Ready to bring your kiddo home for school instead of sending them back to a packed classroom this year?
You're not the only one!
Homeschooling continues to gain steam as more parents decide to educate their kids at home. However, it's a huge lifestyle change that requires a major commitment.
We want to help you understand how to do homeschooling in Tennessee the right way.
Let's get to it.
- Homeschooling in Tennessee has many benefits for families, including higher scores on standardized testing and a higher likelihood of college graduation.
- The state of Tennessee has three legal options for parents who wish to homeschool their children, which we go over in detail.
- There are many excellent homeschool curricula which meet Tennessee homeschool regulations as well as resources and support groups to help new homeschoolers on their journeys.
Benefits of Homeschooling in Tennessee
Homeschooling has many benefits that attract parents every school year. Some are more obvious than others, such as flexibility and students being able to work at their own pace. However, there are also more subtle pros of cons of homeschooling that you may not realize.
For instance, did you know studies have shown that homeschooled students score an average of 15 to 30 percentile points higher on standardized testing than their peers from traditional schools? These same studies indicate that homeschoolers tend to do better in college and have a higher rate of completion than their public or private school counterparts.
We're certainly not suggesting that homeschooling is without its challenges, but with the right preparation and dedication it can be an excellent option for many families. Before jumping in, however, the first step is to read through Tennessee homeschool laws and make sure you're compliant with homeschool regulations.
The best resource for this information after the Tennessee Department of Education is the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Not only do they list every legal requirement for homeschooling in Tennessee, but they also offer many resources, including forms, links, and videos to help homeschool families get started the right way.
Tennessee Homeschooling Laws
The HSLDA lists the Tennessee homeschool requirements clearly and we'll post them here for you as well. The state offers three options under which parents may homeschool their children. Option 1 - Independent home school, Option 2 - Church-related school, Option 3 - Category III distance-learning school.
Option 1 - Independent Home School
Under this option, parents must follow six steps to remain compliant.
Step 1. Ensure you have the required qualifications
The teacher (usually the parent) must have a high school diploma or GED.
Step 2. Submit a notice of Intent
Before the beginning of the school year, you must submit a notice of intent to the superintendent of your local school district "for reporting purposes only." This form is available on the TN Dept of Education's website.
Step 3. Submit proof of Vaccination
Unless your child has a medical or religious exemption, proof of immunization must be attached to your notice of intent.
Step 4. Provide instruction for the Required Number of Hours
You must teach for at least four hours per school day and at least 180 days per school year.
Step 5. Maintain attendance records
Attendance records must be maintained and be available for inspection by the local superintendent. They must also be submitted to the superintendent at the end of each school year. The attendance reporting form is available on the TN Dept of Education website.
Step 6. Administer Testing in Grades 5, 7, and 9
Your child must take a standardized test in grades 5, 7, and 9. This test will be administered by the commissioner of education, by someone appointed by the commissioner, or by a professional testing service. You may be present during the 5th-grade test.
Option 2 - Church-Related School
A church-related school (CRS) is operated by a bona fide church organization and appropriately accredited. The Tennessee Home Education Association (THEA) has contact information for local CRSs and the TN Dept of Education also has a list of schools that meet these criteria under Accreditation Category 4. This option consists of three steps parents must follow.
Step 1. Enroll in a Church-Related School
Your child must be enrolled in a CRS and your homeschooling must be "supervised" by the director of the CRS.
Submit Proof of Immunization to the CRS
You must submit immunization records to the CRS unless you have a medical or religious exemption.
Step 3. Comply with CRS Policies
You must meet and follow any requirements put forth by the CRS, including teacher qualifications, record keeping, and testing requirements.
Option 3 - Category III Distance-Learning School
"'Category III' schools are non-public schools that are accredited by one of the following: any accreditation division of AdvancED (the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI), the Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC), and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI)), the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA), the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), any accrediting association recognized by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Commission on Accreditation (e.g., the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS)) or the National Council for Private School Accreditation (NCPSA) according to the procedures and criteria established by the association." - HSLDA, How to Comply with Tennessee's Homeschool Law
These schools must report student attendance to the director of the public school system where the student lives. We strongly recommend thoroughly reviewing the legal requirements for this option with the TN Department of Education if you're interested in it.
Finding the Right Homeschool Curriculum
Now that we've explored the various options for homeschooling legally in Tennessee, it's time to consider your format. If you choose Option 1, you'll be responsible for teaching your child which means you need a homeschool curriculum.
These come in many forms - from traditional textbooks and workbooks to online programs featuring digital recordkeeping and automatic grading. Before you begin homeschooling you'll need to decide which one's right for your family.
Of course, if your child enjoys a mix, you can customize your program to include a variety of media.
For example, you could capitalize on an online program for math that offers step-by-step videos that make understanding easy and pair that with books, notebooks, and workbooks when doing a unit study on metamorphosis for science. That way you can take your supplies outside or with you on field trips without worrying about damaging expensive electronics.
The trick is to try to plan your curriculum around how your child learns best and make adjustments as you go. You can always tweak things as needed or even swap programs if necessary.
That's the beauty of homeschooling. Nothing is written in stone.
Don't forget, you're not in this alone. There are tons of resources for you to take advantage of that can make your homeschool journey that much richer.
Search online for Tennessee homeschool groups, homeschool support groups, and local homeschool co-ops. You'll be amazed at how many other homeschoolers are out there (over 13% of the state's students are homeschooled) and how many fun things there are to do in this community of learners!