How to Homeschool: Learn the Law

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I want to homeschool. How do I get started?” If you’re asking this question, this is the place for you to be for the next 10 days (weekends excluded). I gave my Top Ten Tips for Starting to Homeschool a couple of weeks ago. For the next 10 days, I’ll be expanding on those tips in a series just for new or potential homeschooling families, 10 Days of Homeschooling 101.


If you know a new or soon-to-be-homeschooling parent, send her (or him) this way. If you are a new or soon-to-be-homeschooling parent, read on.

The first big piece of advice that I always give those considering homeschooling is: become familiar with your state’s laws.

Homeschooling laws vary greatly from state to state, from minimal to heavy governmental regulation overseeing homeschooling families. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s state page is an excellent starting point, as is the National Home Education Network website.

You can check out NHEN’s States At-a-Glance page for a brief synopsis of the laws in each of the 50 United States.

One of the best sources of information for a new homeschooling parent is a veteran homeschooling parent. While it is best to investigate the laws fully yourself – because you, ultimately, are the one legally responsible for understanding and carrying out your state’s laws regarding homeschooling – a family who has homeschooled for several years can help you understand what the laws mean to you and can give you feedback based on their years of experience.

Homeschool kid at work

For example, in our neighboring state of Tennessee, there are several options for homeschooling, including registering with an umbrella school versus registering with the local school superintendent. An experienced homeschooling parent can offer pros and cons for each option, as well as suggestions of umbrella schools a perspective homeschooling parent might want to investigate.

Some legal issues you want to make sure you understand include:

  • What are the compulsory ages in my state? What are the minimum and maximum ages that a child is required, by law, to be in some type of school setting. By what date must a child reach the minimum compulsory age before the laws apply to her? (For example, my youngest was formally educated for two years in our home before I was legally required to report for her, due to a late birthday.)
  • Are there any exceptions to the compulsory attendance laws? In many states, if a child who is below the compulsory age has already been enrolled in school, you must report for him if you then decide to homeschool. This means that, if you’ve had your five-year-old enrolled in Kindergarten and decide to pull him out to homeschool him, you may have to report for him even though the compulsory attendance minimum in your state is six-years-old.
  • What forms are required to be turned in to the state? By what date? How often? For example, in the state of Georgia, I am required to submit a Declaration of Intent to Homeschool within 30 days of establishing a homeschool and by September 1, every year thereafter. I also have to file monthly attendance reports. It is something of an unwritten rule that these attendance reports are due by the 5th of each month. I’ve never seen that in writing, but I try to abide by that, just to be on the safe side – and make sure that I don’t forget! 
  • Are there any instructional hour requirements? Some states have no requirement, others have a set number of hours, days or a combination thereof. Our state requires 180 days of 4.5 instructional hours each.
  • Is testing required? If so, when and how often? Is a portfolio required? Can a portfolio take the place of testing?
  • Do test scores have to be submitted to a governing authority? If so, which scores and to whom? By when and how often?
  • Are certain subjects required to be taught? For example, my state, Georgia, requires that I teach reading, math, language arts, social studies, and science. I’m not limited to those subjects, but those five are required to be included.
  • What level of education must the teaching parent have attained in order to homeschool? Does the state require proof of said education?
  • Can someone other than the child’s parent(s) be the primary educator? In other words, can you employ a tutor? Can you homeschool a child other than your own?

Homeschooling can seem overwhelming, at first. However, while it is a great responsibility, it’s also a great joy that becomes more a lifestyle than just an educational choice. Once you’ve got the legal aspect covered, you’re ready to take the next step toward making homeschooling your family’s lifestyle – getting plugged in to a local homeschool support group. Come back tomorrow for tips on finding a support group.

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. Kris, GREAT points…you definitely need to know the law.  If not, you could end up in serious trouble…and create problems for other homeschool families!

  2. Thanks so much for doing this!! I also live in GA and will be homeschooling my children this next school year (I'm a first-timer). I can't wait to read the rest of your tips. 

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