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Homeschooling and the Law

Aug 27, 2007
First, let's get one thing straight. Homeschooling is completely legal.

Many parents have concerns regarding homeschooling their children and any legal restriction that may arise. They fear that homeschooling is either illegal or that the homeschooling parent must jump through a series of complicated hoops in order to meet governmental requirements. To some this degree, these fears may be founded, but for the most part, the legal side of homeschooling is simple, at least more simple than the homeschooling itself.

The Constitution does not mention education and on a federal level there is no interference. Education and the laws that govern it falls to the power of the states. Individual states' rights dictate how education is handled, how large a part the Department of Education plays in the process and other legal details. With this being said, homeschooling laws can and do vary from state to state.

Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but some states make it easier to homeschool your children than others. For example, Idaho and Texas place very few restrictions on parents who elect to homeschool their children. Other states such as Massachusetts and New York are more heavily regulated. These states require that the curriculum used in the homeschooling setting must be approved by the state. The parent must submit achievement test scores and social workers may even perform home visits. Pennsylvania requires that all teaching materials used for homeschooling be submitted to the local school district for review.

Lobbyists and advocates continue in their legal efforts to quash attempts to pass bills that would increase the power of the state to enter the home, interfere too extensively with homeschooling or compel public school attendance. In 2006, many of these efforts were defeated, but most parents need never to worry about their right to educate their children in the way they see fit to ever be taken away. Court decisions regarding education and these types of issues have enjoyed an upward trend that is strongly in favor of them for many years.

Even as early as 1925, the Supreme Court ruled in Pierce v. Society of Sisters that the care and education of the child was not only the right, but the duty, of the parents, not the state. In 2000, Troxel v. Granville made it to the Supreme Court and garnered a landmark decision. Though it was an issue regarding visitation, not education, the principle force driving the decision has been successfully used by homeschool advocates. The Court reaffirmed the rights of parents as fundamental.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) was established in 1983 to provide legal resources for homeschooling parents and to fight for the rights of parents who seek to homeschool. The HSLDA tracks legal issues related to homeschooling and has fought many legal battles on the behalf of parents who homeschool. They publish an annual roundup of legislative acts and track any changes that are made by Congress as well as the individual states.

Although the states try to chip away at the rights of parents to homeschool and the federal government even gets in on the game from time to time, the majority of cases that have been brought to court have been settled in favor of parents.

While albeit rare, there have been cases of over zealous social workers who feel it is their duty to "protect" children from parents. Unfortunately, they may do so, even when there is no evidence of parental abuse or neglect. That possibility and social as well as legal issues sometimes make their way into the homeschool arena. HSLDA and others provide resources to parents to ensure that they do not have to deal with such issues.

Parents considering homeschooling their children would be best served to first research the paperwork, supervision and other legal requirements of their individual states. When homeschooling their children, the first schooling needs to start with the parents.
About the Author
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