The children, however, have tested above their grade levels – by as much as two years.
The decision is raising eyebrows among homeschooling families, and one friend of the mother has launched a website to publicize the issue.
The ruling was made by Judge Ned Mangum of Wake County, who was handling a divorce proceeding for Thomas and Venessa Mills.
A statement released by a publicist working for the mother, whose children now are 10, 11 and 12, said Mangum stripped her of her right to decide what is best for her children's education.
The judge, when contacted by WND, explained his goal in ordering the children to register and attend a public school was to make sure they have a "more well-rounded education."
"I thought Ms. Mills had done a good job [in homeschooling]," he said. "It was great for them to have that access, and [I had] no problems with homeschooling. I said public schooling would be a good complement."
The judge said the husband has not been supportive of his wife's homeschooling, and "it accomplished its purposes. It now was appropriate to have them back in public school."
Mangum said he made the determination on his guiding principle, "What's in the best interest of the minor children," and conceded it was putting his judgment in place of the mother's.
And he said that while he expressed his opinion from the bench in the court hearing, the final written order had not yet been signed.
WND reported extensively when the ruling was released in February 2008, alarming homeschool advocates nationwide because of its potential ramifications.
The court, which earlier had opined that only credentialed teachers could properly educate children, was faced with a flood of friend-of-the-court briefs representing individuals and groups, including Congress members.
The conclusion ultimately was that parents, not the state, would decide where children are educated.
The California opinion said state law permits homeschooling "as a species of private school education" but that statutory permission for parents to teach their own children could be "overridden in order to protect the safety of a child who has been declared dependent."
In the North Carolina case, Adam Cothes, a spokesman for the mother, said the children routinely had been testing at up to two years above their grade level, were involved in swim team and other activities and events outside their home and had taken leadership roles in history club events.
On her website, family friend Robyn Williams said Mangum stated his decision was not ideologically or religiously motivated but that ordering the children into public schools would "challenge the ideas you've taught them."
Williams, a homeschool mother of four herself, said, "I have never seen such injustice and such a direct attack against homeschool."
"This judge clearly took personal issue with Venessa's stance on education and faith, even though her children are doing great. If her right to homeschool can be taken away so easily, what will this mean for homeschoolers state wide, or even nationally?" Williams asked.
Williams said she's trying to rally homeschoolers across the nation to defend their rights as Americans and parents to educate their own children.
Williams told WND the public school order was the worst possible outcome for Ms. Mills, who had made it clear she felt it was important to her children that she continue homeschooling.
According to Williams' website, the judge also ordered a mental health evaluation for the mother – but not the father – as part of the divorce proceedings, in what Williams described as an attack on the "mother's conservative Christian beliefs."
According to a proposed but as-yet unsigned order submitted by the father's lawyer to Mangum, "The children have thrived in homeschool for the past four years, but need the broader focus and socialization available to them in public school. The Court finds that it is in the children's best interest to continue their homeschooling through the end of the current school year, but to begin attending public school at the beginning of the 2009-2010 instructional year."
The order proposed by the father's lawyer also conceded the reason for the divorce was the father's "adultery," but it specifically said the father would not pay for homeschooling expenses for his children.
The order also stated, "Defendant believes that plaintiff is a nurturing mother who loves the children. Defendant believes that plaintiff has done a good job with the homeschooling of the children, although he does not believe that continued homeschooling is in the best interest of the children."
Williams said the mother originally moved into a homeschool schedule because the children were not doing as well as she hoped at the local public schools.
"We're pleased the appeals court recognized the rights of parents to provide education for their children," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. "This decision reaffirms the constitutional right that's afforded to parents in directing the education of their children. It's an important victory for families who cherish the freedom to ensure that their children receive a high quality education that is inherent in homeschooling."
"Parents have a constitutional right to make educational choices for their children," said Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb. "Thousands of California families have educated their children successfully through homeschooling. We're pleased with the court's decision, which protects the rights of families and protects an avenue of education that has proven to benefit children time and time again.