The following article is an excerpt from the upcoming Schoolhouse Rocked Homeschool Quick-Start Guide, which was contributed by HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association. If you have questions about homeschool laws or getting started homeschooling, please visit www.hslda.org.
You have looked at various educational options and think that homeschooling may be the best fit for your child(ren). You probably have a million questions, but two of the primary ones may be what are my rights as a parent and what are my responsibilities? Rights and responsibilities go hand in hand; it’s hard to discuss one without covering the other.
First, you have the fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of your child. This right has been long established and recognized by the United States Supreme Court. What does that mean practically?
Well, you have the right to decide whether to homeschool your child. This is a decision that you as a parent make based on what is in your child’s best interests. Many parents have found homeschooling to be best for all their children. Others have found homeschooling the best fit for one child and another educational option better for a different child. You as the parent know best whether to homeschool your child, and it is your right to decide. A child’s teacher, a county official, your best friend—none of them can decide that for you or deny that to you.
As you may have already discovered, homeschooling is a diverse movement. There are many different methods of homeschooling, and it is your right to determine which method is best for your child. Some families find a fully structured, all-in-one curriculum to best suit their situation. Others have found their children thrive in a more hands-on, organic learning environment. Still others prefer a theme-based or classical great books study which combines several subject areas into an interwoven unit.
Closely related to your homeschool method is your right to choose the resources you will use. There is no pre-approved or state-mandated textbook list. You will find hoards of homeschool resources through homeschooling friends, groups, and online. Do some research, find what looks appealing to you, and give it a try—you can always adjust throughout the year.
A final note on your rights in homeschooling: you have the right to privacy in your own home. Occasionally a government official will attempt to intimidate a homeschooling parent by saying, “You have to let me in to inspect your schooling, records, etc.” Don’t be fooled: in this situation, it’s best to get direction from a legal professional. Membership in HSLDA is a comforting way to be sure you have that guidance if it is ever needed.
All of this sounds good, you say. But how do I know what I have to do? There are three straightforward responsibilities every homeschool parent has: know your state law, follow your state law, and provide of your child’s education.
Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states and is governed by state law. For this reason, the specific requirements you may have will vary depending on what state you are in. Some states require you to teach certain subjects, others require you to file paperwork, and some require certain evaluations. You can find your state’s homeschool law at https://hslda.org/content/laws/.
But it’s not enough to know your state law: you are responsible to follow it as well. Make a checklist for each year and set a reminder of any deadlines to help keep you on track. (Homeschooling parents are busy, and it’s easy for deadlines to slip past!) Keep good records showing you followed the law because that information will be important as your children graduate and enter college or the workforce.
Finally, and most importantly, you as a parent are responsible to provide for your child’s education. This is true for every parent! Again, states have differing ages set for when a child is subject to compulsory attendance (when he would have to start attending school), and many states include educational neglect in their child protection laws. A parent may provide for a child’s education by enrolling him in a school, thus delegating the actual educational instruction to someone else. Or, as you are considering, a parent may decide to provide for his child’s education by instructing him directly.
Choosing how to educate your child is a big decision. Homeschooling is a wonderful option many parents and children find rewarding. While it is a lot of work, the one-on-one individualized instruction is rarely equaled elsewhere, and the homeschool community is a supportive network.
If you have more questions about homeschool laws or getting started homeschooling, please visit www.hslda.org or give us a call!