I’ve always known I would homeschool my kids. My siblings and I were homeschooled, and I truly believe it’s a large part of what made me the free thinker I am today. My experiences as a homeschooled student were incredible. So of course, I wanted to give my kids the same thing.
A couple years ago I decided I didn’t just want to homeschool, I also wanted to travel. I mean, what better way to give my little guy amazing learning experiences than setting out to see the world? It was then that I began my research on roadschooling.
I know from experience that making the leap to roadschooling can be pretty intimidating. I imagine this is especially true if you haven’t been homeschooling already.
For me, the intimidating part wasn’t so much the schooling part of roadschooling. After all, I’ve had a good deal of experience with homeschooling. Instead, it was the “road” bit I had hang-ups with—that is, the travel aspect of it all. I wanted to ensure I was doing everything legally. At first, the “right” way to do things wasn’t all that clear to me.
Now, however, I have a pretty good handle on the laws when it comes to roadschooling. Because I don’t want you to go through the same research struggles I had to, I’m going to use this post to lay all of that legal information out for you.
Please note: I am not a lawyer, nor does any of this article constitute as legal advice. I am merely sharing what I’ve learned for informational purposes, all of which is subject to change after publication.
Which Rules to Live By
Let’s begin by addressing the basic information you are likely seeking: the laws you need to follow. As a general rule, you must follow the homeschooling laws of your domicile state. While homeschooling is 100% legal in all 50 states, each state has its own set of homeschooling laws. Therefore, you must do the research on your state specifically in order to ensure you are playing by the rules.
You should be able to find your state’s homeschooling requirements in the state government website. However, the individual state pages on the Homeschool Legal Defense Assosication website are usually easier to find and understand.
Changing Your Domicile State
Some people find that the homeschooling laws in their home state are too strict for their style of schooling. Unschoolers, for instance, prefer to declare residency in states with more relaxed homeschooling regulations. Fortunately, because RVers are constantly on the move, changing your domicile state to one with laws you agree with isn’t too terribly difficult.
The states with the most relaxed homeschool laws include:
- New Jersey
States with light regulation are:
- New Mexico
Those with moderate regulation are:
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- New Hampshire
- Washington D.C.
The states with the highest regulation include:
- New York
- Rhode Island
Of the most lax states, Texas seems to be a favorite domicile state for many RVers due to a lack of state income taxes, among other factors. However, it is important that you do your research and choose a state that is ideal for your specific situation. For my family, that state was Oklahoma, and because we were already residents there, we didn’t have to make a switch.
If you do decide to change domicile states, you might want to consider using a service to help you navigate the process. Here are a few of the more popular options:
- My Dakota Address — For switching to South Dakota only.
- America’s Mailbox — For switching to South Dakota only.
- St. Brendan’s Isle — For switching to Florida only.
- Texas Home Base — For switching to Texas only.
- Escapees RV Club — For switching to South Dakota, Florida, or Texas.
Using “Umbrella Schools” to Your Advantage
For some roadschooling families, making the switch to a new domicile state or choosing a new domicile state based only on homeschooling laws is not a great idea. There are other matters to consider after all, and often the pros of one choice outweigh the cons of another, despite taking homeschooling laws into consideration.
When this is the case, many roadschool families who wish to take a more relaxed approach and prefer not to have the state breathing down their necks use “umbrella schools”. While this method doesn’t work in every state, there are a few states where an “umbrella school” can be very beneficial to this specific set of people. For instance, “umbrella schools” are an especially popular option in Florida, a fact that is important to many RVers considering the many choose Florida as their domicile state.
Legally, an “umbrella school” is simply a private school. However, in the states where these so-called “umbrella schools” have been established, it is legal for private schools to have homeschooled students. Because the school is registered as a private school and not a homeschool, the students of these organizations are not personally required to report to the state. Instead, the school must report their student’s names, grades, and attendance.
How does this help the more relaxed homeschooler? Well, many of these private “umbrella schools” were established specifically for the laid-back homeschooler. The individuals who run these schools understand that attendance and grades are not something every parent tracks carefully. Therefore, they are more lax about what constitutes a “day of school” or a “grade”. This means the homeschoolers have more freedom to learn the way they see fit.
Of course, there are some drawbacks to umbrella schools, and finding the right one can make or break the experience. When shopping for the right umbrella school for your family, be sure to consider the following:
- What is the cost?
- Do they require testing that we must be present for?
- Will they help find and/or purchase curriculum for my child?
- Are there events, activities, and meetings available to my family?
- Are those events, activities, and meetings mandatory?
- Does the school provide graduates with an accredited high school diploma?
- When taking state laws into consideration, does joining an umbrella school actually help us?
Not sure where to begin your search for an “umbrella school”? Check out this list!
Many people wonder if they need to follow the laws of a state they are only visiting rather than living in. The answer to this question depends on how long you plan to be in that particular location. If you are going to be in a location for less than a month, you are good to go and can simply continue to abide by the laws of your state of residency.
More than a month? The rules become a bit fuzzy at this point, and I have yet to find a hard-and-fast law. That said, I was able to dig up this bit on the Homeschool Legal Defense Association website:
“If you plan to live in another state for a period longer than a month during the time that public schools are in session, HSLDA generally recommends that you comply with the requirements for home education in that state. This general recommendation applies even if you and/or your spouse pays taxes, own property, and/or have employment in another state.”
Because the HSLDA knows their stuff, this is the rule I choose to live by, and I believe many other roadschoolers do the same.
As far as I know, this article contains all the legal information you need to begin your roadschooling journey. However, if there is something I missed, I encourage you to contact HSLDA. Those are the folks with all of the answers, and they will definitely be able to point you in the right direction.
Have a point you’d like to add? Please share it in the comments section.