Massachusetts compulsory school attendance age
The law requires that children attend school or be homeschooled from the first school year in which they turn 6 by December 31 until their 16th birthday.
HSLDA believes that a parent-issued diploma and transcript should be sufficient to demonstrate that a child has completed a secondary education. However, even if your child is beyond compulsory school attendance age, there may be situations where you would want to continue to follow the requirements of a home education option recognized under Massachusetts law until your child graduates from high school (filing a home education notice, keeping attendance and other records, etc.). These records may be requested in some situations, such as obtaining a driver’s license if your child is a minor, enlisting in the military, applying to colleges, or demonstrating eligibility for Social Security benefits. If you are a member of HSLDA and would like additional details, please contact us.
Withdrawing your child from his or her current school
If you want to start homeschooling during the school year and your child is currently enrolled in a public or private school, HSLDA recommends that you formally withdraw your child from that school. If you are going to start homeschooling after the school year is over, and your child is considered enrolled for the following year, we recommend that you withdraw your child before the next school year begins, so that the school does not mark your child as absent or truant.
We invite you to become a member of HSLDA to receive specific advice about withdrawing your child from school and starting to homeschool. Local schools may have specific forms or withdrawal procedures. HSLDA members are eligible to receive individualized advice about whether complying with those procedures is advisable or required. HSLDA members can also use the sample letter of withdrawal for Massachusetts available in Member Resources to correspond with school officials.
We generally recommend that any correspondence with authorities be sent by “Certified Mail—Return Receipt Requested.” Keep copies of the withdrawal letter and any other paperwork or correspondence, and any green postal receipts, for your personal records.
Note: If your child has never attended a public or private school, this section does not apply.
Complying with Massachusetts’s homeschool law
Massachusetts’ compulsory attendance law provides that children must attend a recognized and/or approved school or be educated in some other way that is approved in advance by the local school committee or superintendent. To legally homeschool, you will need to follow these requirements:
1. Submit an annual notice of intent to the school district.
Although Massachusetts school districts vary, HSLDA has found that most require an annual notice of intent to provide home instruction. According to state law and court opinions, there are four areas a superintendent or school committee may consider when reviewing a notice of intent:
- The proposed curriculum and number of hours of instruction
- The competency of the parents (parents do not need college or advanced degrees)
- Textbooks, workbooks, and other instructional aids to be used (so that the superintendent or committee can determine the subjects to be taught and the grade level of instruction for comparison with the curriculum of the public schools)
- The method of assessment used (to ensure educational progress and attainment of minimum standards); the superintendent or school committee can require standardized testing or may substitute, with the approval of the parents, another form of assessment
We suggest that you notify your local superintendent at the beginning of the school year by using HSLDA’s specially designed forms available as a members-only resource page here. Along with the notice, we recommend that you provide a list of materials you intend to use, a brief description of the curriculum and/or subjects to be taught, and a description of your qualifications or the qualifications of others who will be instructing your children. HSLDA also provides a “Massachusetts Notice of Intent to Continue a Program of Home Education” for annual use after the initial notice is sent for a child.
2. Teach the required subjects.
Massachusetts law requires that all students be taught the following subjects: spelling, reading, writing, English language and grammar, geography, arithmetic, drawing, music, United States history and Constitution, duties of citizenship, health (including CPR), physical education, and good behavior.
While there are no specific requirements in Massachusetts law for how often each of the subjects must be taught or at what grade levels, HSLDA’s general recommendation is that each of the required subjects be taught at an age-appropriate level every year during the elementary and middle school years, and at least once at the high school level.
3. Keep good records.
There is no explicit legal requirement that homeschool records be kept. However, certain assessments may require various records and work samples. Please see “Records” below.
4. Test or evaluate your child as required.
A superintendent or school committee may require periodic standardized tests or “other means of evaluating the progress of the children [that] may be substituted for the formal testing process, such as periodic progress reports or dated work samples.” Testing or evaluation must be mutually agreed upon by the parents and the superintendent or school committee.
According to the Massachusetts Supreme Court opinion issued in the case Care and Protection of Charles, the standard of review to determine adequate progress is if the education is equal in “thoroughness, efficiency and progress made therein” to that of the schools in the district.
The importance of recordkeeping
You can find Massachusetts’s specific recordkeeping requirements, if any, above. Regardless of what state you live in, HSLDA recommends that you keep detailed records of your homeschool program. These records may be helpful if you face an investigation regarding your homeschooling or your student needs to furnish proof of education.