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

Starting at age 6 and until your child turns 18, your child is required to attend school or comply with the homeschool laws. Exceptions:

  • If you believe your child is not ready to attend school at age 6, you may apply to the principal of your local public school for a one-semester or one-year deferral of required attendance.
  • If your child is under 6, but has been enrolled in a public school for six weeks or more, he or she must continue to attend school or comply with the homeschool laws.
  • If your child is homeschooled under the homeschool statute, in association with a church-related school, or via parent participation as a parent-teacher in a church-related school, your child is not required to attend school after turning 17.
  • Early graduation is permitted. If your child has (1) received a high school diploma or a GED, or (2) is enrolled and making “satisfactory progress” in an approved GED program, he or she is not required to continue attending school.

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

You may homeschool under any of the legal options listed 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.) Follow the steps below the option that you choose.

About church-related “umbrella” schools: Some of Tennessee’s homeschooling options involve teaching your child with a church-related school. A church-related school (CRS) is a school (1) operated by a denominational, parochial, or other bona fide church organization and (2) 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, or a school affiliated with Accelerated Christian Education, Inc.

Here are some websites that can help you find a CRS:

  • The website of your chapter of the Tennessee Home Education Association (THEA) usually has contact information for local CRSs.
  • Another list of schools is available on the website for the Tennessee Department of Education. Any school under Accreditation Category 4 is a CRS.
  • Local homeschool groups in Tennessee may be able to refer you to a CRS.

Homeschooling under the homeschool statute:

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.

Homeschooling under the homeschool statute—associating with a church-related school:

Your child must be enrolled in the CRS and your homeschooling must be “supervised” by the director of the CRS.

The CRS must administer or offer standardized achievement tests.

There are no qualifications for teaching grades K–8. You must have at least a high school diploma or a GED to teach grades 9–12.

Homeschooling under the homeschool statute—becoming a parent-teacher in a church-related school:

You must meet the requirements established by the CRS for homeschool teachers.

Homeschooling under the alternative statute—establishing a satellite campus of a church-related school:

Enroll your child in a CRS that recognizes your home as being a satellite campus or extension of the CRS. Students in a satellite campus program are not considered by statute to be homeschool students. You must meet the teacher qualifications determined by the CRS.

Homeschooling with a “Category III” distance-learning school:
“Category III” schools are nonpublic schools that are accredited by one of the six regional accrediting associations (e.g., the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools).


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 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 June 26, 2015