Legal Requirements for Home Learners in the Commonwealth
Homeschooling in Massachusetts is regulated by case law. Find out how to navigate the legal requirements here.
In Massachusetts, homeschooling is regulated by Supreme Judicial Court decisions known as Charles (1987) and Brunelle (1998) as well as the Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 76, section 1.
The law states that “Every child between the minimum and maximum ages established for school attendance by the board of education,” must attend school. In Massachusetts, compulsory attendance begins the calendar year in which your child turns 6 and ends at the age of 16. The word “homeschooling” does not appear in any statute in Massachusetts which places homeschoolers into the “otherwise educated” category.
Requirements under Charles and Brunelle
There are no laws to specifically regulate homeschooling in Massachusetts. Instead, homeschoolers must look to what is called case law, specifically the Charles and Brunelle rulings. According to Charles, there are four pieces of information that a school district can (not must) request:
An education plan which simply provides a brief description of the proposed curriculum and the length of the homeschooling year may be requested. Unlike some other states, Massachusetts does not have a state-approved curriculum that homeschoolers must use. This freedom allows homeschoolers to choose a curriculum that best suits the needs of their child. Your education plan also does not need to duplicate the public school system. A sample education plan can be seen at the Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts website.
According to the Charles ruling “…Certification would not appropriately be required for parents under a home school proposal…nor must the parents have college or advanced academic degrees.” The Massachusetts General Laws chapter 71, section 1 states that teachers “shall be of competent ability and good morals.” To comply, parents can simply state in their plan that they are of competent ability and good morals or they can list their academic credentials if they wish.
A review of materials, texts and resources, but only to determine the subjects to be taught and the grade level of the child is also an allowable request. The Brunelle ruling indicated the courts understanding that “…some of the most effective curricular materials…may not be tangible.” The majority of homeschooling parents simply provide either a list of the texts, materials and resources they intend to use or photocopies of the table of contents section of their textbooks.
One mutually agreed upon method of assessment may be requested annually. While Charles does allow for the school district to use standardized testing as a measure of academic progress at the end of the school year, they are not required to take the statewide MCAS test required under No Child Left Behind. The other assessment options available to homeschooling families include portfolios, dated work samples, and narrative progress reports however, under the Brunelle decision, home visits may not be required.
- It is important to know your district’s policies as well as familiarizing yourself with the case laws in order to be your own advocate.
- Once you have submitted your education plan you have fulfilled your legal obligation to the district. You should keep all contact with your district in writing and always send your education plan to your district by way of certified mail with return receipt requested.
- Some towns will send you an approval letter and some won’t. It is not necessary to receive an approval letter, however, some businesses may ask you for one in order to extend their educator discounts to you.
Massachusetts Home Learning Association
In conclusion, homeschooling in Massachusetts is fairly easy if one adheres to the guidelines outlined in the case laws. An educational plan, a list of curricular materials, competency of the parent as an instructor, and a method of assessment all should be considered when planning a homeschool program. For more information, or to connect with a local support group visit Massachusetts Home Learning Association.