Is It Legal to Homeschool Other Peoples’ Children? By Carol Topp, CPA
As a CPA that advises homeschool leaders, I am often asked if it is legal to homeschool other people’s children. There are many ways to homeschool, from a completely home-based education to some sort of shared teaching through a homeschool co-op, on-line class or private tutoring. I have come across many types of homeschools and homeschool groups since I launched my website, HomeschoolCPA.com in 2006. Some of these variations range from hiring a private governess to operating a small private school. The people behind these creative ways to educate their children all ask the same thing: Can I do this legally?
Here is one example:
Dear Ms. Topp,
My friend is a single parent who adopted a girl from Russia. She’s having a little bit of a problem in public school and I thought it might be a good idea to homeschool her for her middle school years at least to focus on her language skills and other abilities.
Can she hire a homeschool instructor to work with her daughter? I know this may sound crazy, but I keep thinking what her daughter needs is a governess. Or maybe I’ve read too many Bronte and Austen novels. Sincerely, G.A.
I think you are absolutely correct in using the term governess to describe your friend’s situation. I have a blog post titled “Is It a Homeschool Co-op or Mary Poppins? ” that addresses a similar question. I have been asked questions similar to yours several times, so it not an unusual idea. It is quite an old idea as you reference (Jane Eyre is a favorite!)
I would direct your friend to do research in three areas:
- Her state homeschool laws and see if a non-parent is allowed to instruct a child. It may or may not be allowed. Your friend may have to report the governess’ name and subjects covered on an annual basis (we do here in Ohio, for example).
- Employer laws in your state. A local CPA would be helpful here. The governess may be considered a household employee and that has easier tax reporting requirements (like annually, not quarterly filing). Employer taxes (Social Security and Medicare) will need to be paid.
- Perhaps consult with an attorney to draw up an employment agreement. Perhaps a professional tutor or nanny/au pair service in your area may have sample agreements to use as a guide.
I hope that helps!
Carol Topp, CPA
As a CPA that advises homeschool leaders, I am often asked if it is legal to homeschool other people’s children. Since I am not an attorney, I direct all inquirers to investigate their state homeschool laws first. The laws can vary quire a bit. For example, in my state of Ohio we must record the name of anyone, outside of parents, that educate our children. So it is legal, but recorded.
In some states, I learned, it is not legal to homeschool other people’s children. For example, homeschooling laws in Wyoming say, “An instructional program provided to more than one family unit does not constitute a home-based educational program.”
Some states allow a limited amount of non-parent led instruction. In New York the bulk of the teaching must come from the parents. For instance, if someone else homeschools your children for two days, then you must for homeschool at least three days.
Georgia and several other states allow parents to hire a tutor for extra assistance. Pennsylvania law states the parent is the homeschool supervisor, which does not necessarily mean the teacher, but the parent is responsible.
Several states classify homeschool as private schools. In Kansas homeschools are designated as “unaccredited private schools,” so you can homeschool other peoples’ children because a homeschool is a private school. In Texas, the ruling of the Leeper case states that a parent “or one standing in parental authority” may educate a child. Homeschools are “unaccredited private schools” and are not regulated by the state of Texas.
So to answer the question, is it legal to homeschool other peoples’ children, would require 50 different answers (at least!).
Is It Legal to Homeschool Other Peoples’ Children? (Part 3)
In Parts 1 and 2 of Is It Legal to Homeschool Other Peoples’ Children? I addressed hiring a private tutor or governess to homeschool a child and what various states allow in having a non-parent teach. Some states allow quite a bit of freedom and so parents can create some interesting ways to homeschool. They sometimes start homeschool co-ops, which have become very popular.
I received the following question recently concerning teaching other people’s children.
I am considering starting a homeschool with a group of 5 children. They are all from different families and none of them is my own. I have a Masters degree in education. I plan on teaching these children in one of the boy’s home with the parents’ blessing. Is this legal? Would the parents need to set up a homeschool co-op? Thanks for your help!
Dear Mrs A,
I do not believe the parents need to set up a homeschool co-op, since they are not the ones doing the teaching. Homeschool co-ops are gatherings of parents that homeschool and voluntarily share teaching responsibility with each other. What you are describing is not a homeschool co-op. Instead it sounds more like a small private school because the students are are from different families and the parents are hiring you to do all the teaching.
Investigate whether you can homeschoool other people’s children in your state. It may be allowed, but with limitations on the number of children or number of days. If it is not permitted at the level you described, then investigate how to establish a small private school in your state. Visit the State Board of Education as a start.
I also recommend several business practices such as pick a business name and register it with your state and local authorities, open a business checking account to keep your business and personal expenses separate, and keep good records of all your expenses.
Finally, I suggest that you have a written agreement with the parents about your duties and your fees (i.e. how much and when will you be paid). Perhaps a small business attorney should be hired to review the agreement.
Best of success to you!
Carol Topp, CPA
Is It Legal to Homeschool Other Peoples’ Children? (Part 4)
In the previous parts to Is It Legal to Homeschool Other Peoples’ Children?, I shared some examples of creative ways people find to homeschool including governesses hired to teach one child, homeschool co-ops made of parents voluntarily sharing teaching responsibilities and small groups of students that might be better classified as small private schools. My next example proposes another creative idea for shared teaching. It brings up some important issues that homeschool parents should consider.
Dear Carol -
While searching for help in beginning homeschooling, I came across your website. What a relief! I am considering homeschooling, and I don’t really know where to begin. I have certification to teach school. I would be team teaching in my home with one, and possibly two, other mothers. We would be teaching our own children, as well as children from one other family in which the parents both work. There would be 7-9 children. I would be teaching the children in 8th and 9th grades. Is this legal? Do we need to establish an organization (and if so, what kind?), or is notifying the school district enough?
I read your e-mail with some interest. Homeschooling can have so many different variations. What you are proposing is quite unique.
I think what you are proposing is legal in your state , but has potential concerns. (FT mentioned her state and I researched the homeschool laws; it is legal to homeschool other peoples children without limitations in her state) Since you are new to homeschooling, I would not recommend that this type of shared teaching take place more than 2 or 3 days a week. The rest of the time the students should be learning at home with their parent’s supervising them or the older students working independently. This would be difficult for the working parents, I realize. With them, you may have a more formal agreement including compensation for your time as a paid tutor.
If you are proposing to teach in this arrangement for five days a week (i.e, 100% of the children’s school time), then I would caution you to have a clear, written agreement with each family, especially the full time working parents who will not be at your home. I would caution you against taking on responsibility for all the other children’s education since you are so new to homeschooling yourself. Some educational duties should belong solely to the parents, such as granting a grade, compiling a transcript, awarding high school credit, or even picking the curriculum. You are walking a fine line between homeschooling and running a private school. It can begin to blur and get confusing very quickly.
As for what type of organization to set up, it depends on the homeschool laws in your state, the amount of money trading hands (if any), the amount of time spent in this shared arrangement as well as how the other parents view this arrangement and your future plans. This could be classified as your for-profit business or as a non-profit organization. Perhaps you have a vision of outgrowing your home in a year or two and should establish this as a nonprofit co-op. My book, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out may be helpful.
I hope that gives you some food for thought. There is a lot to consider.
Carol Topp, CPA