Homeschooling – What’s Really Required?

      Do you know what is required in your state for you to legally homeschool your children?  Have you checked the law for yourself, or are you basing your answer on what your support group leader told you?  Or your best friend’s sister?  Or, perish the thought, the principal of the public school you pulled your children out of last year?
     I had quite an eye-opening experience in seeing, first hand, how mis-informed the homeschoolers were in my area two years ago.  While sitting in a workshop with the keynote speaker at the local homeschool conference, he asked from the podium how many days of school were required in our state.  Poor guy!  He had no idea the can of worms he had just opened.  Several answers were shouted out from the audience – 160 days.  No, 165 days!!!  Nope, 150 days. 180 days.  Guess what?  None of those answers were correct, because our state does NOT mandate a specific number of days a private homeschool must operate.
It’s important that you understand the legal requirements for your state.  A good place to find the honest to goodness requirements for your state is at the HSLDA web site   Once you are at the HSLDA site, you can find your way to your state’s requirements by using the “quick menu” on the left side bar.  Read them!!  Make a copy for your homeschool folder.
If you’re not familiar with HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association), spend a little bit of time there getting to know them.  These folks have made it possible for all parents in the United States to legally homeschool their children, and they work hard to preserve our rights to do so.  Copper and I consider our yearly membership dues a non-negotiable.
Once you know the requirements for your state, be sure that you meet them.  If medical records must be on file, be sure that they are.  If daily attendance must be recorded in a journal, be sure that you do this.  If end-of-the-year tests are necessary, find a test facilitator early and make your appointments before all the best times are booked.
My real purpose here, though, is more than just making sure you understand and comply with the homeschool laws in your state. My secondary, and more heart-felt, purpose is to encourage you to not try to maintain standards that are NOT necessary.
So many homeschool moms are trying to do every single thing that the public schools do.  Nothing wrong with that, I guess, unless it is causing you to lose your joy for homeschooling your children and is stressing you out!!   (If you have lost your joy and/or are stressed, you might want to read this post on being stressed and this post on discipleship.) The reason so many families are chasing after so many things at once is because they think it is required of them, when it is not.
For example, is it really the state law that you teach your children your state’s history in the fourth grade? Our state’s history is taught in the 4th grade in the public schools, but it is NOT required that homeschools do the same thing.  I can teach it in the fourth grade, or wait until I have both of my boys of an age that they could benefit from a mutual study of our state (which is the option I chose.).  And, frankly, the state law really only requires that I “offer” the same history course that the public schools do, but I do not have to force my students to take that course.
I am a bit worried that this post, and some of my past “Thinking Homeschool” posts, might lead you to believe that I am an Unschooler.  I most definitely am not!!  Academics are a happenin’ thing here!  However, God led my husband and I to educate our children at home, and that is what we have been doing now for 17 years – Educating our own children at home, using our own God-given strengths (and weaknesses), and looking to His Word as our standard for doing so and not the public schools’ standards.
By all means, know your state’s legal requirements and meet them.  But even more, understand what God requires of you as parents, by reading His Word, and meet those requirements without fail.  The implications for you and your children are eternal.
God bless you as you look well to the ways of your households and homeschools!

(this post was edited a few hours after posting to include better HSLDA navigation information AND then to fix the link!!  I’m so sorry )

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4 comments to Homeschooling – What’s Really Required?

  • It’s good to “see” you. Thanks for the comments on my blog.

    My daughter and I have been talking about the difference in state requirements. I don’t think many people realize these differences can have an affect on the chosen curriculum.

    I live in a state that has very few requirements. Actually, I can’t think of any except for graduation requirements. I obtained a “book” from our local homeschool association for only $10.00 that is full of information. So…I have been very free in choosing curriculum to use with my son. I would call our way of homeschooling “Charlotte Mason meets casual Classic”.

    My daughter lives in New England where they have some of the strictest requirements. She had planned to do a Charlotte Mason approach, too. However, her homeschooling friends have warned her the reason most people there go for more “official” curriculum is because of those requirement. They have to report to the State and do a lot of testing. Neither of us had thought of that.

    She needs to move back to the Midwest but that’s another story. 🙂

  • We have just moved to AL where the state requirements say something about being covered by a church or private school (or something like that). My dd is to young this year(according to state law) for public school, so I am not “officially” schooling her. I am, however, teaching her the basics at home.

    I find it interesting how different each state is when it comes to what they will let parents teach their own kids, and how they can approach their children’s education.

  • We are signing up for a HSLDA membership this month. Even though we live in the “easiest to homeschool” state, I think it is important to have.

    We use the Sonlight curriculum and sometimes I get stressed about having not completed every single thing in the teachers guide. (which they tell you not to do! LOL). Thank you for the encouragement to calm down and relax!!


  • I would say, too, that if you are just beginning, seek to please the Lord, and beware of legalism in homeschooling circles.  Find your identity in Him and in the Word, and avoid conforming to human expectations.  We homeschoolers can be snobs sometimes!