Although home schooling is legal in all 50 states, laws vary. In some states, home schooling is highly regulated; in others, there is no contact between the state and the parents.
Today parents have many options when it comes to providing instruction in the home. However, all of the educational freedoms, requirements, and laws may seem confusing.
It is extremely important to understand the requirements of your state before beginning a home school program.
Many states require some or all of the following: a letter of intent, proof of a chosen curriculum, quarterly progress reports, yearly testing, end of year evaluations, and a student portfolio of assignments.
Virtual Public Schools – State Funded
Many states now offer parents the option to enroll students in a state funded online instruction program. Some states offer only high school classes, while others offer an entire K-12 curriculum. This type of program allows parents to provide a cohesive, accredited, and guided curriculum for a student learning at home. It may be difficult to gain acceptance into a virtual school because space is very limited.
States currently offering a Virtual Public School:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
Virtual Schools – Private Institutions
These online schools are usually (but not always) private schools offering an accredited curriculum; however, they require an annual tuition. The services they offer range from a simple log-in and learn, to portfolio management, yearly evaluations, personal interviews, on-site classes, and more. The tuition costs may vary widely.
Private Independent Study Programs – (ISP)
All private independent study programs (private ISPs) fall under the same legal guidelines as a private school. The administrators of the ISP file the private school affidavit. Private ISP's vary widely in offerings, philosophy and structure. Some offer complete curricula and home study assignments; others serve only as administrative record keepers for independent home schooling families. Many families appreciate the structure, the record keeping, and the anonymity that private ISP's offer.
An umbrella school is generally a private school that also provides services to home-schooled students. A family who home-schools may choose to enroll in an umbrella school in order to become "covered" by the umbrella school. This is very important to a family who does not want to be held accountable by the state. Instead, the family is accountable to the private or “umbrella” school. One of the benefits of this association is that students receive a diploma from an accredited school, which may be important in the college application process. Some umbrella schools dictate the type of curriculum to be used, while others may leave the decision up to each individual family.
Churches and Co-Op Groups
Many churches offer support to home schooling families. Churches often provide space to co-op groups that offer varied classes to interested home-school students. Parents may choose to teach the main academic subjects at home, but seek additional group activities and socialization for their student. Co-ops may offer group classes in art, sports/PE, music, science labs, and many other subjects. Some may utilize a religious-based curriculum or its members may have shared religious beliefs.
- Charlotte Mason Method - Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) was an innovative educator who developed a unique approach to education.
- Classical Education Method - Dorothy Sayers well-known essay "The Lost Tools of Learning" is the basis of the new Classical Christian Education movement.
- Eclectic Homeschooling Method - An Eclectic Homeschooler is one who looks at the different approaches and methods of homeschooling and takes from each, forming his own unique philosophy.
- Montessori Method - According to Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952), learning is a natural, self-directed process which follows certain fundamental laws of nature.
- Traditional or School-at-Home Method - Traditional Homeschools are similar to a public school with a complete curriculum and traditional grading system and record keeping.
- Unit Studies Approach - The Unit Studies Approach integrates all school subjects together into one theme or topic.
- Unschooling or Natural Learning Method - Unschooling or Natural Learning is the philosophy of child-led learning.
- Waldorf Education Method - Waldorf education is based on the spiritual-scientific research of the Austrian scientist and thinker Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). According to his philosophy, man is a threefold being of spirit, soul and body whose capacities unfold in three developmental stages.