Montana refined its homeschool law multiple times in the 1900s.

History

Montana is in the western United States. Homeschooling in Montana dates back to as early as 1895 and 1903. However, in 1980, the governor indicated that homeschooling was illegal, referencing a 1971 decision. Many Montana homeschool families went to court to defend their practice. In 1983, the Montana legislature passed a new homeschool law with further updates in 1991.

Regulation

Montana requires parents who elect to homeschool their children, ages 7 to 16, to “notify the county superintendent of schools of the county in which the home school is located in each school fiscal year of the student’s attendance at the school.” This state narrowly defines homeschooling as a parent educating their child, stepchild, or ward in the same home. Homeschooling is not considered a nonpublic school.

Parents must keep attendance and immunization records and provide them to the county superintendent on request. The state requires between 720 and 1,080 hours of full-time instruction, depending on grade level, through an “organized course of study” in subjects required of public schools, including the U.S. Constitution and the Pledge of Allegiance. Parents who direct their children’s education are not required to have a high school diploma or GED. There is no testing requirement for homeschooled students.

Homeschooled students in Montana have broad access to public school extracurricular activities. Access to sports and courses is unclear. According to the Montana policy, homeschooled students with special needs are not eligible for special services since they are no longer enrolled in public schools. 34 CFR 300.137.

State Data

Montana requires all parents to file annual information on their homeschool participation. Therefore, we have several decades of participation data for the state. For example, around 3,600 students reported homeschooling in 2000; 5,800 in 2019; and nearly 10,000 at the peak of the pandemic. Montana also provides some homeschool participation data by county.

A bar chart showing homeschool rates in Montana from 1999 to 2023, with rates steadily increasing from 1999 to 2019, spiking in 2020, dropping in 2021, and slightly increasing again in 2022.

Similarly, U.S. Census estimates indicate that around 8.2% of Montana families homeschooled in the spring of 2020 and increased to 18.3 % by the fall of 2020. Note that these percentages reflect family participation. Student participation would be higher, given that many families have more than one child. Based on estimates from the 2022 and 2023 school years, the U.S. Census found that an average of 5.8% of Montana K-12 students were homeschooled.

Download Homeschool Hub State Data

Cross-Sector Comparison

During the 2019-20 academic year, 3.5% of Montana’s K-12 students were homeschooled. Homeschool participation in the state was slightly lower than the 5% of private school students. In 2021-22, 4.4% of Montana’s K-12 students were homeschooled, and private school participation increased to 6%.

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

School Choice Context

In addition to homeschooling, parents in Montana have several educational choices, including an Education Savings Account (ESA). These options include open enrollment in traditional public schools and some magnet schools. Montana is one of only a few remaining states that do not allow charter schools. The state created a new ESA in 2023 for students with special needs. There is also a tax credit scholarship program. All students, including homeschooled students, can access the tax credit.

Commentary

Montana has high homeschool participation rates. The state could improve access to educational opportunities for all students by broadening opportunities to play sports and take courses in the local public schools. All students with special needs, even those in nonpublic schools, including homeschooling, could benefit from access to services provided at their local public schools.

Last updated December 2023.