Homeschool Guidelines at a Glance
SCHOOL AUTHORITY OVERSIGHT
Oversight of home education is a local function in Massachusetts. Because there are nearly as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschooling families, local oversight enables school authorities to exercise discretion and flexibility in evaluating home education plans and student progress. In using their oversight function, school authorities may ask for certain types of information (elaborated below), but they must remember the limits established to protect parents' rights in determining how their children will be educated.
"…the approval of a home school proposal must not be conditioned on requirements that are not essential to the State interest in assuring that 'all the children shall be educated.'" (Charles)
"…the State…cannot apply institutional standards to this non-institutionalized setting." (Brunelle)
The courts have emphasized consistently that parents and school authorities should proceed cooperatively to "expedite approval." (Charles, Searles, Ivan) In cases where differences cannot be resolved cooperatively, the school authority assumes the burden of proof in any subsequent legal proceedings.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF SCHOOL AUTHORITIES AND PARENTS
SCHOOL AUTHORITY'S RESPONSIBILITY
1. Enforce the compulsory attendance law (G.L c. 76 Sec. 1);
2. Expedite approval of home education plans that meet the statutory standard.
1. Give prior notification to school authorities of their home education plan, which equals the local public school's "in thoroughness and efficiency," (Charles);
2. Comply with an evaluation program mutually agreed upon by school and parents.
APPROVAL AND EVALUATION
1. School officials may ask for information regarding "qualifications of the parent or parents who will be instructing the children," (Charles) but the parents are not required to have any specific educational credentials. "General Laws c. 71, Sec. 1, provides that teachers shall be 'of competent ability and good morals.'" (Charles)
2. School officials may inquire about subjects the child will study, length of the homeschool year, and hours of instruction in each subject. While school officials may consider hours of instruction in each subject, they may not dictate the manner in which the subjects will be taught. (Charles) In practice this means that parents may calculate hours of instruction based on the manner in which they homeschool, which does not have to replicate the public school's offering, only equal it in "thoroughness and efficiency." Additionally, following a schedule is not an important consideration in a home school where "...the perception and use of time... are different." (Brunelle)
3. School officials may identify teaching materials, but "only to determine subject and grade level… school officials may not... use this access to dictate the manner in which the subjects will be taught." (Charles) The Brunelle Court pointed out that "…some of the most effective curricular materials…may not be tangible. For example, travel, community service, visits to educationally enriching facilities and places, and meeting with various resource people, can provide important learning experiences apart from the four corners of a text or workbook." (Brunelle)
4. School officials and parents should agree on a method of evaluation that may include one of the following approaches: standardized testing, periodic progress report, or dated work samples. (Charles) Home visits may not be required as a condition of approval. (Brunelle)