Tennessee 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 Option 1, 2, or 3, below, 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.
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 Tennessee 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.
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 can also use the sample letter of withdrawal for Tennessee available in Member Resources to correspond with school officials.
We generally recommend that any correspondence with authorities be sent by “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 Tennessee’s homeschool law
You may homeschool by enrolling your child in one of the three types of schools described 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.)
Option 1: Independent home school.
1. Ensure that you have the required teacher qualifications.
You must have at least a high school diploma or a GED.
2. Submit a notice of intent.
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.
3. Submit proof of immunization.
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.
4. Provide the required hours of instruction.
You must teach at least four hours per school day for 180 days each academic year.
5. Maintain attendance records.
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.
6. Test your child in grades 5, 7, and 9.
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.
Options 2: Church-related school.
A church-related school (CRS) is a school operated by a denominational, parochial, or other bona fide church organization and 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, the Tennessee Alliance 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.
1. Enroll in a church-related school.
Your child must be enrolled in the CRS and your homeschooling must be “supervised” by the director of the CRS.
2. Comply with policies established by the CRS.
You must meet any teacher qualification, recordkeeping, and testing requirements established by the CRS. These requirements may vary slightly depending on your technical relationship with the CRS. Click here for more information.
Option 3: Category III distance-learning school.
“Category III” schools are non-public schools that are accredited by one of the following: any accreditation division of AdvancED (the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI), the Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC), and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI)), the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA), the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), any accrediting association recognized by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Commission on Accreditation (e.g., the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS)) or the National Council for Private School Accreditation (NCPSA) according to the procedures and criteria established by the association.
Category III schools must report student attendance information to the director of the public school system where the student lives.
The importance of recordkeeping
You can find Tennessee’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.