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Commissioner: Time to Untangle our Homeschooling Rules

by Mike Donnelly • November 12, 2019

Homeschool families in New Hampshire have good reason to anticipate positive change in the coming year given that one of their chief advocates, homeschooling dad Frank Edelblut, is also the state’s commissioner of education.

HSLDA’s Mike Donnelly, left, meets with New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. HSLDA’s Mike Donnelly, left, meets with New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut and his homeschool rules administrator Amanda Phelps.

Edelblut, who has served as the Granite State’s top education official since 2017, told me he hopes to gain the legislature’s blessing on his plan to simplify the rules for homeschooling. He is motivated by a perspective he believes public schools can benefit from as well.

“We need new rules,” Edelblut told me recently. When it comes to requirements for homeschooling, “there have been so many changes we just can’t keep trying to jam the current law into the old rules. That’s not my philosophy on rules, either. The rules must follow the law.”

A Homeschool Dad

Edelblut is quite familiar with the perspective of parents complying with state regulations. He and his wife are homeschooling parents of seven children.

In keeping with his goal of reducing bureaucracy and helping expand opportunities for learning, Edelblut and his staff expect to substantially reduce the volume of homeschool rules that have been compiled over the years by the Department of Education.

“I’ve been working closely with the homeschool community and advisory council members to propose rules that are consistent with the law and can effectively support families and children,” he said.

Under the law it is the commissioner of education who proposes rules to a joint legislative committee. Members of the committee may object to the proposed rules, but the commissioner may adopt them despite these objections. Over the years both the Home Education Advisory Council and the commissioner’s office have been involved in the rulemaking process.

Who Gets the Last Word?

My own experience as a New Hampshire homeschool parent in the mid-2000s included a fair amount of fighting back against attempts to impose more rules and regulations. Together with my fellow homeschoolers, we were able to thwart much bad legislation—and bring about significant improvements to the law. However, the fact that the law was not necessarily the last word in how to homeschool legally was a cause of frustration.

New Hampshire homeschoolers shouldn’t have to pay attention to two distinct sets of authority. With a simple law, it doesn’t seem necessary for the commissioner to have to make additional rules, and Home School Legal Defense Association continues to support the idea that the education commissioner’s rule-making authority should be removed. However, that is a decision that the legislature will have to make. For now we are pleased that homeschoolers have a friend in Concord’s Londergan Hall whose vision for rulemaking is simple—follow the law.

Excited about Learning

Something else Edelblut is enthusiastic about is a program he calls “Learn Everywhere.” Inspired by his own experience with education as a homeschooling parent, the idea is to expand how public school students gain credit for educational activities they engage in outside of the classroom.

“Kids should have freedom to learn,” Edelblut said. “Parents should have choices. Schools need to be great. But not every child learns well in school. So, if they are learning well somewhere else, why shouldn’t we give them credit for that?”

Freedom to learn and freedom from burdensome regulations—that is what we are striving for. We encourage the New Hampshire homeschool community to support commissioner Edelblut in making these aspirations a reality.

If you’re not a member of HSLDA, won’t you join us today so we can keep homeschooling free and possible in the “Live Free or Die” state? Freedom isn’t free, and for just a little more than a quarter a day you can be part of the world’s largest homeschooling advocacy organization.

Michael Donnelly

Senior Counsel, Director of Global Outreach

Mike is an attorney, writer, adjunct professor of government, and frequent media spokesperson on homeschooling, freedom, and parental rights. Read more.

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