You have requested our opinion as to whether a home school in Maine is an educational
institution for the purposes of paying student benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act. As discussed below, we believe that the student is in full-time attendance
in a home school situation that meets all requirements of Maine law.
The materials you submitted indicate that Morgan W~, who will become 18 years of age
on January 28, 2007, was approved for child's benefits effective August 2002. Ms.
W~ and her mother, Frances W~ (the certifying official and instructor), completed
a Student Statement Regarding School Attendance, Form SSA-1372, in December 2006.
On that form, the student and her mother certified that Morgan was enrolled in home-school
for 25 hours per week. They also reported that the current school year began August
28, 2006, and will end June 20, 2007, when Morgan is expected to graduate. The prior
school year had extended from September 6, 2005 through June 14, 2006.
Also submitted was a Letter of Intent to home school signed by Frances W~ in August
2006 and submitted to both the local Superintendent of Schools and the Maine Department
of Education. The letter states that Morgan's home instruction program would commence
on September 9, 2006 and continue for a minimum of 175 days. The file also includes
an assessment of the student's progress prepared on July 19, 2006 by Glenna P~, a
teacher in Cornville, Maine, stating that Morgan fulfilled her 11th grade requirements
in a home-school setting and recommending that she be promoted to the 12th grade.
In order to be eligible to continue to receive child's insurance benefits, an individual
who is 18 years of age but has not attained age 19 must be a full-time elementary
or secondary school student at an educational institution. Social Security Act § 202(d)(1)(B),
42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(B).
The Commissioner's regulation at 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1) provides that an individual
is a full-time elementary or secondary student if she attends a school which provides
elementary or secondary education as determined under the law of the state or other
jurisdiction in which it is located. Participation in secondary education at home
in accordance with a home school law of the state of residence meets the requirements
of the regulation.
The Program Operations Manual System (POMS) provides that student benefits are payable
if the following criteria are met:
(1) the student meets the federal standards for full-time attendance (FTA); (2) the
law of the state in which the home school is located recognizes home schooling as
an educational institution;
(3) the home school the student attends meets the requirements of the state law in
which the home school is located; and
(4) the student meets all the other requirements for benefits.
POMS RS 00205.275.
To meet the federal standards for full-time attendance, a student must be:
(1) scheduled for secondary level school attendance at the rate of at least twenty
hours per week;
(2) enrolled in a course that is not a correspondence course; and
(3) enrolled in a course of study that is at least thirteen weeks in duration.
POMS RS 00205.300(C).
Under Maine's home school law, Title 20-A M.R.S.A. § 5001-A, a person is excused from
attending public school if instructed in a home instruction program that meets the
following statutory requirements. Within 10 days of starting home instruction for
a student, the parent must file a notice of intent with both the local superintendent
and the Commissioner of Education containing:
1. the name, signature, and address of the parent or guardian,
2. the name and age of the student,
3. the date home instruction will or did begin,
4. a statement of assurance that instruction will be provided for at least 175 days
annually and will cover English and language arts, math, science, social studies,
physical education, health education, library skills, fine arts, and, in at least
one grade between grades 6 and 12, Maine studies and, in one grade between grades
7 and 12, proficiency in use of computers, and,
5. a statement of assurance that the parent will submit an annual assessment of the
student's academic progress.
Maine law further provides that for each school year thereafter, the parent must submit
a subsequent letter to both the local superintendent and state commissioner of education
enclosing a year-end assessment of academic performance and stating whether the parent
intends to continue the student's home instruction. The annual assessment of performance
must take one of the following forms:
1. a standardized achievement test or
2. a test developed by local school officials, or
3. review and acceptance of the student's progress by an individual who holds a current
Maine teacher's certificate, or
4. review and acceptance of the student's progress based on a presentation of an educational
portfolio of the student to a local homeschooling support group whose membership includes
a currently certified Maine teacher or administrator, or
5. review and acceptance of the student's progress by a local advisory board selected
by the local superintendent composed of one school official and two home instruction
Applying the requirements of the Maine home school statute to the facts of this case,
it appears that Morgan W~ satisfies the Commissioner's requirements for proof of continuing
eligibility for student benefits. POMS RS 00205.275. The parent instructor has certified that the student attends home school for 25
hours a week, the required statutory notice of intent has been filed with the appropriate
school officials, and the student's progress has been reviewed and accepted by a teacher
who is currently certified in Maine.