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.
Here are the options:
Option 1: Homeschooling under the home instruction option
To homeschool under Virginia’s home instruction option, you’ll need to follow these requirements.
1. Ensure that you possess one of four home instructor qualifications.
You may qualify to provide home instruction in one of the following four ways:
- Possess a high school diploma or higher degree,
- Possess a current Virginia teacher’s license,
- Provide your child with a curriculum or program of study as part of your home instruction program, or
- Give evidence that you are able to provide your child an adequate education.
2. File annual notice with your school superintendent.
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, found below.
Note: You do not need the superintendent’s approval to start homeschooling—you just need to file your notice.
3. Provide an annual evaluation.
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:
- 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)—this could be 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; or
- 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.” (If you plan to submit this type of assessment, you should discuss this with the school system early in the school year.)
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:
1. Send a religious exemption application letter to your school board.
To homeschool under Virginia’s religious exemption option, you need to write an application letter to your school board. In your letter, you should:
- 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, and
- state that you are training your child in the same beliefs that you hold (assuming that is true).
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.
Promptly mail your application letter to your school board as soon as possible. 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.
2. 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.
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.
3. Exempt any additional children.
Depending on how your exemption letter was worded, additional children may or may not be exempted.
4. If needed, reapply next year.
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 below. 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
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 days per year, and during the same period of the year as public schools. If a private school student receives his instruction while he is at home, it will resemble homeschooling in many ways.
Creating a private school involves a number of issues. We explain these issues here for HSLDA members who are thinking about establishing a private school where instruction takes place in the student’s home.
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.