Now that you’ve read Part 1 in this Homeschooling 101 series you know how and why to start homeschooling from a foundation of love and faith. The next logical step in your journey is to learn the legalities of homeschooling. Not only is this important to ensure that you are following the laws of your state, it will help you to feel more confident if some well-meaning person ever tries to challenge your right to homeschool!
Legal in all 50 states
You would be surprised by the number of people who are asked, “Is that even legal” when they say they homeschool. That particular question always cracks me up because if it was illegal, don’t you think we’d be a bit more discreet about it! I mean, people don’t just readily fess up to other crimes during polite chit chat, so why on earth would we tell people we homeschool if it were illegal? In case you weren’t sure, yes, homeschooling is completely legal. It is legally allowed for parents to educate their own children at home in all 50 states and in many countries around the world. Should anyone ever ask if it legal for you to homeschool, simply point them to the laws of your state/country.
One key to making sure you are not doing anything illegal is to know the laws of your specific state. While homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, each state has differing requirements for homeschoolers. Some states require nothing more than simply choosing to do it and educating your child, other states require quarterly reports to the state with a detailed outline of what will be taught and how you will teach it. Various states are more and less ‘homeschool friendly’, and I can’t speak to every state out there, but I can discuss Oregon’s laws.
Learn the laws
Join a homeschooling organization for your state
In Oregon, homeschooling is quite simple. First, register with your Educational Service District (note, not your local school district, but your regional ESD) when you begin. Second, have your children evaluated using ‘nationally normed’ standardized tests in grades 3, 5, 8, and 10, scoring somewhere above the 15%. Third, keep your scores from these tests in case your ESD ever asks to see them. That’s really the gist of it. For full details, go to the OCEANetwork page detailing the specific laws in Oregon, including differences for students with special needs.
While you are on the OCEANetwork site, consider becoming a supporting family. By joining you offer support to those who work tirelessly to protect our homeschooling rights and create educational opportunities for us in Oregon. As a supporting member you will also be kept up to date on homeschooling in Oregon through monthly newsletters and quarterly magazines. As an added bonus, supporting members receive a $10 discount when registering for the annual OCEANetwork homeschooling conference. This conference is a BIG deal guys, and saving money is ALWAYS a big deal in my book, so this is a total win!
Go to a homeschool conference
If you read part 1 of this series you know how much I LOVE homeschool conferences. Like, we’re the kind of people who plan our anniversary getaway around the homeschool conference. Most years we make a weekend of it and stay at a hotel near the convention center. We love the conference that much! Not only is it great for encouragement in your journey as homeschoolers (and parents in general), it’s a great place to connect with our state homeschool leaders. Attending the conference gives you the opportunity to ask the wonderful people who represent our wishes and needs as homeschoolers the questions you have about how to homeschool in Oregon!
Come to the 2017 Oregon Christian Home Education Conference June 23-24!
Find the encouragement and support you need for your homeschool! You’ll enjoy amazing speakers including keynote Heidi St. John, a fantastic vendor hall, a used curriculum sale, and activities for the kids
Anyone who homeschools should have a membership to Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). I can’t emphasize enough how valuable this organization is. They fight to strengthen and protect the right of parents to homeschool across the US and sometimes around the world!
Membership is like Car Insurance
I’ve heard many people say, “Well, I’m following the rules, so I shouldn’t need to pay for legal defense.” Well, yes, if you are following the laws of your state you SHOULDN’T need it, but that doesn’t guarantee that you WON’T need it. Think of an HSLDA membership like car insurance. Even if you follow every rule of the road perfectly, you are not in control of what everyone else does. That’s why even the best drivers must still have car insurance. It offers them protection in case someone else’s actions cause harm. It is something we all hope we never need, but would extremely regret having skipped if we ever found ourselves in need of it. All it would take is one person deciding that they think you shouldn’t be homeschooling and making a complaint to the wrong person and you could find yourself in a world of trouble.
The beauty of an HSLDA membership is that if you are following the laws of your state and someone threatens your right to homeschool, they will represent you as far and as long as you need for the problem to be resolved. That means if a letter from ‘your lawyer’ needs to be sent to a school district that is trying to overstep its authority in telling you what you are and aren’t allowed to do as a homeschooler, they can send it out for you. It also means that if you need someone to contact CPS and alert them that homeschooling does not constitute grounds for investigating a child’s welfare, they can make that call. Even if you need a lawyer to come to court and represent you at the local, state, or national level (clear up through the United States Supreme Court), they will send a lawyer out to represent you. It doesn’t cost you more to get more representation, either. Everything you need is covered under your membership fee! Again, you will likely never need this representation, but I assure you that if you ever found yourself in need and didn’t have an HSLDA membership, you would be kicking yourself!
It’s So Much More Than Insurance
As much as an HSLDA membership is an invaluable protection, it is so much more than ‘legal insurance’. There are a range of benefits offered to HSLDA members. They have consultants that members can contact to seek advice and resources on homeschooling children of all ages, and other consultants who have special expertise in homeschooling students with special needs. Members also enjoy discounts in the HSLDA bookstore and on courses through their online academy. Additionally, HSLDA has negotiated discounts for its members for other companies ranging from homeschool supplies to car rentals! Plus, just like joining your state homeschool organization, you are offering direct monetary support to an organization that fights daily to preserve and protect your rights as a parent!
I know homeschooling can seem intimidating at first. Everyone has an opinion on what should and shouldn’t be allowed. This is why it is so vital to educate yourself on the homeschooling laws in your state. Once you know you are following the rules you can tell anyone who questions your authority to educate themselves because you know the truth!