Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts, Inc.

Overreach, Reasonable . . . or Essential?

What if your town asks for more?

Because homeschooling in Massachusetts is governed by case law, there are “gray” areas. This does not mean, however, that we are without guidance. The law itself gives guidelines for what sorts of requests towns can make.

On the positive side, Care and Protection of Charles lays out four factors that may be considered in determining whether to approve a home education plan. These are:

  1. the proposed curriculum and number of hours of instruction in each of the proposed subjects;
  2. the competency of parents to teach their children;
  3. the materials to be used; and
  4. some form of periodic evaluation.

*See the Tips article linked below for a fleshing out of each of these points.

What if your town asks for something that goes beyond one of these basic four categories? You may hear some homeschoolers say that anything that goes beyond the four factors laid out in Charles is “overreach.” Others may argue that a certain request is “reasonable.” Neither of these words accurately reflect the law. Charles itself gives us a standard which can be summed up in one word. That word is “essential.”

Charles states that: “the approval of a home school proposal must not be conditioned on requirements that are not essential [emphasis added] to the State's interest in ensuring that ‘all children shall be educated.’” [Charles at 337]

How can you tell if a request is “essential”? While there may be some variation from town to town, it would be hard to argue that any request that is new, is not required of all homeschoolers in a given town, or is not required by most towns in Massachusetts is “essential.”

If you are unsure if a request your town is making is “essential” or if you are looking for guidance in how to respond to such a request, you can contact us any time. AHEM is here to help.

This legal summary was not drafted by practicing lawyers and is not intended to constitute official legal advice, but rather is presented by AHEM volunteers and is based on their reading and understanding of Massachusetts homeschooling requirements as they have followed those requirements throughout the years. Readers still need to make their own decision on how best to proceed.