Since 1993, homeschooling has been legal in all 50 states in the U.S., and according to a report released in April 2017 from the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2011 – 2012 school year (the most recent data available), over 3 percent of the school-age population was homeschooled — an increase from 2.2 percent in 2003. While it’s clear homeschooling is slightly on the rise, the guidelines are not at all predictable, nor are they uniform from state to state. This leads many prospective homeschooling parents to ask: Which states are the best for homeschooling? Well, it depends on what you mean by “best.”
For example, among parents who homeschool, some states have been labeled as more homeschool-friendly than others. However, this simply means that those states’ record-keeping, testing and reporting standards are more lax, which is not necessarily a good thing to say the least.
Of course parents should have the right to choose the educational option that best suits their needs — however, not every homeschooling situation is equal. Some parents are better suited for the job than others, and some just need direction to get started — and to ensure their kids’ proper education. Opinions on how much regulation is too much regulation vary, but one thing is for sure: States across the country have very different regulations.
Homeschooling regulations by state
HSLDA, a homeschooling advocacy organization, has created a map showing which states require the most regulation.
- States requiring no notice to the school district about homeschooling 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, Arkansas, 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, 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 breakdown of the 2015 state homeschooling law comparisons provided in a chart 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, New York is a “stricter” state and has an annual assessment as well as state-mandated subjects compared to a more lenient state such as Alabama, which has no state-mandated subjects or annual assessments.
What parents say
Sandra Hook, a mother who’s homeschooling her 10-year-old, finds her home state of 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 homeschool my child, and I have to submit an individual education plan 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 homeschooling challenge that was to come, Hook says she did a lot of reading and gathered plenty of advice from fellow homeschooling moms in local Facebook groups. Hook says now, with more years of experience under her belt, she’s found less to be more when relaying homeschooling 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!”
But, again, is a less-is-more-information approach really the best policy? And what happens if you’re in a state without all that red tape to begin with?
Debbie Wolfe of The Prudent Garden is a homeschooling mom of two elementary school-age boys in Georgia, a state she finds to be more lenient. Wolfe urges all homeschooling parents to take the time to read their local regulations and ask questions about any information they don’t understand.
She says, “In my first year of homeschooling, I found that the department of education in my state was actually helpful in pointing me in the right direction. I think that most homeschoolers feel like the government frowns upon them and are intimidated to deal with them.” But as Wolfe found out, 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.