3 Reasons to Avoid Overcompliance with State Homeschool Laws

(and how to go about doing it!)

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Homeschool overcompliance

Here we are in the middle of May. Time flies when you’re having fun, right?

For those of us who homeschool in states that require some sort of end-of-the-year reporting to our school districts, right about now is when we start scampering around collecting work samples, finishing up portfolios, and having our kids interviewed by our homeschool evaluators.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Not.

As we finish up our 8th year of homeschooling one very important issue keeps creeping up on me again and again- overcompliance. (Watch my video on this subject here.)

I’m pretty sure that most people don’t think much about this, but as someone who tends to dwell on things, I do, and with good reason.

3 Reasons to Avoid Overcompliance with Your State Homeschool Laws

(and how to go about doing it!)

1. It makes things harder for homeschoolers who follow the law as it is written.

homeschool overcompliance

When I was a newbie homeschooler, I used to love giving my school district overflowing, phone book-sized portfolios to show them just how awesome our home education program was. Since I was new to the game (and a bit naive), I didn’t know much about our state homeschool laws. Unbeknownst to me, I was giving our school district waaaay more than the law required, which may not seem like a problem at first, until you realize this one thing…

Overcompliance can make families who comply with the homeschool law by doing exactly what it says, and no more, look like they aren’t doing their job, which is not true.

The thing is, presuming that the law requires some work samples, if one family turns in a 3-inch thick binder, while another family gives a folder with 2 or 3 samples for each subject, the school district may start to expect everyone to give huge portfolios, even though the amount of samples is not specified by law.

Another example I can give actually happened to me a few years ago. Back in 2014, our state homeschool laws actually relaxed quite a bit, to the point that we now only have to turn in a letter from an evaluator and nothing else. When I handed in our evaluation letter that first year after it changed, the school district employee asked me for my children’s standardized test scores. I explained to her that now that the law changed, only the evaluator sees the results. She replied that she hadn’t heard that and left it at that.

A month or two later when I got the new homeschool year letter from the school district, it stated that at the end of the year, we were to turn in our evaluation letter and our standardized test scores. I’m guessing that some parents must have either been uninformed or unwilling to say anything, so they turned in their scores anyway, which is why the district was still confident enough to ask for them, despite the fact that it is not required.

So far, they’ve never asked me for the scores again, but I’m willing to bet that if enough homeschoolers comply with the school district’s request, they may bring it up again.

2. Homeschooling advocates have worked diligently to get the most reasonable homeschool laws in your state that they can.

Homeschool laws

There are so many people who have put their heart and soul into advocating for our right to homeschool, and for our right to do it with reasonable regulations. When we fall into overcompliance, we are, in essence, negating their hard work by brushing off many of the freedoms they’ve won for us.

We should be thanking these people, not subconsciously fighting against their efforts.

3. It gives homeschooling parents more work than necessary.

Homeschool moms have too much to do

I love homeschooling, but I’m not going to lie. It can be tough. Homeschooling is a full time job, and it’s not the only one we have. Even if you’re not employed, there’s still child rearing, housekeeping, cooking, laundry, and so many other things to deal with every day.

Why unnecessarily add more to your never-ending to-do list by tacking on a slew of extras to your end-of-the-year homeschool errands that are not required by law?

I know there are evaluators out there who ask for more than what the law requires. Don’t fall for it. Don’t do it.

Aren’t your hands full already?

How to Avoid Overcompliance

1. Know your state’s homeschool laws.

I know this seems pretty obvious, but it’s amazing how many people are completely uninformed about what their state regulations actually require. And don’t rely solely on what other people say. Find out for yourself. Look up your state’s laws on hslda.org.

In addition, most states have a go-to website that also breaks down the laws in layman’s terms. In PA, we have askpauline.com. It is a treasure trove of information.

If you don’t know your state laws, how can you know whether or not your school district is following them?

2. Be firm with your school district.

Do not give them more than the law requires. Ever. And this is why ⇑ (#1) is so important. You have to be your own advocate.

I’m not saying that school districts mislead you on purpose (although the whole issue with the standardized test scores makes me wonder about ours…), but I am saying that it is your responsibility to know the law and comply with it as it is written. Don’t let the school district intimidate you into giving more than you should.

3. Choose your evaluator wisely.

Make sure you find an evaluator who is on the same page with you about how your state homeschool laws are interpreted. If you find that they are asking you for more than what the law says, I really suggest that you move on to someone else.

For example, here in PA, all the evaluator gets is a book log, test scores, some work samples, and documentation that 180 days were completed. I know there are some evaluators who require written summaries of every subject, photocopies of the table of contents from textbooks, letter grades, and detailed journal-type daily logs, among other things.

None of these things are specified in PA homeschool law.

Again, this is why it is so important to know your state laws.

Praise God homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, and it’s fairly easy to follow the laws, even in the harder states. Let’s keep it that way by turning in what we need to and not one thing more!

I would love if anyone could leave helpful websites for their state homeschool laws in case any visitors here need advice for that locality. Let’s help each other out!

 

 

 

 

Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

49 thoughts on “3 Reasons to Avoid Overcompliance with State Homeschool Laws”

  1. These are all wonderful points – something I have never considered before. When we made the decision to homeschool, we researched every applicable state law and even compared state education level requirements for each grade – to make sure we were covered in case asked.

    Then we moved. And I had to do it all over again. *sigh*

    But I never considered if you go above and beyond how that might affect other homeschool families. You know?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh, please don’t do that. What is required of homeschooled kids is NOT the same as public school rules and regs. All you need to do is follow homeschool law – to the letter and not one iota more, as Shelley so wises explains.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great and timely post. Kansas is dealing with a possibility of year testing IN a public school setting. A grandmother launched a campaign because her grandson was murdered, nevermind that it had nothing to do with homeschooling, and everything with social services not following up..
    We must be diligent in knowing our state laws and standing up for our rights as parents and our children’s education without the government stepping in.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think it’s so sad that this happened, but why isn’t the same passion shown when kids are bullied at school to the point of suicide, or kids are being assaulted at school, or when teachers having inappropriate relationships with their students? Those instances happen far more frequently, yet where is the outcry and demand for additional regulations there? It’s such a double standard.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great article, Shelly! I really feel for the hoops you have to jump through, but you’re such a great example to other moms in states such as yours. Here’s Utah’s link- http://www.uhea.org/utah-homeschool-laws/ and it’s the same as what’s on the HSLDA site. Oh, and I just read another blog post where the mom in a high-regulated state advises “less is more” to what is given the school board. So, she’s on the same page as you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. State education websites are well known for being very inaccurate, and usually purposefully misleading and discouraging. Going to a public school information site for homeschooling is akin to going to a fox to ask advice on raising chickens.
      They have no financial interest in making homeschooling seem like a manageable choice.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi, I was wondering if I moved to the states from another country (where I homeschooled) can I just keep homeschooling in the states without notifying anyone (School District) or it is against the law?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would definitely check with HSLDA, but I’m fairly certain that you have to notify your school district. Otherwise, it would be considered “underground homeschooling,” which is illegal. I am not a lawyer, however. I would definitely contact hslda.org to make sure.

      Like

    2. That varies by state. For example, in my state you do not talk to any school district – they (blessedly) have no authority over us here. So telling a school district here would be the “overcompliance” Shelly talks about. But there is a small form to fill out by law that is stored with the state-level department of public instruction. I know some who never fill it out…but they do so to their peril because they are technically breaking the law (no matter how much actual education they do at home) and could be prosecuted for violation of truancy laws by not doing that form. I hate that the law says we have to fill out the form…but unless the law gets changed, I’d fill out the form since the alternative is possible imprisonment and losing my kids – or being mandated by a judge to stick them in school. Bottom line: Follow the rules of your state of legal residency. So if you are actually moving and not just visiting, know the law in your new location; you will be without a legal excuse if you don’t.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m in Wisconsin; come on over! 🙂 If you avoid Madison and Milwaukee, it’s a great state, lol…and one of the lowest-reg for homeschooling. It’s not perfect – those are the no-reg states – but other than that one form (which doesn’t include any personally identifying info about any child), we are literally left alone.

          I have told my hubby I will not move to any state with higher regs than here – which does limit our choices but that’s okay. Last year he was being pursued by a company in a higher-reg state…and he said the first question that came to his mind was, “What are the homeschool regs there?” Needless to say…we are still here. 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

  5. Hey, Shelley. I blog about homeschooling in South Carolina. We have accountability associations as an alternative option to registering with the School District. Most homeschoolers here go that route. New associations and support groups are popping up all the time–and I keep my site up-to-date with those connections (more than a national site like HSLDA can keep up with). http://www.homeschoolingsc.org/getting-started-page/

    One thing that happens here with “over compliance” is that once you register with an association, the homeschooler does not have to notify the school district. We don’t have a letter of intent here. (If you’re withdrawing from a school, then we have to notify the school that they need to withdraw the student from compulsory attendance.) But, we have had several districts with a “Social Worker” tracking down homeschoolers looking for names and ages of students so the district can verify they are legally compliant. This is an overreach that is not required in our law. Associations report the number of students in each grade level to the districts–but, the names and addresses are not.

    So, we try to make sure that homeschoolers know their rights…and what’s NOT required. I have a post about that too: http://www.homeschoolingsc.org/whats-not-required-south-carolina-homeschool-law/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And I can’t believe they have a social worker tracking homeschoolers down. That’s utterly ridiculous considering the things that have been going on in schools these days. Maybe the social workers could be more productive there where they’re actually needed.

      Like

      1. Our association directors are very knowledgeable and vigilant about protecting our rights. The directors are good a pushing back so individual homeschoolers don’t have to do it alone. Also, we have a contact at the Department of Education who we can call–and she will explain the law to the district officials who don’t take our word for it. I’ve called her a few times (I’m an association director).

        We can’t prevent overreach, but we can push back when they do. Most times, all you have to say is “Show me in the law where you found that requirement.”

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I evaluated 3 families this year — all first-time homeschoolers — and kept stressing to them that they were NOT required to have crazy, detailed portfolios! The law states that I must ensure the student is making adequate yearly progress and that I must interview the student. I told my parents that in order for me to feel comfortable signing off, I’d need a BOY/MOY/EOY sample for each subject and that I’d just be chatting with their child (so that I felt comfortable the work samples were authentic). In reality, it wasn’t always even that complicated, as it doesn’t take long to get a feel of how things are going. One mom was so stressed out that her daughter hadn’t completed every single problem in her math book and I couldn’t stress enough that SHE DIDN’T HAVE TO! I’m so glad you wrote this post, because one of the most important aspects of homeschooling is having the freedom to make learning decisions and if everyone over-does what they turn in, that could go away!

    Like

  7. Please read the law, not someone’s interpretation of it. In my state, the statutes are available online. Here there are a handful of well-meaning organizations which provide a summary, or key points of the law, on their websites. Every one of them has missed it, usually by adding to the requirements included in the law.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m in Washington state. Besides hslda.org we have washhomeschool.org and the laws here are really lax. We get yearly testing for 8years old and up, but we’re not required to show them to anyone unless we enroll in public school. We do need to sign a yearly intent to homeschool but only once the child turns 8 years old. Otherwise the law for being qualified is one year or more of college, or take a parent qualifying coarse. There are 11 required subjects, but most of them are high school subjects. there’s no real description of those subjects either so the interpretation is kind of up to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Georgia law can be found at http://www.gadoe.org/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/Pages/Home-Schools.aspx
    In summary, Georgia has made things very simple for homeschoolers. We only need to submit a declaration of intent to homeschool by September 1 each year. The only information required is the parent’s name, address, and phone number, as well as the names and ages of the students who are between 6 and 16 years old (compulsory attendance age), the school year, the school disctrict we are zoned for, and the date we are submitting. No other documentation or paperwork is collected at any time during the year. GA law requires students to study math, science, social studies, English language arts, and reading for 180 days, to keep a report card on file for at least 3 years after the school year has ended, and to take a standardized test at least once every 3 years beginning in the 3rd grade, but all that is on the honor system. The parent is officially the superintendent, principal, and teacher, and can legally fill out and sign any school-related forms, including work permits and attendance forms for drivers licenses, by showing a copy of the declaration of intent.

    Like

  10. I’m in CO, and actually, our state education website is very accurate. What bothers me is our school district tries to email me the form that they have parents who withdraw their kids to homeschool to fill out. All that is legally required is child’s name and age. But this form has tons of other information that they want. So, yes, know your state laws (I reread ours every summer right before I send in our notice of intent), and comply to the letter of the law. Do not to one little thing beyond what is required.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for this point. I homeschool in RI. I volunteer on the advocacy team for my homeschool group. In Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts the school districts each interpret the state law with their own policies. Then each new superintendent may interpret the policy differently. It makes for an extreme amount of confusion and overcompliance.
    To add to the issue HSLDA consider Rhode Island a red state (most difficult laws) due to the word approval being in our laws. Approval actually means
    “Acknowledgement”. Every year we send a Letter of Intent, we receive an acknowledgement back, and at the end of the year we send a letter saying that our child completed the year and progressed.
    We are very busy helping our members navigate the various district policies and assuring no one is overcomplying. We run free monthly info sessions to anyone interested.
    The best FAQ for Rhode Island is here:
    http://enrichri.org/faq/
    Click on our menu to find state laws and sample letters.
    You can register to attend an Introduction to Homeschooling session on Event Brite
    https://www.eventbrite.com/o/enrichri-8609017211

    Liked by 1 person

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