We are 4 days into my series of Homeschooling In The Military!
There seems to be some confusion among military families and units as to which homeschool laws you must follow.
The Homeschool Legal Defense Association has written a very nice run-down of the legalities of homeschooling laws and how it applies to military families.
Homeschooling Laws When Stationed in the US
When you are stationed within the United States, you will follow the homeschooling laws of whatever state you are residing in.
You don’t need to follow the laws for your home state or state of record.
It doesn’t matter if your spouse is physically with you. If they are away at training, school, even another station- you will follow the laws of the state in which you currently live and homeschool.
If you decide to visit family or travel during a deployment or separation, you will continue to follow the law of the state where your main dwelling is.
It gets tricky sometimes to determine whether you have lived in a home long enough to consider it your main place of dwelling. If you plan to move away for longer than a year, I would consider carrying some paperwork with you to show that you:
- are travelling and have a permanent home elsewhere
- you are abiding by the homeschool laws in the state of that permanent home
That way, if any questions are asked, you are prepared.
Homeschool Laws While Stationed Overseas
Only families who are accompanying their soldier through command sponsorship are exempt from following the education laws of an overseas country.
Any families living overseas that is not command sponsored, or is not active duty military, are not protected under the SOFA (State of Forces Agreement) between the US and the country of residence.
- Overseas Homeschooling (The Military Homeschooler)
- Is it legal for anyone to homeschool in Germany? (Military Homeschool)
Be Aware, But Don’t Fear the Law
My advice to military homeschoolers is to be aware of the homeschool laws in your state or country, but don’t fear the authorities.
If you need help understanding what you need to do in order to be in compliance with the laws of a certain state, you can look at a summary on HSLDA.
Many homeschoolers read so much into a homeschooling law that is not there. In Kansas, for instance, the law states that the teacher must be “competent” and you must instruct for the time “equivalent to public school”. Both of these terms are not defined anywhere in the law, and therefore cannot be defined by the local school district, since they have no jurisdiction over private non-accredited schools.
The best source of information about state laws is usually a local homeschool group. Even if you can find a state-wide group or forum, you can find someone who can answer your questions and help you understand what you need to do.
There is no need to fear the law, or the authorities if you are abiding by the law.
Beyond following what the state law says, you can:
- Keep decent records or at least examples of what your kids have been learning. Records can be anything from a grade-book to a journal.
- Join a legal defense group such as HSLDA or HLA if it would make you feel more comfortable. (We have never belonged to HSLDA and just joined HLA for a free trial this year. It has never been an issue we thought needed attention.)
How Do You Unschool Legally?
As I said before, people interpret things in the state laws that are not really there. Unschooling is legal in all 50 states, and is allowed overseas (since there are no compulsory education laws that apply to families stationed outside the US).
The issue lies with reporting and recording the learning that happens while unschooling, not the method itself.
Generally, unschoolers keep a journal, take pictures, or write on a blog (like this one!) and keep track of all the activities their kids are involved in. They later translate those experiences into “educationese”– the language that is most familiar to schools and educators.
In states that require standardized testing, they simply comply. Most states that require testing do not make you report the scores, they are simply for your own records. Some states even allow you to give the tests yourselves at home.
Right now, we don’t have to keep records in Kansas. However, our notebooks, lapbooks, art projects, and my blog serve as proof that we are doing educational activities on a fairly regular basis.
What are the laws like in your current state? Do you have any questions about homeschool laws?
Be sure to check out all the other great posts over at iHomeschool Network’s 5 Days Of and find out more about the series sponsor, the BEECH retreat!