An increasing number of parents are, for a wide variety of reasons, thinking about home-schooling their children. The reasons for this include concerns about the quality of education in public schools, inability to afford private school, a desire to teach a curriculum grounded in the family’s religious or philosophical beliefs, and many others.
In all 50 states in the U.S., home schooling is legal. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children. This decision gives the governments of individual states a good deal of authority to regulate the practice of home schooling, including the subjects that are taught in such schools, as they see fit.
And as you might imagine, the nature and scope of these regulations vary widely from state to state.
Wherever you live in the United States, it’s important that you do your research on the laws that apply to home schooling, since the intent of this article is not to provide a comprehensive survey of the laws related to home schooling in all 50 states. However, it will provide some information about the legal issues that come up most frequently when a parent decides to home school their child.
State Regulation of Home School Curriculums
Although all states in the U.S. allow parents to home school their children, they also have a strong interest in ensuring that all children receive a minimum standard of education, whether it’s in public school, a private school, or home school.
For that reason, most states require that certain subjects be taught in all schools, including home schools. They typically include mathematics, reading, writing, science, and history. The requirements differ somewhat from state to state, however. Many education companies, as well as non-profit organizations, produce curriculums in these subjects, designed for parents who are home schooling their children. This allows parents to teach these courses even if they are not experts in all of those subjects, especially when teaching them at lower levels.
Some states require parents who are home schooling their children above a certain class level to have a state teacher’s certificate, or to be licensed tutors.
However, many states do not have this requirement.
This means that either educational or social services authorities may have access to your home, in order to ensure that the home and educational environment are conducive to the child/student receiving a quality education.
Teaching Religious Subjects at Home Schools
One of the most often-cited reasons for choosing to home school is a desire of parents to teach students in accordance with their religious or philosophical views.
In general, the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion gives parents wide-ranging discretion to teach religious subjects in a home school environment. It would be very difficult for a state government to justify allowing home schooling while prohibiting religious instruction in home schools. Any attempt to do so would likely be held unconstitutional by either a state or federal court.
However, as mentioned earlier, state governments can, and do, mandate that certain subjects be taught in the home school setting. Setting up a home school for religious purposes does not create an exception to this rule. While parents may teach whatever religious subjects they like in addition to the required subjects, they cannot replace the required subjects with religious teachings.
There are many other rules that may apply to home schooling in your state. It’s important for you to research the relevant laws governing home schooling in your state.
However, there are a few more rules present in most states that can be discussed here. For example, in most states, all courses in home school must be taught in English – with the obvious exception of a foreign language class.
Also, most states require home schools to be in session more or less at the same time as other schools. So, classes have to be taught during the day, 5 days a week. Furthermore, classes must run for a standard school year – usually a minimum of 170-180 days. Again, the specifics vary from state to state.
Finally, it’s important to understand the need to cooperate with state and local authorities that are responsible for regulating home schooling in their jurisdictions. While some of the things home schooling parents may have to submit to, such as making regular reports to the school district, and teaching subjects required by the state, may seem intrusive, these rules exist for a reason.
Like it or not, we live in an interconnected society, where nothing occurs in a vacuum. So whether they’re educated at home or in public schools, your children will eventually grow up to be adults, and, by extension, members of society. The state therefore has an interest in ensuring that as many people as possible enter society (and, almost as importantly, the workforce) with a decent education.
As you can see, the rules affecting home schooling are numerous, and can sometimes get pretty complicated. This article is not a comprehensive guide to the legal issues that you can face as a result of home schooling your children, and if you require detailed information on the subject, you should contact your state’s education authorities, and/or an attorney, either of whom will be able to advise you further.