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Homeschooling is a growing trend for parents. Not only do they have the satisfaction of being part of their child’s education, but they also have a say in what is being taught and can teach in a style that suits their child best.
There are three routes to legally homeschool in Tennessee.
Your options include:
- Register with your local school district
- Register with a church-related umbrella school
- Register with an accredited online program
Register with your local school district
Parents may home school their own children pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 49-6-3050 by registering with their local school district.
The law states that independent home school students must:
- “Provide annual notice to the local director of schools prior to each school year of the parent-teacher’s intent to conduct a home school and, for the purpose of reporting only, submission to the director of schools of the names, number, ages and grade levels of the children to be home schooled, the location of the school, the proposed curriculum to be offered, the proposed hours of instruction and the qualifications of the parent-teacher”;
- Maintain attendance records and submit these records to the Director of Schools at the end of each school year; and
- Submit proof of vaccination and receipt of any health services or examinations as required by law.
The parent will be required to complete an Intent to Home School form and provide evidence of a high school diploma or GED. Student attendance (at least 4 hours per day, 180 days per year) must be reported to the local school district at the end of the school year. Testing of independent home school students is required in grades 5, 7, and 9 and coordinated through the local school district.
This page provides all the details for the requirements a parent must fulfill in order to homeschool independently in Tennessee.
Register with a church-related umbrella school
Parents may also home school their own children by registering with a church-related “umbrella” school defined by Tennessee Code Annotated § 49-50-801. Parents who choose this option will be required to provide evidence to the local school district that their child is enrolled in a church-related school. An Intent to Home School form is not required for students who enrolled in a church-related school. The church-related school will determine record keeping and test requirements for students enrolled in an umbrella program.
There are many great umbrella schools in TN. Each will have their own requirements for enrollment and record keeping. The two most well-known schools in TN are Homelife Academy and The Farm School.
Register with an accredited online program
Parents may also enroll their child in an accredited online school. Parents choosing this educational option must be sure to determine that the school has legitimate accreditation status and will be required to provide evidence to the local school district that their child is enrolled in an accredited online
To be an acceptable online school for students who reside in Tennessee, the school must be accredited by one of regional accrediting agencies listed below:
- Cognia (formerly AdvancED)
- NWAC – Northwest Accreditation Commission
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA)
- MSCES – Middle States Commission on Elementary Schools
- MSCSS – Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools
- NCA CASI – North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement
- National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and affiliates (e.g., SAIS)
- National Council of Private School Accreditation (NCPSA)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
What curriculum is worth making an investment? Is there something free that is worth trying? Is there a curriculum that is written specifically with your child’s special needs in mind?
If you ever want to see the equivalent of a deer caught in headlights, watch a new homeschooling parent as they learn how many curriculum choices there really are out there and then try to navigate through all those choices. With hundreds of providers (and that doesn’t include the free or online programs) it is easy to get completely and utterly overwhelmed.
So how do you choose? Is it worth spending all that money? Do you piece together from different sources or buy an all inclusive program? Should you use a computer based program, an online only, or an offline only program? Do we go eclectic or take a classical approach? Yep… There it is….Your eyes are starting to glaze over!
Having so many options can be paralyzing.
The plethora of reviews doesn’t help either. You can find great, good, mediocre, bad, and awful reviews for every single curriculum. How does that help? Fear of making the “wrong” choice, especially when you have a child with special needs or a learning disability, can be reason enough to put a hold on your homeschooling plans.
If this sounds like you, just know that you are not alone! Making curriculum choices can scare even the most veteran homeschooler. Truthfully, there is no magical formula for picking the right curricula; but there are steps you can take to narrow down the choices.
Where to Start with Learning
The best place to start is always at the beginning…
For each family though, that beginning place may be very different. If your child has never been to a public or private school, you may already have a good idea where your child is academically. However, if you are coming to homeschool after your child has spent time in a public or private school, you may not be sure.
Here are some options available that may help you find the right beginning place for your child:
- Have your child take one of the many nationally normed exams.
- Basic Achievement Skills Inventory (BASI) for grades 3–12
- Brigance Diagnostic Inventories (Good for special needs children)
- Yellow Brigance: birth to developmental age 7
- Green Brigance: grade levels Pre-K through 9
- California Achievement Test (CAT) – Version 5 or 6
- Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS)
- Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)
- Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement (KTEA-II)
- Stanford Achievement Test (Stanford-10 or SAT, not to be confused with the College Board SAT).
- Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT) (Short but accurate; because of brevity, can be helpful for children with attention difficulties)
- Woodcock-Johnson (Oral interaction/evaluation in addition to written work; must be administered by qualified tester, usually a psychologist or an education professional)
- ***PASS test (Not a nationally normed exam)
- Utilize the free assessments available from the curriculum provider you are planning to use.
- If previously in a public or private school, speak with their teacher. Ask for their thoughts but also ask for work samples from the child’s year. Don’t forget you have the legal right to receive copies of any assessments/diagnostic testing results the school may have. The school may legally have the right to charge you for making those copies.
- There are a few free online assessment websites available. While these may not provide the most accurate information, they could be used as a broad starting point.
Finally, you can also start at a lower level and use it as review to both clarify where your child may be academically but also to fill in any gaps you may be concerned about. You will notice, through their work and behavior, if your child is ready to move on or if you need to spend more time at the lower level.
This page will give a basic description of the most common homeschool styles. In most cases, families do not fall into just one style but a mixture of a few. Keep in mind that a style that worked one year may not work the next. Children changes as they grow – as a parent you need to be flexible and grow with them.
- Determine which of the three options you will use to register for homeschooling.
- Find a local support group. Trust me – they are your BEST resource!
Here’s a link to search for local groups.
- RELAX! You do not have to figure everything out on day one. Take some time to learn about your child, their interests, needs, and skills. Then you can work out a plan.
- Find a learning style that works for your child and facilitate opportunities for your child to explore and learn. Be ready to adjust as your child does. You DO NOT have to recreate school at home! Make a plan that works for them and micro adjust as needed.
- HAVE FUN! At some point in our journey we will all have to make a decision between staying home to do the school work or going out on a field trip or another activity. As a parent, we are inclined to choose the schoolwork. After all, it is our job to ensure our children grow up to be successful adults, capable of functioning in society.
And yes, while it is important that our children learn how to XXX, please make sure to remember too that we only have a short time with our babies before they grow up and we are resigned to watch them from the sidelines. As a parent of two homeschool graduates, I only have two regrets. As many, one regret was not homeschooling sooner. But my larger regret…
…. Letting the school work take priority.
Really – It is way too easy to forget…… So let me remind you… Every activity is a learning experience. Every time a child has the opportunity to engage with the world, they learn a new piece of information, they gain the chance to learn a new skill. Every time we encourage a child to expand their world view, we provide them with the option to delve deeper into a topic of interest, to find a new interest or to move on from a previous interest.
It also provides us, the parent, with a chance to facilitate organic learning opportunities that could be the foundation for your child’s life long passion.
So choose wisely. And whenever possible choose the experience. You never know if that will be the moment your child’s entire world expands exponentially!