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Homeschooling is when a parent takes control of their child’s learning and educates the child at home instead of sending them to a public or private school.
The parent may follow a specific curriculum, may use several sources to create their own curriculum, be part of a co-op, or unschool. Depending on where the homeschooling family lives, they may be required to follow a specific state-required curriculum.
Homeschool laws and regulations vary by state and country. In the United States, each state has their own set of laws and regulations for homeschooling. If you are just starting to homeschool, you must first understand the homeschooling laws for your area.
History of Homeschooling
Homeschooling was actually the norm in early America, going as far back as colonial times when people came over on the Mayflower. Then, it was standard to school your children at home while completing all the other homesteading chores. It wasn’t until 1837 when Massachusetts opened its first public school that the move toward compulsory education started.
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According to the Georgia Home Education Association (GHEA), the first public school created the “first statewide school system in which schools were centralized, state controlled, and financed by property taxes” and “was the beginning of state-controlled secular education and the first significant loss of freedom for individuals and families in Massachusetts and, consequently, the entire country.” By 1918, all states enacted compulsory education, requiring children to attend school, and making homeschooling a crime in all states.
Jump forward a few decades to the liberating 1960s and 70s when homeschooling started to gain a widespread interest again. However, at that time removing children from public schools to homeschool was illegal. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), school officials called the process of removing a child from a public school to a home school “criminal truancy.”
During this time, when parents removed a child to homeschool, the traditional schools recorded the amount of time that children were out of the school as unexcused absences instead of a withdrawal from the school. This forced parents who wanted to homeschool to take an illegal underground approach. Some parents started the homeschool process before children were ever enrolled in the traditional school system so that no public school record of the kids existed. Some families even went as far as to move to a new community where their children were never enrolled in that local school system. Unbelievably, some parents were still fined or even served jail time for simply wanting to teach their children at home.
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Right before this time, Nevada and Utah had started to allow homeschooling. Nevada passed homeschooling legislation in 1956, followed closely by Utah in 1957. It wasn’t until 24 years later in the 1980s, that other states followed. By 1989, Michigan, North Dakota, and Iowa were the only three states that still considered homeschooling illegal. By 1993, all 50 states had enacted legislation to make homeschooling legal.
Homeschooling Doesn’t Just Happen in the Home
A misconception is that homeschoolers are isolated kids who never leave the home. However, many homeschoolers have part of their studies at home and also participate in regular classes, activities, and meet-ups outside of the home. Many homeschooling parents are very focused on giving their children a well-rounded education full of life experiences.
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Part of this post was excerpted from It’s Homeschooling, Not Solitary Confinement: Busting the Myths, Misconceptions, and Misinformation About Homeschooling.
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