If you’re living in Tennessee and are looking for an alternative to public or private school education, you’re in luck. Homeschooling in Tennessee is perfectly legal as long as you follow some rules and requirements.
In Tennessee, an estimated 13.2% of students homeschooled during the 2020-21, according to U.S. Census data. That school year saw a 7.8% increase in students learning outside of regular school curriculum compared to 2019. By fall 2021, homeschooling in Tennessee increased by more than 2,240 students to over 13,600 — a nearly 20% increase in homeschool enrollment.
Want to join the fast-growing ranks of homeschoolers in Tennessee? Read on for some important rules and information you need to start homeschooling in the Volunteer State!
Homeschooling Options in Tennessee
There are three options to consider if you want to homeschool in Tennessee:
- Independent homeschool.
- Church-related (umbrella) school.
- Category III distance-learning school.
Tennessee State Homeschool Law Summary
- Ensure that you have the required teacher qualifications–at least a high school diploma or a GED.
- Submit a notice of intent before the start of the school year to the superintendent of your local school district (also called a local education agency, or LEA) “for purpose of reporting only.” Your notice must include the names, number, ages, and grade levels of the children being homeschooled, the location of your school, the proposed curriculum (no subjects are required), proposed hours of instruction, and your educational qualifications. A notice of intent form is available on the Tennessee Department of Education’s website.
- Submit proof of immunization or a medical or religious exemption from immunization with your notice of intent.
- Provide the required hours of instruction. In Tennessee, this is at least four hours per school day for 180 days each academic year.
- Maintain attendance records and make them available for inspection by the local superintendent. Then submit them to the superintendent at the end of each school year. An attendance reporting form is available on the Tennessee Department of Education’s website.
- Test your child in grades 5, 7, and 9 with a standardized test administered by the commissioner of education, by someone designated by the commissioner, or by a professional testing service approved by the LEA. You may be present with your child during the 5th grade test.
Church-Related School (CRS)
A church-related school (CRS), also known as an umbrella school, is a school operated by a denominational, parochial, or other bona fide church organization and accredited by the Tennessee Association of Christian Schools, the Association of Christian Schools International, the Tennessee Association of Independent Schools, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Tennessee Association of Non-Public Academic Schools, the Tennessee Association of Church Related Schools, the Tennessee Alliance of Church Related Schools, or a school affiliated with Accelerated Christian Education, Inc.
- Enroll in a church-related school, and ensure that the director of the CRS is “supervising” your homeschool.
- Submit proof of immunization to the CRS or a medical or religious exemption from immunization.
- Comply with policies established by the CRS. You must meet any teacher qualification, record-keeping, and testing requirements established by the CRS. (Most umbrella schools offer record-keeping services.)
Category III Distance Learning Schools
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.
These schools must report student attendance information to the director of the public school system where the student lives.
Can You Still Access Public School Facilities and Activities While Homeschooling in Tennessee?
Homeschooled students in Tennessee may use public school facilities and participate in extracurricular activities and sports in accordance to the state’s rules:
Regarding access to public school facilities, according to Tennessee’s state government, “as written in Tennessee Code Annotated 49-6-3050, public school facilities may be used by homeschool 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.”
When it comes to homeschooled students participating in public school athletics, the government states: “Independently registered homeschool 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 homeschool students desiring to participate in interscholastic athletics at a member school, then the LEA shall permit participation in interscholastic athletics at those schools by homeschool students who satisfy the eligibility requirements established by the organization or association.
(2) This subsection (e) does not guarantee that a homeschool 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 homeschool 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 homeschool 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 homeschool students.”
Is It Necessary to Keep Records?
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) recommends homeschooling families keep records because well-kept records provide proof of education whether students want to continue their education, enter the military, or join the workforce. Records are also helpful in the event anyone questions your homeschool. This is especially important for families choosing the independent homeschool option. Church-related schools often keep the records for you. Just be sure to confirm this is the case if you choose that option.
The following are important records to maintain for your homeschool:
- Attendance records
- Information on the textbooks and workbooks your student used
- Samples of your student’s schoolwork
- Correspondence with school officials
- Portfolios and test results
- Any other documents showing that your child is receiving an appropriate education in compliance with the law
You should maintain these records for at least two years and also keep your student’s high school records and proof of compliance with the home education laws during the high school years (including any type of home education notice that you file with state or local officials) on file permanently.
And there you have it! Homeschooling in Tennessee is legal and growing in popularity. If you’re planning on homeschooling in the Volunteer State, now is a great time to start! As you continue to research homeschooling, call the experts at Bridgeway Academy at (800) 863-1474 to discuss your options, learn about our award-winning programs and curriculum, and enroll!