Before moving to Tennessee I had not ever been concerned about whether I was home schooling the legally or not since our former state did not require anything from parents who chose to teach their children at home. Can I be honest? When we moved to Tennessee I became very anxious about home schooling. It wasn’t the teaching part or making sure that we were on track academically. It all stemmed from my fear of not following the law of Tennessee and when I read the posts by moms in Facebook groups and forums they only inflamed my anxieties.
Legally Home Educating in Tennessee
As most home educators know, it is best to go to the source for finding the out the laws in a state so I did my due diligence, and visited the Tennessee Department of Education website where I learned there are three legal ways to homeschool in Tennessee. Parents can choose to be an independent homeschool, enrolled in a church-related umbrella school, or an accredited online school.
- The independent school option allows the parents to home school through the local school district. With this option, parents are required to submit a letter of intent, proof of vaccination, and attendance forms each year. Students are required to have 180 days of school that consists of 4 hours of instruction each day. Students enrolled in this option are also required to participate in standardized testing in grades 5, 7, and 9.
- The church-related umbrella school option gives the parents the option to enroll in a cover school which eliminates the need to communicate with the school district. The umbrella school serves a middle man, and parents are to abide in the rules that the umbrella school has stated. Many umbrella schools do not require testing, but they do require attendance, plan of study, and grades. Some may also require vaccination documentation.
- The accredited online school option allows the parents to choose an online school that fits their child’s needs. This option does require for the parent to report enrollment to the local school district and ensure that the school is actually accredited my one of the regional accrediting agencies.
When we first arrived, I wasn’t sure which method we would take. My husband has pretty much given me full reign when it comes to our home school therefore the decision was ultimately up to me. I leaned more towards the independent home school because it seemed simple enough, but after listening to several stories from local moms I became doubtful of my decision. Most of the moms use an umbrella program to reduce their interaction with the school district. Our first year we enrolled in an umbrella school. This decision came in two parts: the homeschool coordinator for the school district return my call and umbrella schools are the normal around here.
Now in year two in Tennessee, we are an independent home schooling family. I prefer this option because the umbrella schools tend to have more requirements than the school district, and with balancing so much already I preferred the method which was simpler for our family. The girls and my husband all came along when we turned in our intent to homeschool form, their vaccination records, and my proof of a high school education this year. Believe it or not, it was less terrifying than I expected. The coordinator was really friendly and made sure that I had everything that I needed which simply was an attendance form for each of my daughters.
If you are coming from a state with little or no requirements, Tennessee isn’t so bad. I know my anxiety stemmed from the fact that we came from doing nothing to having to do something. There are more than a few options to make homeschooling in Tennessee easy.