The Massachusetts compulsory attendance law allows for an exemption for children “otherwise instructed in a manner approved in advance by the superintendent or the school committee.” See Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 76, § 1. Some practical aspects of this approval are discussed in Care and Protection of Charles (1987) and Brunelle vs. Lynn Public Schools (1998).
Parents must seek approval to homeschool from their local school districts. District policies regarding the granting of this approval vary widely from district to district. Many districts require parents to submit a range of information regarding the proposed educational program; some districts ask the parent to meet directly with a district representative. A district’s approval of a homeschool proposal must be conditioned on requirements that are essential to ensuring children’s education.
Districts may ask for homeschool parents’ qualifications. Districts may require sufficient academic credentials or other qualifications of the parent or parents who will instruct, but they may not require parents to be licensed teachers or college graduates.
Districts may require parents to submit their proposed days and hours of instruction. Public schools operate for 180 days each year and are required to provide elementary students with 900 hours of instruction per year and high school students with 990 hours. Districts may take proposed days and hours of instruction into consideration when deciding whether or not to grant a homeschool program approval.
Districts may ask for an educational plan and may request access to instructional materials, but may not require parents to choose texts from an approved list. Districts are asked to bear in mind that homeschools must offer a program of instruction equivalent to, not identical to, that provided in public school. Districts also cannot require parents to follow any specific pedagogy. However, homeschools must teach the same subjects to children as Massachusetts public schools: “orthography [spelling], reading, writing, the English language and grammar, geography, arithmetic, drawing, music, the history and constitution of the United States, the duties of citizenship, health education, physical education and good behavior.” See Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 71, § 1.
Individual districts may have their own policies.
Districts are permitted to require assessments, including standardized testing or portfolio evaluations.
If school authorities refuse to give approval to a homeschool, the district has the burden of proof to show that the proposed program of instruction does not equal “in thoroughness and efficiency, and in the progress made therein, that in the public schools in the same town.” See Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 76, § 1.
Maybe. Homeschooled students may be eligible to take individual classes in their local public schools, at the discretion of the individual school district.
Probably. Several court hearings have found that homeschooled students are eligible to participate in extracurricular activities in public schools. However, these cases tend to be local and may not apply to the full state.
Yes. Homeschooled students with disabilities are eligible for services through the public schools.
Guidelines for homeschooling were hammered out after the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in Care and Protection of Charles (1987). Later, in 1998, Brunelle vs. Lynn Public Schools declared that home visits could not be required as a condition of approval. These two cases set the basis for homeschooling policy in Massachusetts.
This overview is for informational purposes only and does not constitute the giving of legal advice. Last updated April 2023.