Homeschooling in the State of Maryland

Homeschooling in the state of Maryland is not terribly hard to do. There are states that are much more difficult like North Dakota and New York and there are states with little to no regulation at all such as Texas and New Jersey.

In Maryland, COMAR 13A.10.01 are the regulations that govern homeschooling. This is the actual law. It looks difficult when you look at the law as it is written but it is actually easy to do. Here are the basic guidelines as defined by COMAR:

The most basic premise of the law states that a student between the ages of 5 and 16 must have regular and thorough instruction in subjects typically taught to students of the same age in public schools. These subjects are defined as English, math, social studies, science, music, art, physical education and health.

Before beginning a homeschooling program, a parent must notify the local board of education, in writing, of the intent to homeschool. The state department of education provides a form on which to do this and which a parent must sign. This must be done at least 15 days prior to the beginning of homeschooling. Each year thereafter, the parent must sign a form verifying the continuation of a homeschooling program.

Unlike in some states, parents need no special requirements to be your child’s homeschool teacher. Some states require that you be a certified teacher and some states simply require that you have a B.A. degree. But, Maryland has no requirements in this area.

The parent must then provide instruction to the child that is regular and thorough. It must include subjects typically taught to students of the same age who are attending public schools.. The law also states that the instruction should be on a regular basis throughout the school year and that it should include enough instructional hours during the day to implement the program. This obviously leaves a lot up to the parent to determine. It is up to the parent to decide how much time is enough time for his particular student. For some students this may mean that they complete their work in one hour and for others it may be six hours. In general, I have found from talking to other homeschooling parents that it takes less time for the homeschooled child to complete the work of a child who is in public school.

The first option a parent has is choosing who will supervise and review their program of instruction. If you choose that the local school system will be the ones to review your program, you will have to present a portfolio of your student’s work up to three times per year. My experience is that I have only had to present the portfolio twice per year. The local school system maintains the right to check the students portfolio of work during the school year. The meeting must be at a mutually agreed upon time and place for both the reviewer and reviewee. It must solely be to ascertain that the student is receiving a regular and thorough education. There may be no more than three reviews per school year. A local board of education or local school system cannot require any more than the basic review. For example, they cannot “test” the child to see if they are really learning and they cannot choose to inspect the home as part of the evaluation. My suggestion is that the review take place either in a school or at a library but not in the home.

Any deficiencies noted in the student’s program of education can be documented by the local board of education. Compliance must be proved by the parent within 30 days. If the school superintendent does not see evidence of compliance or a plan to become compliant, the student must be enrolled in public school.

If a parent does not desire to have the local school system review his child’s school work, there is one other option in the state of Maryland. This is to be supervised under an umbrella school program. There are two types of umbrella school program. There are state approved umbrella programs and there are church umbrella programs.

The nonpublic school can be a state approved umbrella program. It must have a certificate of approval from the State Board of Education. Such a school would provide textbooks, lesson plans, and instructional materials as well as assigning a school based teacher to assist the home teacher and oversee the student’s work. This teacher would grade papers and evaluate work by the student. One such approved school in the state of Maryland is Calvert. More information about Calvert can be found at http://www.calvertschool.org .

A second type of umbrella school would be a church umbrella school. Under a church umbrella school, a parent has to comply with the regulations of that organization. The umbrella school must comply with state regulations by having a pre-enrollment conference with new enrollees, supervise the instruction with textbook and lesson plan reviews, visit the site of instruction once per year, and conduct periodic conferences with parents. These conferences can be phone conferences. There is a long list of church umbrella school programs that will satisfy the state’s requirements.

One can find a list of “Nonpublic Entities Registered to Supervise Home Instruction of Maryland Students” here: http://www.msde.state.md.us/nonpublic/home_instruction/DisplayLocationsByCounty.asp . You would then have to contact the different agencies to find one that fits your needs.

Many people who choose to use an umbrella school do so to avoid review by the state or county. The positive side of using the county for reviews is that it is free. Most umbrella groups charge an enrollment fee. I have seen some that are as little as $300 per year per family. Some are more expensive than this. Many people feel that it is worth the money that they spend for enrollment in umbrella schools because they often receive guidance and assistance with their instruction when they use an umbrella school program. Some umbrella school programs also provide students with such things as field trips and other enrichment. The state and county boards of education do not provide any such assistance or enrichments.

In Maryland, there is no testing requirement. In other words, a homeschooled student in Maryland does not have to take any standardized tests. However, if a parent chooses, he can voluntarily request that the student be allowed to take standardized tests at the school the child would otherwise regularly attend. My personal recommendation is that if you want to have your child tested, do it elsewhere. Your child does not need to be the guinea pig for the public schools.

So, basically as a homeschooler in Maryland, you have to provide regular and thorough instruction. The biggest difference is who monitors and supervises the work that you and your student do together.

Another website that is very helpful in finding information about homeschooling laws and much more is http://www.hslda.com. This site also has lots of information about homeschooling in general and it has stories that are about homeschooling. In addition, you can become a member and if you have any problems with your state in regards to homeschooling, they will represent you in a court case if necessary.

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