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What Are the 10 Most Homeschool-Friendly States in the U.S.?

by David Engle | May 27, 2021 | 9 min read

Homeschooling continues to experience a boom unlike any it’s ever seen, fueled in part by COVID-19. The pandemic not only raised concerns about how safely schools could operate, but many parents were simply not satisfied with the quality of remote learning their children were receiving while they were at home through the end of the 2019-20 school year and much of the current school year.

Though many parents undoubtedly dove into homeschooling initially figuring it would be a temporary solution, some parents and students simply fell in love with the flexibility, personalization, and academic quality that homeschooling provides. Some of you may be contemplating homeschool right now for the upcoming school year–after all, summer is a perfect time to enroll your child for homeschool classes, with a few months ahead to prep your home and your student for an awesome educational adventure.

As you may already be aware, each state has its own homeschool rules and regulations. Some are fairly strict, others essentially allow you to do as you please with your child’s education. So, the question that always comes to mind is, “Is my state homeschool-friendly?” The answer to that question is…it depends on your perspective.

Some parents who live in a state with more stringent homeschooling laws, such as New York or Pennsylvania, might take a read through those laws and think to themselves, “Yeah, way too much work for me. No thanks.” Those same parents may live in a state like New Jersey or Texas, where there’s little to no oversight over homeschool education, and say, “Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!”

On the other hand, there are some parents living in New York or Pennsylvania thinking, “I need that level of regulation to keep me organized and on track.” And those same types of parents in New Jersey or Texas are saying to themselves, “There’s no way I can do this without some type of formal rules or guidelines.”

What we’ve done here is give you the best of both worlds–the top five states that do impose stricter rules and regulations, as well as the top five states that let you be you and do your own thing.

Top 5 States with Strict Regulations

  • Pennsylvania: One of the states with more rigorous requirements, the Keystone State offers four choices for homeschooling your child:
    • Homeschooling under the state homeschool statute. To homeschool under this statute, you must have a high school diploma or equivalent. A notarized affidavit must be filed to the school superintendent each year, including information regarding immunization records, an outline of proposed subjects being taught, evidence of health and medical services required by law, and other information.
      School must be taught for 180 days/900 hours at the elementary level and 180 days/990 hours at the secondary level. There are also mandatory subjects that must be taught for both K-6 students and 7-12 students. A portfolio must be maintained and include a log of textbooks used, student work samples, and state Department of Education-approved standardized testing. Then, your child must be evaluated by a qualified evaluator (a licensed psychologist, a state-certified teacher, or a non-public school teacher or administrator).
  • Private tutor. Along with submitting a copy of his/her certification with the local school district, a private tutor must meet the following requirements:
    • Be certified to teach public school in Pennsylvania.
    • Teach one or more children from a single family.
    • Provide the majority of instruction.
    • Receive a fee or other considerations for teaching.
  • Enroll in satellite of a religious day school. To qualify as a day school, you need to provide all of the requirements that you would under the homeschool statute, file an affidavit listing required subjects being taught and demonstrating that the school is compliant with the law, and report the names and addresses of any/all students enrolled.
  • Enroll in satellite of an accredited day school or boarding school. You may teach your children at home if they are enrolled in an extension or satellite of a qualifying day or boarding school that is accredited by an association approved by the state’s Board of Education.

We told you Pennsylvania was strict!

  • Rhode Island: For the state of Rhode Island, you must submit a Notice of Intent and receive approval from your local school committee. You are required to instruct for 180 days during a school year and teach the following subjects:
    • Reading
    • Writing
    • Geography
    • Math
    • Health
    • Physical education
    • U.S. and Rhode Island history
    • Principles of American government

Additionally, an attendance register must be kept and made available to the school committee at the end of the school year. Not quite as detailed as Pennsylvania, but enough guidelines to keep any homeschooling family on track.

  • Vermont: While Vermont essentially provides only one option for homeschooling your kids, there are some fairly firm rules around that option. Under the state’s statute, you must send a written enrollment notice with requested information. Next, you’re required to submit a narrative, which is basically a detailed outline of the material you plan to cover (if you’ve completed two consecutive homeschool years that are deemed successful by the state of Vermont, you don’t need to submit another narrative). Once you’ve taken these first couple steps, the next thing to do is wait until you receive an acknowledgement of compliance from the state. Once you’ve obtained that, you’re ready to start to teaching the required subjects:
    • Basic communication, including reading, writing, and use of numbers
    • Vermont and U.S. government, history, and citizenship
    • Physical education and health, including effects of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs on the body and society
    • English, as well as American and other literature
    • Natural sciences
    • Fine arts

Finally, an annual assessment must be submitted, which can be in the form of a written report from a Vermont-certified teacher; a written report from parents/instructor along with a portfolio of the student’s work that demonstrates progress; or results of an approved standardized achievement test administered in a way approved by the testing company.

  • Massachusetts: Similar to its New England neighbor, Vermont, only one path of homeschooling exists in the state of Massachusetts. And while, on the surface, there don’t appear to be too many rules, the first step does require some work.

You’ll need to file a Notice of Intent to your school district, which must be approved by the superintendent or school committee. In your Notice of Intent, you must submit a proposed curriculum and the number of hours you expect to teach. The administrators will then review your proposal, the competency of the parents who are doing the teaching, the textbooks you plan on using, and the type of assessment you’ll be providing your child.

Once that is approved, you can move on to the next step, which is teaching the required subjects:

  • Spelling
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • English language and grammar
  • Geography
  • Arithmetic
  • Drawing
  • Music
  • United States history and Constitution
  • Duties of citizenship
  • Health (including CPR)
  • Physical education

While there are no actual requirements concerning record-keeping, it’s a good idea to maintain some sort of records of your child’s education. Finally, students should be tested or evaluated in a way agreed upon by both parents and the superintendent.

  • New York: The Empire State follows most of the same requirements as many other less-regulated states, but there is a good amount of work that needs to be done within those requirements

First, a Letter of Intent needs to be filed. For New York City residents, that goes to the city’s Department of Education; outside the city, this should go to your school district’s superintendent. Next, an Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) should be submitted, with a list of subjects instructed. This is where things get a bit more strict–there is quite a lengthy list of subjects that require instruction (click here for the entire list).

Day and hour requirements must be satisfied as well–180 days and 900 hours for students in grades 1 through 6, and 990 hours for grades 7 through 12. A quarterly report needs to be filed, and it must include the number of hours of instruction, the type of material covered for each subject, and a grade evaluation. Finally, an annual assessment is required via either standardized test or written evaluation, depending on grade level.

If you live in any of the above states and appreciate guidelines and rules around your child’s education, you’re in luck. While it is a bit extra work for the parents, the oversight by the state and local school district as well as the approval requirements for curriculum and subjects taught do provide a measure of peace of mind.

For those of you not interested in any of the above, check out the top five least regulated states below!

Top 5 States with Minimal to No Regulations

  • New Jersey: The Garden State is a bit of an anomaly in this category, as most of the states with little or no homeschool regulation are located west of the Mississippi and/or south of the Mason-Dixon line. All you need to do to homeschool in New Jersey is provide an education “equivalent” to that which your student would receive in a traditional school. That essentially translates to the following subjects taught in New Jersey public schools:
  • Language arts (four years)
  • Math (three years)
  • Science (three years)
  • World history (one year)
  • Civics and/or New Jersey history (two years)
  • Health/safety/physical education (2.5 hours per week for four years)
  • Finance/economics or business/entrepreneurial classes (one semester)
  • Visual or performing arts (one year)
  • Foreign language (one year, or shown proficiency)
  • Career/technical/vocational (one year)
  • Technological literacy, civics, economics, geography, global content integrated throughout

This means, teach pretty much what’s taught in public schools at the appropriate grade level, and you’re golden. There are no requirements and no one is checking up on you.

  • Illinois: The state of Illinois treats homeschooling as a private school, but you are not required to have your private homeschool registered or recognized by the state. The only requirements that need to be satisfied are that you have to teach certain subjects (language arts, math, biological and physical sciences, social sciences, fine arts, and physical development and health), instruction must be in English, and you should always call your homeschool a private school when dealing with government officials. Not bad at all!
  • Michigan: It looks like a lot, but there are only a couple of homeschool options to consider in the state of Michigan.
  • Homeschooling under the state homeschool statute. To use this option, parents are only required to use an organized educational program covering reading, spelling, mathematics, science, history, civics, literature, writing, and English grammar. Where this differs from many states, however, is that parents are not actually obligated to notify the state that they will be homeschooling their children; parents are authorized to provide home instruction by the state.
  • Homeschooling as a non-public school. To do this, a few requirements need to be satisfied. The instructor (parent or anyone else who will be instructing) must have a teaching certificate, a teaching permit, or a bachelor’s degree. Next, homeschooling parents are required to notify the local superintendent of the intention to instruct at home. While the Michigan Department of Education is within their rights to ask you for qualifications, courses being studied, and other information, you do not have to provide this info unless specifically requested by the DOE. Finally, the following subjects must be taught for all grades:
    • Mathematics
    • Reading
    • English
    • Social studies
    • Science
    • Health and physical education
  • These subjects must be taught in high school:
    • U.S. Constitution
    • Michigan Constitution
    • The history and present form of civil government in the U.S., Michigan, and Michigan’s political subdivisions and municipalities

So, if you’re looking for the most minimally invasive or regulatory option, homeschooling under the state homeschool statute is likely your best bet.

  • Missouri: The Show-Me State doesn’t require you to actually show much of anything when it comes to homeschooling. Instructors must teach the following subjects:
  • Reading
  • Math
  • Social studies
  • Science
  • Language arts

While not required, it’s a good idea to keep a log of hours so you know you’re hitting the mandatory 1,000 total hours of instruction every term. Beyond that, records must be kept (though not submitted unless requested) for students under the age of 16. That’s all there is to it.

  • Texas: The Lone Star State only offers one option for homeschoolers: Teach the required subjects, which include math, reading, spelling, grammar, and good citizenship. While science and history are not required, it’s recommended you teach these courses if your child plans to apply to college. The only other requirement is that you use a written curriculum (online programs are considered written curriculum). Don’t mess with Texas when it comes to homeschooling.
  • Honorable mentions: Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Mississippi, Oklahoma. These states are also very lenient when it comes to homeschooling, with very few (if any) requirements to meet in order to teach your child at home.

There are some caveats to keep in mind when using this information to decide on whether to homeschool in any of these states. First and foremost, while we’re happy to provide guidance and information, it’s important that you refer to your state’s specific laws and regulations as they are constantly being updated. Clicking the links for each state takes you right to that state’s homeschool law page, with information provided by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). There you’ll find the latest and greatest involving homeschool regulations in your state.

Also, while many of these states do not formally require you to keep a portfolio of progress or work, if your child plans on attending college, it’s always smart to maintain records, transcripts, progress reports, and any other relevant documentation a college or university may request during the application process.

Finally, the most important thing to remember is, this is your child’s one and only shot at a good education. While it may be easier, more convenient, and less stressful to do the bare minimum,  you know that your child deserves the best education possible. Bridgeway Academy is proud to have amazing students in every single state in the country (not to mention all over the world!), from the states with the most strident laws and regulations to those with none. And we take pride in being able to provide our students with education of the highest quality, whether it’s through our Self-Paced Classes, Live Online Classes, or Blended Learning program. There’s something for everyone at Bridgeway–gifted students and elite traveling athletes, independent thinkers, those with learning disabilities, and those who love to learn with textbooks.

No matter which state in which you reside, we can help make the entire homeschooling experience as easy–yet organized–as possible. Bridgeway offers record-keeping and accreditation packages to handle all the work you may not want to take on, plus unlimited support from academic advisors who are there to guide you and your student every step of the homeschool journey. Let us help you embark on that journey by calling us at 1-800-863-1474 with any questions or for more information. We hope to see you in class this fall!

David Engle
Hello, and thanks for reading! I’m David Engle--dad, husband, sports fan, and writer/editor. As a father for the last 18 years (father of two for the last 14), I consider myself to be pretty well-versed in all things related to education, childhood, and parenting, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to share some insights and knowledge with fellow parents. I have been a professional writer and editor for a quarter of a century (it pains me to admit that) and have been writing in the educational space for a number of those years. I reside in southern New Jersey with my wife, two kids, two dogs, and three cats. Never a dull moment.
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