Home Schooling in Tennessee
In Tennessee, parents have the option to educate their children at home, an option known as homeschooling or home education.
Parents in Tennessee may choose to home school their own children in grades K - 12. The Tennessee Home School law (Tennessee Code Annotated § 49-6-3050) states: "A home school is a school conducted or directed by a parent or parents or a legal guardian or guardians for their own children."
Parents desiring to home school their own children may do so by choosing one of the following three options.
1. Independent Home School
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 homeschool 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.
Parents choosing this educational option should begin by contacting the local school district. For a list of home school contacts in each school district, click on "Home School Coordinators" (gray tab on left side of this page). 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.
2. Church-related Umbrella School
By authority of the same statute, 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.
3. Accredited Online School
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 school.
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:
- SACS CASI - Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement
- NCA CASI - North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement.
- 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
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
- National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and affiliates (e.g., SAIS)
- National Council of Private School Accreditation (NCPSA)
Independent Home School Forms
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can a parent withdraw to home school at any point in the school year? Yes. The cutoff date for registering to home school has been removed from the home school law. A parent should be allowed to withdraw their child from the public school and register for home school at any point in the school year.
- Is a power of attorney sufficient as proof of legal guardianship? No. A power of attorney is not the same thing as legal guardianship for the purposes of withdrawing a student to home school.
- Can a student who has been home schooled during the kindergarten year enter the first grade in a public school? Since home schooling in kindergarten is in compliance with the compulsory school attendance law, it is deemed an approved kindergarten program. A student who has been home schooled during the kindergarten year may enter the first grade in a public school if they demonstrate acceptable performance on the district's placement test.
- What rights do home school students have for special education services from the local school district? Students who are home schooled are entitled to the same services as children who are placed in private schools by their parents. This is provided via a "services plan" and is generally some type of related service, such as speech therapy, as determined by the school district where the student is registered to home school. The parent should contact the local school district for complete information.
- Are homeschool students allowed to take classes or participate in extracurricular activities at a public school? As written in Tennessee Code Annotated 49-6-3050, public school facilities may be used by home school participants with the approval of the principal of the school, but this permissive authority shall not be construed to confer any right upon the participants to use public school facilities. If approved, use shall be in accordance with rules established by the local board of education.
- Are home school students allowed to participate in public school athletic programs?Independently registered home school students have the right to try out for sports/athletic teams at their local school district. TCA § 49-6-3050 states: (e)(1) If any of the public schools established under the jurisdiction of an LEA (Local Education Agency) are members of an organization or an association that regulates interscholastic athletic competition, and if such organization or association establishes or maintains eligibility requirements for home school students desiring to participate in interscholastic athletics at a member school, then the LEA shall permit participation in interscholastic athletics at those schools by home school students who satisfy the eligibility requirements established by the organization or association. (2) This subsection (e) does not guarantee that a home school student trying out for an interscholastic athletics team will make the team or supplant the authority of coaches or other school officials in deciding who makes the team. This subsection (e) is intended to guarantee only that the home school student shall not be prohibited from trying out for an interscholastic athletics team, if the student is eligible under the rules of the organization or association, solely by reason of the student's status as a home school student. (3) This subsection (e) shall not be construed to limit or supplant the authority of the organization or association to determine eligibility and to establish, modify and enforce its rules and eligibility requirements, including those applicable to home school students.
- If a student is 18 years old, can they withdraw themselves as an independent home school student? The home school law is defined as a school “conducted or directed by a parent or parents or a legal guardian or guardians for their own children.” So students (even if they are 18 years old) would not be allowed to withdraw themselves to home school.
- Is the state curriculum mandated for independent home school students? No. The Home School Law (TCA 49-6-3050) provides very little guidance specific to the curriculum a parent must provide. The only mention of curriculum is in section (b) (1): “…submission to the director of schools… the proposed curriculum to be offered…” But there is no mention of what the curriculum must be. However, parents should keep in mind the testing requirement in grades 5, 7, and 9 in which their child will be tested on the grade level state curriculum in Reading/Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. A parent should include those subjects in with their proposed curriculum to ensure that their child will be prepared for testing in those areas.
- Is the local school district responsible for testing students enrolled in church-related home schools? No. The local school district is only responsible for testing students who are registered as independent home school students.
- Can a parent of a home school student in grades 5, 7, or 9 choose to provide some other form of assessments rather than the TCAP/EOC? Yes, there is an option outlined below in TCA § 49-6-3050 which would allow for a home school student to take a test other than the TCAP or End of Course Assessments. The law states: (5) (A) Administration by the commissioner of education, or the commissioner's designee, or by a professional testing service that is approved by the LEA, to home school students of the same state board approved secure standardized tests required of public school students in grades five (5), seven (7) and nine (9); (ii) Tests administered by a professional testing service shall be administered within thirty (30) days of the date of the statewide test. Tests administered by a professional testing service shall be administered at the expense of the parent-teacher; (iii) All test results from either administration by the commissioner or the commissioner's designee, or by a professional testing service, shall be provided to the parent-teacher, the director of schools and the state board of education; So the test would need to be standardized, administered by a professional testing service within 30 days of the statewide assessments, and the results provided to the LEA for review.
- Which End of Course Assessments are required of 9th grade home school students? If a home school student in grade 9 is taking a course for which there is an end of course test, that student should be required to take that end of course exam. That will mean some 9th grade students, depending on the courses they are taking, will have less tests to take that year than others.