One of the most frequent concerns expressed in our Military Homeschoolers Facebook community by those getting started is ‘Where am I!?’ (legally* speaking of course!)
Homeschooling is legal in all U.S. States and provinces. Additionally, the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) has applied this same right to all OCONUS bases. BUT – laws may vary widely in ‘homeschool-friendliness’.
For military families coping with a somewhat nomadic lifestyle, it can be difficult to determine which homeschooling laws to comply with, not to mention confusing to keep up with the ever-changing requirements as you PCS!
- Can we follow the laws of our official state of record? (i.e. home state?)
- Do we follow the laws of our current PDS?
- What if we’re set to PCS mid-year?
- What if we are OCONUS?
For those located within the contiguous United States, you must comply with the homeschooling laws of the state your family currently resides in. This means a family originally from Texas stationed in New York must follow New York homeschooling laws. (This remains true whether you’re living on base or off!)
If your spouse is deployed, away at training or even in situations where they have moved on to another station – the same rule applies. You’ll continue to follow the laws where your primary residence is located.
A move mid-school year can seem a bit tricky! What you do not have to do is fulfill the requirements of both locations. A good rule of thumb is to focus on the timing of the move. If PCS occurs near the end of a school year and only testing remains, consider finishing out early.
Complete the testing and move on! In most all other instances, however, move and submit to the laws of your new state of residence – just as you would if your kid was required to enroll in a traditional school. (Note: You are only expected to comply with the new state’s laws from the point you register. In other words, you cannot be legally held accountable for the time you weren’t living there!)
If you’re an active duty family stationed overseas you are protected under the SOFA (State of Forces Agreement) between the U.S. and the country of residence. This exempts you from being forced to submit to foreign homeschool policy.
The official DoDEA Policy Memorandum(2002) states the following:
“It is DoDEA policy neither to encourage nor discourage DoD sponsors from home schooling their minor dependents. DoDEA recognizes that home schooling is a sponsor’s right and can be a legitimate alternative form of education for the sponsor’s dependents.”
While overseas, homeschool families operate independently. Removing kids from the base school requires only a simple notification form. OCONUS families have no set standards they must follow in regards to record-keeping, portfolios, etc. It can be rather freeing – but a word of advice.
Be mindful of the uncertainty of the future. While your next state of residence cannot retroactively require paperwork, keeping at least a basic record of classes, curriculum used and grades issued can ease future transitions.
Parents of high school students will find this even more valuable as high school transcripts may be required for college admissions, trade school or job opportunities — including military! Trying to go ‘back in time’ after multiple moves, curriculum changes and LIFE happenings is a headache you’ll be glad to skip!
As military homeschoolers continue to grow in number, there is an active push developing to enable families to follow laws of their declared state of record. Doing so will allow consistency in a life that is anything but! Both the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and Home School Association for Military Families are actively working on new legislation to provide the best balance of protection, choice and freedoms. We will continue following their progress and let you know of any new development!
*Disclaimer. No Legal Advice Intended. The contents of this article are intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions.