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A Guide to Homeschooling
Homeschooling has become increasingly popular among families in the U.S. People of all backgrounds are choosing to educate their children independently and in growing numbers. According to the Office of Non-Public Education (ONPE), 3.4% of the school-age population in the U.S. was homeschooled in 2011, up from 2.9% in 2007.
The decision to homeschool a child is complex, and the reasons for home education are as varied as the people who choose it. Once considered the province of religious, rural, and white families, homeschooling is now more diverse. Although white students are more likely to be homeschooled than nonwhite students, 72% of homeschooled students live in urban areas, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). When asked in a national survey why they choose to homeschool their children, parents cited several different reasons that range well beyond the traditional perceptions of homeschooling families.
What States do we service?
Our online Institute accepts students nation and world wide. Some of the states that our students typically come from are:
Getting Started with Homeschooling
Homeschooling your children will affect almost every aspect of life in your household. Before you get started, explore the world of homeschooling. Look at your schooling options, and the cost, and consider how you and your family will respond to the freedom of setting your own schedules, spending more time together, and living your lives outside of the mainstream.
Are you ready to Homeschool?
Research will help you determine when and how to start your homeschooling journey. The first step is making sure you know and understand how homeschooling is regulated in your state. Tap into national and local resources like homeschooling organizations to find homeschooling curriculums and tips. Review homeschool teaching philosophies, study other homeschool programs, and consider your children’s learning styles. Look for an approach that will meet the needs of your family. Develop a comprehensive plan for how you will approach home education, and be prepared to change it frequently.
Parents who start homeschooling will soon discover that while it is a cheaper alternative to private school, it can be more expensive than public school. Teaching materials are likely to be one of the greatest expenses, so borrowing from friends and sharing resources with other homeschoolers can help you reduce these costs. Spending on sports, field trips, and other extracurricular activities adds up, as does the cost of school supplies. Parents with multiple children will find that once they have set up their in-house library and purchased a homeschool curriculum, the per-child cost of homeschooling will go down. Memberships in home school associations and the cost of homeschooling conferences are expensive as well, but can save you money in the long run.
Homeschooling laws and requirements
Homeschooling has been legal in all 50 states since 1998. However, the regulations affecting homeschooling and how families implement it vary considerably from state to state. In some places, parents don’t even need to notify the state of their plans to educate their children at home. In others, parents need to file annual curriculum plans and learning assessment materials. It’s very important to be thoroughly familiar with all aspects of state homeschooling regulations where you live.
While every state has immunization requirements, almost all allow parents who object to vaccinations for religious or philosophical reasons to opt out. California, Mississippi, and West Virginia stand alone in offering only medical exemptions. Yet while parents of public school students may claim an exemption and bypass the state’s vaccination requirements for their children, homeschooled students in most states are not subject to these vaccination requirements to begin with, and even when they are, they are rarely required to submit documentation showing proof of immunization or of religious or philosophical exemption.
In most states, immunization laws are written to apply to public, private, and sometimes parochial schools specifically. Because homeschools are not defined as “schools” in these states, they are often exempt. In some states, homeschools are defined as private schools and are thus subject to vaccine requirements, while in other states all children are required to be vaccinated regardless of whether they attend public, private, and homeschools. Yet even states that technically require homeschooled students to be vaccinated generally do not require homeschooling parents to submit any documentation of compliance. As a result, even states that do require homeschooled children to be vaccinated rarely enforce this requirement.
4 states require homeschool parents to submit proof of immunization (MN, ND, PA, TN)
11 states require homeschooled students to be immunized but do not require homeschool parents to submit proof of immunization (CO, IL, IN, KS, KY, MT, NM, NC, TX, VA, WY)
9 states have multiple homeschool options with conflicting requirements (AK, FL, IA, LA, ME, MD, MI, NE, WA)
26 states do not require homeschoolers to be immunized (AL, AZ, AR, CA, CT, DE, GA, HI, ID, MA, MI, MO, NV, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, OR, RI, SC, SD, UT, VT, WV, WI)
Some states give homeschooling parents options, such as allowing them to either homeschool through the school district or through an umbrella school. The vaccination requirements in these states often depend on which legal option parents choose for their homeschool.
Notification of Homeschooling (letter of intent)
The requirements for notification of homeschooling vary in different states, which underscores the importance of reviewing local and state regulations when you plan to homeschool. According to the Council for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), in 11 states, no notice is required. In 10 states, parents only need to let the authorities know they are homeschooling when they begin the practice. In the other 29 states, parents need to file a homeschooling notice with state officials every year.
The requirements for record keeping of homeschooling vary in different states. Be sure to keep track of your child’s daily attendance and any vaccinations and/or immunizations, as well as extracurricular activities like community service or physical activity.
The typical time required by states is 900 hours of instruction time. Each quarter a student is expected to receive no less that 225 hours of instructional time.
INDIVIDUALIZED HOME INSTRUCTION PLAN (IHIP)
Some states may require families to submit an IHIP. An IHIP will likely need to be submitted once a year, although the IHIP may require quarterly report cards to show a student’s progress throughout the year. Families can speak to their local school district superintendent for direction.
The IHIP is an Individualized Home Instruction Plan that may include:
A syllabus of each subject
Textbooks/ebooks to be used including the name, publisher, and copyright data
A course’s scope and sequence of instruction
Student progress percentage and score (this can be covered by a report card)
Annual assessment information
Some states that require families to submit an IHIP are:
Taking the GED or TASC test
Home-schooled students can take the GED or TASC exam, when they have reached compulsory age which is typically 17 years old (check your states eligibility requirements )
Parent Education Minimums
Parent Education Minimums – There is great latitude in state regulations regarding the parent education minimums required in order to homeschool. In 40 states, homeschool teachers don’t have to be a high school graduate, even if they plan to homeschool through the 12th grade.
The time it takes to “Unschool” depends on how long students spent in a traditional school, and how they left it. Students may miss the familiar markers and guidelines of a traditional school and have a hard time figuring out what to study and how to organize their time. During this transitional period, it can be helpful to delay implementing a formal homeschool curriculum. Take advantage of informal learning opportunities instead, such as museums, nature centers, historical sites, and libraries.