Since 1993, home schooling has been legal in all 50 states in the U.S., but the guidelines are not at all predictable — or uniform — from state to state. Among parents who home-school, some states have been labeled as more home-school-friendly than others, which simply means that their record-keeping, testing and reporting standards are more lax. But is that necessarily a good thing?
Of course parents should have the right to
choose the educational option that best suits their needs — however, not every home schooling situation is equal. Some parents are better suited for the job than others, and some just need some direction to get started and ensure their kids are getting a proper education. How much regulation is too much regulation is a personal preference, but one thing is for sure, states across the country have very different regulations.
Home schooling regulations by state
HSLDA has created a map showing which states require the most regulation.
States requiring no notice to the school district include Alaska, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Texas.
States with low regulation include California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Delaware.
States with moderate regulation (parental notification, plus test scores and/or professional student progress evaluations must be sent to the district) include Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Maine, Maryland and Washington D.C.
States with high regulation (all the above regulations, plus other requirements — e.g., curriculum approval by the state, teacher qualification of parents or home visits by state officials) include Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
While state-by-state laws are always subject to change, you can see a
full chart breakdown
of the 2015 state home schooling law comparisons provided by ProPublica. In the chart, ProPublica breaks state regulations down further based on parent education minimums, criminal bans, state-mandated subjects and assessment and vaccine requirements. For example, a "stricter" state like New York has an annual assessment and state-mandated subjects, compared to a more lenient state like Alabama with no state-mandated subjects or annual assessments.
What parents say
Sandra Hook, a mother home schooling her 10-year-old finds New York to be much stricter than the other states she's researched. "NYS has a list of subjects that need to be taught yearly, as well as what testing needs to be done and when," Hook explains. "I have to report progress quarterly to the school district we live in. I also have to send in a letter of intent yearly telling the district my intent is to home-school my child, and I have to submit an Individual Education Plan (IEP) every August detailing what we plan to learn and what books/programs we will be using to learn that information."
To prep herself for the home schooling challenge that was to come, Hook says she did a lot of reading and gathered plenty of advice from fellow home schooling moms in local Facebook groups. Hook says now, with more years of experience under her belt, that she's found less to be more when relaying home schooling information to the school district. Her best advice for other moms in her shoes who are dealing with more stringent regulations is to keep it short and sweet. "If they need more, they will ask!"
So what happens if you're in a state without all that red tape?
Debbie Wolfe of
The Prudent Garden is a home schooling mom of two elementary school-age boys in Georgia, a state she finds to be more lenient. When just starting out, Wolfe recommends that all home schooling parents take the time to read their local regulations and ask any questions about information they don’t understand.
She says, “In my first year of home schooling, I found that the department of education in my state was actually helpful in pointing me in the right direction. I think that most home-schoolers feel like the government frowns upon them and are intimidated to deal with them.” But as Wolfe found out firsthand, a kind word goes a long way when asking for clarification about regulations. “If you are polite and cordial, you will find that you can get answers and help without any additional headaches,” Wolfe says.
Before you go, check out
our slideshow below. Image: Hero Images/Getty Images
Originally published Sept. 2013. Updated Aug. 2016.