The Tennessee law for home education is not perfect. We are blessed to have a law that has many optional ways to satisfy the State’s demands for enrollment, attendance, and education. Certainly, for a republic to continue, we must have an educated citizenry.
The law compels enrollment and attendance. Homeschoolers can satisfy the enrollment criteria by enrolling in one of two ways – with their local superintendent or by signing up with a church related school that offers an umbrella program for home schooling families.
Beginning July 1, 2011 the homeschooling law in Tennessee was changed. In this year legislation passed the TN House and the TN Senate and the Governor signed the bill into law. An official copy of the current homeschool law in Tennessee is at TCA 49-6-3050.
As long as the State of Tennessee maintains a compulsory attendance law, dealing with state officials or with agents of the state will be part of any educational alternative, public, private, church related, or home school.
During the ages in which a child is confined by state law into a school – 7 through 16 for homeschoolers, that law can be satisfied either by enrolling with your local superintendent of schools or the family can enroll their child with a church related school that offers an umbrella program. On their web site the TN Department of Education offers three ways to "homeschool" - >Independent HomeSchool; > Church-related Umbrella School; > Accredited Online School. (Please be advised, research shows that an Accredited Online School is the least successful means of educating a child and that in reality this is not a form of home education. It is in fact public school at home with full state control of all the educational content for the child. Many Church Related School umbrella programs and colleges do offer on line courses that are quite wonderful.)
Statistically speaking, one of the means of pulling down the elevated scores of the home school community is to include the public school at home students enrolled in Accredited Online Schools, the worst performing group.
About ninety-five plus percent of homeschoolers in Tennessee sign up with a church related school, as defined in TCA 49-50-801, that offers an umbrella program. Even though the name of the category of schools is “church related”, a review of the list of organizations will demonstrate that not all these schools are Christian. Some schools have a statement of faith that each student’s family must sign. Others have a statement of faith that they want all enrollees to know about, but belief in those standards or statements is not required. Many church related schools have no statement of faith.
Why do most families prefer signing up with a church related school, or CRS? The number of services available to families and their students makes them so popular. There are many different services. including a range of curriculum options, scheduling, testing, counseling, ,assistance, graduation participation, plus all sorts of coordinated activities including the arts and sports. Some of these schools offer statewide and worldwide enrollment. Some only allow enrollment for members of their church. Some require that you live within 50 miles of the church. Some require testing while others offer testing when parents want their child tested. Some mandate the use of a certain curriculum, while others simply request that you report what curriculum is used. These schools are business / ministries and they are mindful of their customers wishes within the context of their ministry objectives.
The remaining five percent of homeschoolers use the alternative of signing up with their local superintendent of schools in their Independent HomeSchool program. Other than a one page attendance form, few services are offered by their superintendent, testing is required for certain grades with penalties attached to low performance. For the most part this is something that local superintendents are required to do by law, but that generates no funds from the state, so it is typically a very low priority.