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—step by step.


Compulsory school attendance age

Your child must start complying with Iowa’s compulsory school law if he or she is (or will be) 6 by September 15 of the school year.

Once your child reaches his or her 16th birthday, he or she is no longer required to obey the school laws, with one exception: if your child is enrolled (or dual enrolled) in public school and turns 16 after September 15, he or she remains subject to Iowa’s compulsory school laws for the remainder of the school year.


Withdrawing your child from his or her current school

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 their state, 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.


Complying with your state’s homeschool law

In Iowa, there are five options under which you can legally homeschool. You are free to choose the option that best meets your family’s needs.

Homeschooling by Independent Private Instruction (IPI):
If you opt to provide your child with Independent Private Instruction, you will need to follow these guidelines:

You must provide your child with instruction in the following subjects:

  • math,
  • reading and language arts,
  • science, and
  • social studies.

The law does not specify how much time to spend instructing your child or teaching any single subject, but you should include some instruction in each required subject every school year.

You do not need to proactively file any forms with your school district to let them know you are providing IPI. However, if your school district superintendent or the head of the Iowa Department of Education sends you a written request, you will have to send him or her a letter indicating (a) the primary instructor of your IPI program (probably you, the parent), (b) the name and location of the authority responsible for the independent private instruction (in the case of homeschooling, this would generally be the parent’s name and home address), and (c) the names of the students enrolled. If you are an HSLDA member and receive such a request, don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

IPI homeschoolers are legally allowed to participate in the driver education program of the local school, and to take community college classes via the concurrent enrollment program.

However, IPI homeschoolers do not have access to several programs that are available to some other homeschoolers. These programs are:

  • dual enrollment in the public school (for classes or extracurricular activities),
  • open enrollment to other public school districts,
  • parent-taught driver education,
  • post-secondary enrollment college classes,
  • free testing at the public school, and
  • parent-taught driver education.

Homeschooling by Private Instruction (PI):
If you opt to provide your child Private Instruction, you will need to follow these guidelines:

Under this option, you simply have to provide instruction to your child using a plan or course of study in a setting other than a public or organized accredited nonpublic school.

You need to teach for 148 days per year and 37 days per school quarter.

PI homeschoolers are allowed to participate in the following:

  • driver education programs at the local school,
  • free testing at the public school, and
  • community college classes via the concurrent enrollment program.

They are not required to dual enroll to obtain access to these programs.

PI homeschoolers also have access to parent-taught driver education if they were under any option other than IPI during the previous year.

However, PI homeschoolers do not have access to several programs that are available to some other homeschoolers. These programs are:

  • dual enrollment in the public school (for classes or extracurricular activities),
  • open enrollment to other public school districts, and
  • post-secondary enrollment college classes.

To access these programs, a PI homeschooler must file a Form A and satisfy the supervising teacher requirement or year-end assessment requirement. This effectively converts the PI student into a student under the supervising teacher option or year-end assessment option.

Homeschooling with a supervising teacher:
If you opt to homeschool your child with a supervising teacher, you will need to follow these guidelines:

You must file a Form A by September 1 of each year.

If you are moving into the state or starting homeschooling after the school year has begun, you need to submit a form that is at least partially completed within 14 calendar days of starting homeschooling and a fully completed form within 30 days of starting homeschooling.

A link to Form A is available here.

You will need to provide the following information:

  • name and age of the child,
  • number of days of instruction that will be provided (must be at least 148),
  • textbooks used,
  • child’s birth date, and
  • an “outline of course of study" (meaning subjects covered, lesson plans, and time spent on the areas of study—there is no mandated minimum).

The form will also ask you to do the following, which you are not required by law to do:

  • provide the instructor’s name and address, and
  • fill out an optional section.

You must also provide evidence of vaccinations (or medical or religious exemption) for children who are being homeschooled for the first time.

Unless you give clear written instructions to your school district to keep your Form A information private, the school may make it public. HSLDA has a form you can use to notify the district that you wish your information to be kept private.

You will need to hire a qualified supervising teacher of your choice. The supervising teacher must contact your student twice each 45 days of instruction. One of those two contacts must be face-to-face.

The supervising teacher is required to assess your child and keep a record of his or her contacts with and assistance provided to your child.

A supervising teacher must have the following qualifications:

  • Elementary classroom license: May supervise for students in grades K–6.
  • Middle school license: May supervise for students in grades 5–8.
  • Secondary license: May supervise for students in grades 5–8.
  • Secondary classroom license: May supervise for students in grades 7–12.
  • Substitute license: May supervise for students in any grade.
  • Substitute authorization: May supervise for students in grades 5–12.

Note: A parent with an appropriate license can be his or her own supervising teacher.

Students operating under this option have access to dual enrollment in the public school. If they submit their request for dual enrollment by the September 15 deadline, they have access to the following:

  • public school classes,
  • extracurricular activities, and
  • post-secondary enrollment college classes.

To open enroll in another public school district for the fall session, you must file your request by the previous March 1. To open enroll for a spring or summer session, your request must be filed by March 1 of the previous calendar year

Students under this option have access to the following:

  • parent-taught driver education,
  • public school driver education programs,
  • free testing at the public school, and
  • community college concurrent enrollment without dual enrolling.

Homeschooling with an annual assessment:
If you opt to homeschool with an annual assessment, you will need to follow these guidelines:

You must file a Form A by September 1 of each year.

If you are moving into the state or starting homeschooling after the school year has begun, you need to submit a form that is at least partially completed within 14 calendar days of starting homeschooling and a fully completed form within 30 days of starting homeschooling.

A link to Form A is available here.

You will need to provide the following information:

  • name and age of the child,
  • number of days of instruction that will be provided (must be at least 148),
  • textbooks used,
  • child’s birth date, and
  • an “outline of course of study" (meaning subjects covered, lesson plans, and time spent on the areas of study--there is no mandated minimum).

The form will also ask you to do the following, which you are not required by law to do:

  • provide the instructor’s name and address, and
  • fill out an optional section.

You must also provide evidence of vaccinations (or medical or religious exemption) for children who are being homeschooled for the first time.

Unless you give clear written instructions to your school district to keep your Form A information private, the school may make it public. HSLDA has a form you can use to notify the district that you wish your information to be kept private.

You must submit assessments to your school district beginning the year the child is 7 by September 15 (or his or her first year of homeschooling, if older).

For grades 5 and below, you must assess reading, language arts, and math. For grades 6 and above, you must assess reading, language arts, math, social studies, and science.

Each year’s assessment must be conducted by May 1 and submitted to the school system by June 30.

The first assessment is considered the “baseline” assessment. It does not need to show adequate progress or a particular level of results. It is simply used as a point from which to measure future progress. Each assessment after that needs to show adequate progress. How this is shown differs depending on the type of assessment you use.

You can use one of the following types of assessments:

  • Report card. You can use a report card from a school or correspondence school accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. If you use this option, “adequate progress” is shown by a passing grade.
  • Review by teacher. You can choose a teacher to write an evaluation of your student’s progress based on a review of a portfolio of your student’s work. The evaluation—not the portfolio—needs to be submitted to the school system, and it needs to indicate that your child made adequate progress. A teacher with an elementary classroom license can evaluate children in grades 1–6. A teacher with an elementary content license can evaluate grades 1–8. With a secondary content license, a teacher can evaluate grades 5–12. A teacher who no longer has a current classroom or content license, but who has a current substitute license, can evaluate students of the same grade levels as if his or her classroom or content license were in force.
  • Standardized test. You can pick a standardized test from the list approved by the Iowa Department of Education. You have to choose the testing grade level that best fits your child’s age, and you have to follow the test publisher’s instructions. To show adequate progress, your child needs to have a score above the 30th percentile in each required test subject area plus either (a) show an overall score at grade level or (b) show six months’ progress from the previously submitted test.

Here is what to do if the assessment does not show adequate progress:
If your student’s assessment does not show adequate progress, you may submit another assessment before the next school year begins. If adequate progress is still not shown, you will have to enroll your child in school unless the Department of Education approves a remediation program. If it looks like you are going to have difficulty showing adequate progress, don’t hesitate to contact HSLDA immediately.

Students operating under this option have access to dual enrollment in the public school. If they submit their request for dual enrollment by the September 15 deadline, they have access to the following:

  • public school classes,
  • extracurricular activities, and
  • post-secondary enrollment college classes.

To open enroll in another public school district for the fall session, you must file your request by the previous March 1. To open enroll for a spring or summer session, you must file your request by March 1 of the previous calendar year.

Students under this option have access to the following without dual enrollment:

  • parent-taught driver education,
  • public school driver education programs,
  • free testing at the public school, and
  • community college concurrent enrollment.

Homeschooling with a Home School Assistance Program (HSAP):
An HSAP is a public school program. Individual public school districts have the option of offering HSAPs to families. A student in an HSAP is not a public school student.

You must file a Form A by September 1 of each year.

If you are moving into the state or starting homeschooling after the school year has begun, you need to submit a form that is at least partially completed within 14 calendar days of starting homeschooling and a fully completed form within 30 days of starting homeschooling.

A link to Form A is available here.

You will only need to fill in items 1, 3, and 5 on Form A.

The form will also ask you to do the following, which you are not required by law to do:

  • provide the instructor’s name and address, and
  • fill out an optional section.

You must also provide evidence of vaccinations (or medical or religious exemption) for children who are being homeschooled for the first time.

Unless you give clear written instructions to your school district to keep your Form A information private, the school may make it public. HSLDA has a form you can use to notify the district that you wish your information to be kept private.

Public schools can impose any additional requirements they wish on students as a condition for participating in the HSAP, including annual testing. HSAP programs typically offer families free secular school books and access to a teacher of the school’s choice.

Students operating under this option have access to dual enrollment in the public school.  If they submit their request for dual enrollment by the September 15 deadline, they have access to the following:

  • public school classes,
  • extracurricular activities, and
  • postsecondary enrollment college classes.

To open enroll in another public school district for the fall session, your request must be filed by the previous March 1.  To open enroll for a spring or summer session, your request must be filed by March 1 of the previous calendar year.

Students under this option have access to the following without dual enrollment:

  • parent-taught driver education,
  • public school driver education programs,
  • free testing at the public school, and
  • community college concurrent enrollment.

Being in a HSAP does NOT automatically dual enroll the student.


Records

If your state has any specific recordkeeping requirements, they are listed above. Regardless of your state’s recordkeeping requirements, 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 form homeschooling a high schooler to teaching a child with speical 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 14, 2015