Can Homeschoolers Know if they are in Compliance with the Law?
In our analysis of home schooling laws across the United States, we have encountered a great deal of ambiguity.
Many areas of homeschooling laws tend to be vague, such as these:
Required days of instruction.
Regulations applying to public schools specify the number of days the public school must be in session. Some state laws then say that home schools must be in session the same number of days as the public schools. This is a pretty clear situation. The parent should track the number of days of school done each year by each child. Except, how does the homeschooling family define a day?
What if your state does not require a certain number of school days?
A great many states are silent on the issue of the number of school days per year for homeschoolers. If you’re not asked to keep a record of your school days, should you? More information is always better than less, so, if it is not too inconvenient, tracking attendance is generally a good idea.
Defining a school day.
One state defines a “home school day” as a minimum of four and half hours. But many states, who require a record of attendance, do not specify what makes a day. How do you decide? How about a field trip day? What if the field trip lasts 4 hours and after that the family stopped off to visit grandma? Would that day count as a school day? What if the field trip lasted 3 hours? What if it lasted 3 hours and then later in the day your child read a book? See how ambiguous this is!
Who can be a homeschool teacher?
A few states require that a teacher be “competent,” but then those states tend not to define competence. In those states no standards are given to guide the parent to analyze whether they would fit the state’s legal definition of competence.
When there are few homeschool regulations.
One state legislature passed some requirements, and then tasked another agency with creating rules and regulations to implement the requirements. The rules and regulations were never adopted, leaving home schoolers to scratch their heads.
“Knowing the law” vs. “Knowing how the law will be interpreted”
In any area of the law, judges, courts, and regulators consistently hold up this standard: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” What that means is that it is up to us as citizens to be aware of the law, as well as to follow it.
The same thing is true for homeschoolers. It’s our job to become aware of the law, and do our best to comply with it. In most states the “homeschool law” is not a neat list, and it’s not just one law. It’s a combination of laws and regulations. Some state homeschool laws include: a state compulsory education law, a set of state homeschool regulations, possibly a state supreme court decision, and even some other regulations. Add to all this the fact that much of this law is subject to interpretation, and state by state these legal “packages” are full of confusion!
When it comes to homeschooling laws there are many state and local organizations, and other associations to help homeschoolers with legal compliance, including our site here at www.HomeSchoolLegal.com. At our site we offer you detailed information plus the perspective that we can comply without becoming intimidated in the process.
Taken as a whole, this is our best recommendation to ourselves and to fellow homeschooling families:
Know the law.
Follow the law to the best of your ability.
Keep the records you need to keep to demonstrate to yourself, and in rare cases, if you have to, to an authority, how well you are complying with the law.