Dunlap: New Vermont law makes homeschooling easier

Home study peaked during Covid but still higher than before 2021

by Retta Dunlap

In the legislature this past winter, so many bills were introduced that made it all the way to the Governor’s desk. Debate will go on for a long time as to whether these bills were a good thing or not, except for the section of one bill – there is no debate. Both the Agency of Education and Vermont homeschoolers, for one brief shining moment, were on the same page working for the passage of the same language to update the home study law which is found within H.461 making miscellaneous changes in education laws. 

So that you can understand the monumental accomplishment of this new language you need some background. 

Before 1987, to homeschool a child in Vermont there were rules and you needed to submit a curriculum for approval. Parents would start homeschooling thinking it should not take long to get approval as there were less than 100 kids homeschooling back then. So, these parents waited patiently while educating their children. It would be months before they heard anything as those curriculums as they were passed off to the Agency of Education (AOE) where the enrollments would languish. This ended up in what the homeschooling community called “technical truancy”. No, it is not a real legal term but these kids were indeed getting an education just not in a school building. 

In order to fix this, homeschoolers turned to the legislature in 1986 where the AOE and homeschoolers were at odds with one another in the State House from day one. Legislators had had enough of it and told both sides to go work it out over the summer and come back that next winter with something they both could support, which they did. 

166b or the Home Study law was an amazing piece of legislation. It was written to be prescriptive as to what the state could and could not do and exactly what parents must submit to the state. The language was not based on approval but on notification that a child was going to be homeschooled and a timeline was put in place to avoid “technical truancy”. In its day it was truly a balance between the State’s interests and the rights of the parents in the education of their children. 

However, bureaucracy being what it is, the administration of this statute drifted into nit picking how parents wrote their courses of study. Something the law did not intend. So much so that in 2000 a family enrolled in home study ended up in the Vermont Supreme Court where the court sided with the family and explained to the AOE what they could not hold up an enrollment forever. That they had only 45 days before enrollment happened automatically and this family was enrolled months ago. 

Since I knew the history and, in an effort to clarify the law again, I worked with the then AOE Commissioner Richard Cate to help bring about another change in the statute in 2006. These changes worked for a while but as bureaucracy inevitable does, it began to go sideways again. And again, in 2019 I started to work with a new Secretary, Daniel French. We worked out some tentative language but when COVID hit this language was put on hold. The public schools were closed and families flocked to home study such that the numbers went from 2500 enrolled to over 5500 enrolled in 6 months. For these kids enrolled in home study, their education did not miss a beat during COVID. For the AOE, they were so overwhelmed with paper work it took them a year to dig out from under it.

Homeschooling in Vermont peaked at over 5000 students in 2021, and in 2023 is still more than 3000.

For nearly 30 years I have been a voice for common sense change to this statute. I have met with and worked with nearly every Secretary of Ed during that time. I stressed the paper work load was not sustainable with the numbers growing as they were. After COVID, the agency finally agreed and now we have a brand-new home study statute. 

Parents are to fill out a notice of intent and attest to teach the minimum course of study for at least 175 days a year and do an annual assessment maintaining that record at home. No longer does the AOE want these documents submitted to them. The state’s interest is satisfied in knowing who the children are, where they live, and who their parents/guardians are. The parental rights are acknowledged such that the primacy of the family in the education of a child is protected.

The growth of homeschooling in Vermont has trended steadily upward since the 80’s. It is the only form of education that has not lost numbers over the years as parents look at issues in the institutional settings and want something different. These issues cover the spectrum but the most common ones are issues over bullying, special ed services, and lack of child specific instruction in reading, writing, and use of numbers. Sometimes a child is simply not developmentally ready for the classroom and a year or two of homeschooling can give them enough of a break to catch up so that an institutional setting works for them again. 

If you want to research homeschooling further you can start with my website at and then simply Google homeschooling to find a host of information and resources. To find the state enrollment forms for submission to the state you can go to to either enroll online or fill out a paper form for mailing. It will take about 5 minutes of your time. For local homeschool support groups, search for them on Facebook as that is where most VT homeschoolers connect with one another. 

Categories: Commentary, Education

9 replies »

  1. Thank you, Rhetta, for your work on homeschooling.

    The homeschool concept is the future of K-12 education. This doesn’t mean, however, that mom or dad must stay home and teach their children. Collaboration and facilitation are tantamount to success.

    Parents who want a specific pedagogical overview, that aligns with their personal and political beliefs, will choose from an à la carte education menu that includes the required language, math, science, and social studies disciplines. Sports, the arts, and special education services, will also be chosen from an approved à la carte service menu. Providers can be traditional public schools, approved independent schools, private tutors, or local community oriented ‘learning pods’. An educational free market will create educational innovation of all kinds.

    But the question everyone is surely asking is – how can I afford to do this when my tax dollars go to support only the traditional public school system?

    The answer is Vermont’s exemplary and oldest-in-the-nation school ‘tuitioning’ governance. 16 V.S.A. § 822(c) provides your local school board with the authority to allow parents of children in grades 7-12 to choose the school the parents believe best meets the needs of their children. And because most independent schools, and some public schools, will cater to homeschooling parents, the so-called ‘Average Announced Tuition’ of 7th thru 12th Grade Schools is available.

    For example, The River Valley Technical Center in Springfield, VT caters to students across the State, including homeschool students. The RVTC is a public school. But it is also an independent public school because it’s in its own school district.

    There are many other approved independent schools that also qualify to receive the Vermont Average Announced Tuition. And, in the final analysis, for grades 7 thru 12 at least, the decision in regard to the institution the pupils may attend at public cost rests with each parent and their local school district board.

    Again, thanks to Rhetta Dunlap and the many homeschool advocacy groups throughout Vermont for their perseverance. Necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention.

    • Yes, a school district may maintan a high school AND furnish high school education by paying tuition. But there are strict stipulations as to how this can be done.

      1. This is only at the high school level.
      2. The schools that they can tuition to must be an approved independent school or met the education quality standards.
      2. The student must have unique educational needs that can’t be served within the district or a nearby public school.

      This wording is specific and intended to prevent exactly what you are suggesting. To find out all you need to do is to get a local high school level school board to try out your idea. If it works, I will promote it. BUT it in no way is a homeschooling concept. It is a tutoring concept.

  2. What amazes me is that the Democrats with their super majorities would even allow home schooling at all, as it goes against the grain of govt. institutionalizing them with their favorite socialized group think of encouraging homosexual deviancy and of course everyones favorite, hating whitey….Then there’s the Teachers Unions who are big contributers to the Democrat coffers, who sure as heck don’t like school choice/vouchers & home schoolers…What am I missing here?

    • You’re missing the fact, as most Vermonters do, that existing Vermont statutory governance is conducive to an education free market.

      You don’t have to accept the fact that you’re paying as much to educate a first grader as you do to send a student to a full year of undergraduate studies at the Vermont State Universities – including room and board. And for paying that much, 60% of Vermont K-12 students don’t meet minimum grade level standards in reading, writing, arithmetic, and science. And 90% of those students graduate anyway.

      The pandemic, with its masking, lockdowns, and remote learning, (not to mention the behavioral social modification programs), verified what many of us have been trying to describe to everyone for years. But dwelling on the dystopian nature of the public-school monopoly and the special interest groups controlling it, gets you nowhere. What WILL get you somewhere is understanding what folks like Rhetta Dunlap, and many others, are trying to tell you. Vermonters have K-12 educational options!

      What amazes me is that yours is the only comment by VDC viewers. Their continued blind eye cast upon what is arguably THE most important aspect of turning our State around, is a true conundrum. Ranting about what the teacher’s union and other special interest groups don’t like shows us nothing. We get it. Stop complaining about their dystopian attitudes and move on. Where your children go to school, and what and how they learn, is up to you.

      Will these special interest groups try to obstruct motivated parents? Yes. They always do. But if parents learn how the system works in Vermont, they can do virtually whatever they want to do for their children’s education.

      JUST DO IT!

  3. There are ways to make changes in our educational system. What many are advocating is to go against goliath head on, wrestle with the giant. This is an ineffective, unproductive and extremely frustrating attempt for change. They are about power and money. Many others are about truth and love. The Romans crushed their enemies, left and right on protracted wars, to which most everyone lost, except those who followed the truth and acted in love, against those there is no law.

    How do we make change? One town, one school district at a time. When people come together, say 112,704 people decided, you know what, I’ll donate $100 a year for the next 5 years to break the indoctrination, to stop the lies being spread to our children, to give them a real education.

    You would have 10 million dollars, a scholarship for home schooling. At $4,000 a head, you could educate 2500 kids. That’s 10% of our school populace. That could be an entire county.

    Suddenly 3 years into that project, with results that would crush our public-school systems, you’d have people saying huh, there is a better way. Our state school system has been subverted, it’s a tactic of war, they are indoctrinating little marxists rather than teaching our children science, math, history, civics, truth and love.

    They are about power and money, make no mistake. Truth and Love is the kryptonite, to which they have no defense.

  4. Here we go again. More diatribe on how “Our state school system has been subverted, it’s a tactic of war, they are indoctrinating little marxists…”.

    We get it, already.

    Re: “You would have 10 million dollars, a scholarship for home schooling. At $4,000 a head, you could educate 2500 kids.”

    Okay. So, you raise the money (maybe). Who has custody of the money? How then is it distributed? By whom? To whom? What are the rules?

    Neil, there is already a system in place. It works. Instead of raising an additional $4000 for a student above and beyond what the State already raises, why not just follow the existing ‘tuitioning’ governance? The Average Announced Tuition for Elementary grade students is $16,756 per student. For grades 7 thru 12 it’s $18,266 per student.

    • The current system in place works? I must be missing something. Particularly, after working with a number of young folks, most were unable to spell, cannot structure a sentence or construct a readable piece of correspondence, woefully lacking common knowledge, inability to comprehend or solve simple problems, atrocious communications skills, and limited accounting skills (personal or business.) There was a time students were required to pass basic competencies. From what I see, those basic competencies went out the window. Even college graduates are inept and unprepared for life in the cubicle jungles or beyond. No amount of money guarantees good education. Good education comes from the public demanding and ensuring skills are taught and mastered. Society cannot function with educated idiots. Unfortunately, the damage done over the past few decades will not be easy to navigate. Communities must demand better now or withhold the money – revolt against the current system as it is obviously a miserable failure.

      • Re: “The current system in place works? I must be missing something.”

        Indeed. You are missing a lot, Melissa. And you’re taking what I said out of context. I said the current system of ‘tuitioning’ works. Apparently, you have yet to figure out what Vermont’s tuition program is all about. Again, read 16 V.S.A. § 822(c)(1).

        (c)(1) A school district may both maintain a high school and furnish high school education by paying tuition:
        (A) to a public school as in the judgment of the school board may best serve the interests of the students; or
        (B) to an approved independent school or an independent school meeting education quality standards if the school board judges that a student has unique educational needs that cannot be served within the district or at a nearby public school.
        (2) The judgment of the board shall be final in regard to the institution the students may attend at public cost.

        A good education does not come from the public demanding and ensuring skills are taught and mastered. The public has been ‘demanding’ better education outcomes and lower costs for decades.

        A good education comes when those parents and their children, who figure out that success is up to them and with whom they choose to collaborate, take the steps to improve their own standing. Unless and until individual parents figure this out, no amount of ‘revolt’ is going to amount to anything but the status quo.

        Please parents – do your homework. It’s up to you.