Montana Homeschool FAQ

  1. How long has homeschooling been legal in Montana?
  2. How many children are home educated in Montana ?
  3. What about sports ?
  4. Can homeschool students participate in public school sports ?
  5. Can homeschool students take classes in public schools ?
  6. Will public schools allow homeschooled students back into public school ?
  7. What about driver's education ?
  8. Are there any problems getting into college ?
  9. Are college scholarships available ?
  10. Do homeschool students need the GED ?
  11. What about high school graduation ?
  12. How do I contact a support group ?
  13. Are there any tax benefits available to homeschoolers ?
  14. What about entering the military ?
  15. How do I notify the county superintendent ?
  16. Other questions?

How long has homeschooling been legal in Montana ?

In 1895 and 1903 the Montana Legislature acknowledged homeschools. In 1980 Attorney General Mike Greeley issued an opinion, stating that the 1971 legislature had done away with home education. As a result of that opinion, many Montana homeschooling families were forced into court in order to defend their right to direct the education of their children. In 1983 the Montana legislature passed a new law outlining the minimum requirements for private and homeschools. And in 1991, 20-5-111 was added to Montana's law that clarified the "responsibilities and rights of a parent who provides home school".

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How many children are home educated in Montana ?

Homeschooling grew by about 180 students statewide from 3,447 in 1999-2000 to 3,627 in 2000-2001. Homeschool students make up just 8% of Montana's overall school population. Over the past five years, private school enrollment fluctuated between about 8,500-8,800 students, while the homeschooled population hovered between 3,150 and 3,800.

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What about sports ?

For many parents, it is very important for their homeschooled children to participate in sports. In the early days of homeschooling there was little available for those desiring to play on teams sports. The only opportunities were available in public schools. But, much has changed. In nearly every community there are many opportunities available. Only football remains as a public school sport. In most communities there are volleyball and basketball teams. And in the Spring, there are several statewide and national competitions. Other sports available include; swimming, track, skiing, boating, climbing, biking and hiking. In the summer there are homeschool adventure camps, backpack trips, rock climbing, and more. Even though high school age homeschool students are not allowed to participate in public school 'conference' sports, there is still much available. Contact a local support group for more information.

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Can homeschool students participate in public school sports ?

In Montana all access decisions are up to the local school districts. The exception is high school sports. The decision regarding participation in conference athletics is made by the Montana High School Association. They have ruled that only full time district students with a passing grade are allowed on the team.

In regard to academics, band, art, etc, there was a MT Supreme Court decision in 1997 that ruled in favor of the school district. Even though the issue started out regarding athletics, the ruling was quite broad and stated that no school district is compelled to allow non-public students take any public school classes.

If you are interested in reading the entire Supreme Court decision:


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Will public schools allow homeschool students to take classes in public school ?

The answer to this question depends upon the policy of your local school district. In several legislative sessions, there have been bills introduced to require school districts to allow entry if room is available. In every case, those bills have been defeated. But still, there are many school districts across the state that have official policies that allow non-public school students to take any classes where there are open seats. In the past, school districts charged for those classes - but several years ago Montana Office of Public Instruction issued a ruling prohibiting that. Whether a student is allowed in is strictly a local decision. You need to contact your local County Superintendent of Schools for help, or the office of the School Superintendent (different) of the district you are interested in.

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Will public schools allow homeschool students back into public school ?

Again, the answer to this question depends upon the local school district. Montana law (20-5-110 MCA) states: "School district assessment for placement of a child who enrolls from a nonaccredited, nonpublic school. The trustees of a school district shall: (1) adopt a district policy on assessment for placement of any child who enrolls in a school of the district and whose previous place of instruction was a nonpublic school that is not accredited;". That means that every school district must adopt some form of re-entry policy. There are some school districts in Montana that have adopted tough policies. As an example, several districts will not allow a senior level non-public school student to re-enter as a senior. Even though they would do very well with other students of a similar age, the school district requires them to start completely over in 9th grade and attend all 9th, 10th and 11th grade classes, and then they are allowed to finish high school and receive a diploma. Other districts simply allow the student to enter in based on age and maybe a short academic evaluation. It is very unfortunate that some public school districts have developed draconian policies that are designed to punish families that have chosen a non-public school setting for some of the high school years. But, Montana legislators have always promoted local control - thus allowing policies to be created by your local school board.

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What about Drivers Education ?

There are no laws requiring school districts to allow homeschool students into drivers education courses. But in the Fall of 1999 the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) made an important clarification of one of their rules (ARM 10.13.307). In their clarification they declared that children that reside within the geographic boundaries be given a chance to enroll. They further acknowledged that traffic education is more than an educational issue. It is a public safety issue. They also ruled that the public schools may not charge differing amounts without demonstrating a governmental necessity. If you encounter any problems entering drivers education, contact Mr. David Huff at OPI in Helena for help (406-444-4438).

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Are there any problems getting into college ?

Typically no, but again it depends upon how prepared your student is, and the college/university involved. Entrance requirements are established by each college. It is important to contact them early to find out what they are. In the last number of years the number of colleges seeking homeschool students has increased. The issue of a students transcript has become less of a factor.

In Montana, all public universities are part of the Montana University System. The U-System and its policies are under the direction of the Montana Board of Regents. Until recently the requirement for entry into any Montana university required a passing score on the GED and one semester of probation with a full course load. In 1999 that policy was changed to allow entrance with a passing score on the ACT and/or SAT college entrance exams. Also, a satisfactory score on the ACT COMPASS exam could substitute for the GED.

Addition information can be found at the Board of Regents website:

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Are college scholarships available for homeschool graduates ?

Yes. It is important to plan ahead if you intend to search for college scholarships. A primary tool used by those choosing students to award scholarships are the SAT and ACT scores. When a student is in their Junior year in high school he/she should plan to also take the PSAT exam. All these exams are given only at certain times of the year. It is very important to contact a participating college to make arrangements in advance.

Also, other sources of scholarship information is the internet and Montana Office of Public Instruction. The majority of the scholarships are available to public and non-public students. In the past there have been several homeschooled students that have been awarded the Montana Presidential Scholarships.

If you are considering scholarships, plan your search prior to your Freshman year. Scholarships for Freshman are much easier than other years. And Freshman scholarship winners will discover it is easier to win scholarships that will renew for the following years.

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Do homeschool students need the GED ?

No. The GED exam is one option available to demonstrate academic capability. In the past the GED was the principle requirement for entering Montana's universities. As referenced above, that has been changed by the Montana Board of Regents. Since diplomas issued to homeschool graduates are not the same as those from state accredited public high schools, often the GED exam is used as a substitute. In deciding whether to take this exam, first determine whether it is necessary for your future plans. In Montana, most enter college by simply taking the PSAT and SAT exams.

For more information on the GED requirements and testing sites in Montana:

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What about high school graduation ?

In Montana there are generally graduation ceremonies held in different communities across Montana. Graduations range in size from 1 to 50+, depending upon the location. Often those organizing the graduations have a cutoff number, thereby keeping the ceremony within 2 hours. If you have a student that will be graduating in the upcoming year, it is very important to contact graduation organizers early. Typically registration deadlines are set for early Spring. So plan ahead.

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How do I contact a local support group ?

There are over 50 support groups across Montana. Some areas have monthly newsletters that list upcoming activities and news. Others have monthly meetings. At different times of the years, some support groups organize book fairs and other informational meetings. Local support groups provide a valuable service to the homeschool community. 

For a list of the support groups in Montana:

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Are there any tax benefits available to homeschoolers ?

No. In the last number of legislative sessions there have been a number of bills that would have provided tax credits and rebates to homeschooling families. None of these bills ever passed. Most were defeated in various committees before ever reaching the House or Senate for debate. Typically they were drafted to address tuition expenses only.

Homeschool families are dedicated to their goal of educating their children. With or without tax credits. 

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What about entering the military ?

For years, the military was one area that was difficult for homeschool students to enter into. But in the last number of years things have changed.

Amendments to the Defense Reauthorization Act over two years ago changed the ranking of home school graduates from a Tier 3 status, a ranking that included high school dropouts, to Tier 1, the same ranking high school graduates receive. This favorable change in status dramatically increased enlistment opportunities for home schoolers-particularly in the Air Force and Marines Corps, two branches that accept only Tier 1 applicants.

For more information regarding military enlistment of home schoolers:

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How do I notify the county superintendent of schools ?

Montana state law requires that homeschooling parents notify the county superintendent of schools annually of their intention to homeschool their children. (Note: the county superintendent is not the same as the school superintendent. The school superintendent is in charge of the public schools in the local school district. The county superintendent's office is typically in the county courthouse.) There is no mandated form required. Notification can be a phone call, letter, visit or provided form. Most superintendents have forms available, but their use is optional. A phone call is not recommended, since there should be some record available to prove your notification.

Technically, since compulsory attendance is not required after the age of 16, it is not necessary to continue to notify the county superintendent beyond that age. But, in order to demonstrate to educational institutions beyond high school, it is generally better to continue to be on record as homeschooling until graduation.

Beyond the above notification, state law allows the superintendent to request attendance records and proof of immunization. There are no requirements in Montana for any education official to request any other records relating to your homeschool (See 20-5-111 MCA).

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