- Homeschool statute: Parents must provide one-time notice to both the local school district and the Maine Department of Education, offer 175 days of instruction in a variety of required subjects, and have their children assessed annually (by standardized test or by portfolio review performed either by a certified teacher or by a homeschool association). Parents must submit each child’s assessment with each subsequent year’s notice, and must keep each assessment on file. While portfolio evaluations must include the evaluator’s “acceptance” of the student’s progress, there is no minimum score for those who choose the standardized test assessment option. There is no parent qualification requirement.
- Private school/Umbrella school: Parents may also choose to operate a homeschool as a private school, providing annual notice with safety compliance and enrollment data and offering 175 days of instruction in a variety of required subjects. There is no assessment requirement, but to operate as a private school a homeschool must include at least two unrelated children. In some cases, homeschoolers have come together to create what become de facto umbrella schools, private schools enrolling multiple homeschool families.
(1) Homeschool Statute
The statute calls homeschools “home instruction programs.” See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 20-A § 5001-A(3)(A)(4).
|Notification:||Parents must submit a one-time notice of intent to both the local superintendent and the Commissioner of Education within ten days of beginning to homeschool. This notice must include the parent’s name, signature, and address, the name and age of the student, the date instruction will begin (or did begin), an assurance that instruction will be provided for the proper number of days and covering the required subjects, and an assurance that parents will submit a year-end assessment. By September 1 of each following year, the homeschool parent must submit a statement of intention to continue homeschooling, along with a year-end assessment, to both local school officials and the Commissioner of Education.|
|Days or hours:||175 days.|
|Subjects:||English and language arts, math, science, social studies, physical and health education, library skills, fine arts, Maine studies, and computer proficiency.|
|Bookkeeping:||Parents must keep copies of both the original notice of intent and each year-end assessment until the homeschool ceases operation.|
|Assessment:||The year-end assessment, which must be submitted to both local school officials and the Commissioner of Education by September 1, may be (1) a national standardized achievement test administered by the school or through other arrangements approved by the commissioner; (2) a test developed by local officials administered by the school; or (3) a review and acceptance of the student’s progress (a) by a certified teacher; (b) based on the presentation of a portfolio of the student’s work to a homeschooling support group whose membership includes a currently certified Maine teacher or administrator; or (c) by an advisory board created by the superintendent made up of two homeschool parents and one school official (this provision must be agreed upon by school officials prior to the submission of the written notice of intent).|
|Intervention:||There are no provisions for intervention should the year-end assessments prove unsatisfactory, and while the review options do stipulate “acceptance,” there is no minimum score threshold for those choosing either of the testing options. Presumably, homeschooled children whose parents do not submit the notice of intent or the year-end assessments are considered truant.|
(2) Recognized Private School
Maine has two categories of private schools: approved and recognized. Homeschools may operate as recognized private schools, but to do so they must have at least two unrelated students. They may also enroll in recognized private schools that exist to enroll homeschooled students. For the private school exemption to compulsory attendance, see Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 20-A § 5001-A(3)(A)(1)(b) and § 5001-A(3)(A)(2). For the rules governing recognized private schools, see the guidelines established by the Maine Department of Education.
|Notification:||By October 1 of each school year, private schools must submit a letter stating that the school complies with state and local fire and health laws, will report names, addresses, and grade levels of all students to the local superintendent and update that report as necessary, operates for the required length of time and provides the required instruction; has examined and approved all teachers, will provide parents with four academic progress reports each year; and will inform parents of students’ grades. Further, in order for a child to be excused from public school attendance to attend a private school, the child’s parents must provide public school officials with a certificate stating the child’s name, residence, and attendance, signed by the private school’s administrator. See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 20-A § 5001-A(3)(A)(2).|
|Days or hours:||175 days.|
|Subjects:||Instruction appropriate to grade level in English (reading, writing, spelling, grammar), math, science, American history and geography, Maine History, civil government and citizenship, health, and fine arts.|
|Bookkeeping:||Private schools must provide parents with four academic progress reports each year and inform parents of students’ grades, along with a rubric. They must also keep immunization records on file for each student in attendance.|
|Intervention:||The Commissioner of Education has no authority to shut down a private school. However, if a private school does not comply with the notification requirements listed here, attendance at that school does not satisfy the compulsory attendance laws.|
|Immunizations:||Vaccination records must be kept on file.|
|Other:||Comply with state and local safety, fire, and health laws.|
Services Available to Homeschooled Students
|Part-time enrollment:||Homeschooled students may enroll in individual public school classes, provided they can demonstrate satisfactory academic achievement. While enrolling in such classes requires the approval of the superintendent, state law prohibits superintendents from withholding approval unreasonably. See §5021. This includes students homeschooled through a recognized private school, provided capacity allows. See §5021-A.|
|Athletics:||Homeschooled students have full access to participation in public school athletics and other extracurriculars. No approval is required. See §5021. This includes students homeschooled through a recognized private school, provided capacity allows. See §5021-A.|
|Special needs:||Homeschooled students have access to special needs testing in their local public schools, and may also have access to special needs services offered through these schools, depending on the school district. Public schools are obligated to provide services for special needs students who participate in activities at the school.|
Early homeschoolers had to seek approval from their local school boards. In 1982, in Bangor Baptist Church v. Maine, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine ruled that the state could not require private schools to seek state approval. After this ruling, the Department of Education developed a voluntary set of guidelines for non-approved public schools. Many homeschooling families banded together to form private schools following these guidelines. In 1985, the Maine Department of Education approved the “Chapter 130” homeschool rules, which still required school board approval. In 1988, in Blount v. Dept. of Educ. & Cultural Serv., the Supreme Court of Maine ruled that an individual homeschool could not function as a private school. However, multiple homeschool families could still come together to form non-approved public schools. In 1989, the state legislature passed a homeschool statute, transferring the authority to approve homeschools from the local school boards to the State Department of Education. In 2003, the state legislature passed LD 160, removing the Commissioner’s authority to develop state criteria for approving homeschools.
This overview is for informational purposes only and does not constitute the giving of legal advice.