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Home-Schooling Families Face Vastly Different Regulations From State to State

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Alaska, Idaho, and Michigan put the fewest restrictions on home-schooling families, while Washington, New York, and Pennsylvania have the most regulations, according to a report from the Education Commission of the States.

Overall, ECS found that home-schooling policies vary greatly from state-to-stateTo gauge the level of oversight in each state, the report looks at several factors including requirements around subjects taught, academic assessments, and instructor qualifications. It found:

  • Twenty states require some form of academic assessment;
  • Twenty-nine states plus the District of Columbia mandate that home-schoolers learn certain subjects;
  • Twenty-three states plus D.C. have some kind of attendance benchmark;
  • Thirteen states plus D.C. require home-schooling parents or instructors to have certain qualifications—most require a high school diploma;
  • Almost 40 states plus D.C. require parents to tell the state or their local school district if they plan to home-school;
  • Twenty-six states allow home-schooled students to participate in extracurricular actives or attend their local district schools part-time.

In addition, the report says more home-schoolers are enrolling in virtual charter schools and other forms of online education.

"It isn't always clear if states allow home-schooled students to enroll in state-only schools and maintain their home-school status because only a small number of states address this issue in policy," wrote the report's author, Micah Ann Wixom.

In keeping with the theme of wild policy variations, Georgia and Minnesota don't count students enrolled in online schools as home-schoolers, while Florida allows students to be both.

Although it's very hard to estimate the number of home-schoolers in the country (several states have no reporting requirements), the federal government put the number at nearly 1.8 million in 2012.

That's 3.4 percent of the total student population. Although small, the number has been growing over the last decade: There were only a little over 1 million home-schoolers in 2003. 

Related stories:

 

Photo: Jenni White stands in front of her children and students, Sam White, left, Betty White, center, and Coleman White, right, in Luther, Okla., in 2014. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

 

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