Homeschooling laws are generally quite clear. Every state explains, in no uncertain terms, at what age homeschooling may begin.
In some states, the legal homeschooling age might be 5. In other states, it could be 6 or 7.
Some states write the age of eligibility as it relates to some calendar date, like Florida, where children must be 6 years old by February 1 of a given year. In states like Kansas, the range is broader, stating only that children have reached the age of 7 but are still under 18.
It is a parent’s responsibility to know the legal age of commencement and to comply with anything that may be required to begin homeschooling a child in that state. (Don’t know your laws? Read THIS POST.)
On the other hand, when homeschooling actually begins in a given family is a different matter altogether. Though the legal homeschooling age may not be until 5, 6, or 7, parents are certainly not precluded from starting sooner, if it seems like the right thing for that child. Some children (and their parents) are more eager and ready for schooling than others, thus parents needn’t wait until state laws say they can begin.
On the flip side, although states may require homeschool notification or registration by a certain age, there are children who are not ready for formal sit-down instruction yet. Fortunately with homeschooling, there are many relaxed teaching (and lifestyle) models that can be used during those early years, and even longer if the family chooses.
Ultimately, there is no universal right or wrong time to begin homeschooling a child. In fact, this discussion is really about a given family’s philosophy and definition of homeschooling anyway. In a legal sense, homeschooling must begin when state requirements for instruction, record-keeping, evaluations, and anything else say so. In a practical sense, however, homeschooling may begin at any time, and could even be viewed as something that has been taking place all along — since birth or even in the womb. Some people look at it differently from others, making the definition of early learning a very individual thing.
In summary, parents must separate the idea of being their child’s first (and best) teacher with their need to satisy state legal requirements. When the time comes to get legal, parents must absolutely do so. When homeschooling actually begins, however, is entirely up to them.