Are you considering homeschooling your child? You can do it! As you get started, it’s important to make sure you comply with the education laws where you live. This page helps you understand how to homeschool legally in Tennessee—step by step.
Starting at age 6 and until your child turns 18, your child is required to attend school or comply with the homeschool laws. Exceptions:
HSLDA believes that a parent-issued diploma and transcript should be sufficient to demonstrate that a child has completed a secondary education. However, even if your child is beyond compulsory school attendance age, there may be situations where you would want to continue to follow the requirements of a home education option recognized under Tennessee law until your child graduates from high school (filing a home education notice, keeping attendance and other records, etc.). These records may be requested in some situations, such as obtaining a driver's license if your child is a minor, enlisting in the military, applying to colleges, or demonstrating eligibility for Social Security benefits. If you are a member of HSLDA and would like additional details, please contact us.
If you want to start homeschooling during the school year and your child is currently enrolled in a public or private school, HSLDA recommends that you formally withdraw your child from that school. If you are going to start homeschooling after the school year is over, and your child is considered enrolled for the following year, we recommend that you withdraw your child before the next school year begins, so that the school does not mark your child as absent or truant.
We invite you to become a member of HSLDA to receive specific advice about withdrawing your child from school and starting to homeschool. Local schools may have specific forms or withdrawal procedures. HSLDA members are eligible to receive individualized advice about whether complying with those procedures is advisable or required. HSLDA members can also use the sample letter of withdrawal for Tennessee available in Member Resources to correspond with school officials.
We generally recommend that any correspondence with authorities be sent by “Certified Mail—Return Receipt Requested.” Keep copies of the withdrawal letter and any other paperwork or correspondence, and any green postal receipts, for your personal records.
Note: If your child has never attended a public or private school, this section does not apply.
You may homeschool by enrolling your child in one of the three types of schools described below. As a general rule, you are required to teach your child for at least 180 days per school year, and you must be a parent or legal guardian of the child you are enrolling. (You may employ a tutor who has the same educational qualifications that you are required to have to do some or all of the teaching.)
Option 1: Independent home school.
You must have at least a high school diploma or a GED.
Before the start of the school year, you must submit a notice of intent to the superintendent of your local school district (also called a local education agency, or LEA) “for purpose of reporting only.” (If you move to Tennessee during the school year, you should file your notice of intent within a reasonable time after arriving in the state.) Your notice must include the names, number, ages, and grade levels of the children you are homeschooling, the location of your school, the curriculum to be offered (no particular subjects are required), the proposed hours of instruction, and your educational qualifications. A notice of intent form is available on the Tennessee Department of Education’s website.
Proof that your child has been immunized or has a medical or a religious exemption from immunization must be attached to your notice of intent.
You must teach at least four hours per school day for 180 days each academic year.
You must maintain attendance records, which must be available for inspection by the local superintendent and must be submitted to the superintendent at the end of each school year. An attendance reporting form is available on the Tennessee Department of Education’s website.
In grades 5, 7, and 9, your child must take 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.
Here is what to do if your child’s test score is low: If your child’s test score is six to nine months behind his or her appropriate grade level in reading, language arts, mathematics, or science, you must submit a “remedial course” to the local superintendent. The remedial course must be designed by you and a Tennessee-certified teacher who is certified or endorsed in the grade level, course, subject matter in which your child is being remediated.
Additionally, if your child’s test score is more than one year behind his or her appropriate grade level for two consecutive, required tests, and if your child is not learning disabled, the local superintendent may require you to enroll your child in a public, private, or church-related school.
Options 2: Church-related school.
A church-related school (CRS) 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.
Here are some websites that can help you find a CRS:
Your child must be enrolled in the CRS and your homeschooling must be “supervised” by the director of the CRS.
You must submit proof to the CRS that your child has been immunized or has a medical or a religious exemption from immunization.
You must meet any teacher qualification, recordkeeping, and testing requirements established by the CRS. These requirements may vary depending on the CRS you choose and your technical relationship with the CRS. Click here for more information.
HSLDA does not review individual umbrella school policies. We encourage families interested in this homeschooling option to thoroughly review the requirements of the umbrella schools they are considering, as policies will often vary from school to school.
Option 3: Category III distance-learning school.
“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.
Category III schools must report student attendance information to the director of the public school system where the student lives.
HSLDA does not review Category III school policies. We encourage families interested in this homeschooling option to thoroughly review the requirements of the schools they are considering, as policies will often vary from school to school.
You can find Tennessee’s specific recordkeeping requirements, if any, above. Regardless of what state you live in, HSLDA recommends that you keep detailed records of your homeschool program. These records may be helpful if you face an investigation regarding your homeschooling or your student needs to furnish proof of education.
These records should include 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, and 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. You should 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 forever. HSLDA’s high school webpage has additional information about homeschool recordkeeping.
HSLDA is a national advocacy organization that supports the right of parents to educate their children at home. We are dedicated to protecting the legality of your homeschool while equipping you to successfully teach your children.
HSLDA members have 24/7 phone and email access to our staff of attorneys and legal assistants, who can help you understand the homeschool law in your state and will go to bat for you if a school official or other authority challenges your homeschool. Our 80,000 members—families like you!— also receive personalized advice on everything from homeschooling a high schooler to teaching a child with special needs from our team of education consultants.
Please note: The information on this page has been reviewed by an attorney, but it should not be taken as legal advice specific to your individual situation.
Last updated July 9, 2018