• Blog: What are The Best and Worst States for Homeschooling Regulations?

    We've probably all said at one time or another that we'd love to live near the beach, or where the winters aren't so cold, or where housing costs less.....or maybe just somewhere further away from our mothers-in-law! But in reality, our criteria for choosing where to live are multiple and varied, and often involve staying near family and employment. If you could choose where to homeschool, and you had your pick of all 50 states, where would you choose to put down roots?

    Sure, it sounds great to homeschool in New York City, with all of its cultural and educational possibilities, but did you know that the state of New York has some of the most restrictive homeschooling laws in the nation? In fact, I lived for a while just outside of New York City, across the river in New Jersey. I could still take advantage of everything NYC had to offer, without being subject to their strict homeschooling regulations. To be honest, fellow homeschoolers I knew would deliberately avoid moving even a few miles away into New York state, for this very reason. When we moved to the area, I researched the laws and New Jersey was an easy choice for us, even though my husband worked in New York.

    We've moved around quite a bit over the years. New Jersey's laws are much like the homeschool laws in Texas, where we also lived for a while. In short, these two states really don't have any homeschooling laws! You can educate your children however you like, and you are not required to notify the local school district of your intent to homeschool at all. There is no requirement for standardized testing, either. You really are on your own. This tremendously appealed to me, but I realize some families might appreciate the oversight that more stringent state requirements provide.

    I've homeschooled in Ohio too, and there families do have to notify the school district of their intent to homeschool, and to provide a list of their intended curriculum, and a few other requirements. Homeschoolers must either take an annual standardized test to gauge their progress, or have a licensed teacher review a portfolio of their work annually. My family chose the latter, the portfolio option, which is more individualized and compares a student's progress to the point where they were one year earlier. This is much different from taking a standardized test, which compares a student's progress to that of kids their same age and grade throughout the nation. My dyslexic son would not do well on such tests because he would be compared to non-dyslexic kids, but he could easily demonstrate making progress to the best of his ability on his annual portfolio review, and this was an important consideration for us.

    We now live in North Carolina, which mandates annual standardized testing for all homeschoolers, and I readily admit we have not enjoyed this one bit. Other homeschoolers here tell me it's no big deal and many of them feel the requirements are not cumbersome at all. But if you've lived somewhere that did not require such things, this seems excessive. It's all in your perspective!

    If a particular state does regulate homeschooling within their borders, there are a few points they tend to focus on. The first is called notification, which means whether or not you have to let them know you are homeschooling, and for which ages they require compulsory attendance . The second area is something I just call curriculum, which refers to rules about following certain standards, teaching mandatory subjects, or covering particular subject matter. The third category concerns end of the year assessment methods - if they are required, they usually take the form of standardized testing, portfolio reviews, or both. And finally, some states have other requirements that don't fit into one of the other categories. These miscellaneous items vary quite a bit by state, but can include immunization records or attendance charts.

    All of this is a lot to absorb, of course! Looking for a way to simplify this mountain of detail? Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has done an excellent job of compiling the various states' legal information in one place. Check out their color-coded map of the US that classifies states as red (highest regulation), orange (moderate regulation), yellow (low regulation), or green (no regulation). HSLDA Map You can also read up on the state of your choice here on Time4Learning by clicking on the "State Forums" tab at the top of this page.

    Having carefully avoided them over the years, my sympathy goes to those of you homeschooling in red states, and my envy to those of you in the green ones! We can't always choose to relocate and often we're tied to a certain area for reasons we can't control, but if you do have the opportunity to move somewhere new, be armed with the details you'll need to make a wise homeschooling choice!
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. fairylover's Avatar
      fairylover -
      Having lived in New Jersey and now in Iowa, there is such a vast difference in the homeschooling laws. Even across the river from me in Illinois, there are no requirements. But here the laws are somewhat restrictive.
    1. fairylover's Avatar
      fairylover -
      Having lived in New Jersey and now in Iowa, there is such a vast difference in the homeschooling laws. Even across the river from me in Illinois, there are no requirements. But here the laws are somewhat restrictive.
    1. essijay's Avatar
      essijay -
      Quote Originally Posted by fairylover View Post
      Having lived in New Jersey and now in Iowa, there is such a vast difference in the homeschooling laws. Even across the river from me in Illinois, there are no requirements. But here the laws are somewhat restrictive.
      I'm in IL - we have compulsory attendance ages 7-17 and, while we're not required to list curriculum, we're still under legal obligation to teach in "the branches of education taught to children of corresponding age and grade in the public schools” and must be taught in the English language. The “branches of education” include language arts; mathematics; biological and physical sciences; social sciences; fine arts; and physical development and health.
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