What Is Homeschooling?
Each fall when school begins, a growing number of school-aged children do not head off to a classroom. Instead, they learn at home with their families or with other children in their communities. Homeschooling takes many forms, from a daily routine following a scheduled curriculum to child-led learning in which parents supervise and help. Choosing to homeschool or to traditionally educate a child is often a difficult and confusing decision for parents and guardians. To help them make the best choice possible, this brochure answers basic questions about homeschooling and suggests other useful sources of information.
Do Families Have a Right to School Their Children at Home?
All states allow homeschooling. Typically, a state's statutes, through a court ruling, an attorney general opinion, or a regulation that interprets a school attendance law to include homeschooling, consider homeschooling a legitimate option for meeting compulsory education requirements. Because each state regulates homeschooling differently, parents should examine local laws and consult with other homeschoolers before proceeding.
In every state, parents must, at a minimum, notify a state or local education agency of their intent to educate their children at home and identify the children involved. Several states require the submission of proposed curricula and tests or have educational requirements for parents. A few even test parents. Only Michigan requires certified teachers to be involved in homeschooling programs, but the state allows parents to choose a program's teacher and does not specify a minimum level of teacher supervision. (Michigan courts have excused parents from the certification requirement if they have religious objections.)
The U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled explicitly on homeschooling, but it did rule against compulsory school requirements in Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972). The Supreme Court has also upheld the right, subject to reasonable state requirements, of parents to direct the education of their children.
What Does the Federal Government Do for Homeschoolers?
Government regulation and support of home schooling is carried out primarily at the state level. However, the federal government also plays an important role by disseminating research-based information on homeschooling to policy makers and others and by supporting research on a broad range of issues affecting teaching and learning.
Most federal support for education is dedicated to programs for children who have special needs, such as low-achieving children, children with limited English proficiency, and children with disabilities. Generally, local districts have the option of offering services under these programs to homeschoolers who meet the districts' criteria for eligibility.