When you decide to homeschool your child, you must not only uphold your personal educational standards, but also those of the state in which you live. If you have a young child who has not yet gone to school, the age at which formal education should start depends upon your state’s laws, as well as what you feel is the right age for your child.
Some states highly regulate homeschool environments, making parents take standardized tests, gain curriculum approval, and undergo home visits with state officials. Examples of tightly regulated homeschooling states include New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Other states have few regulations for reporting the decision to home school, including Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Idaho, Alaska, and others, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSDLA).
Your best bet for where to start (or for knowing when to start) homeschooling is by visiting your state’s homeschool association or the HSDLA website. For example, parents in North Carolina must send a notice of intent to homeschool 30 days before a child’s seventh birthday or a month in advance of a school’s starting date if your child is 7. In Arizona, parents must start homeschooling their children at age 6, unless they opt to wait until age 8.
For other parents, the decision on when to start homeschooling is related to when parents wish to change from a public or private school education to a homeschooled one. Some questions to ask yourself about if homeschooling is right for your child at your child’s age include:
- Is the school’s current approach to learning working for my child?
- Is my child undergoing significant emotional or physical pressure at his or her current school?
- Do I have the time and willingness to learn about the homeschool environment?
- Do I have the tools and support to engage my child in socialization activities?
Remember also that you do not have to officially “homeschool” your child before age 5 to teach them. Reading books, listening to music and playing with toys can help. From almost birth, your child is learning. While this does not mean you have to push them to become a “baby Einstein,” it does mean that your home can be a homeschool, even if it is not an official one.
Reviewed by Eva Benmeleh, March 2020
- States have varying rules related to when a parent must start officially homeschooling his or her child.
- States also have differing rules on how parents must notify the schools of intent to homeschool.
- Contacting your state’s homeschooling association or the Home School Legal Defense Association can help determine when to start homeschooling.