A History of Homeschooling in Maryland

The homeschooling movement in Maryland began in February 1979 and was led mainly by Manfred Smith, a public school teacher who was inspired by John Holt’s philosophy. Smith founded the Maryland Home Education Association (MHEA), which carries out coordinated pro-homeschooling lobbying.

In early 1984, Kathleen and Terry Miller of Laurel had criminal charges brought against them in the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court for violating the state’s compulsory education law. They were educating their two children at home and Kathleen Miller did not have a teaching certificate. Smith and other homeschooling advocates mounted a strong defense of the Millers. The state’s case against them was particularly weak and the judge dismissed the charges.

In fall 1984, the Maryland State Board of Education passed the first homeschooling bylaw, which prohibited homeschooling without a teaching certificate, essentially making homeschooling illegal.  In 1985, Smith allied with Ellen Foster of the fundamentalist/evangelical Maryland Family Protection Lobby (FPL) (affiliated with Focus on the Family) to lobby for legislation that would make homeschooling a legal right with no restrictions. (The Family Protection Lobby, which was founded in 1980, and its associated organization the Association of Maryland Families are “committed to defending traditional family values,” including homeschooling. These organizations’ websites are now defunct but may be viewed on the Wayback Machine.) The bill, dubbed HB 1443, was introduced to the Maryland House in early 1986 by Delegate John Gary (R) of Anne Arundel County and passed by that body in March 1986. As it moved to the Senate, it accumulated a number of amendments which resulted in HB 1443 stipulating further restrictions on homeschooling than were already in place (e.g. mandatory standardized testing, evaluation of homeschooled children by a teacher or psychologist, etc.). The MHEA and the FPL campaigned to have the bill scuttled, and the Senate and Board of Education agreed that the Board would write new regulations with the input of homeschoolers.

In summer 1986, Smith met with Charles Hornbeck, State Superintendent of Education, to discuss the new regulations. A draft was complete by early 1987 and was passed by the Board on July 1, 1987 as MD COMAR 13A.10.01. In 1991 the homeschooling bylaw was amended to clarify that umbrella schools are not required to have a physical campus. Also in 1987, Maryland’s legislature removed the requirement of home visits to homeschoolers’ houses.

In 1994, approximately 6000 students were registered as homeschoolers; by 2007 the number had expanded to over 24000.

In 2000, a Calvert County community center refused to allow homeschoolers to use its services; the Fourth Circuit court upheld the community center’s rights to deny its services to homeschoolers. In 2000, a school district filed truancy charges against a homeschooling mother due to a paperwork filing error; the charges were dropped. In 2001, a Catholic homeschooling mother was charged with truancy for failing to either submit her child’s portfolio to the public school or join an umbrella school. Charges were suspended until she could start her own umbrella school. In 2008, homeschooling parents were sentenced to 22 years in prison for starving their homeschooled child, who had been adopted from Russia, to death. State Senator Bobby Zirkin (D) suggested further oversight of homeschooling. In 2011, Maryland House Bill 500, which would allow homeschooled children to participate in public school extracurriculars, was introduced to the legislature; it has not made any progress.

For more state histories, see Histories of Homeschooling.

Click here for more on homeschooling in Maryland.

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