Homeschooling in Massachusetts: Guidance for Getting Started

Get the inside scoop on Massachusetts homeschooling information with this detailed guide. If you’re new to the prospect of homeschooling in Massachusetts and wondering how it all works, you’ve come to the right spot. Although there is variation throughout the state, if you read through to the end of this webpage, you’ll have a much firmer grasp on the requirements and laws to follow: what forms to file, what materials you’ll need, what subjects you have to teach, how much homeschooling costs, and exactly what first steps to take. 

Homeschooling in Massachusetts: Guidance for Getting StartedHomeschooling in Massachusetts: Guidance for Getting Started

DISCLAIMER: This article is not written as legal advice. Check with your local school board and official Massachusetts laws before making decisions about educating your children.

Is it easy to homeschool in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts is one of the five states identified by HSLDA as having strict homeschool laws along with New York, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. But this simply means that Massachusetts provides more oversight of homeschool families than many states do. It doesn’t mean that the actual act of homeschooling is any different. It simply means that you’ll have a few extra hoops to jump through, a bit of recordkeeping to handle, and some forms to file. It’s totally doable! So don’t let the “high regulation” label frighten you from choosing to homeschool in the Pilgrim State. 

The G. Family, Sonlighters from North Dartmouth, MAThe G. Family, Sonlighters from North Dartmouth, MA
The G. Family, Sonlighters from North Dartmouth, MA

Requirements for Homeschooling in Massachusetts

Another aspect of Massachusetts homeschooling that makes it a bit challenging is that it’s not regulated at the state level but at the school district level. Although there are basic statewide rules for homeschooling in Massachusetts, the specifics are determined locally and may vary quite a bit from area to area. So please take the advice in this article as general guidance that may be slightly different in your specific situation. Always check with the superintendent of your local schools to get the final word. 

How many days are required for homeschool in Massachusetts?

The state Department of Education website states that

The requirements that apply to public schools, such as educator licensing or structured learning time, do not apply to home schooling.”

So officially, the state of Massachusetts does not outline homeschooling hour requirements. However, your local district will probably ask you how many school days you plan to fulfill. 

To minimize friction between your homeschool and the district, it makes sense to match your proposed homeschool days to the public school requirements—180 days , 900 (or 990) hours per school year. In public schools, a total of 900 instructional hours are required for elementary grades and 990 at the secondary level. Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts, Inc. has some great tips for how to word this in your official documents.

Since homeschooling is vastly more efficient than public school, you may wonder how you can possibly demonstrate so many instructional hours. It’s quite easy when you remember that instructional hours aren’t just bookwork. They can include field trips, educational games, watching documentaries, co-op classes, extracurriculars, many life skills activities, etc. 

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What are homeschool requirements in Massachusetts?

Instead of detailed statewide guidelines, in Massachusetts, homeschool requirements are set at the local school district level. 

Thus you’ll need to cooperate with the school district where you reside, filing paperwork and crafting a homeschool plan. Your district will provide you with a list of criteria for that plan. More than likely it will ask you to outline your intent for these key areas:

  • content
  • instructional materials
  • duration and frequency of instruction
  • methods of instruction
  • evaluation
  • adequate progress 

Follow the guidelines provided and ask the district questions if you’re unsure. If your plan is not deemed acceptable, you will have a chance to modify it and submit it again. AHEM has great tips for how to word your plan in a way that will satisfy the educators evaluating it. 

Massachusetts homeschooling requirements also outline specific subjects to be taught (at all grade levels): spelling, reading, writing, English language and grammar, geography, arithmetic, drawing, music, United States history and the Constitution, duties of citizenship, health, physical education, and good behavior. Your homeschool plan should probably include this list and the materials/experiences you will use for each topic.

The superintendent of your school district may require periodic standardized tests to ensure the progress of your child. In some cases there may be alternate ways to show progress instead of a standardized test. This is something you may be able to negotiate with your district. 

MA Home Learning has an excellent guide for homeschooling requirements in Massachusetts. Just remember to always use the material your local district provides as the ultimate authority.

The G. Family, Sonlighters from North Dartmouth, MAThe G. Family, Sonlighters from North Dartmouth, MA
The G. Family, Sonlighters from North Dartmouth, MA

Do you have to have a curriculum for homeschooling in Massachusetts?

Your Massachusetts district will ask you what instructional materials you’ll use to teach the thirteen required subjects:

  1. spelling
  2. reading
  3. writing
  4. English language and grammar
  5. geography
  6. arithmetic
  7. drawing
  8. music
  9. United States history and the Constitution
  10. duties of citizenship
  11. health
  12. physical education
  13. good behavior

Thus curriculum isn’t required per se, but it is expected that you’ll use something to teach. That is, you might be able to teach some topics outside of a formal curriculum, but you’ll still need some type of material or experience.

Certainly, using a ready-made curriculum is preferred to taking a DIY approach. Not only is a curriculum easier on you (no planning), but it is also more smoothly communicated to your district. When you mention what program you’re using, it gives the assessor a sense of confidence in your homeschool plan. 

When you choose a Sonlight All-Subjects Package, you can customize a program that not only fulfills the Massachusetts requirements but also fits your child to a tee. 

See the scope and sequence of each program here. If you have concerns about your Sonlight choices not fulfilling the MA requirements, reach out to an Advisor who can walk you through exactly what’s included in each program.

The pandemic made it clear that children, especially young students, learn best when they are in the presence of their teacher, getting direct instruction. Online learning simply isn’t an adequate way for little kids to master the skills they need. So as you consider different homeschooling programs in Massachusetts, know that an at-home curriculum that relies on you and your child enjoying physical books together is far superior to online homeschooling. 

Do homeschoolers have to take standardized tests in Massachusetts?

In the Codfish State, a district superintendent may require periodic standardized testing as a means to measure adequate progress. However, in many districts, the need for assessing progress can be done via alternate means such as a portfolio review. Check with your local school system to find out if standardized testing is mandatory or if you can reach the same objective via other means.

What do I need to homeschool my child in Massachusetts?

Because the school district forms you’re required to file ask about what materials you’ll be using, it’s important to sort out the curriculum question before you even file an intent to homeschool. Use these three extensive guides to figure out your preferred homeschool style and the materials you’ll need to get started.

Homeschool Options & Types

Homeschooling Resources, Printables, FAQs: Tips for Getting Started

How to Choose Your Sonlight Curriculum

While Massachusetts does not require any specific records as proof of homeschooling, it’s good practice to keep your own file of documents:

While Massachusetts does not require any specific records as proof of homeschooling, it’s good practice to keep your own file of documents:

  • records of instructional days/hours
  • samples of student work and photos of hands-on projects
  • where applicable, grades and standardized test scores
  • list of materials used—books read, curriculum studied, documentaries watched
  • list of field trips, extracurricular activities, and co-ops
  • a copy of your intent to homeschool and your approved homeschool plan

To make recordkeeping easy, opt for the Sonlight homeschool planner. It has pre-made templates for everything you’d want to keep track of as a Massachusetts homeschooler—and more, like meal planning, chores, and goal setting.

The Sonlight Homeschool PlannerThe Sonlight Homeschool Planner

Once you have your curriculum chosen and your planner in place, you’ll want to devise your homeschool schedule, make an organized space for all your materials, and earmark spaces for learning in your home.

Getting Starting & Timing as a Homeschooler in Massachusetts

If you’re convinced of the benefits of homeschooling in Massachusetts and want to know how it all works in the Bay State, keep reading for the steps and specific examples. Learn how to get started, what age you need to start homeschooling, and how long you can homeschool. 

How do I start homeschooling in Massachusetts?

Homeschooling is regulated in Massachusetts through the school district where the family lives instead of at the state level. So the details will vary. But in all cases you’ll be filing both an intent to homeschool and a homeschool plan. In some cases, this is a single form. In most cases, this is an annual document. 

For the most accurate information, find the official website for your school district. Then search that site for the homeschool (or home school, two words) page. From there you can identify if the district has specific homeschooling forms to file, what the homeschool plan must include, and who to contact with questions. 

For example, here are three of the largest school districts in the state and their rules for how to enroll in homeschooling:

Boston Public Schools

Visit the official homeschool page.

Boston Public Schools provides online forms for three grade divisions: grades 1-5, middle school, and  high school. Among other things, this form asks for a list of instructional materials and how you’ll fulfill the end-of-year assessment. 

Springfield Public Schools

Visit the official homeschool page.

Springfield Public Schools provides one PDF form which you fill out and email (or mail) back. It’s fairly open ended and asks for attached documentation of background on the instructor, a description of the proposed curriculum, the number of hours of instruction, a description of the methods to be used, and the type of end-of-year assessment.

Worcester Public Schools

Visit the official homeschool page.

Worcester Public Schools allows parents to submit answers to these four questions in any format. 

  1. What is the proposed curriculum and number of hours of instruction per subject?
  2. What is the competency of the individuals who will be instructing the student?
  3. What textbooks, workbooks, and instructional materials will be used?
  4. What procedures will be used to assess student progress and maintain a student record?

For convenience, there are two PDF forms: one for grades 1-6 and another for grades 7-12. These forms are provided in seven languages besides English. This school system has also assembled a very helpful slidedeck with examples and guidance. 

No matter what school district you’re in, if you’re switching from public to homeschooling in Massachusetts, be sure to first get your homeschool plan approved prior to withdrawing your child from public school. 

At what age is school mandatory in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts law requires compulsory schooling from ages 6 to 16. 

To meet this requirement as a homeschooler, be sure to have your intent to homeschool and your homeschool plan squared away with your local school district before September of the calendar year when your child turns 6. In subsequent years, your district probably will require the form to be submitted anew. 

Can you skip kindergarten in Massachusetts?

Since mandatory schooling starts at age 6 in Massachusetts, yes, you can skip kindergarten and start formal homeschooling with first grade at age 6. Or you can provide preschool or kindergarten at home without filing an intent to homeschool.  

Homeschooling kindergarten or preschool in Massachusetts can be done at home with ease by using one of the three excellent programs below.

Read more here to figure out which one is best for your child. And reach out to an Advisor for free assistance if you’re still unsure.

  1. product-img
    Pre-Kindergarten Package
  2. product-img
    All-Subjects Package K