Frequently asked questions

Do I have to fill out specific forms?

District-specific forms are not required. You must submit an Educational Plan and choose an annual method of reporting progress (standardized tests OR progress reports OR dated work samples.

Do I have to have a 1:1 meeting with school district officials?

A 1:1 meeting is not required. Sometimes the districts will offer to meet with you or ask you to meet with the principle or other district employee. You may respectfully decline this request.

Is there a difference between homeschooling and online public school?

Yes. Although many families who choose online public school are included in homeschooling communities, the requirements and expectations from the Commonwealth differ. See more about this subject here.

Can I homeschool my child with special needs?

Yes. There is nothing legally preventing you from homeschooling a child with special needs. If your child has an IEP, you will need to have a conversation about services, or set up private services for your child. This is a list of online resources that may help.

Does my child have to take MCAS as a homeschooler?

Homeschooling students are not required to take MCAS. If you are interested in the history of the legislation and MHLA's role in the advocacy for homeschoolers in 1997, click here.

Can my child still participate in sports or extracurricular activities?

Some districts allow homeschoolers to participate in sports, specials and other classes and opportunities. Contact your local district to find out what your city or town's policy is on homeschool participation.

Do I need to provide detail on my educational background?

Information regarding the qualifications of persons you hire to provide educational services is not required. Charles says that a school system can ask about the parents' qualifications...not the rest of their support team or those to whom they delegate instruction. The school signs off on the parent as the primary educator. The primary educator then makes decisions (including the purchase of instructional services) that implement the educational plan.

Do I Need to provide a list of persons living at home?

The names of persons living in the home is not required. However, this is public information that the school can find in town census records. There is no upper limit on the number of children a family can homeschool, nor are there restrictions on who may be included in the household.

Do I need to include a statement about my child's willingness to homeschool?

A statement of student willingness to be homeschooled is not required. Parents have a right to select educational options for their minor children. Districts do not ask for a statement of student willingness to attend private or parochial school. Nor should they request homeschoolers to submit this information.

Do I need to create a schedule that matches the school calendar / school day?

A daily schedule matched to that of the school calendar is not required. Under the 1993 Educational Reform Act, public school students are required to receive 990 hours of directed instructional time per year at the secondary level (900 at the elementary level; check to see where your town has placed middle school grades). It is still not clear if private schools and those otherwise educated, which includes homeschoolers, are required to meet this hourly requirement, since it hasn't been addressed by the courts. However, if pressed to answer the question of time, you can assure school officials that the hours will be covered....but in a flexible manner. Because homeschool instruction needs only to be equivalent, not duplicate, you may consider certain hours when the local school is not in session as instructional time. This means that your equivalent schedule can include instructional time during the evening, on weekends, on snow days, during vacation periods, while traveling, while utilizing the internet and educational technology. Most school buildings are only open for instruction 180 days, and the length of the school day is determined by local collective bargaining agreement. Homeschoolers are not bound by collective bargaining and can utilize time in ways different from those expected of classroom teachers. However, the school system's year runs from July 1 through June 30. Because of homeschooling's flexibility you can use a 12-month school year instead of a 10- month one. This concept is called year-round schooling.

Do I need to duplicate the school's method of instruction?

Your methods and instructional practices, the manner in which you teach, may differ from that of the school. Charles was quite clear that it was beyond the scope of the school's authority to require any certain method of instruction. The Brunelle opinion acknowledges that school officials cannot expect to apply institutional standards to non-institutional settings.

Do I need any special permit to homeschool in my home?

Permits required for public buildings are not required for your homeschooling residence. Your residential occupancy permit is enough.

Do I need to submit information to the district about my employment schedule?

Information about your employment schedule is not required. While the school may have a legitimate interest in validating that there is coverage during instructional hours, asking for information about the child's non-instructional time is beyond their legitimate authority. Schools do not check the work schedules of their students' parents during summer vacation. Nor should they inquire about your child-care arrangements during non-instructional time.

Do I need to submit information on my plan for socialization?

Information on socialization is not required. You do not even need to provide group socialization via outings, gatherings, group instruction or group discussions. While your child will probably participate in group situations, it is not within the legitimate authority of the school to ask about group processes or require them.

Do I need to offer rationale for deciding to homeschool?

Your rationale for deciding to homeschool is not required. School officials do not need to know your rationale. If it is known to them they do not need to agree with it. You do not need to convince school officials that your program is better or more appropriate than those delivered by the school. You don't have to explain your rationale or defend it. You simply can say, "This is the right thing for our family at this time." The school cannot legitimately evaluate your educational plan on motive, only on content. Your rationale is extraneous information; your plan should speak for itself.

Do I need permission from the school district to homeschool?

You have the right to homeschool in Massachusetts, so formal permission to homeschool is not required. However, you must submit an ed plan before removing your child from school. Requirements for approval are outlined in the Quick Start Guide.

Adapted from original by Loretta Heuer

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