Is it home education?




While home education has been a way of life throughout our nation’s history, the legal right to homeschool in Indiana was codified in the case Mazanec v. North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation (1985). While the word “homeschool” does not appear in Indiana law, the state classifies homeschools as a legal, non-public, nonaccredited educational option.

For decades, families only had three clear and distinct choices for educating their children.

  1. Traditional Public Education
  2. Private Christian & Parochial Schools
  3. Home Education

Today, all options have evolved. In the internet age, education looks very different and has grown to include a wide variety of options beyond the traditional classroom. With expanding options beyond the brick-and-mortar schools, new choices have emerged that share many home education characteristics. While much has shifted in the methodology of education, nothing has changed legally.

Home education in Indiana is defined the same today as it was in 1985. 

We define home education as parent-directed, home-based, privately-funded education.

Support Groups | Co-ops

Home education does not mean being stuck at home. Families often connect and get support through two different types of organizations in their community. While the following definitions can be helpful, all groups are as different as the people who set them up and run them. Most groups operate through the efforts of volunteer leaders.

  • Support Groups – A support group typically focuses on encouraging parents. They usually get together for networking, sharing resources, providing opportunities for socialization and field trips. Sometimes support groups are primarily co-ops or have co-ops that exist within them.
  • Co-ops – Homeschool co-ops are organized to provide additional learning opportunities for students. They can range from an informal group of moms that get together to do a class or activity to a more formal set-up with designated teachers, classes, fees, etc. A co-op, in its truest form, is a meeting that focuses on learning where all the parents take turns teaching all subjects to all of the children.  Teachers can be parents who volunteer or people (parents or non-parents) with specific knowledge in an academic area who are paid.

But, what about…?

Families often have questions about other educational options that have some similarities to home education. 

Virtual Government School, Virtual Public School, or Virtual Charter School

This is a public school in your home. Often the primary instruction is via classes on the internet. Material may be provided at low or no cost to the parents, including textbooks and computers, but the student is legally a public school student according to Indiana law, even though classes take place in the home. Since the funding is provided by the government through tax dollars, it is a state-controlled option, families have little to no control, and they are accountable to the public school system.

Overwhelmingly, virtual public schools in Indiana have a troubling record of fraudulent administration and poor performance by students.

Indiana Department of Education Report Cards

Media Reports

Cottage Schools, Mini-Schools, University Model Schools, or Private Tutoring

Since homeschools in Indiana are classified the same as private schools, multiple hybrid options have developed over the years. While many operate as homeschool programs, there are key differences that can open families up to increased regulations and liabilities.  

Hybrid private schools are typically run by paid teachers and are a more structured version of a homeschool co-op. Because teachers are paid and the classes are often not parent-directed, they are no longer considered home schools. Key distinctions include high tuition or class fees, meeting 3 or more times a week, and holding formal classes with the teacher assigning and grading homework to be done on the days’ classes that don’t meet.

“Homeschooling” by a Friend or Family Member

Private tutoring in one or two classes in high school in Indiana is a perfectly acceptable option to SUPPLEMENT a parent’s own homeschooled program. For example, perhaps a parent needs help teaching their child Algebra. Employing another adult to teach your child in that subject would be a great addition to a homeschooled program.

But, often parents ask about hiring someone else to “homeschool” their child. While it is not prohibited by Indiana law, the IAHE does not recommend or recognize private tutoring as home education, and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) will not represent families against charges that result from this kind of arrangement. Some states do have “homeschooling with a private tutor” as an option and those states have regulations regarding that. (CA, AL, FL, PA.)

I have concerns when I hear of someone wanting to homeschool another’s child(ren) because I’ve walked that road. I thought my 16 years of experience homeschooling my own children would be sufficient experience to draw on when I agreed to help another family. I quickly learned that homeschool another parent’s child(ren) is not the same as homeschooling my own. The hardest part was navigating the parent’s expectations, the children’s expectations, and my own expectations and still moving forward. I do not recommend homeschooling another’s children. (Heidi K.)

Private tutoring for money can lead to additional regulations designed for private schools and daycares. Families should fully consider background checks, local business zoning, tax implications, and more.

Due to the pandemic, more families than ever are considering non-traditional “home education” options. We reached out to Tj Schmidt with HSLDA for more information about the potential implications.

Generally, when a person asks about who has to educate their children, I inform them that there is no requirement under Indiana law that the parent must do all of the instruction. I point out that as the right to homeschool is based upon the idea that the parent is the one who has the fundamental right/duty/responsibility to direct their child’s education, that others could be involved instructing a child in their educational program.

However, I do caution them that once you step out from the education taking place in your own home, or only with your children, you run into several potential questions/concerns and additional regulations. The state has the ability to regulate schools (often defined in local ordinances as a place educating 6 or more children who are not related together in a family). In addition, if this arrangement is paid, then there could also be regulations about operating a business, tax implications, etc. Our general advice to anyone who is interested in educating another person’s child for more than 49% of their instruction is that they need to seek outside legal advice. We are not able to assist them in this matter and operate a small private school. HSLDA’s primary mission is to assist parents who are educating their own children a majority of the time (although at points in high school it is not uncommon for the parent to be doing less than 50% of the actual instruction if their child is taking college classes, etc.). (Tj Schmidt)

When does a co-op become a school?

Many people contact the IAHE with different scenarios and ask if it’s legally still homeschooling. There are many factors that come into play. Consider a home gardener that decides to sell their surplus produce. While they can legally choose many ways to operate their business, the scale and the location of their new venture will determine the laws and regulations that they must adhere to.

The IAHE works to protect our parental freedoms regarding private, home education in Indiana and families should consult an attorney before establishing a private tutoring agreement.