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 Virginia—step by step.
Beginning in the school year during which your child is or will be 5 by September 30, you must start following Virginia’s compulsory school law.
Your child can be exempted if he or she is (or will be) 5 by September 30 but will not be 6 by September 30. Notify your school board that you do not want your child to attend school until the following year because the child is not yet mentally, physically, or emotionally ready. Send your notification in writing and keep a copy. The school board is required to exempt your child.
Once your child reaches his or her 18th birthday, he or she is no longer required to obey the school laws.
If a child graduates from high school and receives a high school diploma or the equivalent, or if a child gets a passing score on the GED or other equivalency test approved by the Virginia Board of Education, school attendance laws no longer apply, even if he or she has not yet turned 18.
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 Virginia 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 are also eligible to use the sample letter of withdrawal for Virginia available in Member Resources to correspond with school officials.
We generally recommend that any correspondence with authorities be sent “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.
There are four ways for you to homeschool legally in Virginia.
Option 1: Homeschooling under the home instruction option:
To homeschool under Virginia’s home instruction option, you’ll need to follow these requirements.
You may qualify to provide home instruction in one of the following four ways:
You need to file a notice with your school district superintendent that you intend to provide home instruction to your child and indicating your home instructor qualification. With the notice, you need to provide a curriculum description (which is just a list of subjects) for each child. This needs to be done every year by August 15.
If you are moving into your school district or beginning to provide home instruction after the school year has begun, you need to submit this notice “as soon as practicable.” HSLDA provides a notice form for our members’ use here.
Note: You do not need the superintendent’s approval to start homeschooling—you just need to file your notice.
Each year by August 1, you must provide to your superintendent an evaluation 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.)
There are four types of evaluations you can submit:
Here is what to do if your child’s year-end assessment does not show adequate progress:
It may be possible to continue homeschooling, but you will need to write a remediation plan and get the school system to accept it. If your child still does not show adequate progress after another year, you will have to stop home instruction. If you believe the superintendent has given you a wrong decision, you have 30 days to appeal.
Note: It's a good idea to get your assessment done early. That way, if the results show that your child did not make adequate progress, you have time to do a different type of assessment that allows your child to show adequate progress and turn in this assessment instead.
Option 2: 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 need to follow these requirements:
To homeschool under Virginia’s religious exemption option, you need to write an application letter to your school board. In your letter, you should:
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—preferably no later than three days after removing your child from school. Keep a copy of the application letter for your records.
The school board may ask you to forward a couple of letters from people who will confirm that you are sincere in your beliefs. The school board may also ask for a letter from a pastor, priest, etc., to confirm that your beliefs are of a religious nature.
If the school board asks you to fill out a form, or asks you to meet with someone, you should seek additional guidance immediately.
If you are a member of HSLDA, we strongly urge you to contact us about homeschooling under the religious exemption option. We offer detailed guidance for writing your application letter. If you are a member, it is a very good idea to allow HSLDA to review your letter before you submit it, and to contact us regarding any follow-up issues.
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.
Many school boards meet only once or twice a month. If you have not heard back from your board within two months, you may need to send them a reminder.
If your school system becomes belligerent and tries to insist that your child must stay in school until the board actually approves the exemption, consider simply filing a notice of intent to provide home instruction (as described above in the “Homeschooling under the home instruction option” section) until you get a reply granting your exemption.
When you get your letter from the school board granting your exemption, read it very carefully and be sure you understand it. Not all exemption letters say the same thing. Keep the exemption letter in a safe, permanent place—school boards have been known to lose their own copies.
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) while the exemption is in force.
Depending on how your exemption letter was worded, additional children may or may not be exempted.
Your exemption letter may say that you need to reapply next year. If it does, HSLDA recommends that you comply.
Option 3: Homeschooling with a certified tutor:
A person with a current Virginia teacher license can ask the school superintendent to approve him or her as a tutor. Once approved, the person can tutor any children he or she wants—including his or her 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.
HSLDA has a letter that our members can use to obtain the superintendent’s approval—download it here. Once the superintendent confirms that the teacher license is valid, he or she does not have discretion to refuse approval.
Option 4: Homeschooling under the private school option:
There are some private schools that allow their pupils to receive all or most of their instruction at home. By enrolling full-time in such a program, your child can receive instruction at home under parental direction and control while legally being a private school student.
The private school should have an office in Virginia. It is questionable whether a private school that has no office or facility in Virginia would be considered a private school under Virginia law.
Private schools in Virginia are not required to be accredited, nor are there any state regulations specifically for private schools. A group of homeschool families could come together to create a bona fide private school, but one family could never be a private school on its own.
You can find Virginia’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.
Home School Legal Defense Association 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 15, 2016