There is a lot of information out there about how to homeschool in the United States. One of the best resources is the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) which has compiled all the legal information necessary to homeschool in each of the 50 states. There are also a large number of websites and blogs dedicated to homeschooling in the United States. But learning how to homeschool in France is much more difficult.
The American sites have information about different styles, methods, curriculum, and resources. You can find tools to help you on your journey that are both paid and free. This plethora of information can seem daunting at the beginning but it can be extremely helpful when just starting out. It gives every person the ability to make their own decision about how to educate their children.
Because the popularity of homeschooling is relatively new in France, the number of sites is much less. So learning how to homeschool in France takes more digging. Especially when you consider that the laws and regulations have been changing on a yearly basis.
French Homeschooling Associations
There are, of course, the usual homeschool associations. But they are often small, run by volunteers and not nearly as organized as the HSLDA. Some of the better known are Les Enfants D’Abord (LED’A) of which I am a member, Libres d’Apprendre et d’Instruire Autrement (LAIA), Choisir d’Instruire Son Enfant (CISE), Parents Instructeurs de France (PIF), Union Nationale pour l’Instruction et l’Epanouissement (UNIE), a group called Collect’IEF and a website Le Portail de l’Instruction En Famille. These websites direct you in the legal requirements of homeschooling with links to some resources like films and articles about homeschooling or testimonials from current homeschooling families.
I highly recommend joining an association of some sort while homeschooling in France. There have been frequent abuses by the inspectors who often have low opinions of homeschoolers. Especially if you are not following the state-sanctioned program.
The biggest difficulty comes in choosing what method to use or “how to” homeschool. I was lucky to be able to do searches in English and finally come across a style that resonates with our family, that of using the Charlotte Mason method. But the French are not as lucky in their information. Most families I know use a mixture of Montessori and the official program of the public school system though this is changing. As the number of families choosing to educate their own children grows, so does the number of different types of schooling.
Legal Homeschooling Requirements
In order to homeschool, each family must declare their intent to homeschool with the branch of the education department in their region or departement. They must also send a letter to the mayor’s office in their place of residence. These letters must be sent every year, starting the calendar year of the child’s 3rd birthday until their 16th birthday. You can read more about this change in the law in an article I wrote for the HSLDA, Homeschooling Once Again Attacked in New French Law.
Once these letters of intent have been sent, the parent is then free to educate their child in the method of their choosing. This is also in a debate as the government would like to control the progress of each child.
Though the new law wanted to make it mandatory for children to pass each set of skills as proposed by the government at specific cycles or periods of education, happily, this did not happen. However, this does not mean that some inspectors might not base your child’s progress based on that of the current cycles (which I discuss in my post, Simple Guide to the French School System).
The mayor’s office sends a delegate every other year to verify 3 things:
- the reasons for homeschooling,
- the names and ages of the children,
- and any activities the children participate in outside of the home.
They must also verify visually the means of the family to homeschool, ie. a dedicated space for learning, books, pencils, paper, etc.
The inspection by the department of education (l’Education Nationale) takes place yearly and is to verify that there is instruction taking place. This inspection also has 3 parts:
- an interview with the parents concerning their choice of method
- a presentation of the completed work of each child
- exercises in line with the method choices of the parents to verify progression
This is the official version of how these two visits are to play out. The reality is often quite different. I’ve written about my first two inspections in my posts What To Expect When You’re Inspected Part I and Part II.
If you are planning to homeschool in France, I have created some templates for the required letters of intent. You can receive your free copy on the Freebies page. There is also a document which includes a list of all the department addresses.