Homeschool families thrive when parents are free to craft educational programs that best meet the needs of their children. For the past 40 years, Home School Legal Defense Association has helped protect and expand that freedom through legislative advocacy in all 50 states and territories.

Just weeks into this year’s new legislative season, we’re already asking members and friends to take action on several bills that could change homeschool laws for better or for worse.

“In the ongoing campaign to protect homeschool freedom, one of the most important fronts is state legislatures,” said Scott Woodruff, HSLDA director of legal and legislative advocacy. “Bills to reverse homeschool freedom are filed every year. HSLDA plays a crucial role in opposing those bills. But it is the energetic involvement of our members that plays the biggest part. When we urge them to contact their elected representatives, their response is often very powerful.”

Resisting More Red Tape

Washington Senate Bill 6236 is representative of a lot of bad legislation that comes up every year. It expands red tape without offering any clear benefit. We’ve asked homeschool families in the state to help us confront this bill.

Specifically, S.B. 6236 would impose an unfair burden on families who want to get an early start homeschooling, and would do so in a way that is confusing and difficult to enforce.

Under Washington’s current law, parents must file an annual declaration of intent for children they are homeschooling from ages 8 to 18. State law mandates school attendance for children in this age range.

S.B. 6236 proposes requiring parents with 6- and 7-year-old children to file the required annual notice if they intend to homeschool these children when they reach age 8. The sponsor of the bill noted in a committee hearing that the legislation’s purpose is to allow officials to collect data in order to plan how many children will enroll in public school.

Singling Out Homeschoolers

HSLDA Staff Attorney Kevin Boden pointed out that S.B. 6236 is poor legislation because it seeks to place legal burdens on homeschooling families that are not shared by parents who send their children to private or public school.

“It explicitly targets homeschoolers for more regulation,” Boden said. Only homeschool parents have increased requirements under this proposed law.

“It’s really vague just who this proposed law would apply to,” explained Boden. “It gives the state a lot of latitude to decide how they’re going to enforce it, which is not to the benefit of families.”

Boden said he suspects the real intent behind S.B. 6236 is to lay the groundwork for expanding the age of compulsory school attendance for all students, which some Washington legislators have tried to do for years. HSLDA opposes any expansion of the compulsory school age because it restricts homeschool parents from customizing education plans for their students.

Children Learn Differently

Many states, for example, require children to begin attending full-day classes at age 6. However, not all children are ready for formal instruction by that age. Many children this age may benefit more from unstructured play, or from engaging in activities that are only loosely guided by an instructor.

Some older teens, meanwhile, might be ready to reduce their classroom hours to make time for apprenticeships or hands-on vocational training. HSLDA seeks to diminish legal mandates so that parents will have the flexibility to provide special opportunities that can help students reach their full potential.

“Some lawmakers are attracted to the idea that expanding compulsory school attendance law will produce better-educated children,” said Woodruff. “But studies consistently show that this promise goes unmet. While starting a child’s education earlier may produce an initial bump in academics, it often disappears after a few years. The child who starts later may do even better in the long run.”

Making It Better

In addition to opposing harmful legislation, HSLDA works with state legislators to propose beneficial changes to homeschool law.

One such measure was recently introduced in the Mississippi Legislature. House Bill 683, which HSLDA supports, would grant homeschoolers access to special needs services currently available only to public school students. Services addressed in the bill include, for example, speech, physical, and occupational therapy.

HSLDA also supports Virginia Senate Bill 83, which aims to simplify the law by establishing a single category under which parents may homeschool, rather than the multiple categories currently established under state law.

The bill received an unfavorable vote in committee, and its future remains in doubt. Still, HSLDA hopes the measure will move forward because of the improvements it could deliver.


As Woodruff explained, the existence of multiple categories of homeschoolers in Virginia dates to the 1980s. At that time lawmakers passed legislation that reflected “a philosophy that only certain parents should be allowed to try homeschooling.”

In keeping with this notion, legislators created several ways by which parents could be considered legally qualified to teach their own children. These included, for example:

  • obtaining teacher qualifications from the Virginia Board of Education,
  • holding a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university,
  • using a program that adhered to state math and language arts standards.

In the mid-2000s, the Virginia Legislature revised these categories to make them less stringent. Included in this revision was a category that allowed parents to homeschool by providing a program delivered in any manner.

“Since the door was opened for every parent to try homeschooling,” Woodruff said, “this made all the categories obsolete.”

Plain and Simple

Woodruff added that, by pressing to simplify Virginia’s law, HSLDA hopes to make homeschooling regulations clearer not only for homeschool families, but also for officials.

“That’s the great thing about freedom,” Woodruff insisted. “It benefits everyone. When the law is clear and just, homeschool parents are free to focus on helping their children thrive. And officials don’t waste time getting drawn into meaningless quarrels over burdensome rules.”

To stay up-to-date on legislation that can affect homeschooling, we encourage you to sign up for email alerts and visit the HSLDA Legislative Action Center.