One frequent concern amongst parents contemplating homeschooling their children is the legality of homeschooling in the United States. They are frightened that home schooling is either prohibited, or that they have to jump through countless hoops to avoid the authorities clamping down on them. That concern is to a small degree justified, depending on where the family lives, although it is typically greater than it need be.
Whilst there is no reference made concerning education in the US Constitution, and the Department of Education plays a large part, lawfully the rules are made by individual states and as such, they can and do vary.
Homeschooling is legal in all fifty states, although many have less hurdles than others. Texas home schooling laws, for example, place few limitations on parents who opt to homeschool their children whereas others, such as Massachusetts and New York State are more heavy handed. They call for the student’s syllabus to be endorsed by the state, that parents present student achievement examination grades, and may possibly even carry out home visits. Pennsylvania on the other hand requires that teaching materials employed for homeschooling be presented to the local school district for inspection.
Legal campaigns are ongoing to monitor and vote down bills that might increase the power of the state to go into the home or require public school attendance. In 2006, numerous attempts were voted down. Then again, the overwhelming majority of parents have no need to be concerned about their rights being taken away since the tendency of courtroom decisions has been strongly in their favor for many years.
As far back as 1925 the United States Supreme Court ruled in Pierce v. Society of Sisters that the care and education of the child was the right and responsibility of parents, not the state. As recently as 2000, Troxel v. Granville got to the Supreme Court of the United States. Albeit an issue of visitation and not education, the principles behind the judgment have been successfully used by homeschool proponents. The Court reaffirmed the rights of parents as foremost.
An organisation was set up in 1983 to campaign for the rights of parents who seek to homeschool. The HSLDA – Home School Legal Defense Association – http://www.hslda.org tracks legal matters involving homeschooling and has defended numerous legal cases on behalf of parents. They issue an annual roundup of statutes and keep abreast of any changes proposed by the individual states and the United States Congress.
Whilst some states and the Federal authorities attempt to chip away the right of parents to homeschool, virtually all court cases have been settled in favor of parents.
Albeit uncommon, there have been cases of eager social workers who see it as their obligation to protect youngsters from parents. Unfortunately, they may do so even when there has been no indication of parental abuse. That possibility as well as social and legal issues on occasion makes its way into the homeschool domain. HSLDA and others offer resources to parents to make sure that they never need to cope with that in the first place.
Parents considering homeschooling would do well, though, to examine the paperwork, supervision or other legal prerequisites of their individual states. The first education required in homeschooling is that of the parents.