Families who choose to homeschool have to make sure they follow their state’s laws. However, there are times when more than one state is in the picture. This can lead to confusion about how to approach homeschooling, especially if the states’ laws differ dramatically.
Since homeschooling is legal in all fifty states, it is possible for a family to homeschool regardless of where they live. The homeschooled student must fulfill the requirements of their primary residence state.
While homeschooling across state lines might seem complicated, it is certainly possible. So, how can homeschooling in multiple states take place? Let’s get into the details.
When is It Necessary to Homeschool in a Different State?
With the ease of transportation increasing and remote or hybrid work options becoming more popular, many people choose to live highly mobile lifestyles. Other causes of frequent moving and multi-state residence are being in the military or caring for an aging parent.
Every family’s situation is unique, so it is impossible to list every situation that could lead to a multi-state homeschooling arrangement. However, here are some of the more common ones:
- A hybrid job where the parent works remotely in one state and on-site in another.
- A military family homeschooling while changing location frequently.
- Divorced parents in different states share custody of a child.
- Interstate travel to care for a sick family member.
- Family chooses to live in multiple states, for example, a “snowbird” situation.
- The family opts to live a nomadic lifestyle, traveling from state to state.
Of course, temporarily traveling to another state would not affect the policies a homeschooling family must abide by. Following multiple states’ laws only arises when a child has legal residency in multiple states.
How to Homeschool Across State Lines
If a homeschooled student is a legal resident of multiple states, they should be registered with the state where they spend the most school hours. Alternatively, they can be registered in both states, which means they must follow all requirements in both states’ laws.
Homeschooling in multiple states (source) comes down to the state of the primary residence. Homeschoolers living in a highly restricted state cannot establish residency in a state with more lenient laws in hopes of switching to their homeschool policy.
Homeschooling in multiple states only works if students spend more time in a less restricted state.
In some cases, such as for military families, their legal primary residence may not be the state where they are currently living. Just as a child switches to a new school in their new state, they must follow the homeschool laws of the state where they spend most of the school year (source).
In a situation where parents, who live in different states, share custody of a child, the child’s state of residence is where the parent with primary custody lives. If both parents have equal custody, the child’s legal residence is where they spend the most school days (source).
In concise terms, a student needs to follow the homeschool laws of the state they are doing most of their schooling. This may be their official primary residence, but in some cases, it will not be. The physical location takes precedence over legal residency status.
After determining which state’s laws apply in a specific homeschooling scenario, the next step is determining what that state requires of homeschoolers. Policies vary considerably from state to state, so it’s best to do thorough research.
This article makes a good starting point for those who want to disenroll their children from public school to start homeschooling.
How to Travel School Across State Lines
Some families reside in multiple states, and others do not have a residence in one specific state. Itinerant, off-grid living is growing in popularity. Homeschooling is a great option for families interested in a life on the road, letting their kids learn while traveling.
Extended travel is not a feasible option for many families, but it provides amazing learning opportunities for those who have the ability. Traveling while homeschooling is also known as road schooling or world schooling. Children receive exposure to important historical sites, wildlife, and natural wonders, as all the practical skills and knowledge required in planning and taking a trip.
Learning on the road also provides a unique, priceless opportunity to make memories and bond as a family.
If a family takes a road trip, even a very long one, while homeschooling but maintains a residence in their home state, they will still be obligated to follow that state’s laws.
Meanwhile, families living on the road permanently must choose a state as their official primary residence (source).
Key Takeaways and Next Steps
Whether moving between military bases, co-parenting across state borders, or choosing a nomadic life, there are many situations where homeschoolers spend time in multiple states. This can make it difficult to know which homeschool laws to follow.
In most situations, the state whose laws apply is the student’s legal primary residence. However, if they spend most of the school year in a state other than their primary residence, they must follow that state’s laws instead.
The exception is itinerant homeschooling, in which the family is under the law of their declared state of residence. If you would like some further information about homeschooling your children, these articles will help:
- Can I Homeschool My Child Temporarily?
- Can You Homeschool Without Internet?
- Cost of Homeschooling vs Public School Compared (2022 Update)
- How Do I Take My Child out of School to Homeschool?
- How to Skip a Grade in Homeschool
Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homeschoolers.
- Dalena & Bosch (2021, November). What does parent of primary residence mean? Dalenabosch.com https://dalenabosch.com/parent-of-primary-residence/
- Dillon, A. (2022). Homeschool laws and requirements. A2Z Homeschooling. https://a2zhomeschooling.com/laws/homeschooling-requirements/.
- Time4Learning (nd). Homeschool laws– where am I? Militaryspouse.com. https://www.militaryspouse.com/homeschooling/homeschool-laws-where-am-i/
- Time4Learning (nd). Roadschooling: you can homeschool while traveling! Time4learning.com. https://www.time4learning.com/homeschooling-styles/roadschooling.html.