Massachusetts is one of the only states in the nation where the homeschool policy is determined by the local school board. Its general homeschool policies are unlike any other state.

History

Located in the northeastern region of the United States, Massachusetts legalized homeschooling in 1987 and updated the statute in 1997. Interestingly, Horace Mann, credited with being the “father of American public education,” homeschooled his own children in Massachusetts.

Regulation

Massachusetts homeschool families are governed by a school committee in their area that sets local policies. Each district approves and provides homeschool guidance to families with children between the ages of 6 and 16. The state directs families to their local district for more information. Massachusetts is the only state in the nation with this sort of variable policy. No formal attendance requirements are listed on the state website; perhaps districts have different policies. Homeschools must provide instruction in certain subjects, in duration, and on pace with the local district. For example, according to the state Department of Education, “instruction in all the studies required by law equals in thoroughness and efficiency, and in the progress made therein, that in the public schools in the same town.”

The state advises that parents notify their local district in writing of their intent to homeschool. Districts may review the homeschool plan, proposed materials, curriculum, and methods of instruction. There are no minimum parent education requirements or testing requirements. Although district policies may serve as de facto regulation of homeschooling, other states regulate more explicitly.

Massachusetts does not provide access to public school offerings, such as sports, courses, or extracurriculars for nonpublic school students, including homeschooled students. Districts may make these decisions locally. It does appear that, under Massachusetts law, homeschooled students can access special education services.

State Data

Massachusetts provides annual homeschool participation data and detailed district/town-level counts too. In 2010, districts reported approximately 6,000 homeschooled students in Massachusetts. By 2019, that number reached 7,800. At the height of the pandemic, over 17,000 students were homeschooled.

A bar chart showing homeschool rates in Massachusetts from 2010 to 2023, with rates slowly increasing from 2010 to 2019, spiking in 2020, and then dropping slightly in 2021 and 2022.

The information provided by the U.S. Census tells a similar story. In the spring of 2020, about 1.5% of families said they homeschooled in Massachusetts, well below the national average of 5.4%. By fall, 12.1% of families moved to homeschooling. In the 2022 and 2023 school years, U.S. Census estimates indicate that an average of 1.9% of all K-12 students in Massachusetts were homeschooled.

Download Homeschool Hub State Data

Cross-Sector Comparison

During the 2019-20 academic year, fewer than 1% ( 0.72%) of Massachusetts’ K-12 students were homeschooled. Homeschool participation in the state was much lower than the nearly 10% of students attending private schools. Charter school participation in Massachusetts was also lower than private school participation, at only 4.5%. In 2021-22, 1.26% of Massachusetts’ K-12 students were homeschooled. Participation in other sectors was unchanged.

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

School Choice Context

In addition to homeschooling, Massachusetts parents have a few educational choices available. These options include traditional public schools with inter- and intra-district choice, public charter and magnet schools, and virtual learning programs. Massachusetts has no private school choice funding options for any students in the state.

Commentary

The localized homeschool regulation or policy context is unique to Massachusetts and leaves families vulnerable because of the variability from district to district. However, it is unclear how much policies differ across districts. The state could improve transparency by reporting more information they collect from homeschool families. For example, reporting on homeschool participants’ ages or grades could improve understanding of homeschool participation trends in the state and the nation. Further, Massachusetts is one of a dozen states that restricts access to public schools’ educational offerings like sports, courses, and extracurriculars. Broadening access could improve the educational opportunities for all of the state’s students.

Last updated December 2023.