Yay! You plan on Homeschooling. What an exciting road you and your family have ahead!
Tennessee is a pretty home education friendly state with loads of homeschoolers and opportunities. Compulsory attendance begins at age 6, with Kindergarten typically starting the year they are 5 turning 6. Four hours of instruction for 180 days are required during the school year.
Let’s get to the legal matters first…
You have 3 options on how to enroll in school:
1. Through the State / County office of your Local Public School (Independent Homeschool)
Submit your notice of intent form to your local public school. You have no fees with this option and they only need to know what subjects you are teaching. You will also have to submit a record of attendance at the end of the school year. You must also submit vaccination records or religious exemption form. Testing is required in 5th, 7th, and 9th grades.
You will have to submit these things to your local school board. The information can be found by contacting the school board in your county.
Check the TN Department of Education’s site HERE for more info
2. Through a Church Related school (aka Umbrella School)
An umbrella school essentially will be the “in between” for you and the state. It can function as a school advisor if you need one, but most umbrellas are hands off to their approach. You will have to report grades, subject, and vaccination records. There are numerous umbrella school to choose from- Aaron Academy, HomeLife Academy, The Farm School, etc. No need to register with the state, the Umbrella should do that for you. The umbrella school will determine if or when they require testing.
3. Through an online school
If you are part of a distance school program (like K-12), you will register with them. There may be stricter requirements with this option on specific login hours. Each school should provide info. Your online school is required to be accredited by one of the following agencies: AdvancED, SACS CASI, NCA CASI, NWAC, Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA), MSCES – Middle States Commission on Elementary Schools, MSCSS – Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools, New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and affiliates (e.g., SAIS), or National Council of Private School Accreditation (NCPSA).
Choosing a Method
Your homeschooling does not have to look like an at home replica of what kids in the public school are doing. There are so many different types of methods! Do some research on what would work best for you and your family. You may want to hone in on a method before choosing how you will register. Having a specific method you follow is not a requirement whatsoever, it will just make it easier to sift through many of the resources available. You can definitely mix and match and continually evolve your homeschooling methodology. Here are a few examples of several popular styles:
- Charlotte Mason
- Unit studies
I love this video on “Homeschool Flavors”. Sonya Shafer does an excellent job of explaining each style.
Choosing a Curriculum
Another piece to the complete puzzle of entering homeschool- curriculum! There is a world of incredible options for curriculum these days. It is a completely valid option as well to not buy a pre made homeschool curriculum. Many factors go into play on curriculum choice – homecshooling method, age of kids, religion, what kind of learners the kids are, is it a tutorial or coop class, prep time, etc. Two excellent and free resources are the Nashville library and Pinterest.
There are limited places to get your hands on a curriculum to flip through it. Check out Cathy Duffy Reviews for one of the most thorough sites for curriculum reviews. A Homeschool Convention is a wonderful place to browse curriculum options. Remember, the 4 hours of school is not a requirement meaning 4 hours of sitting down and doing worksheets. Especially in the younger grades… play, field trips, read alouds, extracurriculars all contribute towards that time. So don’t burden yourself down with curriculum to start off. A curriculum should help assist you in your learning goals, not be a cumbersome load to stumble through
Finding a Community
The BEST thing you can do for yourself and your kids is to get connected in the homeschool community. You have so many options in Nashville! A quick search on Facebook should yield loads of results. For more official, regular meetup groups, try joining a Tutorial or a Co-op. Typically, a Tutorial will be a drop off setting you do not have to stay for. A Co-op will possibly be less expensive, but require parents to stay and be involved in some capacity on site (not necessarily teaching). You may also want to decide if and what group you plan to join before registering with the state or umbrella. Some tutorials/coops may require you to register with specific umbrellas.
I hope this will help you on your journey to start homeschooling in Nashville!