A huge question for parents considering unschooling their children is whether or not this is legal? Can parents just pull their kids out of school and let them learn whatever they’d like? The answer may vary depending on where you live but for the most part, unschooling is considered a form of homeschooling and is usually subject to the same laws. Regulations vary from country to country, state to state, and province to province so it’s important to be aware of what the laws are in your area and know if there are any steps you need to take to operate within them.
Unschooling in the United States
In the United States, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. Each state has different regulations around homeschooling and unschooling which may require parents to meet certain requirements to be allowed to homeschool their children. When deciding to choose a path of alternative education, familiarize yourself with the laws of your state to make sure you are educating your child within the parameters of the law.
The majority of states, but not all of them, require the parent to notify the state or the local school district if they plan to homeschool their children. Eleven states require that the parent or guardian possess a GED or high school diploma to be allowed to homeschool their children. Some states will not allow a parent to homeschool if they possess certain types of criminal records.
Some states require parents to keep track of their child’s education in one form or another. They may request the hours spent educating, ask for test scores, require academic assessments to be completed, or may even want professional evaluations to be done. Some states require that a state approved curriculum is taught and may even arrange for home visits by teachers or state officials to assess the level of education being provided.
Twelve states don’t specify which subjects must be taught which allows much more freedom when the parents and children are deciding which subjects they consider to be the most useful, interesting, or worth learning about. Unschooling is specifically about child led education so while this is completely possible in these twelve states, some guidance in the subjects being learned may be required if you intend to adhere to the educational requirements of your state.
A few of these regulations make it sound like it might be impossible to unschool your child in some states and truly allow them to pursue their own education, especially if assessments or pre-arranged curriculums are required. For many unschooling parents, this may just require a breakdown of what your child has chosen to learn and examples of how it relates to the subjects that are required by that state. Annual assessments may involve a report from the parent, a portfolio of student work, a visit from a licensed teacher, or completion of a standardized test.
Understanding what is expected in your state will allow both you and your child to customize your unschooling method to a style that will work within your home state.
Find out the laws and regulations in your state by visiting HSLDA and simply choosing which state you live in on the map.
Unschooling in Canada
Like the United States, homeschooling regulations in Canada vary by province and territory. Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, Yukon, and Northwest Territories funding and financial support options may be available for parents who choose to homeschool. These funding options can vary depending on how a student is registered or enrolled and what educational materials are needed to teach the curriculum.
Most provinces require that you notify or register with the school district by a certain date, ranging from June to September. Some provinces have options available that allow students to enroll in a school and receive some or all of their education from a distributed learning plan or to remain completely independent from the school structured curriculum.
In most provinces, there are little to no curriculum requirements that must be followed. Some provinces may expect students to complete assessments throughout the year or provide various forms of progress reports to the school district.
Canada does have a variety of different regulations from province to province but for the most part, families are quite free to pursue an unschooling education with a great deal of freedom.
Click here to find out the laws and regulations in your province and simply choosing which province you live in on the map.
Homeschooling Around the World
Homeschooling and unschooling educations aren’t pursued only in Canada and the United States. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom are other countries that are allowed some educational freedom when it comes to homeschooling. Some countries that allow homeschooling are fairly strict about how the curriculum is delivered while others have no regulations at all or simply don’t enforce their requirements to register or follow a course outline.
Homeschooling isn’t legal in every country around the world though. Countries such as Cuba, North Korea, Germany, Sweden, and Croatia have outlawed it completely. There is usually no exception allowed in most countries that have banned homeschooling but for a few of them, there are a handful of circumstances that would allow a family to be granted some leeway. These situations generally require approval from the state or school board, but it’s possible that exceptions may be granted for a parent who possesses a teaching certificate, families who will be travelling abroad, or children that are too chronically ill to be able to attend a public school.