no notice:
As you might expect, “no notice” states do not legally require you to provide any notification that you’re homeschooling your child. That said, it’s still recommended to let your local school district know that your child won’t be enrolling and why.
Beyond the matter of notification, states in this category present the lowest level of homeschool regulation. And while that doesn’t mean you’re free to educate your children however you wish, it does mean that your legal obligations are lower than they would be in other states.
In New Jersey, for example, state law simply requires that you “give your child an education that is academically equivalent to what he or she would receive at school.”
Of course, “equivalent” doesn’t mean “identical,” and that’s where lower regulation allows you to tailor your child’s education directly to their needs. As long as you cover the major subjects, most “no notice” states are happy to let you customize your curriculum, no questions asked.
That said, it’s still important that you abide by other laws, such as the compulsory school age. This differs from state to state, but you should expect to homeschool your child between the ages of 6-18. Only in Texas is the age increased to 19.
States with low regulation:
States with low regulation require a degree of notification.
In California, for example, you’re legally required to file an annual affidavit that confirms to the local school district that you are homeschooling your child. And in Arizona, parents must also provide the state with a copy of their child’s birth certificate along with formal notification of their child’s homeschool status.
Beyond the need to notify, some states with “low regulation” also demand an increased focus on filing and record-keeping. For example, in Georgia, you’re required to write annual progress reports and securely file them for up to three years.
Other states also require homeschool parents to keep a register of their child’s educational attendance, which may be requested in certain circumstances.
Across all “low regulation” states, homeschooling parents must teach children for a specific number of days (at least 170-180) and, as is the case throughout the country, must do so up to the state’s compulsory school age.
The main difference between “no notice” states and “low regulation” states is the addition of a legal requirement to provide formal notification that your child is being homeschooled. This is required either annually or intermittently, depending on the state.
States with moderate regulation:
As well as having to provide formal notification of your decision to homeschool your child, some states with moderate regulation will want to see that you (or whoever is delivering the curriculum) is educated to a certain standard.
In Tennessee and Ohio, for example, the homeschooler must have at least a high school diploma or GED. In Ohio, lacking these would require that your teaching be overseen by someone who has a bachelor’s degree.
In terms of testing, most “moderate” states legally require you to test your child at least once a year. Results must be filed as part of a permanent school record. Some states, like South Dakota, even require that you send your child’s test results to the local school district.
Overall, states in the “moderate regulation” category see an increased regulation around the administration of homeschooling. It’s important to keep track of this, and to check your state’s specific requirements, as there is not one overall law to define this category.
States with high regulation:
There are only five states in the USA that are highly regulated.
Testing, qualifications, recordkeeping, and formal notifications are required in each of these states. And the subjects you teach, as well as for how many years, are formally regulated with annual updates and reports.
In Rhode Island, parents even need to seek approval for homeschooling. To be approved, you must provide written assurance that you will teach the same number of days as a public school, teach a list of required subjects and maintain an attendance register.
Although these states are more highly regulated, the laws are not intended to impede or question your ability to homeschool. Instead, they provide a clear framework to help you deliver an education that will keep your children on the same track as their peers.
So, don’t be put off by high regulation — see it as an opportunity to be the best homeschooler you can be!
Aside from the four categories of notification, what else do you need to know about homeschool laws by state?
On top of notification and the regulations we’ve discussed, there are other legislated items. These include:
- Parent education minimums
- Criminal bans
- State-mandated subjects
- Assessment requirements
- Vaccination requirements
We’ve touched on some of these already, but we thought it would be helpful to give you a comprehensive breakdown of all these laws by state. So, below, we’ll explain these different categories and highlight how different states have varying requirements for each.
Parent education minimums:
Some states require parents to have a particular standard of education before they are legally allowed to homeschool their children. This applies to only 12 states, and the requirements vary.
Let’s dig deeper…
States that require parents to have a high-school diploma to homeschool children:
- South Dakota
- North Dakota (allows for monitoring if the parent does not have a high-school diploma)
- Ohio (allows for monitoring if the parent does not have a high-school diploma)
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- Virginia (requirement can be waived if the parent can “prove” they can teach)
- District of Columbia (again, the requirement can be waived if the parent proves ability)
States that require parents to be “fit to teach” but not according to any law or specific qualification:
- California (officials are not allowed to exercise discretion)
- Kansas (officials are not allowed to exercise discretion)
- West Virginia (approval granted at the discretion of superintendent)
States with other, more varied requirements:
- Washington: Parents must meet one of four requirements
- be supervised by a qualified person
- have achieved a minimum number of college credits
- have taken a course in home-based instruction
- have been deemed qualified by the local school board.
Of all fifty states in America, only two prohibit homeschooling on the basis of criminal convictions. The two that do, are:
- Arkansas: If a sex offender lives in the home, homeschooling may be prohibited.
- Pennsylvania: Parents are prevented from homeschooling for five years after a “range of criminal convictions”.
Thirty-three states require parents to teach core subjects like math, English, and science. The majority of states, however, have no means of checking whether children are actually being taught these subjects.
The states that do not require the teaching of any specific subject (including English and math) are Oregon, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, Indiana, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, and New Jersey.
Remember, irrespective of any legislation, it’s always best to teach your children these core subjects. And if you’re struggling to do that, check out our worksheets covering math, English, and science.
The majority of homeschool students are exempt from the legal requirement of being assessed. The states that do require homeschool examinations are as follows.
Washington, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Louisiana, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Vermont, and Maine.
Oregon, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Georgia, Tennessee, and Maryland.
Massachusetts varies by town, and homeschoolers in the District of Columbia can only be assessed upon request.
The majority of states do not require homeschoolers to be vaccinated. And of those that do, only some require proof of immunization.
Those that require proof are North Dakota, Minnesota, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania.
All other states either have no vaccination laws (the majority) or do not require any proof.
Ready to start homeschooling?
This whirlwind tour of states and laws might seem a little overwhelming, but once you narrow the field to the laws that are relevant to you, understanding homeschool laws by state does get a bit simpler.
We hope this guide has helped to make things clearer, and that you’re now feeling organized enough to start homeschooling your children.
And when you do decide to make that leap, KidsKonnect is ready to help you on your journey. From our ready-to-use worksheets to top tips and advice, we can help you become the best possible teacher for your children.
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