U.S. Supreme Court precedent

In the U.S., homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on homeschooling specifically, but in Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 it supported the rights of Amish parents to keep their children out of public schools for religious reasons. The Court has ruled however, that parents have a fundamental right to "establish a home and bring up children" along with the right to "worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience." This combination of rights is the basis for calling homeschooling a fundamental right under the Supreme Court's concept of liberty protected by the Due Process clause. Laws that restrict fundamental rights are subject to strict scrutiny, the highest standard, if the law is challenged in the courts.

The final two sentences from the Supreme Court's opinion in Runyon v. McCrary, analyze Pierce v. Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, 268 U.S. 510 and the Court holds that a State may set educational standards but may not limit how parents choose to meet those educational standards.

In Runyon v. McCrary the Court analyzed its prior rulings on educational choice:

    In Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 , the Court held that the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment includes the right "to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children," id., at 399, and, concomitantly, the right to send one's children to a private school that offers specialized training - in that case, instruction in the German language. In Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 , the Court applied "the doctrine of Meyer v. Nebraska," id., at 534, to hold unconstitutional an Oregon law requiring the parent, guardian, or other person having custody of a child between 8 and 16 years of age] to send that child to public school on pain of criminal liability. The Court thought it "entirely plain that the statute unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control." Id., at 534-535. In Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 , the Court stressed the limited scope of Pierce, pointing out that it lent "no support to the contention that parents may replace state educational requirements with their own idiosyncratic views of what knowledge a child needs to be a productive and happy member of society" but rather "held simply that while a State may posit educational standards, it may not pre-empt the educational process by requiring children to attend public schools." Id., at 239.

In addition the Runyon Court held that: recognized that "The Court has repeatedly stressed that while parents have a constitutional right to send their children to private schools and a constitutional right to select private schools that offer specialized instruction, they have no constitutional right to provide their children with private school education unfettered by reasonable government regulation."

Additionally, in Meyer v. Nebraska, the U.S. Supreme Court's majority opinion stated that the "liberty" protected by the Due Process clause "[w]ithout doubt...denotes not merely freedom from bodily restraint but also the right of the individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children, to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized...as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men." In Meyer, the Court held that a 1919 Nebraska law prohibiting the teaching of foreign languages to school children before high school unconstitutionally violated the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Many other Court rulings have established or supported the right of parents to provide home education.

Only a short time after compulsory attendance laws became common in the United States, Oregon adopted a statute outlawing private schools. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state law as unconstitutional in its 1925 ruling in Pierce v. Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, 268 U.S. 510 (1925).[4] The Court held that a state may not prohibit a parent from satisfying a compulsory attendance requirement by sending their children to private school. This case has frequently been cited by other courts in support of the proposition that parents have a right to satisfy compulsory attendance requirements through home instruction. Parents' right to homeschool their children has clearly been established through subsequent court decisions to such an extent that any statute attempting to forbid it entirely would certainly be struck down on constitutional or other grounds.

Every state has some form of a compulsory attendance law that requires children in a certain age range to spend a specific amount of time being educated. The most common way for parents to meet these requirements is to have their children attend public school.