Home schooling is governed by General Laws chapter 76, § 1. For children of compulsory school age (6–16), home schooling requires advance approval by the district in which the child lives, under the policy that the school committee has adopted. Home schooling is provided by or at the direction of a child's parent, instead of enrolling the child in a public or private school; home schooling is not remote learning provided by a school district. The requirements that apply to public schools, such as educator licensing or structured learning time, do not apply to home schooling.
Each school committee in Massachusetts has a policy on approval of home schooling plans; details are available from the school district. The school district approves and provides oversight of home schooling, with a focus on whether "instruction in all the studies required by law equals in thoroughness and efficiency, and in the progress made therein, that in the public schools in the same town." See General Laws chapter 76, § 1.
Home schooling plans are reviewed and approved by the school district where the child resides. Charter schools, Commonwealth Virtual Schools, school choice districts, and vocational technical education programs do not approve home schooling plans. The Department does not approve home schooling plans or oversee school district policies regarding home schooling or review districts' decisions on home schooling proposals.
Parents planning to educate their child at home must notify (preferably in writing) the district in which they live as the first step in the approval process. Notification alone does not authorize a parent to begin home schooling. Removing a child of compulsory school age from school without an approved home schooling plan would cause the child to become truant.
Once the school district receives a parent's notification that they wish to educate their child at home, the district must provide the parent with the district's policy and process for approval of home schooling and ask the parent to submit the proposed home schooling plan. If the parent's notification includes the proposed plan, the district should still provide the parent with its policy and process for approval of home schooling plans and then proceed with its review of the proposed home schooling plan.
Upon receipt of a proposed home schooling plan, the school district evaluates it and then either approves it, requests modification or additional information, or disapproves the proposed plan. Districts typically review a proposed home schooling plan for the content, instructional materials, duration and frequency of instruction, methods of instruction, evaluation, and whether it enables the child to make adequate progress in the areas that Massachusetts identifies as essential. The school district must communicate its decision to the parent, preferably in writing, within a reasonable period after receipt of the parent's home schooling plan.
Under Massachusetts law, home-schooled students have a right to special education services. In addition, school districts are required to evaluate students suspected of having a disability and re-evaluate students eligible for special education services consistent with federal and state requirements. Please see the advisory for more information about the provision of special education and related services to home-schooled and privately educated students.
Home schooling is a private alternative to public school enrollment. Each school district may establish its own policy on whether to allow home-schooled students to participate in its programs. While not required, school districts have the discretion to allow home-schooled students to join district-provided courses, programs, or extracurricular activities, including athletics. This is a local decision, and DESE does not review those decisions.
If you require additional information regarding approval of a home schooling program, please contact the school district in which you live.
Last Updated: November 23, 2020
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906
Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370
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