Ages of compulsory attendance

On homeschool email lists one of the first questions asked by list-members who are new to homeschooling and wondering how to begin often couched the question as, “What curriculum should I choose?” Before this question is answered, as well as it can be answered, an important piece of information is, “What is the minimum age of compulsory attendance in the state?”

If your child is of ‘beginning school age’ the first thing to check is the minimum age of compulsory school attendance1 for your state. If your child is below this age and has not been enrolled in school, you may proceed as best fits your conception of what homeschooling should be. There is no one right way, and you are under no authority to meet the requirements of someone else’s vision.

If your child is not yet at the minimum age of compulsory attendance, do not keep ‘practice’ records or act as if your child belongs in school.  The desire, which may be admirable, can backfire because if anyone raises questions, it may indicate that you consider ‘school’ to be the appropriate place for your child.2

If your child is nearing the age of traditional school leaving you may also check to see if she is over the maximum age for compulsory school attendance. If so, she may proceed as best suits her needs,  with your support and guidance.

If your child is within the compulsory school attendance ages you should read your state’s laws so you know what is expected. State support-groups’ web sites often have information for new homeschoolers on how families in that state apply the state’s laws.3

To get insight in applying the law to your life it may help to join a state-wide email discussion group. Veteran homeschoolers often pass along tips they’ve discovered or picked up along the path of their homeschooling journey.



Notes to How to Start Homeschooling

1. Ages of Compulsory School Attendance

2.  In the Interest of J.B., Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District
“We find that although Child was only six on July 1, 1998, he was subject to the compulsory attendance law because, having turned seven on August 10, 1998, he was a seven year-old throughout the 1998-1999 school term that began on September 1st.  We also note that Parents treated Child as one who was required to attend school.  They provided regular instruction, and as of September 1, 1998, kept a logbook of the number of hours and topics of instruction as required by the homeschool statute.”

3. NHEN site for state homeschool laws and regulations


Copyright 2006, 2008  Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and distributed for free as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

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