Colorado is one of several states where there are multiple ways to homeschool a child. It is unclear how those different modes of homeschooling are counted in the publicly reported participation information.

History

Colorado is in the western United States. The legal history in Colorado is complex. Schooling from home with a state-approved course of study was allowed as early as 1973. Parents skirted this regulation by enrolling their students in an “umbrella” private school that allows them to homeschool. Homeschooling, in its present form, has been legal in Colorado since the passing of the Colorado Homeschool Laws in 1988. Before the enactment of this law, families who chose to homeschool their children faced truancy charges and legal repercussions. Today, Colorado parents can independently homeschool their children or enroll them in a homeschool program.

Regulation

In Colorado, homeschooling families with children ages 6 to 17 must follow the Homeschool Laws, which mandate that parents provide instruction in subjects including English language arts, math, history, and science. Parents must maintain and submit attendance records to their local school district upon request. Colorado does not require parental educational qualifications or certifications to homeschool. Students must be tested or evaluated in certain grades (essentially every other year). Homeschooled students cannot receive a state diploma; however, a GED diploma is possible. Different rules apply for students in a homeschool co-op.

Nonpublic school students and homeschoolers have limited access to public school offerings like courses, extracurriculars, and sports. If a child is attending the public school part-time, then they appear to have full access to that school’s offerings. Otherwise, it seems that students not attending the school do not have access to sports, courses, and other curricular activities, and funding is not available. Access to special education services is unclear. Nothing explicitly addresses homeschooled students, but decisions as to whether to provide special needs services to nonpublic students are made at the “discretion” of the local board of education within a district.

State Data

Over the past 20 years, Colorado homeschooling participation rates have fluctuated. In 2001, there were nearly 10,000 homeschooled students. However, in 2010, homeschool enrollment dropped to just over 6,000 students. Nevertheless, in recent years, homeschooling has experienced significant growth and a steep rise in participation. Colorado also provides homeschool participation data by county. Again, it is important to note that these counts may be low, given that some students are likely homeschooling under an “umbrella” private school and may not be included in these counts.

A bar chart showing homeschool rates in Colorado from 1999 to 2023, with rates fluctuating up and down from 1999 to 2019, spiking in 2020, and then dropping again in 2021.

According to the U.S. Census, approximately 3.4% of families homeschooled in Colorado before the pandemic, which increased to 8.7% in the fall of 2020. Both are below the national averages of 5.4% and 11.1% during the same time. Again, this low participation could be accurate, or a result of homeschool parents identifying as private schooling. During the 2022 and 2023 school years, the U.S. Census found that 3.8% of K-12 students, on average, were being homeschooled in the state.

Download Homeschool Hub State Data

Cross-Sector Comparison

During the 2019-20 academic year, fewer than 1% of Colorado’s K-12 students were homeschooled. Homeschool participation in the state was much lower than the 4.75% of private school students. 13% of Colorado students attended charter schools, almost tripling the percentage of students attending private schools. In the 2021-22 academic year, 1.11% of Colorado’s K-12 students were homeschooled. Homeschool participation in the state was much lower than the 5.5% of students attending private schools and nearly 14% of Colorado students attending charter schools.

A pie chart showing home, charter, private, and traditional public school percentages in Colorado in 2021-22

School Choice Context

Parents in Colorado have several options for choosing a school for their children. They can opt for traditional public, charter, magnet, online, or private schools along with homeschooling. While the state offers some programs like the Public Schools of Choice Program and the Charter School Program to partially assist with school choice, public funding for homeschooling expenses is not available.

Commentary

Colorado could improve educational opportunities for all nonpublic students in their state by broadening access to the courses, sports, and extracurricular offerings already available to other students in the public schools.

Last updated December 2023.