The idea of wanting to homeschool without your parents tends to come from two opposite extremes. One group has very busy or uninvolved parents who cannot be present every moment like a classroom teacher, so they may hesitate to allow homeschool even if they work from home. Children who want to do homeschool without their legal adults in this manner are often seeking safety from dangers in a classroom or a haven in which to learn more. The other school of thought is that without parents you can do as you like. These homeschool hopefuls mistakenly believe that if they can convince the parents to let them DIY that it means hanging out in pajamas and having no consequences or oversight to stop them. Luckily the second group is a minority. Everyone dreams of relaxation when they’re stressed, but few pursue true laziness in any serious manner. Regardless of which side the question comes from, homeschool requires parental oversight. However, some practical compromises could help you make school at home workable with less than full-time teacher-parenting. I’ll show you several methods.
Can you do homeschool without parents? You cannot homeschool without parents. The legal definition of homeschool is an education that is directed by the child’s parents or guardians. You can’t homeschool someone else’s kids, nor have another adult teach yours full time, but there are some ways to work around or within the system to have children learning at home while not needing parents in their study space constantly.
What Is Homeschool & Why Do You Need Parents For It
You cannot homeschool without parents because they are part of the legal definition of homeschool. In the USA, homeschool is defined as “Homeschooling is the process of teaching one’s children in the home instead of sending them to a school. Homeschooling provides learning outside of the public or private school environment. Generally, schooling involves being out and learning from the rich resources available in the community, environment, and through interactions with other families who homeschool,” according to DefinitionsUSLegal.com.
As you can see, teaching your children means that the parents or guardians of those children must be the directors of the education even when outside resources are a part of the process. Many people consider the modern definition to include online schools done at home or correspondence courses, but traditional homeschool is conducted strictly by the parents. Home learning, however, can include these options, and calling it homeschool is mostly a matter of semantics. Either way, it is a parent’s right to have their child educated outside a school environment so long as they meet the state’s standards and learning employed.
Legal Requirements for Education
The legal limits to compulsory school are different for each state. One state may require education to be made available to every child who is at least four, while the next can say five is the minimum for mandatory education options. Similarly, the exact requirements for the adult vary. Some states specify parents and guardians only, while others, like Colorado, offer the option for parents to designated another relative who can teach.
The differences can be substantial, but they all fall within certain limitations. For example, Missouri parents can submit a written request to delay schooling up to age seven. Children must attend until they are seventeen or have sixteen credits toward high school graduation. Meanwhile, Alaska requires students to attend until they are sixteen or complete twelfth grade. You can find all the state standards here on the National Center for Education Statistics website.
Generally, children must be in school from around age five or six until age sixteen to eighteen or complete a certain level. That level is almost always somewhere in the high school range. I found no evidence of any state in the US allowing purely self-directed schooling before these minimums have been achieved. After that, or in addition to it, you are welcome to learn what you like.
Regrettably, children’s legal rights are limited. Kids don’t have the right to choose to homeschool themselves without a parent. Unless you are an eighteen-year-old legal adult or emancipated minor at the very least, it’s unlikely that you could circumvent the need for oversight. Even in those cases, it’s exceedingly unlikely that you would be able to take the role of your own parent in the eyes of the law or education board.
Self-education does not give you the right to issue your own diploma as a parent may for a homeschooler. Just as emancipated minors can live independently, but they lack the privilege of age, such as the ability to buy a lottery ticket, you would still almost certainly not be a parent to yourself in a legal sense. I am not a lawyer, so you may want to ask an attorney specializing in children’s rights or education if you are in these unique circumstances.
An emancipated or legally adult student can usually choose the institute where they take their education. In these cases, a self-responsible student might enroll through correspondence or attend school online, but they cannot purely self-direct learning without oversight. A few capable individuals might make superb self-teachers, but it would set a terrible precedent to allow any kid who wants to decide what to do all day to make those choices.
Unfortunately, many young people lack sufficient knowledge, resources, motivation, or self-control to complete a course of study without some outside input and reasonable educational direction. Homeschoolers tend to have excellent self-control and time management, but this would still be irresponsible at best and criminal at worst.
In situations where it is in a student’s best interest to be at home, but a traditional homeschool doesn’t fit the families’ needs, it’s nice to know about other options. While these also vary by your state, there are ways to get an education at home without the parent. I’ll explain how each type works below to help you find appropriate options.
- Homeschool Co-ops, Groups, and Pods- By doing your education in a limited group environment, it may be possible to allow other parents to direct the learning. However, each student’s parents would remain technically responsible for overseeing their own child. If ‘Sally’s Mom’ does the teaching and ‘Fred’s Dad’ shows up and listens, he’s not exactly teaching, but he is making sure his son is educated and directing that education. Not all groups work this way, but it is an option.
- Tutors With & Without Parents- Most states require parents to direct the learning. Still, they do not forbid having tutors and teachers who are not the responsible party overseeing the total education. However, there are some places, such as Alabama, where a private tutor can take over education. Typically this means the full-time tutor must also be a certified teacher. Check your state laws to see if this non-parent homeschool option is available.
- Correspondence- Accredited institutes such as The American School of Correspondence offer students a teacher-created, self-paced, teacher-graded curriculum that can be done at home. While it’s not wise to leave any child completely unattended, and frankly illegal in some places, a work from home parent could easily sit at a desk beside their motivated learner or even work in another part of the house while those kids are doing school work within the home.
- Online School- It wasn’t that long ago that distance education via live online classes and internet-based worksheets and activities was just a fever dream for science fiction fans. Today it’s a reality. Whether you choose an entirely virtual school like the well respected Citizens Online High School or sign up for distance learning through your local school district, children are at home, and the parents are not directing their education personally.
- Self-Motivated Learners- Some kids simply do not need as much oversight to sit and do work. While they may be doing work on a laptop in their bedroom or sitting alone at a kitchen table while a home-parent is handling household chores, parent direction can be less involved if that makes sense in your situation. In this way, a child technically doesn’t need the parent to homeschool but instead needs them to hand over materials, grade papers, and provide minimal intervention.
Children are, by and large, self-directed and motivated learners by nature. They can do parts of homeschool without parents. If you give them materials and information, then step back and let them work, they’ll figure it out. To qualify as homeschool, you must direct your student’s education, but no one ever said you have to hold your homeschooler’s hand every second.
The Montessori schools believe that adults are only ‘helping’ until a child can do a thing their own, but after that, unasked for assistance is mostly going to hold them back. Many students thrive when allowed to do their studies in this manner. You’ll still need materials and to give some oversight and aid when they have questions. Alternately, homeschool groups, tutors, and sharing duties with other legal guardians also reduce the need for constant parent-led learning while staying within the legal confines of homeschool.
Remember that there are many methods to have children learn at home, and some require far less parental intervention. You can school at home through correspondence and online classes without a parent in charge of education.