How Do I Begin Homeschooling My Child (in Tennessee)?
Updated: Aug 20, 2022
Maybe you’re thinking about homeschooling or have already decided that homeschooling your children is right for you and your family. If so, you’re probably wondering what the process looks like for enrollment as well as the legal requirements. Here is a glimpse into the homeschooling enrollment process for those who live in Tennessee.
If your child is between the ages of 7 and 16 years old and living in the state of Tennessee, you will be required to enroll them in some type of education program to avoid truancy.
Are you eligible for homeschooling your child in Tennessee?
If you're planning on homeschooling your child while residing in the state of Tennessee, you (as the parent) will be required to have at least acquired a GED or High School Diploma.
Has your child already been enrolled in a public or private school?
If your child has already enrolled in a public or private school, you will need to formally withdraw them and notify the school of the change in enrollment status. Tennessee allows a parent to withdraw their child from school to transition to homeschooling at any point during the school year.
What do I have to do when homeschooling my kid in Tennessee?
One of the initial decisions you'll need to make is how you want to homeschool them: registering as an independent homeschool yourself, using an accredited online school for their education, or enrolling in an umbrella or cover school that is church-related (similar to Alabama).
Which option for homeschooling should I choose?
This really comes down to your own preferences. Some parents have no problem jumping through the hoops required to 'form their own homeschool' themselves. For those wanting to allow another source to shoulder more of the burden, doing their child's education through an online school or an umbrella school may be a better option.
Option #1: Registering Yourself as an Independent Homeschool
In order to homeschool your child entirely by yourself:
You must have a GED or High School Diploma.
You will need to register as an independent homeschool and file an annual notice (the "Intent to Home School" form) regarding your status every single year.
You must submit proof of your child's current vaccinations.
You must keep a record of attendance and submit this record to the Director of Schools in your county at the end of each school year.
You must ensure your child receives at least four hours of instruction per day for a minimum of 180 days per school year.
For grades 5, 7, and 9, you will also be required to have your child participate in standardized testing.
It is recommended that parents choosing this option contact the Homeschool Coordinators (directory file current as of 2/9/22) in their area to ensure proper enrollment and meeting of all of the necessary criteria.
Option #2: Enrolling Your Child in an Accredited Online Homeschooling Program
When choosing to enroll your child in an online homeschooling program, you will need to ensure that they are properly accredited and submit this information to the local school district for approval.
To be considered an accredited online school in Tennessee, the program or school must be accredited by one of the following agencies:
NWAC (Northwest Accreditation Commission)
NCA CASI (North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement)
Cognia (formerly known as AdvancED)
MSCES (Middle States Commission on Elementary Schools)
MSCSS (Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools)
MSA (Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools)
NCPSA (National Council of Private School Accreditation)
NAIS and its affiliates (National Association of Independent Schools, SAIS, etc.)
NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges)
WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges)
Option #3: Enrolling Your Child in a Church-Related Umbrella/Cover School
Enrolling your homeschooled student in a church-based umbrella school is one of the most commonly chosen ways to educate a child at home. If desiring to homeschool through a cover school like this, there is no need to submit an annual "Intent to Home School" form, and everything paperwork-wise is typically handled by the church school itself when required.
All a parent will need to do is simply notify the local school board that their child is enrolled in a church-based umbrella school, and all other factors (recordkeeping, subjects, etc.) will be determined by the church school in which the child is enrolled.
Please note that although an umbrella school may operate with a relatively high level of independence, children enrolled in these schools must still meet the state's requirements regarding vaccination.
Recordkeeping should be a top priority
I can't harp enough about the importance of recordkeeping in general, regardless of your location, the type of homeschooling you do, or whatever your situation may be. It's always best to make sure you're covered and that you have copies, documentation, and as much evidence as possible to show that you're meeting any and all requirements pertaining to attendance, subjects/curriculum, grading, testing, and more.
When homeschooling in Tennessee, most of these records will be kept and maintained by the school in which your child is enrolled (whether online or an umbrella school). In the event that something were to happen to your chosen school option, it would be wise to have backup copies of all of the work your child has done if the schools were to dissolve due to whatever circumstances may occur.
If you've chosen to homeschool independently, this is even more important. Be sure that all attendance, lesson plans, curriculum information, proof of vaccination, grades, test results, and other applicable information are all available if ever needed for legal reasons or if eventually needing to enroll your child in another form of education, such as going back to public school.
Ensure your curriculum and approach to learning covers all requirements for secondary education
This may not be mandatory, but if your child is wanting to pursue additional education after their senior year of high school education, you'll want to stay on top of making sure they've learned all necessary subjects and received all of the necessary credits to allow them to pursue such goals.
This is best accomplished by contacting the schools your child may be interested in during those last few years of education to ensure that you are meeting the criteria for your homeschool student to successfully enter the college of their choice.
For further information, the Tennessee Department of Education's website answers many common questions for those wanting to know more about the enrollment process, expectations and legal requirements, and other various issues.
Click here for a copy of the "Intent to Home School" form.
For a list of accredited online schools in Tennessee, click here.
(Note: Linked information is current as of 1/19/22.)
For the contact list of homeschool coordinators in your area, click here.
(Note: Linked information is current as of 2/9/22.)
If you're looking for additional information on homeschooling in general, check out our Homeschooling page for more.