If you’re living in Virginia and are looking for an alternative to public or private school education, you’re in luck. The state not only allows you to homeschool, but it offers you a few different options. Many families are taking advantage of those options as well.
During the 2021-2022 school year, more than 55,000 students were homeschooling in Virginia, which is only a slight dip from the 59,000-plus students who homeschooled in 2020-21 in the state–a year in which many families opted to forego in-person education due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By comparison, in the last full pre-COVID school year, around 37,000 students were homeschooled in Virginia. So, between then and now, the number of homeschooled students grew by nearly 33%!
If you’re looking to join the fast-growing ranks of homeschoolers in Virginia, read on for some important rules and information you need to get started!
Homeschooling Options in Virginia
- Homeschooling under the home instruction option.
- Homeschooling with a religious exemption.
- Homeschooling with a certified tutor.
- Homeschooling under the private school option.
Virginia State Homeschool Law Summary
Homeschooling Under the Home Instruction Option
- Ensure that you possess one of four home instructor qualifications:
- High school diploma or higher degree
- Current Virginia teacher’s license
- Provide your child with a curriculum or program of study as part of your home instruction program
- Offer evidence that you are able to provide your child an adequate education
- File an annual notice with your school superintendent that you intend to provide home instruction to your child and indicate your home instructor qualification. With the notice, you need to provide a curriculum description for each child. This needs to be done every year by August 15. You do not need the superintendent’s approval to start homeschooling—you just need to file your notice.
- Provide an annual evaluation by August 1 to your superintendent showing that your child has achieved an adequate level of educational growth and progress. (This does not apply if your child was 5 or younger on September 30 at the start of the school year.) You can submit four types of evaluation:
- Results of any nationally normed standardized achievement test showing the child attained “a composite score in or above the fourth stanine” (i.e., 23rd percentile)—for example, an ACT, SAT, or PSAT score
- An evaluation letter from a person licensed to teach in any state, or a person with a master’s degree or higher in an academic discipline, who knows about the child’s academic progress, stating that the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress
- A report card or transcript from a community college or college, college distance learning program, or home-education correspondence school
- Another type of “evaluation or assessment which the division superintendent determines to indicate that the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress.”
Homeschooling with a Religious Exemption
Under Virginia law, your school board must excuse your child from school if the child, “together with his parents, by reason of bona fide religious training or belief is conscientiously opposed to attendance at school.” To homeschool under this option, you must follow these requirements:
Send a religious exemption application letter to your school board, in which you:
- State up front that you are asking the school board to excuse your child based on Virginia’s religious exemption statute
- Explain how your beliefs lead you to the conviction that putting your child in public school would be wrong in the eyes of God
- State that you are training your child in the same beliefs that you hold
According to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), your application letter should not discuss philosophical, moral, political, or social issues, because the law says that those cannot be grounds for receiving an exemption. Mail your application letter to your school board as soon as possible, and keep a copy of the application letter for your records. The school board may ask you to forward letters from people who will confirm that you are sincere in your beliefs and may also ask for a letter from a pastor, priest, etc., to confirm that your beliefs are of a religious nature.
Obtain a reply to your religious exemption letter. As long as you have your application letter on file, you can proceed to homeschool with reasonable confidence—even though technically your child is not excused until the board acts on your letter. Once your child is excused, he or she does not need to attend public school (or follow the requirements for any of the other homeschool options).
Exempt any additional children. Depending on how your exemption letter was worded, additional children may or may not be exempted.
If needed, reapply next year.
Homeschooling with a Certified Tutor
A person with a current Virginia teacher license can ask the school superintendent to approve them as a tutor. Once approved, the person can tutor any children they want—including their own. If a child is being taught under such a tutor, the child is in compliance with compulsory attendance. When you ask to be approved as a tutor, you should not list the children you plan to tutor. It is not required and not relevant. Do not mention homeschooling or home instruction, as this will only cause confusion that could take much effort to straighten out.
Homeschooling Under the Private School Option
Virginia law allows private school students to attend their school without physically being present at the school if the student’s attendance is for the same number of hours per day, for the same number of days per year, and during the same period of the year as public schools. If a private school student receives instruction while at home, it will resemble homeschooling in many ways.
Can You Still Access Public School Facilities and Activities?
According to the Home Educators Association of Virginia, state regulations mandate that “because of Virginia High School League policies and high school eligibility requirements, participation in interscholastic sports or other interscholastic activities is not open to homeschoolers.” You can find more information about the state law, and what advocacy groups are trying to do to allow homeschoolers access to public school sports and extracurricular activities, here.
Is It Necessary to Keep Records?
If you are homeschooling as a private-based school or with a private satellite program, there are some records–particularly evaluations and assessments–you will need to maintain (see above for specific information). Regardless of which option you choose, however, it’s always wise to keep school records and to save them for a couple of years. Why? Because these records serve as proof of their education when it’s time to apply for college, pass a background check for a new job, or enter the military. What types of records should you keep?
- Textbook and workbook titles and information
- Attendance records
- Any correspondence with schools
- Portfolios and test results
- Schoolwork samples
- Any other documentation illustrating that your child is receiving a legitimate education (especially during the high school years)
And there you have it! Homeschooling in Virginia is legal and growing in popularity, and if you’re planning on homeschooling in the Old Dominion, 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!