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A Letter From the
National Home Education Legal Defense

The following provides excellent advice concerning the rights of parents to instruct their own children and the effect of Maryland State law. As Attorney and Executive Director of National Home Education Legal Defense, (NHELD), I have the opportunity to review the rights of parents in many states. There is one theme common to all - it is legal for all parents to educate their own children.

This article provides an easy to read outline of Maryland's Department of Education regulations. NHELD assists parents when they have disputes with school officials concerning their right to educate. Quite often, misunderstandings may be easily resolved simply by referring to the language as it is written in the laws and regulations.

Deborah G. Stevenson, Attorney
Executive Director
National Home Education Legal Defense
P.O. Box 704
Southbury, CT 06488
Telephone: (860) 354-3590

The right to homeschool has been law in the State of Maryland since 1987. Regulations written by the Maryland Department of Education (COMAR 13A.10.01) guide the legal requirements of both homeschool parents and the local school boards who oversee homeschooling in their districts.

Once a parent notifies their local school board of their intent to homeschool, families become subject to review by the board's homeschool liaison. A homeschool portfolio review serves to verify that parents are indeed providing regular and thorough instruction. A careful reading of the law helps families to understand the freedoms and limitations of how they may homeschool in Maryland.

COMAR says a parent must: Provide regular, thorough instruction in the studies usually taught in the public schools to children of the same age [that] takes place on a regular basis during the school year and be of sufficient duration to implement the instruction program.

You should: Keep a general log of when you homeschool and what you do for the day.
You do not have to: Teach your children for any set number of hours a day or for a specific number of days each week.
Date your child's work.
Why?"Regular" and "thorough" are not defined. Children involved in one-on-one instruction tend to learn at a faster rate than children in a mixed ability classroom. Homeschool families do not generally have to spend as much time to "implement the instruction program" so the "duration" of their school day does not need to mirror that of a public school.

COMAR says a parent must: Include instruction in English, mathematics, science, social studies, art, music, health, and physical education

You should: Teach your children in a manner that is most comfortable and productive for your family.
You do not have to:Use a complete curriculum that you purchased from a company.
Follow state mandated learning objectives, called scope and sequence, that requires you to teach certain subjects at specific ages.
Why?A variety of educational philosophies exist in the traditional school world as well as the homeschool world. Classical educators start first graders learning about ancient civilizations, a topic not normally introduced until public, middle school years. Waldorf educators don't believe in teaching a child to read much before the second grade. As long as you cover your basic subjects, content is completely at the parent's discretion.

COMAR says: A parent shall maintain a portfolio of materials which includes relevant materials, such as instructional materials, reading materials, and examples of the child's writings, worksheets, workbooks, creative materials, and tests

You should:Provide your reviewer with a sample of 2-3 pieces of your child's work from each subject.
You do not have to:Give your children tests or grades for any subjects.
Provide photographs of projects or field trips.
Why?A parent is required to maintain a portfolio of "relevant materials". COMAR goes on to suggest what could be considered relevant, "such as" tests and worksheets. The law does not specifically require any one item over another.

COMAR says a parent must: Agree to permit a representative of a local school system to review the portfolio of educational materials, discuss the instructional program, and observe instruction provided that all of the following requirements are met:
(1) The review is at a time and place mutually agreeable to the representative of the local school system and the parent or guardian;
(2) The purpose of the review is to ensure that the child is receiving regular, thorough instruction as set forth in C;
(3) There are not more than three reviews during a school year.

You should:Bring your children to a review only if you feel comfortable doing so.
You do not have to:Submit your child to an on-the-spot quiz.
Why?The sole purpose of the review is to establish a parent is providing "regular and thorough" instruction. Not all children learn at the same rate or ease. Providing appropriate instruction does not always mean that a standard rate of learning will have taken place, if a learning disability is present.

You should:Request an in-person review
You do not have to:Mail in a sample of your work for review or have the review conducted in your home, unless you agree in advance.
Why?COMAR clearly states that the "review is at a time and place mutually agreeable". Most reviews are conducted at local libraries, local public schools or School Board facilities.

COMAR says: A local school system may not impose additional requirements for home instruction programs other than those in these regulations.

You should:Bring along a copy of the homeschool regulations with you when you attend your portfolio review for quick, easy reference.
You do not have to:Fill out any paperwork or forms, such as a Student Profile Sheet, prior to or during the portfolio review providing additional proof of your homeschooling.
Why?The power to create new homeschool regulations and requirements lies solely with the State Department of Education. The role of local School Boards is to track Maryland homeschool families in accordance with the established law.

Families may choose to opt out of a county conducted portfolio review by joining any one of the State approved umbrella groups. Umbrella groups, registered through MSDE, generally charge for their service and conduct portfolio reviews in place of the local school board.

The information on these pages is provided for informational purposes only. It is not to be construed as legal advice or counsel.


March 29, 2020

What our clients say about Hand In Hand:

"Thanks for paying attention and arming homeschool families with the correct actions to take."

~ Catherine in Maryland


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