Homeschooling isn’t easy. There are so many concerns that we have. “Am I forgetting anything?” “I was always bad at math. How will I be able to teach it?” “Will my kids make friends if they aren’t at school with them.” But it becomes even more difficult when we live in a state or country that has strict regulations about how we are allowed to homeschool.
I live in one of these places. France currently has a constitution allowing for all people the right to homeschool. But in recent years, they have begun a campaign to slowly make it more difficult. As of now, letters of intent are required with bi-annual visits from a representative of the mayor’s office where you reside. And annual inspections from the education department. You can read more about the current laws in my post Homeschooling in France. We may soon be forced to have these inspections for our children as young as 3 years old if the current proposed law passes. There is even talk of making permission a requirement before even starting.
So how do you homeschool when you have these restrictions?
These tips will focus more on homeschooling in the United States but can be used, for the most part, anywhere in the world.
- Know the Laws
The first thing you need is to know what the actual laws are in your state. There are many ways to go about this. You can do a Google search for it. Or you can visit the website for the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association). They have the current legal requirements for all 50 states. This is important to know so that you can defend yourself if the need ever arises.
- Know Your State’s Rules and Regulations
This goes along with the laws but refers more to the individual steps required by the agencies in charge of homeschooling. For example, the laws here in France are such that we are free to homeschool as long as we send letters of intent to the mayor’s office and the educational department. We then have the home visit and the inspection. The rules and regulations are how those two meetings are to be conducted in regard to these legal requirements. “What are they going to ask?” or “What information do I need to provide?” are answered here.
Know Your Rights
You could lump this in with knowing the laws and regulations. But I feel it is important to assert that we have, first and foremost, the right to educate our children in the way we see fit. God even gives us this responsibility in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” And in Ephesians 6:4 “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” So make sure you know what your rights are.
Join a Homeschool Group (HSLDA) For Legal Aid
However, just knowing your legal rights and responsibilities is not enough. Rather than wait for legal trouble to find some legal aid, be proactive and join a group like HSLDA. Even if you don’t need it. Especially if you don’t need it. It is always better to be prepared.
Join a Co-op or Group for Homeschoolers
Meet up with other homeschooling families in the area as often as you can. As the saying goes, there is strength in numbers. Be supported by those who understand your choices. And give your children the chance to hang out with kids “just like them.” This is especially important if you do have state regulations to follow. They will be your network of who to watch out for, what to expect, and various other resources to help you pass any tests or inspections. And it’s just plain fun for everyone!
Adapt Your Method to Fit the Regulation
Where I live, though it is not a legal requirement, there are certain expectations that must be met at each inspection in order to pass. I’ve had to adapt the Charlotte Mason method to fit not just the bilingual education I’m offering my children but also those expected by the education department. Give a little, take a little.
Talk to Your Children, Prepare Them
This may be one of the most important things you can do if you have yearly exams, presentations or inspections. Prepare you children for what they will be going through. Keep an open dialogue with them. I’ve seen the stress these days have on my own kids. They are being singled out, in their home, to answer questions from a stranger. And they feel anxiety knowing that the ability to continue learning at home hinges on these days. It is a lot for anyone but especially young children and teenagers. There are required to perform at a level not expected by their peers. By talking with them, being honest with them, and acknowledging that stress, you can do a lot to reinforce your support and their own strength.
Remember to Rest
Cancel any schooling the week of the test or inspection. I’ve found that my kids are much more relaxed when they haven’t already been working on their studies for the past few days. My oldest daughter even decided to color during her inspection this year. Every time she was given a problem, she would do it, hand it back, then go back to her coloring. I could tell she was using it as a stress reliever. The day after the inspection is a dedicated fun day. Make it a day out of the ordinary to give them a chance to work out the remaining nervousness and stress.
Don’t let the extra restrictions impede your fun. Generally, what is expected lasts only a day or so. The rest of the school year should be as different from that as possible. You want your children to enjoy learning. Being forced to take tests or answer questions in an interview is far from being fun. But it is such a small part. Don’t let it overshadow the rest of your year. Which leads me to my last bit of advice. But it is also the most important one.
Don’t forget that you are backed by the best. God is there for you. No matter the result, He will be there. So pray. Pray for guidance. Pray for calm. Pray for wisdom to know what to say. Pray for the inspectors coming into your home. Pray for your children. Just pray. He is listening. He is there.
And as stated in the memory verse for the week of my most recent inspection, “Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10a
Bekah Morel is a Christian homeschooling mom to 4 wonderful children. An American who is married to a Frenchman, she began and continues her homeschooling journey in France. She is a passionate reader and fan of Charlotte Mason which directs most of her choices for homeschooling. Visit her blog, Mason à la Maison (literally Mason at Home) at www.masonalamaison.com for homeschooling information, Christian encouragement, reading tips and resources to add some French to your daily life.