The legal right to homeschool is Maryland is established through the compulsory school attendance law. Education Article Section 7-301 requires children between a certain age to "attend a public school regularly during the entire school year unless the child is otherwise receiving regular, thorough instruction during the school year in the studies usually taught in the public schools to children of the same age."
In 1984, the Maryland State Department of Education, under authority of the General Assembly, adopted regulations, COMAR 13A.10.01-.05 that would guide the legal parameters for how homeschooling could function in Maryland. Individual families could exercise the right to homeschool their children, using instructional methods and curricular options of their choosing. The homeschool regulations gave oversight to each county school board, allowing them to review a parent's compliance with "regular and thorough instruction" up to three (3) times a year. Finally, the regulations also stated that individual school boards could not impose additional requirements not found in COMAR.
Soon after, the Maryland Home Education Association was formed and offered families homeschooling support and advocacy efforts. Run by a public school teacher whose children were being homeschooled, MHEA provided leadership during the early years of homeschooling. By the early 2000s, MHEA became mostly inactive as its founder focused his efforts on growing his private school, which also provides homeschool umbrella services.
In 2003, homeschool families were caught by surprise when MSDE proposed new homeschooling regulations without having first sought input from interested parties. Homeschool families rallied and requested that a new meeting be called to discuss proposed changes, before the MSDE Board voted. Ultimately, the regulation changes included an annual verification form that parents would be required to sign, stating that they wish to continue to homeschool. In addition, a process was implemented to require notification if a student's homeschool status changed during the school year.
No review of homeschool regulations has been conducted by MSDE since 2003. However, in June 2010 a brief informational presentation on the status of homeschooling was presented to the Board of Education by MSDE staff. No representatives from the homeschool community were invited to attend. No direct action came from that meeting.
Maryland Homeschool Association formed in early 2014, out of 10-years of grassroots efforts led by Alessa Giampaolo Keener and her organization, Hand In Hand Homeschool.
The Hand In Hand website began as an informal project back in 2003, when Alessa wanted to learn how to create webpages with html. Always a collector of information, Alessa decided to share news and resources with other Maryland homeschool families through the new website. Over the years, Hand In Hand grew to be the largest homeschooling website supporting families in the state of Maryland, with close to 1,000 pages of content.
When MHEA became inactive, Hand In Hand stepped up its community outreach by volunteering hundreds of hours each year monitoring and reading education-related bills considered by the Maryland Assembly. Using old-fashioned grassroots organizing, Hand In Hand successfully rallied statewide homeschoolers to oppose proposed legislation that would have placed new and unnecessary restrictions on families who choose to educate their children at home.
Many individual volunteers spoke of a shared dream of creating an active statewide homeschool organization. The
MDHSA website was launched in an effort to continue to support new volunteer leaders to step forward and work together to fulfill that vision.
Rooted in the shared commonalities for the love of our children and our commitment to education - yet celebrating the differences that each family holds dear to their individual households - Maryland Homeschool Association strives to support the needs of Maryland homeschooling families.