- What are the education laws in Massachusetts?
- What information has to be in my education plan?
- What about a curriculum?
- Do I have to be a certified teacher or have a college degree to homeschool my children?
- What about evaluation?
- Can testing be required?
- Do I have to teach the same subjects as the public school?
- Must my education plan align with the Common Core Standards?
- Do I have to match the schedule of the public school?
- How do I know where to send my education plan?
- At what age should I submit an education plan for my child?
- When should I file my education plan?
- Do I have to meet with school officials?
- How do I start homeschooling if my child is already enrolled in school?
- Can I use school facilities, participate in public school classes and programs, and/or get educational materials from the schools?
- Can my kids play high school sports at the public school?
- Do homeschoolers get a diploma?
- What about MCAS?
- What if my child has special needs?
- What happens if the school does not respond to a parent's proposed home education plan?
- What happens if the school district says my plan isn’t good enough?
- Can home visits be required as a condition of approval of my home education plan?
- Are homeschoolers included in the public school student enrollment count?
- Can homeschoolers take the HiSET (High School Equivalency exam, formerly the GED)?
- What is the role of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education re: homeschooling?
What are the education laws in Massachusetts?Homeschooling in Massachusetts is primarily governed by the compulsory attendance statute (G.L. c 76, Sec. 1), and Care and Protection of Charles, a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling handed down in 1987. Oversight is at the level of local school districts. Read more at Massachusetts Homeschool Law. Back to top.
What information has to be in my education plan?The Charles court recognized that certain factors may be considered by the superintendent or school committee in determining whether or not to approve a home school proposal:
- the proposed curriculum [i.e. the subjects], the length of the homeschool year and the number of hours of instruction in each of the proposed subjects
- the competency of the parents to teach the children
- access to the textbooks, workbooks, and other instructional aids to be used by the children and to the lesson plans and teaching manuals to be used by the parents
- a form of assessment of the children to ensure educational progress and the attainment of minimum standards [Link to SampleEdPlan]
What about a curriculum?Home school proposals are expected to be “equal in thoroughness and efficiency” to the instruction provided in public schools, but Charles does not make reference to or require the use of any specific materials or resources. Back to top.
Do I have to be a certified teacher or have a college degree to homeschool my children?No. Charles says “…[C]ertification would not appropriately be required for parents under a home school proposal… Nor must the parents have college or advanced academic degrees.” (Charles at 339) Back to top.
What about evaluation?Charles states that school officials and parents should agree on a method of evaluation, which can include one of the following: standardized testing, a periodic progress report, or dated work samples. Back to top.
Can testing be required?The question of whether school officials can require testing of homeschoolers is not answered definitively in Massachusetts law. Charles states that “…the superintendent or school committee may properly require periodic standardized testing of the children to ensure educational progress and the attainment of minimum standards.” (Charlesat 339, 340). However, the decision goes on to say, “Other means of evaluating the progress of the children may be substituted for the formal testing process, such as periodic progress reports or dated work samples, subject to the approval of the parents.” (Charles at 340). It’s important to remember that testing was the chosen method of evaluation for the family involved in the Charles case. It’s likely that when the court stated that standardized testing may be required, it was addressing (and answering “yes” to) the larger question of whether evaluation in general could be required. The fact that the court offers examples of other acceptable forms of evaluation, and stresses that they should be “subject to the approval of the parents,” indicates that the intent was not to allow schools the authority to dictate what type of evaluation families use. Rather, the intent is to allow parents to retain a choice in how their children are evaluated. Back to top.
Do I have to teach the same subjects as the public school?Yes, but not on the same schedule. For instance, a homeschooler could decide to cover all of high school math in one year, and not do any math in other years. G.L. c. 69, section 1D lists as core subjects mathematics, science and technology, history and social science, English, foreign languages and the arts. Subjects from Chapter 71 Sections 1 and 3 include orthography, reading, writing, the English language and grammar, geography, arithmetic, drawing, music, the history and constitution of the United States, the duties of citizenship, health education, physical education and good behavior. Back to top.
Must my education plan align with the Common Core Standards?No. Back to top.
Do I have to match the schedule of the public school?No. Following a schedule is not an important consideration in a home school where “...the perception and use of time... are different ” (Brunelle at 518). Back to top.
How do I know where to send my education plan?A school official is commonly designated to handle education plans. If a district does not specify an individual, you should send your education plan via certified mail return receipt requested to the superintendent’s office. Back to top.
At what age should I submit an education plan for my child?You should submit your education plan in the calendar year in which your child turns six. Families are required to continue reporting to their local school district until their child turns 16. Families may choose to continue to file education plans for specific purposes such as maintaining dual enrollment status at community colleges or to play public high school sports. Back to top.
When should I file my education plan?Charles does not specify any specific deadline for submitting an education plan. Most families submit their education plans annually a few weeks before the start of the school year. Parents who withdraw their child from school should submit their education plan prior to withdrawing their child. Back to top.
Do I have to meet with school officials?No. Back to top.
How do I start homeschooling if my child is already enrolled in school?Submit an education plan as soon as you decide to withdraw your child from school. You may decide to inform your child’s principal as a courtesy as well as to avoid potential misunderstandings or perceptions of truancy. If you have a specific question about this, contact AHEM. Back to top.
Can I use school facilities, participate in public school classes and programs, and/or get educational materials from the schools?Decisions regarding homeschoolers’ participation in any public school offerings are made at the discretion of local districts. Back to top.
Can my kids play high school sports at the public school?The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA), a private, not-for-profit organization organized by its member schools, stipulates that homeschooled students are eligible to participate in MIAA-sponsored interscholastic athletics if certain conditions are met. This policy removes obstacles to homeschoolers’ participation, but does not guarantee access. MIAA member schools still have the final say when it comes to allowing homeschooled students to join their athletic teams. Back to top.
Do homeschoolers get a diploma?Home-schooled students are not permitted to participate in the MCAS and, therefore, cannot attain a public high school diploma. Back to top.
What about MCAS?Homeschoolers are neither required, nor are they allowed, to take MCAS. Back to top.
What if my child has special needs?Most Massachusetts families with special needs children receive homeschool approval with little difficulty. The MA DESE confirms that eligible Massachusetts homeschoolers have the right to special services through the public schools if they desire them. Back to top.
What happens if the school does not respond to a parent's proposed home education plan?While the school bears the responsibility of processing education plans, not all districts send approval letters. Sending your education plan “Return Receipt Requested” or hand delivering it and asking for a signed receipt provides verification that your materials were received. If a school district's non-response concerns you, you can gather information on what may be standard operating procedure in your town by checking with other homeschoolers. If an approval letter is important to you or necessary, you can request one. Back to top.
What happens if the school district says my plan isn’t good enough?If the school sees a problem with your plan, they must detail the reasons, and give you the opportunity to revise your plan to remedy it. If, having submitted a plan, you begin homeschooling without approval, the school assumes the burden to show that your plan does not equal "in thoroughness and efficiency, and in the progress made therein, that in the public schools in the same town...." In Charles, the court recommended for "the parties… to proceed expeditiously in a serious effort to resolve the matter by agreement." Back to top.
Can home visits be required as a condition of approval of my home education plan?No. Back to top.
Are homeschoolers included in the public school student enrollment count?No. Schools receive no funding for homeschooled students located in their district. Back to top.
Can homeschoolers take the HiSET or GED (High School Equivalency exam)?Yes. A homeschooler age 16 or 17 can have the public school write a letter stating that he or she is not enrolled, as he or she is (or has been) a homeschooler, and that letter will qualify him or her to take the High School Equivalency Assessment. Back to top.
What is the role of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education re: homeschooling?The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has no authority to approve or disapprove homeschooling plans, and in fact plays no role whatsoever in the implementation of homeschooling regulation in our state. Back to top.