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The 8 Strictest States for Homeschoolers


Homeschooling is legal in the U.S., but different states grant varying degrees of freedom to homeschooling families. Those who choose to homeschool must carefully adhere to laws so that a homeschooled child's education is legally recognized, and so that families do not get into trouble with truancy laws. In some states, where lots of paperwork and requirements are daunting, staying true to the letter of the law can be a challenge. Often, they include required standardized tests, submission and approval of curriculum, professional evaluation of students, and in some cases, even visits from state officials. We've found eight states in which homeschooling families often find that it's difficult, but not impossible, to keep up with all of the requirements necessary to educate their children at home.

  1. Ohio

    Many homeschooling families find Ohio to be a difficult state, not due to its laws, but due to school districts with overreaching policies. There are reasonable regulations set out by the state that are not more strict than most other states, but unfortunately, many school districts have policies in place that go beyond the letter of the law. Homeschoolers in Ohio are typically asked to use forms developed by school districts that ask for information not required by the regulations, which can be a problem for some homeschooling parents. School superintendents have the right to review submitted homeschool plans for compliance, and if that person denies the curriculum, parents have to act quickly to appeal and avoid juvenile court. The state also requires that parents have at least high school or equivalent education, or work under the direction of a person with a bachelor's degree. Homeschooled students in Ohio must submit to a standardized test, or have a licensed or certified teacher write a narrative explaining that the child's portfolio shows academic progress for the year.

  2. North Dakota

    North Dakota is believed to be one of the most restrictive homeschooling states in the nation, and some believe their laws to be unconstitutional. The majority of North Dakota's requirements are on par with other states, but a few of them kick things up a notch into the realm of the ridiculous. Most states do not question the qualifications of parents as teachers, but in North Dakota, parents must have a high school diploma or GED, or be subject to monitoring for two years, which can be extended if the child does not have satisfactory standardized test scores. Standardized tests for all North Dakota homeschool children must be given in grades 4, 6, 8, and 10, and must be administered by a certified teacher. Scores are carefully evaluated, and if a child's score falls low enough, the student will be subject to professional evaluation and assessment. There is a lot of intense oversight for families who may have struggling students in North Dakota. However, the state recently loosened one important law for homeschoolers: instruction can now take place outside the child's home, allowing families to learn at the zoo, aquarium, or even in group study arrangements.

  3. Vermont

    Homeschooling in Vermont is pretty strict, but for the most part, it seems that parents might appreciate the outlines that the state has set forth for them. While homeschooled children in Vermont must receive instruction on no less than 12 different subjects, these do cover the typical subjects that most homeschool parents would be introducing in their classroom anyway. Vermont regulations get tricky because the state requires that parents submit a detailed outline of what they plan to cover in each of these subjects. The state does require that this curriculum be approved, which can feel quite restrictive for some parents. On top of this intense planning and paperwork requirement, Vermont homeschoolers must do a yearly assessment on their children, by either having a certified teacher fill out a designated form, preparing a report and portfolio showing progress, or paying a commissioner-approved testing company to administer a standardized achievement test.

  4. New York

    Like Vermont, New York homeschool families have a lot of subjects to study in order to meet requirements, and must submit a highly detailed home instruction plan, including curriculum materials, textbooks, and more. Parents must maintain detailed records of attendance, indicating that students are instructed for the equivalent of 180 days each year: 900 hours for grades 1-6, and 990 hours for grades 7-12. In addition to submitting an initial yearly plan, parents must file quarterly reports including the number of instruction hours, detailed descriptions of material covered in each subject, and grades. With the last quarterly report, parents submit an annual assessment, which can be either a norm-referenced achievement test or a written narrative evaluation, administered by a certified teacher or another "qualified person" that must be chosen with the consent of the superintendent. Standardized tests must be administered every other year from fourth through eighth grade, and every year in high school. There is one very bright spot in New York's homeschooling laws, however: home visits are both unconstitutional and unenforceable, so homeschool families are not subject to drop-in inspections that may disturb instruction and family life.

  5. Pennsylvania

    Pennsylvania's homeschooling laws do not seem to require more than other strict states, as they have specific subjects, planning requirements, and the requirement of a yearly notarized affidavit for each child. But the laws do have some strange requirements that seem political in nature, including an assurance that subjects are taught in English, evidence of immunization, evidence of health and medical services required by law, as well as a certification that virtually everyone involved in the child's life (including adults in the home and those with legal custody) have not been convicted of certain criminal offenses within the past five years. These requirements do seem overly restrictive, and aside from the requirement that all subjects are taught in English (excepting, we hope, for foreign language subjects), these requirements have little to no impact on the quality of instruction provided in the home. Students with special education needs are subject to further scrutiny, and must have their home education program approved by a state-certified special education teacher or a licensed clinical or certified school psychologist. For all homeschool students in Pennsylvania, an annual written evaluation of educational progress must be performed by a licensed psychologist, certified teacher, or a nonpublic school teacher or administrator. If families would like to avoid jumping through all of these hoops, Pennsylvania does offer four other options for home instruction, including private tutoring, church school, and boarding school, as well as the option to exercise the Pennsylvania Religious Freedom Protection Act, provided they can demonstrate a substantial burden on the exercise of religious beliefs.

  6. Rhode Island

    In Rhode Island, homeschooling is difficult because the approval and regulation process is locally administered, and can vary from district to district, so you don't really know what you're going to get. Each year, parents must send a letter of intent to homeschool, and the local school committee needs to approve a homeschooler's course of instruction, in which parents have to prove that they will be covering the required subjects for the right number of days, in addition to an end-of-the-year progress report. Some schools will also ask for portfolios and testing. Depending on the school committee, homeschool students may be asked to submit to standardized testing, give quarterly or biannual reports, as well as share medical or vaccination information. These items often go beyond what the law requires, but some homeschool families do feel pressured to submit them, making Rhode Island a confusing and sometimes frustrating state in which to homeschool.

  7. Massachusetts

    In Massachusetts, homeschooling instruction is approved by superintendents or school committees, and requires very detailed areas of approval. Parents must submit their proposed curriculum and number of hours of instruction in each subject, as well as instructional aids including textbooks and workbooks for approval before getting started each year. In addition to this approval, superintendents or school committees will judge parental competency to teach, and require periodic assessments, including required standardized testing. In addition to laws, many school districts have additional homeschooling policies that some homeschooling parents have found restrictive and unreasonable, and often result in intimidation and confusion of new homeschoolers. Like Rhode Island, Massachusetts can be a strange place to homeschool, as some towns have a minimalist approach, largely leaving homeschoolers alone, while others vary widely and may have policies that homeschoolers do not wish to follow. Legally, only Massachusetts law must be followed, but working outside of established policies can be challenging for some homeschool families.

  8. Georgia

    Georgia's homeschooling laws are not as strict as other states, but they are still quite restrictive. Parents are allowed the freedom to homeschool at any time of the year, rather than other states that are required to stick to a specific nine-month calendar. But at the same time, homeschoolers in Georgia may find themselves buried under a mountain of paperwork. Parents must submit a letter of intent to homeschool to the local school district 30 days before beginning homeschooling, and documents must be maintained to show compliance to the law, just in case school superintendents request to see them. Basic educational programs must be developed and documented, attendance records must be submitted each month, and homeschool classes must be held for at least four and a half hours each day, five days a week. Parents must produce a progress report for each child at least once a year and keep this report on file for three years. Additionally, students have to take a standardized test every three years from third grade on. Unfortunately, group settings are restricted, as parents may only teach their own children at home in Georgia. **Update** As of July 1, 2013, the laws in this state changed and no longer require submission of attendance reports. The Georgia Home Education Association (GHEA) does, however, recommend attendance tracking by parents and guardians. You can find more information about the changes and recommendations at GHEA.org and the Georgia Department of Education.

February 28th, 2012 written by Site Administrator

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