Because homeschooling law varies, your level of contact with your local school district may also vary—some states require home educators to turn in annual paperwork to their local school district; some states require paperwork to be submitted to the state department of education; and some states require no paperwork. However, regardless of individual state law, CRHE strongly encourages home educators to maintain a positive, cooperative relationship with their local school districts.
Please note that this page is not intended for parents who educate their children at home through full-time enrollment in public and charter school partnerships, sometimes called “independent study” or “distance learning.” Some of these programs may offer a public school curriculum via an online platform while others are more flexible, and may allow parents to choose and implement their own curriculum while receiving education reimbursements and access to public school classes and extracurriculars. Instead, our focus here is on families that are educating their children under their state’s homeschool law. We call this “autonomous” homeschooling.
Families homeschooling autonomously benefit from having a positive relationship with their local school district in a number of ways:
In this guide, we will start by covering the resources you may be able to access at your local school district as an autonomous home educator. Then we will examine the reasons home educators and school districts sometimes come into conflict, outlining why cooperation is important, and discussing how you can build a healthy relationship with your local public school district.
Public school districts function as large educational resource centers and learning hubs. While school districts’ primary responsibility is to students enrolled in public school, homeschooling parents should be aware of the various ways they may be able to tap into public school resources as home educators.
Remember, your local school district is staffed by human beings. In some cases they may have positive views of homeschooling; in other cases they may be more critical. Many opportunities for misunderstandings may arise between school districts and home educators, but having an antagonistic relationship with your school district benefits no one—least of all your child!
You and your school district have a lot to learn from each other. They have specialized knowledge about teaching, resources, and typical learning benchmarks, while you have specialized knowledge about your child and your family situation. In a 2001 article on the relationship between homeschooling families and public schools, Dr. Michael H. Romanowski, a former public school teacher and current education processor, wrote that to get the most out of their homeschooling experience, home educators should “develop an understanding of the responsibilities that public schools bear and they must view themselves not as self-contained entities, but as part of a larger educational system deserving of their support” (for more, see here).
If school district officials seem overly bureaucratic or skeptical, remember that they usually have what they believe to be your child’s best interests in mind, as well as their own professional obligations. Disputes with the school district can usually be resolved by approaching them as fellow professionals who care about your child, and demonstrating that you are a responsible homeschooling parent.
Remember, due to the lack of adequate legal oversight for homeschooling, school district employees have likely had experience with all kinds of home educators, not just the responsible ones. They may have seen parents begin homeschooling to avoid consequences for truancy or to hide abuse. CRHE has spoken with a public school employee who did everything she could to help a student who was withdrawn to be homeschooled, only to see him murdered by his caregivers. You may know that you are a responsible home educator (as do we! Most parents who come to our website want to homeschool their children to provide them with a positive and healthy education at home), but school district employees may have good reasons to be skeptical. By approaching your school district employees with the mindset of a professional educator who respects their expertise and their desire to help children, you help ensure that your district employees see you as a partner, and not as a cause for concern.
When you begin homeschooling, you should contact your school district to find out what resources are available to homeschooled students (see the list earlier on this page). Even if you do not need these resources now, you may want to access them in the future. Many school districts have a designated “homeschool liaison” who is responsible for giving out information about homeschooling, as well as keeping track of homeschool registration forms or other documents. In some cases this individual’s name and contact information will be available on your school district’s website; in other cases, it may not be. You may need to do some legwork and talk to multiple people before you find the correct person. You may also want to try calling your district on the phone, making sure that you have a list of your questions in front of you.
Remember that this is hopefully the first step in a positive and cooperative long-term relationship, so do your best to demonstrate your professionalism and that you take homeschooling seriously. Remember too that a positive relationship with your local school district will benefit the very people you are homeschooling for: your children.
Don’t forget to read the other articles in this section!
— Homeschool Resources & Support
— Public and Charter School Partnerships
— Access to School District Resources
— Joining a Homeschooling Group
— Homeschool Umbrella Schools
— Drawing on Local Resources
Return to our main Home Educator page!