What are the basics you need to know if you plan to homeschool high school in Tennessee? Here are some of the top questions I get (also check out my Homeschooling High School Resource Guide here!).
NOTE: I am not a lawyer, and this is not intended to give legal advice.
There are three ways to homeschool in Tennessee:
1. Register through your Local Education Association (LEA), basically your local public school.
Advantages: Free, simple to do, only have to track the days you were schooling (minimum of 4 hours per day) for 180 days (the calendar you have to turn in can be found here)
Disadvantages: Have to test in 5th, 7th and 9th grade, do not have a homeschool-friendly advocate for you, the parent has to have a GED or high school diploma or utilize a tutor who has a GED or high school diploma, and there is no diploma/transcript issued (parents create diploma and transcript and have to send to colleges).
A list of LEA area coordinators can be found here.
2. Register with a Category IV Church Related School / Umbrella School
Advantages: You have a homeschool-friendly advocate on your side, the umbrella school will keep your records and create/send your diploma upon graduation, most Umbrella Schools have counselors available if you need advice, many do not require testing, some have different tracks with different credit requirements
Disadvantages: Costs more than going through your LEA, you have to abide by the umbrella school's policies (they vary in how strict/lenient they are), some may require testing or have to approve curriculum
A list of Umbrella Schools is available here.
3. Register with a Category III Accredited Online School
Advantages: You typically have more support/resources, the online school will keep your records and create/send your diploma upon graduation, probably have access to a guidance counselor, your diploma is accredited (primarily matters if you plan on going back to a public/private school, though it still doesn't guarantee that credits will transfer)
Disadvantages: Has the highest cost, usually has the most restrictions on curriculum/structure
A list of Accredited Online Schools is available here.
Can you switch between options? Yes, you aren't stuck, but if you are going from a less strict option to a more strict option then there might be issues with all credits being counted, just double-check in advance if switching to an umbrella/online school.
Full official details on how to homeschool in Tennessee can be found on the state government website here.
You can get started at any time! You can leave public/private school and start homeschooling at any point that you like.
If you are homeschooling under your LEA, you will give notice to your school when you register through them as homeschooling. You can find the Intent to Homeschool Form here.
If you are homeschooling under an umbrella school or accredited online school they will likely give notice to your previous school that you are now homeschooling (double-check!).
YES! I was homeschooled all the way through my high school graduation and was paid to go to college (and my five siblings were all paid or fully financed to go to college). For five years I sold advertising to colleges that were specifically trying to recruit more homeschool applicants, and worked with hundreds of colleges that had dedicated budgets just to get more homeschoolers into their schools!
This is very important: whoever you homeschool under determines the credits required to graduate from high school!
If you are independently homeschooling through your LEA then there actually are no set requirements, other than the fact that you will have to take exams at the end of 9th grade, including End Of Course (EOC) exams for any course that you take in 9th grade that has an EOC option, and those exams may or may not correlate with the curriculum/material you covered. At the end of high school you, the parent, issue the diploma/transcript, so you determine credit requirements. You can see the Tennessee requirements as a guide, though you can deviate from these (also see my article on credits here).
If you are homeschooling under an umbrella school or through an accredited online school, then that school determines your requirements to graduate! This is important, as many people mistakenly look at the Tennessee state requirements, but those don't apply in these circumstances, and umbrella schools/online schools may have different requirements and even different graduation track options, and in some cases may even require approval of your curriculum, so it is extremely important that you check in with your umbrella school every semester to make sure you stay on track! It also means that you should like your umbrella/online school, as they have the final say in pretty much everything, so if you are having issues for any reason then change to a different school!
You can do high school labs at home! There is actually no stipulation on what constitutes a "lab" for the purpose of high school science classes, and experiments to learn about lab procedures and scientific methods can be conducted in the kitchen. There are many homeschool science curriculum options that give guidance on how to conduct science experiments at home with readily-available materials.
There has become a host of amazing tools to help families homeschool through high-school, from co-ops (groups where families pool talents and the parents teach classes) and tutorials (where groups of homeschoolers collectively hire professional tutors to teach classes) to online programs and detailed curriculum options, there are a ton of ways for parents to provide excellent instruction for their teens even in subjects they don't know!
To find your local groups/co-ops/tutorials, check out the Tennessee Home Education Association (THEA) to find the chapter closest to you and browse the chapter's website for lists of groups, and also search on Facebook for homeschool communities in your city/county/area. There is also a free Homeschool in Tennessee 101 mini-course available here.
For curriculum, I highly recommend Teach Them Diligently's curriculum guide and Cathy Duffy's curriculum review page.
That's a great question! As a homeschooler, it can be confusing as to who fills out forms as your guidance counselor.
If you are independently homeschooling through your LEA, you are the guidance counselor and can complete any form/statement required.
If you are homeschooling through an umbrella school or accredited online school then that school will have someone who is the official guidance counselor, though for some purposes some schools will have you still fill out the forms as you will likely be more knowledgeable about the student's performance.
Homeschool students are eligible for the Tennessee Hope and the Tennessee Promise, though the requirements for the Hope and the Academic Merit Supplement are slightly different than for students in public schools. I have a full article you can check out on the subject here.
Homeschoolers can take the ACT/SAT/CLT entrance exams. You the parent will be registering the students for the exams, so make sure you check out dates and deadlines well in advance (you can see my article on how to register for the ACT here).
For the PSAT, you will need to make arrangements with a public/private school to take the exam at their school.
Homeschoolers can take AP exams, even without taking an AP course, but must make arrangements to test through a public/private school offering the exams (and you have a strict deadline to do so of March 1st/15th).
You can take CLEP tests through your local college/community college or testing center that offers those exams.
Check out my Homeschooling High School Resource Guide for more details.
Looking for more help along the journey of homeschooling through high school? Interested in having a "private guidance counselor" to help your teen through the process of evaluating career routes, preparing for the ACT/SAT, and apply to college/trade school? I work with families to help make the process of preparing for college easier and more affordable! You can learn more about my services here, and can schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation with me here, I'd love to work with you!
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