I live in Western North Carolina. In our county, there are over 1600 homeschools registered with the state. 1600 families homeschooling! That’s a lot. It was just over 700 when we moved here almost 9 years ago. Homeschooling is becoming more and more popular as the years go by. In North Carolina, there are more homeschoolers than private schoolers. Homeschooling is 100% legal in all fifty states. It is a valid educational method.
With the current events in our world, homeschool has become a buzz word. It has become interchangeable with distance learning, virtual learning, school at home, etc. I will say that quarantine schooling is not the same as true homeschooling. There are some similarities in that the kids are home and their book work and instruction is taking place within the four walls of their home. However, just like public school (when in a normal setting) offers many extra curriculuars, so does homeschooling. Most homeschoolers do not actually stay home all the time. Many are invovled in co ops, 4H, sports, theater, art, and more outside of the home. We all felt this quarantine hit hard.
I believe many of you have concerns about the future of schools in America… at least the short term future. Misinformation and fake news are all over social media and fear is a natural response. I want to encourage you to take some time in the coming weeks to really consider what is best for your family when it comes to education. We have homeschooled the whole way… just finishing our eleventh year. I do recommend it. I do think it is a fabulous model, but I also understand that not everyone feels equipped or adept. It is my hope in the next few weeks to de-mystify homeschooling… to give you solid information and helpful tips as you make your decisions.
Today I am addressing the topic of the law. I will say that I am most familiar with North Carolina because that is where we live. Each state has its own requirements and recommendations for homeschooling. Read that again… requirements and recommendations. It is easy to assume those are one and the same. They are not. Requirements are the things you need to do to be in compliance with the law. Recommendations are simply that… recommendations… thoughts and suggestions to help you on your journey… but not required.
The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is an fantastic organization that helps explain law and defend homeschoolers when your rights are threatened. They have THIS GREAT MAP you can CLICK ON to read the law as it is in your state. This is a color coded map… letting you know how regulated a state is from zero to highly regulated.
North Carolina Homeschool Law:
Again… I live in Western North Carolina. This is the state I am most familiar with. Please do your due diligence and read your state laws.
- File a Notice of Intent with the North Carolina Department of Non-Public Education (NCDNPE). Click on the link, then click “Homeschool.” You will follow the steps to create an account with the NCDNPE and open your homeschool. You file your notice of intent the school year your oldest child turns 7. You can homeschool prior to that age, but you do not need to file anything. Please note that you are opening a school. You are not seeking approval. You are informing the state of your intent to open your homeschool. You will need to send a copy of the highest level of education received by the parent who will be the chief administrator* of the school. See below on what it means to be the chief administrator. PLEASE NOTE: The NCDNPE is not accepting any Notices of Intent until after July 1st.
- Name Your Homeschool. This may be one of the most difficult steps. Naming your homeschool can be intense. The NCDNPE has a few guidelines as far as what you should and should not do. The main thing is to remember that should you choose to homeschool the whole way through, this is the name of the school that will appear on your child’s high school diploma. Many people use their last name or a phrase from a Bible verse or a meaningful location, etc. Ours is “Harvest Academy.”
- Maintain Attendance and Vaccination Records. The NC DNPE has an attendance record you can download and print. You do not need to turn in your records, but you do need to keep them on file. You need these records on file for each child in your homeschool. If you do not vaccinate, file your exemption form.
- Yearly Standardized Testing. This is again not something that you have to turn in. In order to be in compliance with the law, you must maintain yearly standardized testing. A wide variety of testing satisfies this requirement. The IOWA, CAT, Terra-Nova, and Woodcock Johnson are the main ones used. Some can be administered by a parent and some require a trained tester. Some require the administrator to have a bachelors degree and some do not. Some are timed and some are not. I will be writing and entire post about testing in a couple of weeks to explain more of the ins and outs. One main thing to keep in mind is these yearly tests are simply a diagnostic tool… they do not define you or your child. Honestly… when you get the results, read them, consider them… then file them away and don’t even worry about them anymore.
- Operate the school “on a regular schedule, excluding reasonable holidays and vacations, during at least nine calendar months of the year.” You determine what your school days look like. You determine that hours of instruction, the field days, the life skills days, etc.
- Notify the NC DNPE when you close your homeschool. When you have either graduated all of your children or they have returned to conventional school, you must notify the NC DNPE that you are closing your school.
North Carolina is an easy state in which to homeschool (according to the HSLDA, we are a moderately regulated state). Our laws are not hard and leave a lot of room for freedom. *To be the chief administrator of your school means you are in charge. You are the decision maker. You call the shots. In North Carolina, there are no requirements as far as what you should teach or when you should teach it. You can decide your goals for your specific children. You can choose to use a curriculum or not. You can choose your style of homeschooling. The buck stops with you! This can be both exciting and terrifying!
Why should you follow the law?
Fear exists in our world. It is perpetuated by media. You don’t have to look far to find a story of child abuse and neglect… often by parents who claimed homeschooling. Yes. There are sick and twisted people out there who ruin things for the rest of us. There are extreme cases that cause the world to give pause and wonder what homeschooling really is.
Often homeschoolers respond to this by circling the wagons and telling the government to keep out! I’m not saying the government will always get it right… I am not interested in a debate! I am saying let’s de-mystify homeschooling. When you are in compliance with the law… when you choose to homeschool through the proper channels, it levels the playing field and takes power away from those who would choose to shut you down.
I’ll share an example (not mine) that I heard from the former director of the NC DNPE. She was speaking at a conference I attended and assuring people that she had zero desire to come to their homes and check up on them. She was saying that being in compliance with the law protects us from nosey neighbors who call to complain that Little Johnny spends all day on his trampoline and not doing school. She said that when complaints come in, they are able to then look up the homeschool in question and say, “They are in compliance with the law. Their homeschool is legal and your complaint is invalid.” Does that make sense? I am not talking about the extreme cases when a child is in danger. I am talking about the majority of us who have chosen homeschooling and are doing it right. I’m trying to say… don’t be afraid. At this time in history, homeschooling is legal, valid, and thriving in the United States.
Last year, several homeschoolers in our area received letters from the NC DNPE asking to meet. We were asked to volunteer to come in and share our records, etc. Many people were scared, thinking they would be shut down or reprimanded or … well… let’s just say imaginations were running wild. The truth of it was the meetings took about thirty seconds. Quick and to the point. Those conducting the meetings simply wanted a hands on, on the ground look at homeschooling. They were doing their due diligence. To be open and confident about our homeschooling shows that we have nothing to hide and homeschool children are, in fact, social, intelligent… and amazing.
In North Carolina, we have the North Carolina Home Educators (NCHE). Their board members work really hard to stay on top of things and keep a pulse on what is happening at a local, state, and national level concerning homeschooling. I trust these folks to relay pertinent information. I would highly recommend you find out what groups in your state can be trusted to lead you as you homeschool.
I found this FANTASTIC POST from The Homeschool Mom. You click on your state to find local resources. I am sure it is not a complete list, but it is definitely a great stepping off point.
How well do you understand your state laws as their pertain to homeschooling? Have you ever read through them? Were you surprised at what is actually required vs. what is only recommended?
Other topics I’ll be covering in this “Getting Started Homeschooling Series” are:
- Socialization/ Homeschool Community
- Choosing Curriculum
- Establishing Schedules and Routines
- Homeschooling Preschool
- Homeschooling Elementary School
- Homeschooling Middle School
- Homeschooling High School
- Learning Your Children
- Standardized Testing for Homeschoolers
What other topics would you like to see discussed???