In the year 2011-2102, the parents of 91% of the homeschooled pupils said that their dissatisfaction with the public school environment was the primary reason for switching their children to home schools, instead.
Homeschooling is a concept fast becoming popular in the U.S., with many families preferring to teach their children at home, instead of sending them to a more formal educational institution. The reasons for this vary―parents wish to be associated more closely with their child’s development, or they feel dissatisfied with the public school system, or they are worried about their child’s safety when at school, or their child has special needs, or even if the child is gifted in music or sport and needs more time to practice that art.
Yes, the reasons definitely vary. What remains universal is the fact that parents believe they can make their child a better individual if he/she is schooled at home, either by them, or a tutor. However, it may not be very easy to switch to or decide on homeschooling, in some states. Fortunately, the law in Texas is friendlier on parents, and allows them to switch to homeschooling quite easily. Before you make the decision of schooling your child at home, do make sure to get well acquainted with all your legal rights.
Homeschools in Texas are considered to be private schools by law, and hence, children are exempted from compulsory attendance to public schools if they are being schooled at home. An excerpt from the Texas Education Code, Chapter 25, Section 25.086. states that, “A child is exempt from the requirements of compulsory school attendance if the child:
(1) attends a private or parochial school that includes in its course a study of good citizenship;”
For legal homeschooling in Texas, the law requires parents to follow three basic requirements:
- The curriculum must include five mandatory subjects―spelling, grammar, mathematics, reading, and a study of good citizenship (i.e., civics).
- The curriculum must be in visual form―either books, computers, or a combination of both.
- The instruction must be bona fide, which means that it must be completely genuine, and not a sham.
Many families have found that their children have highly benefited from homeschooling, have gone on to university after completing 18 years of age, and have become successful, accomplished adults.
Texas is a “free” state when it comes to homeschooling, meaning, the law is easier on parents than homeschooling laws in other states in the US. There are a few general requirements for legitimate homeschooling in Texas, which are fairly easy for parents to understand and follow.
The age requirement for schooling is six years as of September that year, till the time the child turns 18 and has graduated high school. This requirement applies to both public as well as private schools, and since homeschools fall under the private school category, this age requirement applies to homeschool pupils, too.
According to the Texas Education Code, public schools must have 180 working days in a year, out of which students must attend a minimum of 170 working days, unless subject to exemptions mentioned in the Education Code. However, since homeschools are private schools in Texas, there is no specific number of working days mentioned by the law. The school (or in this case, the parent) can decide the number of days their child has to be homeschooled in a year.
Homeschools are not regulated by the State. This means that parents have the freedom to decide the number of hours the homeschool will be in session. This allows parents to adjust the schooling sessions according to their jobs or other activities. Many parents have claimed that a shorter number of working hours has been more beneficial for their child than what is followed in the public school system. However, this does vary from child to child.
If parents wish to have someone else tutor their child at home, they can. Since the State law considers homeschools as private schools, it does not regulate the curriculum or qualifications and certifications of the teacher. If a parent/someone else standing for the parent wishes to teach the child, they can do so. However, tutors who teach more than three students outside the public schooling system need to be certified to do so, or they may encounter legal problems.
Homeschools can choose their own curriculum according to the child’s needs. The law requires homeschools to include five mandatory subjects in their curriculum―reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and a study of good citizenship, apart from other subjects which they may choose for the curriculum. It is also vital that instruction is genuine, and not a sham, and that it is in a visual format. You can use books, videos, or a combination of the two. Your curriculum does not have to be verified or approved by the school district.
Since homeschools are private schools, it is legal for the child to be out of the house during the daytime. Families deciding to homeschool their children should not deem it necessary to keep the children inside the house during the day. However, if your town has some local daytime curfews, it is advisable to not let your child go out without you.
If your child has been attending the public school, and you want to switch him/her to education at home, you must first submit a letter of withdrawal to the school’s principal. You do not require any permission from the school to homeschool your child. Simply send in a detailed, certified withdrawal letter to the school, and request a return receipt, so as to ensure that it has been delivered to the school. If the school asks you to come in yourself for further formalities, you don’t have to go, as long as your letter fulfills all the guidelines of co-operation with the school district. Before withdrawing your child, ensure that you have your curriculum in place. If you want, you can also find a local support group that will help you go through all these steps. If your child has never attended public school, you do not have to follow these steps. If the local school contacts you, send in a certified letter of assurance.
Even if your children do not attend public school, your family is eligible to receive public assistance, according to Section 1600-A of the Texas Work Handbook―the operations manual for the Texas Department of Human Services. Your child is also eligible for social security benefits, according to Section 404.306 of the Social Security Code, as well as for the Education Saving Accounts established by the federal government. However, as a homeschooler, you will not be eligible for the USD 250 deduction allowed for expenses made by teachers.
Homeschoolers are exempted from jury duty if their child is under 10 years of age, and if they have legal custody of the child.
Homeschools in Texas are private schools and not subjected to regulation from the State. As a result, homeschools have the freedom to decide their graduation standards. No minimum age is specified for graduation.
Once your child meets your graduation standards, he or she is eligible to receive the high school diploma. For getting an official transcript, parents can check with a local support group to know more about ordering the transcript and diploma from different sources.
Colleges in Texas are legally required to accept and admit homeschooled pupils. Several colleges outside Texas also readily admit homeschooled students.
If your child has special needs (read: learning difficulties or other problems), you can definitely homeschool him/her freely in Texas. You have the freedom to choose a curriculum that best suits your child’s needs. It would be advisable to seek help from a local support group, which will help you design a special curriculum for your child, as well as educate you of all the rights entitled to your child and you.
Just like in any other situation, you might encounter some problems when homeschooling your child. You need to be aware of your rights, and know that you are doing nothing wrong.
- If your city has specific daytime curfews, make sure your child and you are well aware of them. Teach your child how to handle the situation in case a curfew is violated, and ensure your child knows that he/she is answerable only to a uniformed police officer. In case of anyone else, make sure your child knows that he/she should refer them to you.
- In case of a visit by the Child Protection Services, make sure to stay calm, verify the visitor’s identity, and to record the entire interaction. Remember, you can legally bar entry into your home if the visitor does not have a warrant.
Homeschooling requires dedication from both the parent, and the pupil. Though it may require more patience, and switching to homeschooling may seem difficult at the beginning, you have to remember that in Texas, it is completely legal and very easy. You are totally free to educate your child in the most liberal, and unorthodox, yet satisfying manner, that you’ve always wanted. If any process feels overwhelming, don’t hesitate to contact a local support group, they’re there to help you. Good luck!