You've decided a home education is best for your child, but how do you start homeschooling in Texas? According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), it's pretty easy to begin homeschooling in the state and there are only a few requirements and guidelines you need to know.
Step 1: Learn Texas Homeschool Laws
Homeschooling requirements vary by state. There are only a few laws in Texas regarding homeschooling, and they are mostly specific to particular circumstances. Organizations like the Home School Legal Defense Association can help with legal issues that may arise, but it's best to know the homeschooling laws in Texas before you begin.
No Age of Mandatory Attendance
Texas does have a Compulsory School Attendance law stating the ages where a child needs to be enrolled in school, but homeschools are considered a type of private school and are exempt from this law. A Texas Supreme Court case that ended in 1994 called Leeper, et al. vs. Arlington ISD, et al., or The Leeper Decision, verified that homeschools are considered one type of private school in Texas as long as they meet four basic criteria. While this landmark case decided that homeschoolers are exempt from attendance laws, it did give the TEA authority to ensure homeschools uphold this educational criteria.
No Required Days of School
Because homeschools are considered one type of private school, there is no requirement for the number of days your child must be schooled at home.
Texas Homeschool Criteria
The criteria for running a homeschool is limited in Texas and could seem vague to some. To be recognized as a valid homeschool option, your homeschool must:
- Be directed by a parent or person standing in parental authority
- Be created and maintained in good faith, not as a sham to cover up things like avoiding school altogether
- Use a curriculum that includes any combination of books, workbooks, and other written materials in tangible form or in electronic format
- Meet basic education goals in reading, spelling, grammar, math, and good citizenship
No Approval Necessary
While the TEA has the authority to look into complaints about homeschool programs not meeting proper criteria, they explicitly state that the group does not "regulate, index, monitor, approve, register, or accredit the programs available to parents who choose to home school." This means you are not required to register your homeschool in any way and there is no approved curriculum you must use. It also means the state doesn't accredit homeschool programs.
Withdrawing a Child From Public School
If your child currently attends a public school, you are required to dis-enroll your child in writing before you can start homeschooling. You don't have to use a specific form or proper letter of intent to homeschool. You can simply send in a signed and dated note letting the school know you plan to homeschool your child and the date their homeschooling will begin. If you don't send in a note, school districts in Texas do have the right to request a letter of assurance in writing that your child is being homeschooled because they are required to officially dis-enroll your child and can only do so with written notice from you.
Step 2: Consider the Future
You might be excited about homeschooling now, but that could change for a variety of reasons. Consider possible problems that could arise and your child's future when making the decision to homeschool.
Returning to Public School
If you decide to stop homeschooling and send your child of any age to public school, the school has the right to assess your child and place them accordingly. The public school may request to review your child's home curriculum and work or use standardized tests to asses the child. Texas public schools often use the STAAR assessment.
High School Graduation
The state of Texas will not award high school homeschooling students with a high school diploma. However, the state does view a homeschool diploma earned after completing a proper homeschool education as equivalent to a public school diploma. This means all institutions of higher learning in the state must treat students with a homeschool diploma in the same manner as students with a public school diploma.
One potential problem that could arise is if your child is out by himself during typical public school hours and your town has a daytime curfew. Check with your local police department or town government office to see if you have a daytime curfew. If there is one, your child may need to carry a note that you have prepared explaining that he is homeschooled. Teach him to always answer questions from those in authority thoroughly and respectfully and there should be no problems.
Step 3: Choose a Homeschool Curriculum
Before you begin your homeschool, you'll want to choose whether you'll use one specific homeschool curriculum, a combination of them, or if you'll prescribe to more of a child-led learning program. Texas does not require use of any specific curriculum and does not require that you provide detailed information about your chosen curriculum.
- You can take a look at the state education standards, known as Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), to make sure your child's homeschool education is appropriate.
- If you're not planning to be your child's teacher, an online homeschool is an option.
- Classical homeschooling presents learning in a specific order based on traditional values.
- With unschooling, you don't use a curriculum at all.
Consider getting in contact with groups like Texas Home School Coalition, a Christian-based organization, or Texas Home Educators, an organization that focuses on homeschool events, to supplement your curriculum and provide additional opportunities for your family.
Step 4: Start Your Homeschool
You've now done everything that's required or highly recommended by Texas state education officials and laws. Although there aren't further requirements, there are some best practices to consider for your daily and annual routines. Carefully consider what type of homeschool you'll have and what kind of routine it might follow.
- In a relaxed homeschool setting you use creative methods to keep education fun.
- Your homeschool schedule can resemble a traditional public school or be your own creation entirely.
- Keep track of your child's educational progress with good homeschool record-keeping habits.
Start Your Texas Homeschool
Beginning to homeschool can be a stressful point in any parent's life, but when you are located in Texas there is very little to worry about. Do your research, gather the information and materials that you need, and begin a rewarding family journey as a Texas homeschool family.