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Ask Jeanne: Homeschooling and Immunization Law

Homeschooling and immunizations

I have a 4-year-old little girl. We have always wanted to homeschool her. The main reason for this decision is we don’t agree with vaccinations. My fiancé is older than I am. He grew up in the ’70s, so in his mind, this was going to be easy. Well, times have changed. I have been doing research, and it seems so much harder than I was thinking. I’m so overwhelmed with information that I don’t know where to start. My little girl is so smart, and she’s easy to teach, so we’ve got that down, but as far as the law goes we, of course, want to make sure we follow the guidelines so it doesn’t backfire on us. If there is any way of simplifying all of this, I would greatly appreciate any advice.

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Understand the Immunization Law

There are all kinds of reasons to homeschool, and some people do bring up vaccinations and immunizations. However, before homeschooling in order to avoid them, you should be aware that homeschooling does not automatically mean you are exempt from laws requiring immunizations.

In fact, in the state where I live, as well as in many other states, homeschooled children are required to follow the same immunization laws as children who attend school. This is administrated in different ways in different states, but for example, in my state, homeschoolers send a Notice of Intent to Homeschool to their local school divisions. Local school administrators then may request immunization records from those families, and to be in compliance with the law, parents need to submit the records when they are requested. An alternative in my state is submitting an official religious exemption or medical exemption from immunization. These exemptions have specific requirements and paperwork.

Think About Future Implications

Children who are not immunized during their school years may face later requirements to be immunized to attend university or in certain jobs, and there may or may not be exemptions for some of those scenarios. Children in my state also have to have immunization records or official exemptions if they want to participate in certain sports or activity groups.

Don’t Assume All Homeschoolers Agree

Homeschoolers, like parents who choose other educational approaches, have many different opinions about immunizations. Some parents have religious or medical objections to any immunizations. Some want to immunize on a less aggressive schedule or object to specific immunizations. Still other parents want their children to have all immunizations on the recommended schedule.

Some people who homeschool their children are open to many alternative ideas while others are quite traditional in every way except for not sending their children to school. Some homeschoolers who move frequently are serious about sticking to immunization schedules for their kids, knowing that in their new home they may encounter a new circle of homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers, some of whom may not follow standard immunization recommendations. For other homeschooling parents who are moving, this is not a concern because this is in line with their immunization preferences.

Public health officials continue to emphasize the importance of immunizations, some parents continue to object to required immunizations, and some parents continue to comply and support immunization policies.

Differentiate Between Homeschooling Issues and Public Health Issues

However, to be clear, immunization policy is not a homeschooling issue, though there may be overlap among some homeschoolers who are for or against certain immunization policies. Immunization policy is a parenting, family, and public health issue, and it is one that may affect children regardless of their educational approach.

You need to check the laws of your state regarding both homeschooling and immunizations. Some states only allow medical exemptions to immunization, and there must be documentation from a doctor. Other states require all children to have immunizations or exemptions, but they do not require proof of immunization for homeschooled children. Still others, like mine, require children to have immunizations or exemptions, and officials can request records from homeschoolers just as they can from non-homeschoolers.

If you’re going to make a decision about homeschooling because of immunizations, you need to inform yourself how that plays out. I suggest you contact your state homeschool group to find out how immunization laws are administered where you live.

Learn With Homeschooling 101 Resources

As for the rest of the information overload, yes, there is a lot of information about homeschooling out there today. Read TheHomeSchoolMom’s Getting Started pages and explore the rest of the website for the information you need. Much of our job as homeschooling parents is doing research and sorting out the helpful information. It’s like preschool – and pre-homeschool – for parents! And honestly, parents’ need for research continues as your child reaches each new stage.

Good luck with your homeschooling!

Submit a question for Jeanne

Jeanne Faulconer

A popular speaker at homeschooling conferences, business groups, and parents’ groups, Jeanne Potts Faulconer has homeschooled her three sons in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia. She is a former college faculty member, former editor and book reviewer for Home Education Magazine, a long-time editor for VaHomeschoolers Voice, and a recent news correspondent for WCVE, an NPR-member station. Jeanne teaches writing and literature for her youngest son’s homeschool co-op, and she is a student of how learning works – at home, in the music room, in small groups, in the college classroom, on the soccer field, and in the car to and from practice. Holding her Master of Arts degree in Communication, Jeanne conducts portfolio evaluations for Virginia homeschoolers for evidence of progress. To read more of Jeanne’s writing, inquire about a homeschool evaluation, or ask her to speak to your group, see her blog, Engaged Homeschooling.

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Comments

  1. DrTony

    As a family practice physician, I caution you to base you opinion regarding vaccinations on MEDICAL advice, not what some movie star says.

    As a homeschooler, I advise you to check with your state requirements. I am in TN and this state has the same requirements for vaccinations whether you are in a state school or not. This includes the option to “Opt-Out”.

  2. Rebecca Smith

    As a Parent of a high school Homeschooler I was approached by a Neighbor whom asked if I knew what the age limit was to begin homeschool, her 20 yr old son never finished school sadly it seemed almost impossible for him to get his GED having been enrolled on and off since he was 16 . Knowing the NEED for a diploma she’s considering homeschool Believing with one on one teaching he will obtain his diploma and his future will much brighter. Unable to find information on the North Carolina Homeschool help website about age restrictions I’m hoping you can help us Thanks i

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