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Homeschooling in the United States

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Title: Homeschooling in the United States  
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Subject: Homeschooling, Homeschooling in the United States, Secondary education in the United States, Primary education in the United States, Homeschooling in New Zealand
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Homeschooling in the United States

In Wisconsin v. Yoder, 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of an Amish family's right for home education

Homeschooling in the United States constitutes the education for about 3.4% of U.S. students (around 2 million students)[1] and is a subject of legal debate, not about the right to home school but about the amount of state regulation and help that can or should be expected.

United States Supreme Court precedent appears to favor educational choice, as long as states set standards.[2]


Originally homeschooling in the United States was practiced mainly underground or in rural areas. In the 1970s, several books called attention to homeschooling, and more families began to homeschool their children. As of 2006, about 1.1 million students were homeschooled.[3]

The United States Department of Education estimates that 1.5 million k-12 students were homeschooled in the United States in 2007 (with a confidence interval of 1.3 million to 1.7 million), constituting nearly 3% of students.[4] In these estimations, students were defined as being homeschooled if their parents reported them as being schooled at home instead of at a public or private school for at least part of their education, and if their part-time enrollment in public or private school did not exceed 25 hours a week, and excluding students who were schooled at home primarily because of a temporary illness.[4] About four out of five homeschoolers were homeschooled only, while about one out of five homeschoolers was also enrolled in public or private school for 25 hours or less per week.[4]

By 2006 increasing numbers of homeschoolers partook in private school and home and public school and home partnerships. Home school families opt for them to help teach subjects, such as foreign languages and sciences, that are more difficult to teach. In addition many families do partnerships to help their children compete in academics and athletics with non-homeschooled children. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, around 2006, 18% of homeschooled students attend a public or private school on a part-time basis. Some students take one or two classes at traditional school campuses. Some spend several days per week on campuses that are designed to educate part-time students.[3]


Motivations for homeschooling
in the US in 2007[4]
Motivation Percentage
of parents
A concern about the school environment 85%
A desire to provide religious or moral instruction 72%
A dissatisfaction with academic
instruction at other schools
Child has special needs 21%
Child has a physical or mental health problem ~ 16%
Other reasons 20%
The motivation regarded most important for homeschooling among homeschooling parents.[4]

A survey in 2007 came to the result that the main three motivations selected by parents in the United States who were homeschooling their children were:[4]

  • Concern about the school environment. This includes reasons such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure.
  • To provide religious or moral instruction
  • Dissatisfaction with the academic instruction available at other schools

Less common motivations were if the child has a physical or mental health problem, or special needs of the child other than a physical or mental health problem but that the parent feel the school cannot or will not meet. Other, less common, reasons parents gave for homeschooling include family time, finances, travel, and distance.


History of legal controversy

The legality of homeschooling in the United States has been debated by educators, lawmakers, and parents since the beginnings of compulsory education in Massachusetts in 1852.

For decades the source of debate was focused whether it was legal for parents to withhold their children from school and educate them in a home setting, pitting homeschooling advocates against those in favor of organized public schools.

Since the late 1980s, the focus on the legality of homeschooling in general is no longer in serious debate but legal questions have shifted to whether homeschooling communities can access state school funds, facilities, and resources. There are also legal questions over the degree of control that a state can exercise on homeschooling families regarding areas like curricula and standardized testing.

In 2008 a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that children must be taught by a credentialed tutor or person with a teaching credential. The court stated that "It is clear that the education of the children at their home, whatever the quality of that education, does not qualify for the private full-time day school or credentialed tutor exemptions from compulsory education in a public full-time day school."[5] The court rejected the parent's reliance on Yoder's holding regarding religious choice.[5] However, in March 2008, the court agreed to rehear the case and vacated its prior decision. In August 2008, the court issued a new decision unanimously reversing its earlier decision and the Court further stated that homeschooling was legal in California.[6]

U.S. Supreme Court precedent

In the U.S., homeschooling is lawful in all 50 states. The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on homeschooling specifically, but in Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972)[1] it supported the rights of Amish parents to keep their children out of public schools for religious reasons. The Court has ruled however, that parents have a fundamental right to "establish a home and bring up children" along with the right to "worship God according to the dictates of [their] own conscience."[7] This combination of rights is the basis for calling homeschooling a fundamental right under the Supreme Court's concept of liberty protected by the Due Process clause. Laws that restrict fundamental rights are subject to strict scrutiny, the highest standard, if the law is challenged in the courts.

The final two sentences from the Supreme Court's opinion in [8] and the Court holds that a State may set educational standards but may not limit how parents choose to meet those educational standards.

In Runyon v. McCrary the Court analyzed its prior rulings on educational choice:

In Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 , the Court held that the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment includes the right "to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children," id., at 399, and, concomitantly, the right to send one's children to a private school that offers specialized training - in that case, instruction in the German language. In Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 , the Court applied "the doctrine of Meyer v. Nebraska," id., at 534, to hold unconstitutional an Oregon law requiring the parent, guardian, or other person having custody of a child between 8 and 16 years of age [427 U.S. 160, 177] to send that child to public school on pain of criminal liability. The Court thought it "entirely plain that the [statute] unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control." Id., at 534-535. In Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 , the Court stressed the limited scope of Pierce, pointing out that it lent "no support to the contention that parents may replace state educational requirements with their own idiosyncratic views of what knowledge a child needs to be a productive and happy member of society" but rather "held simply that while a State may posit [educational] standards, it may not pre-empt the educational process by requiring children to attend public schools." Id., at 239 (WHITE, J., concurring).

In addition the Runyon Court held that: recognized that "The Court has repeatedly stressed that while parents have a constitutional right to send their children to private schools and a constitutional right to select private schools that offer specialized instruction, they have no constitutional right to provide their children with private school education unfettered by reasonable government regulation."

Additionally, in Meyer v. Nebraska, the U.S. Supreme Court's majority opinion stated that the "liberty" protected by the Due Process clause "[w]ithout doubt...denotes not merely freedom from bodily restraint but also the right of the individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children, to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and generally to enjoy those privileges long essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men." In Meyer, the Court held that a 1919 Nebraska law prohibiting the teaching of foreign languages to school children before high school unconstitutionally violated the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Many other Court rulings have established or supported the right of parents to provide home education.

Only a short time after compulsory attendance laws became common in the United States, Oregon adopted a statute outlawing private schools. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state law as unconstitutional in its 1925 ruling in [8] The Court held that a state may not prohibit a parent from satisfying a compulsory attendance requirement by sending their children to private school. This case has frequently been cited by other courts in support of the proposition that parents have a right to satisfy compulsory attendance requirements through home instruction. Parents' right to homeschool their children has clearly been established through subsequent court decisions to such an extent that any statute attempting to forbid it entirely would certainly be struck down on constitutional or other grounds.

Every state has some form of a compulsory attendance law that requires children in a certain age range to spend a specific amount of time being educated. The most common way for parents to meet these requirements is to have their children attend public school.

Homeschooling laws and regulations

Homeschooling laws can be divided into three categories:

  1. In some states, homeschooling requirements are based on its treatment as a type of private school (California, Indiana, Texas, for example) In those states, homeschools are generally required to comply with the same laws that apply to other (usually non-accredited) schools.
  2. In other states, homeschool requirements are based on the unique wording of the state's compulsory attendance statute without any specific reference to "homeschooling" (New Jersey, Maryland, for example). In those states, the requirements for homeschooling are set by the particular parameters of the compulsory attendance statute.
  3. In other states (Maine, New Hampshire, Iowa, for example) homeschool requirements are based on a statute or group of statutes that specifically applies to homeschooling, although statutes often refer to homeschooling using other nomenclature (in Virginia, for example, the statutory nomenclature is "home instruction"; in South Dakota, it is "alternative instruction"; in Iowa, it is "competent private instruction"). In these states, the requirements for homeschooling are set out in the relevant statutes.

While every state has some requirements, there is great diversity in the type, number, and level of burden imposed. No two states treat homeschooling in exactly the same way. Generally, the burden is less in states in category 1, above. Furthermore, many states offer more than one option for homeschooling, with different requirements applying to each option.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

Law professor David Smolin states that "Article 29 (of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) limits the right of parents and others to educate children in private school by requiring that all such schools support both the charter and principles of the United Nations and a list of specific values and ideals. By contrast, Supreme Court case law has provided that a combination of parental rights and religious liberties provide a broader right of parents and private schools to control the values and curriculum of private education free from State interference."[9] While the quote deals with private schools it can also be assumed to extend to private home educational choices because the educational venue must support the U.N.'s values and ideals.

All member nation states of the United Nations, except the United States and Somalia,[10] have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

State requirements

Some states do not require any notice of intent. Others require the filing of a notice with local school officials containing specified information. In conformity with the general trend to ease requirements however, only two states, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, still require parents to obtain approval prior to homeschooling. More stringent requirements even include the need to have a credentialed teacher supervise the homeschooled child's education.

Some states require home school students to be enrolled in public schools. Some states allow home school students to enroll in public schools, but do not require them to do so. Some states prohibit home school students from enrolling in public schools.[3]

Proponents of heavier requirements argue that they are necessary for the societal goal of an educated public that is prepared to participate in democratic society. No scientific studies, however, indicate that heavier requirements produce better results. In general, standardized test scores in states with high requirements are no better than in states with lower requirements, casting doubt on the wisdom of placing high requirements on homeschooling since higher requirements create higher administrative costs.

The 2013 Freedom in the 50 States study by the Mercatus Center ranks the 50 states by their homeschooling laws including: curriculum control, notification requirements, recordkeeping requirements, standardized testing, and teacher qualifications. The study finds states such as Alaska, Oklahoma, and Kansas as the freest states for homeschooling while ranking Ohio, Maryland, and Massachusetts at the bottom.


You must register with a cover, church, or umbrella (all mean the same thing). The cover must be located in the state of Alabama. If you enroll in any online curriculum provider, they are not legal cover—they are just a curriculum provider. Even if you pay fees and tuition, you are truant in Alabama. If your cover school does not care what curriculum you use, you may enroll for it. Curriculum providers online, however, cannot be cover schools, even if accredited. Once you enroll with a legal cover school, the state requires the parents to send a form from the cover school to the public superintendent to prove enrollment within 5 days from withdrawal date. If you stay with the same school you do not mail this form again.[11] In Alabama home schoolers have two options:

1. Church School Option - Home schools qualify as church schools operated as a ministry of a local church, group of churches, denomination, or association of churches on a nonprofit basis, and do not receive any state or federal funding. [Paraphrased from Ala. Code § 16-28-1(2)]. Children who attend a church school are exempt from the compulsory attendance section, provided the child complies with the procedure in Ala. Code § 16-28-7 [a parent or guardian reports attendance in church school]. Ala. Code § 16-28-3. A church can establish different church schools within each home. Also, under this option, some home parents enroll children in an existing church school. a. “The enrollment and attendance of a child in a church school shall be filed with the local public school superintendent by the parent … on a form provided by the superintendent ... countersigned by the administrator of the church school.” Ala. Code § 16-28-7. (No requirement to file annually. Only need to file this form once at initial enrollment in church school.) b. The principal teacher of the church school must keep an attendance register for each day of the school year. Ala.Code § 16-28-8. c. A church school must “offer instruction in grades K-12, or any combination thereof....” Ala. Code d. If the local school district believes a family is not in compliance with the law, it must give the family 3 days’ written notice (Ala. Code § 16-28-16) prior to instituting criminal charges. In an HSLDA case, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction of a home school father who only received a 2-hour verbal notice from a truant officer. Maas v. Alabama, 601 So. 2d 209 (Ala. Ct. App. 1992). e. According to an Alabama Attorney General’s opinion dated January 3, 1997, “[o]ther than the state laws requiring parents to report attendance and for church schools to report if a student is no longer in attendance at such a church school, there is no provision of Alabama law that permit any state or local authority to regulate a church school.”

2. Private Tutor Option. Under Ala. Code § 16-28-5, the children in a home school must be instructed by a competent private tutor. Under this statute: a. The teacher must be state certified. b. The certified teacher must teach “for at least three hours a day for 140 days each calendar year, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.” c. The tutor must file with the county superintendent, a statement showing the child to b the subjects taught, and period of instruction. The tutor must keep a register of the child’s work showing daily hours of instruction and attendance and shall make such reports as the State Board of Education may require. Teacher Qualifications: None, if the home school is operated as a ministry of a local church. Certification is necessary if home school tries to qualify as “private school,” Ala. Code § 16-28-1(1)(a), or as a “private tutor,” Ala. Code § 16-28-5. Standardized Tests: Not required by statute. Religious Freedom Act: Alabama Constitution Amendment 622. [12]


In California, for example, homeschoolers must either a.) be part of a public homeschooling program through independent study or a charter school, b.) use a credentialed tutor, or c.) enroll their children in a qualified private school (Such private schools may be formed by the parents in their own home, or parents may use a number of private schools that offer some kind of independent study or distance learning options). All persons who operate private schools in California, including parents forming schools just for their own children, must file an annual affidavit with the Department of Education. They must offer certain courses of study (generally similar to the content required in public schools, but requiring less detailed curricula than those that public schools must follow) and must keep attendance records, but are otherwise not subject to any state oversight.[5][13][14]

There is no requirement in California that any private school teachers, whether the school is large or small, must have state credentials, although all teachers must be "capable of teaching". This principle was recently challenged. A homeschooling family in Southern California had satisfactorily resolved a lower court case concerning parenting issues, but the children's court-appointed attorneys wanted the court of appeals to make a ruling on the topic of homeschooling. On February 28, 2008, the California Court of Appeals issued a ruling that effectively made homeschooling (except for tutoring by certified teachers) illegal in the state of California.[5][13][15]

Since the lower case was not about homeschooling, the legal representation of the family and its school, Sunland Christian School, requested a rehearing.[16] The court granted the petition for rehearing, and unanimously reversed itself, deciding that non-credentialed parents could homeschool their children under California law.[6][17][18]


The law in Ohio that excuses students from compulsory attendance is the Ohio Administrative Code, Chapter 3301-34. Under this law, home education is defined as education that is directed by the parent/guardian of the child. The purpose of the law is to ensure that parent rights to homeschool their children are not violated. Before the homeschooling process begins, the parent/guardian must notify the superintendent in his/her child’s school district. Some school districts have forms that they use. As long as the following information is provided in a letter or other form of notification, parents do not have to use the school district forms.[19]

Information that must be provided in a form of notification to the superintendent before homeschooling begins includes: the school year, name of parent, and address (telephone is optional), child's birth date, parent signature guaranteeing that the subjects listed in the Ohio Administrative Code are part of homeschooling, outline of the curriculum that the parent plans to cover in the next year, a list of materials (textbooks, etc.) that the parent plans to use, parent signature guaranteeing that the child will be in home education for 900 hours during the upcoming school year, and finally assurance that the home instructor has a high school diploma or the equivalence of a high school diploma. Parents must also send an academic assessment to the superintendent from the previous school year. The academic assessment report needs to be one of two things: either the results of a nationally normed, standardized test or a written portfolio. The portfolio should include samples of the student’s work. The superintendent must notify the parents within fourteen days of his/her decision.[19]


Before 1985, the legality of home schooling was undefined in Texas State law, which was silent on the practice. As such, home schooling parents interpreted the lack of prohibition as giving them the right to home school, while school districts interpreted it as prohibitive. The requirements were clarified in the landmark case "Leeper vs. Arlington Independent School District (AISD)", which put in place clear standards and guidelines for defining a home school and removed any doubt about the legality of home schooling in the State.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has no authority to regulate home schools (TEA considers home schools to be equivalent to "unaccredited private schools"; TEA states that private schools are not required to be accredited, and it has no authority to regulate those either). The only requirements within state law are as follows:

  • State law requires that a school, regardless of type, 1) must teach "reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics and a study of good citizenship" (the latter is interpreted to mean a course in civics), and such subjects 2) must be taught in a bona fide manner (which means there must be a real intent to actually provide education). Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) FAQ The curriculum may be of any type of media (textbooks, workbooks, other printed material, and computer-based on any type including the Internet), can be obtained from any source(s) desired, and does not have to be approved by, or even provided to, the state or the local school district prior to its use.
  • State law does not specify any minimum number of days in a year, or hours in a day, that must be met for non-public schools. Nor does it mandate a specific time of the day during which classes must be held, thus potentially removing penalization for violating compulsory attendance laws that cover public schoolers.
  • State law does not require standardized testing for other than public school students.
  • State law does not restrict home school families from combining into one group setting for educational purposes. (However, home school advocates such as THSC caution that whenever more than three children outside the family are involved, problems could arise with local zoning ordinances, and a state license for child care may be required.)
  • State law does not require registration or annual filings for non-public schools.
  • State law does not require any teacher credentials, or proven capability for non-public schools (though private schools are permitted to require such as a condition of employment); the lack of required credentials or proven capability is intended to allow parents to teach their own children.
  • State law requires notification only if the child was previously in a public school and is withdrawn; the notification required is merely a letter notifying the school district of the parent(s)' intent, and only one letter is required at the initial decision to withdraw the child from public school and homeschool instead (annual letters are not required). Parents who home school from day one, and never enroll their child(ren) at a public school, are not required to give any notice.

Home school students may enroll in public schools, but they are not required to do so.[3]

Washington State

Under Washington state law RCW 28A.225.010 education is compulsory for children 8 or older, OR if the child has been officially enrolled in public school. Washington does require (RCW 28A.225.010) that homeschoolers teach the following 11 subjects: reading, writing, spelling, language, math, science, social studies, history, health, occupational education, art and music appreciation. However, the subjects do not have to be taught separately, and the state does not require a timeline or schedule to be submitted or adhered to, other than to meet the requirements of a yearly evaluation. Each year the student must be evaluated according to law RCW28A.200.010, in the form of:

  • A standardized achievement test that has been approved by the State Board of Education
  • OR a non-test assessment administered by a Washington State certified teacher who must be currently working in the field of education.

The tests are confidential and only the parent receives a copy. The Washington Homeschooling Organization (WHO) keeps a list of the individuals who may administer the tests, or non-test evaluation.

Both the tests and results are required to be kept per RCW 28A.200.010 but does not specify in what form they be kept (Original or photocopy), they are not required by any state agency and parents do not have to share them. However, the records can, and probably will be requested by a school administration if the parents later decide to enroll their children in formal schooling. The state requires immunization records in accordance with law, and requests that further records be kept on instructional and educational activities.

To start homeschooling parents must annually file a Declaration of Intent to Provide Home Based Instruction RCW 28A.200.010 and be state qualified to homeschool (RCW 28A.225.010).[20]

To qualify to homeschool the guardian, parent, or tutor must fulfill ONE of the following: RCW 28A.225.010 (4)

  • Prove that applicant has earned 45 quarter units of college level credits
  • Attend a Parent Qualifying Course (recommended even if you already qualify)
  • Meet with a Washington State certified teacher who meets with the student regularly, on average an hour a week
  • Meet annually with a local school district superintendent and be deemed sufficiently qualified to provide home-based instruction

The declaration of intent may be obtained and must be returned to the superintendent of the school district in which you live, or the district to which the student would transfer too. Information that is required is the child(ren's) age, name, guardian's name, address and the method by which the parent qualifies to homeschool. If using a supervising certified teacher their name may also be required. Any other information may be added at discretion and is not recommend by the Washington Homeschool Organization. The declaration does not limit the student's ability to use public school facilities or activities in the case of part-time enrollment (ALE), and it is generally understood to be a liability document seeking to protect the parent and students from truant laws, as well as the school body who are no longer held responsible for the child's education.

Though undocumented, it is generally agreed that Washington State has stricter requirements than most states but that assessment and interpretation of qualifications are usually fairly lax with respect to the requirements.

RCW 28A.200.020 states that parents who homeschool their children are subject only to those minimum state laws and regulations necessary to ensure the child has a sufficient basic educational opportunity. All decisions that relate to philosophy or doctrine, selection of books, teaching materials and curriculum, and methods, timing, and place in the provision or evaluation of home-based instruction is the responsibility of the parent, except for matters specifically referred to in Chapter 28A.225 RCW.

The state legislature recognizes that home-based instruction is less structured and more experiential than conventional classroom education. Therefore, provisions that relate to the nature and quantity of instructional and related educational activities are liberally construed.[21]


To teach children at home, the teaching parent must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  1. Possess a valid high school diploma (or a higher degree, such as can be obtained through a university), which must be submitted to the district’s superintendent—a GED does not fulfill this requirement
  2. Hold a valid teacher’s certificate as approved by the state
  3. Provide a distance or correspondence curriculum approved by the Superintendent of Public Instruction
  4. Provide evidence that they, as the teaching parent, can meet the Virginia Standards of Learning objectives

The teaching parent must annually inform the district of their intent to instruct children at home. The children must have all state-mandated vaccinations required of students in public education, with the exception of those under the protection of religious exemption (i.e., the tenets of that family’s faith prohibits them from attending school). Part-time enrollment in public school is rare, but allows for home-instructed students to take some classes (often higher level math and science or electives like foreign language that parents don’t feel confident teaching). A homeschooled student may or may not be eligible to play sports for the school in their area, depending on the school.[22]

Other options not governed by the above include home instruction by a certified tutor with a valid Virginia Board of Education teaching license and religious exemptions. The latter, unique to Virginia, is due to a family’s irreconcilable religious difference with a public education. This often relates to science and social studies, which may teach information contrary to the beliefs of a particular family. If parents present sufficient evidence that a child’s family has religious backing that attending school is abhorrent to their faith, and fill out the proper forms, none of the above is required to instruct a child at home.[23]

At the end of each year must provide the district with written documentation that the child(ren) has(have) made academic progress. This could be (1) through a letter from an educator holding a masters degree or higher in education who has evaluated the achievement of the child(ren) through the submission of a portfolio or (2) through a report card and/or transcript from an accredited program (i.e. a community college or correspondence program employed as the primary curriculum). If these are not available, the use of some form of “nationally normed standardized achievement test” is required.[22] The scores attained must be at or above the 23rd percentile. Some tests that may be used include “the Stanford Achievement Test, the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS), the California Achievement Tests (CAT), the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS-TAP), Science Research Associates (SRA), or the Woodcock-Johnson Educational Battery.” [24]

Because homeschoolers do not receive a diploma from the state of Virginia, one of the major struggles faced is entering community college or higher education. Those who do correspondence curricula get diplomas from the program, while others get GEDs.[25] Children who receive home instruction are not required to take the SOL examinations, which may contribute to the inability to obtain a diploma accredited by the state. However, this does not stop many homeschooled students in Virginia from going to college and studying a wide variety of subjects. It just means that there is a lot of consideration given to scores on achievement tests like the SATs and the Advanced Placement exams.[26]


Number and percentage of homeschooled students in the United States, by reason for homeschooling: 1999, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
Reason for homeschooling Number of
homeschooled students
Percent s.e.
Can give child better education at home 415,000 48.9 3.79
Religious reason 327,000 38.4 4.44
Poor learning environment at school 218,000 25.6 3.44
Family reasons 143,000 16.8 2.79
To develop character/morality 128,000 15.1 3.39
Object to what school teaches 103,000 12.1 2.11
School does not challenge child 98,000 11.6 2.39
Other problems with available schools 76,000 9.0 2.40
Child has special needs/disability 69,000 8.2 1.89
Transportation/convenience 23,000 2.7 1.48
Child not old enough to enter school 15,000 1.8 1.13
Parent's career 12,000 1.5 0.80
Could not get into desired school 12,000 1.5 0.99
Other reasons* 189,000 22.2 2.90

Parents give many different reasons for homeschooling their children. In the 2003 and 2007 NHES, parents were asked whether particular reasons for homeschooling their children applied to them. The three reasons selected by parents of more than two-thirds of students were concern about the school environment, to provide religious or moral instruction, and dissatisfaction with the academic instruction available at other schools. From 2003 to 2007, the percentage of students whose parents reported homeschooling to provide religious or moral instruction increased from 72 percent to 83 percent. In 2007, the most common reason parents gave as the most important was a desire to provide religious or moral instruction (36 percent of students). Typically the religious belief being represented is evangelical Christian.[27] This reason was followed by a concern about the school environment (such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure) (21 percent), dissatisfaction with academic instruction (17 percent), and "other reasons" including family time, finances, travel, and distance (14 percent).[28] Other reasons include more flexibility in educational practices and family core stability for children with learning disabilities or prolonged chronic illnesses, or for children of missionaries, military families, or families who move often, as frequently as every two years.

In addition, some parents want more opportunities to socialize with a wide range of ages, to travel more, to do more field trips, to visit museums, to do outdoor education, to attend concerts, to visit work places, to tour government buildings, to seek mentor-ships, and to study nature outside. A homeschooling family can do more field trips, with only one vehicle and one parent required.[29]

Testing and assessment

States also differ in their requirements regarding testing and assessment. Following the general trend toward easing requirements, fewer than half the states now require any testing or assessment. In some states, homeschoolers are required either to submit the results of a standardized test (sometimes from an established list of tests) or to have a narrative evaluation done by a qualified teacher. Other states give parents wide latitude in the type of assessment to be submitted.

Again, using California as an example, students enrolled in a public program are encouraged to take the same year-end standardized tests that all public school students take, but students using tutors or enrolled in any private school, homeschool or not, are not required to take any tests. Texas also does not require standardized tests for any student outside the public school arena, and absence of such tests cannot be used to discriminate against enrollment in higher education.

Recognition of completion

There are also differences between the states in graduating children from homeschools. In states where homeschools must be, or can be operated as any other private school, graduation requirements for all private schools in that state generally also apply to the home schools. Some state education laws have no graduation requirements for private schools, leaving it up to the private schools to determine which students meet graduation requirements, and thus allow homeschoolers the same privilege. (For example, as stated above, Texas considers home schools equivalent to unaccredited private schools.)

In yet other states, homeschoolers receive no official recognition equivalent to graduation. Independent homeschoolers in Florida, for example, cannot truthfully claim to have graduated, even after completing twelve years of homeschooling. (However, Florida does grant such students equal access to the state's system of public colleges and universities.)

Homeschooling is increasingly becoming recognized as a viable alternative to institutional education, and fewer families are targeted for prosecution. In an unintended demonstration of the increasing acceptance of homeschooling, the outgoing Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state of California, Delaine Eastin, caused a furor by telling the state legislature that homeschooling was illegal and that families could not form private schools themselves or teach their children without credentials. She called for a legislative "solution" to the growing "problem" of homeschooling. The legislature balked at taking any action. Then, Ms. Eastin's successor, Jack O'Connell, instructed his legal staff to review the state laws.

Homeschooling advocates were informed by one of the Department of Education attorneys that the state was reversing the position it had taken under Ms. Eastin's tenure. Statements that parents could not teach their own children or form their own private schools were removed from the state Department of Education website. Although some officials still maintain traditional views, truancy prosecutions in California are much rarer now than they were under Ms. Eastin's leadership. Those prosecutions that are still pursued routinely fail, and district attorneys now usually refuse to file such cases.


Curriculum requirements vary from state to state. Some states require homeschoolers to submit information about their curriculum or lesson plans. Other states (such as Texas) just require that certain subjects be covered and do not require submission of the curriculum. Still others, such as North Carolina, view homeschools as a type of private school, affording each homeschool the freedom to choose the curriculum appropriate for its students. While many complete curricula are available from a wide variety of secular and religious sources, many families choose to use a variety of resources to cover the required subjects. In fact, it is not uncommon for a homeschooled student to earn a number of college credits from a 2- or 4-year college before completing the 12th grade.

Some states offer public-school-at-home programs. These on-line, or "virtual", public schools (usually "charter" schools) mimic major aspects of the homeschooling paradigm, for example, instruction occurs outside of a traditional classroom, usually in the home. However, students in such programs are truly public school students and are subject to all or most of the requirements of other public school students. When parents enroll their children in such a program, they effectively surrender control over the curriculum and program to the public school, although a casual observer might think they are homeschooling.

Some public-school-at-home programs give parents leeway in curriculum choice; others require use of a specified curriculum. Full parental (and/or student) control over the curriculum and program, however, is a hallmark feature of homeschooling. Taxpayers pay the cost of providing books, supplies, and other needs, for public-school-at-home students, just as they do for conventional public school students. The U.S. Constitution's prohibition against "establishing" religion applies to public-school-at-home programs, so taxpayer money cannot lawfully be used to purchase a curriculum that is religious in nature.

Access to resources

A minority of states have statutes that require public schools to give homeschooled students access to district resources, such as school libraries, computer labs, extracurricular activities, or even academic courses. In some communities, homeschoolers meet with a teacher periodically for curriculum review and suggestions. The laws of some states give districts the option of giving homeschooled students access to such resources.

Access to interscholastic athletic competition varies from state to state.

  • Some state athletic associations, such as the Kentucky High School Athletic Association,[30][31] completely ban homeschoolers from interscholastic competition; both by prohibiting homeschoolers to compete for a state federation member school as well as by prohibiting member schools to compete against independent teams made up of homeschoolers. In such states, homeschoolers may only compete amongst other homeschoolers or against schools that are not members of the state's interscholastic athletic federation.
  • Other states allow homeschoolers to compete for the public schools that they would otherwise attend by virtue of their residence; for example, former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Tim Tebow was able to play high school football because under Florida law, a public school must allow homeschoolers resident in its attendance area unimpeded access to extracurricular activities, including varsity athletics. Tebow's success has inspired similar legislation to be introduced in other states.[32]
  • Still other state interscholastic athletic associations allow homeschoolers to organize teams that compete against other established schools, but do not allow homeschoolers to compete on established school teams. The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, the largest of several governing bodies for non-public schools in Texas, uses this option, as does the Michigan High School Athletic Association, though the MHSAA allows such contests during regular season play only.

Homeschooling and college admissions

Many students choose to pursue higher education at the college or university level, some through dual enrollment while in high school and through standardized tests such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and DANTES Subject Standard Tests (DSST).

The College Board recommends that homeschooled students keep detailed records and portfolios to aid them in the admission process.[33]

Over the last several decades, US colleges and universities have become increasingly open to accepting home-schooled students.[34] 75% of colleges and universities have an official policy for homeschool admissions.[35] 95% have received applications from homeschoolers for admission.[35] Documents that may be required for admission vary, but may include ACT/SAT scores, essays, high school transcript, letters of recommendation, SAT 2 scores, personal interviews, portfolio, and a GED.[35] 78% of admissions officers expect homeschooled students to do as well or better than traditional high school graduates at college.[35] Students coming from a home school graduated from college at a higher rate than their peers¬—66.7 percent compared to 57.5 percent—and earned higher grade point averages along the way.[36]

Such students have matriculated at over 900 different colleges and universities, including institutions with highly selective standards of admission such as the US military academies, Rice University, Haverford College, Harvard University, Stanford University, Cornell University, Brown University, Dartmouth College, and Princeton University.[37]

Homeschool athletics

In 1994, Jason Taylor was a homeschool football player in Pennsylvania who engaged a legal battle against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (N.C.A.A., the leading oversight association governing U.S. collegiate athletics) and its classification of homeschool athletes as essentially high school drop-outs. Taylor's legal victory has provided a precedent for thousands of other homeschool athletes to compete in colleges and attain the same opportunities in education and professional development that other athletes enjoy. Other homeschool students who have risen to the top of collegiate competition include N.C.A.A. 2005 champion tennis player, Chris Lam, Kevin Johnson of the University of Tulsa basketball team, 2010-2011 Big South Player of the Year Jesse Sanders of the Liberty University Flames and the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow from the University of Florida . In 2012, another homeschool student was a Heisman Trophy finalist: Collin Klein of Kansas State University.

In Texas, Six-Man Football has also been popular among homeschoolers, with at least five teams being fielded for the 2008-2009 season. Interestingly enough, the top 3 places in the Texas Independent State Championship (TISC, also referred to as "the Ironman Bowl) were claimed by homeschool teams.

Advocacy organizations

There are several national homeschooling advocacy groups, such as:

Homeschooling conventions

There are many homeschooling conventions featuring exhibitors and workshops. There are two main types of homeschooling conventions: public and organization (Christian, Secular, Catholic). Some larger shows in the United States include, but aren't limited to the following:

  • Alabama Homeschool Expo (Montgomery, AL)[45]
  • CHEA Convention (Pasadena, CA)[46]
  • FPEA Convention (Orlando, Florida)[47]
  • HEAV State Convention & Educational Fair (Richmond, Virginia)[48]
  • Southeast Homeschool Expo (Atlanta, Georgia)[49]
  • ICHE Convention (usually in Naperville, Illinois, a Chicago suburb)


  1. ^ "Statistics About Non-Public Education in the United States". US Department of Education. February 11, 2014. 
  2. ^ See Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160 (1976); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972); Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923).)
  3. ^ a b c d Hughes, Kristine. "School offers new twist on classical education." The Dallas Morning News. Monday June 12, 2006. Retrieved on October 12, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f 1.5 Million Home-schooled Students in the United States in 2007 Issue Brief from Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. December 2008. NCES 2009–030
  5. ^ a b c d In re Rachel L., 73 Cal.Rptr.3d 77 (Cal.App. 2 Dist. 2008). Text of the California Appellate Court Decision (see p. 12)
  6. ^ a b Jonathan L. v. Superior Court, 165 Cal.App.4th 1074 (Cal.App. 2 Dist. 2008). Text of opinion
  7. ^ Meyer v. Nebraska
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ David M. Smolin, Overcoming Religious Objections to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 29, 104 at [2]. 20 Emory Int'l L. Rev. 81 (2006). See Susan H. Bitensky, Educating the Child for a Productive Life, in CHILDREN’S RIGHTS IN AMERICA 181 (Cynthia Price Cohen & Howard A. Davidson eds., 1990) (referring to “fundamentalist” curriculum in some private religious schools that was hostile towards the United Nations). Relevant cases include Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160 (1976); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972); Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923).
  10. ^ CRIN - Child Rights Information Network - Resources - Treaties - Convention on the Rights of the Child
  11. ^ [3]
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  13. ^ a b "Court: Parents Must Have Teaching Credentials to Home School Kids". Fox News. March 6, 2008. 
  14. ^ California court ruling about home schooling worries families_English_Xinhua
  15. ^ California court ruling about home schooling worries families_English_Xinhua
  16. ^ California Home School court Case
  17. ^ HSLDA - California—A Great Victory for California Homeschoolers
  18. ^ LA Times - Parents may home-school children without teaching credential, California court says
  19. ^ a b Ohio Homeeducators Net
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  22. ^ a b "Home instruction in Virginia", Virginia Department of Education. (2009, August 1) [5]
  23. ^ Religious exemption demystified, (2009, February 15). Retrieved June 22, 2010, from [6]
  24. ^ "Testing and the law – Frequently asked questions" (2008, September 3). Retrieved June 17, 2010, from [7]
  25. ^ "High school diploma options for homeschooled teens in Virginia", (2009). Retrieved June 17, 2010, from [8]
  26. ^ Siegal, A. C. (2009). Homeschooling teens – Preparation for college. Retrieved June 20, 2010, from [9]
  27. ^ Sadker, D.M. & Zittleman, K.R. (2013). Teachers, schools, and society (10th ed.). New York, NY: Mc Graw Hill.p. 155.
  28. ^ "1.5 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2007". 2008-12-23. Retrieved 2014-01-16. 
  29. ^ "field trips". Pearson Education. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  30. ^ "2006-2007 KHSAA Handbook: Bylaw 4" (PDF). Retrieved January 8, 2007. 
  31. ^ "KHSAA Constitution Article VIII" (PDF). Retrieved November 3, 2007. 
  32. ^ Alabama's Tim Tebow Bill
  33. ^ Winnick, Pamela R. (2000-05-01). "Homeschooled students take unorthodox route to become top college candidates". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  34. ^ "Homeschoolers find university doors open". The Boston Globe. 2007-03-06. 
  35. ^ a b c d [Jones, P. & Gloeckner, G. (2004). “A Study of Admission Officers’ Perceptions of and Attidtudes Toward Homeschool Students” Journal Of College Admission, (185), 12-21.]
  36. ^ [Coogan, M. F. (2010). “Exploring academic outcomes of homeschooled students” Journal of College Admission, (208),18-52.]
  37. ^ A. Distefano et al. (2005) Encyclopedia of Distributed Learning (p222) ISBN 1-59781-572-1
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