FAQs

GETTING STARTED

1. I have decided to home school. What do I need to do? My child is enrolled in public school.

First, obtain a curriculum. It is also wise to find a local support group to help you set up your school.

You are not legally required to register with the school district or receive their permission to homeschool. But you should withdraw your child(ren) from the public school. Failure to do so could result in school officials filing truancy charges against you and/or your child(ren).

Once you have a curriculum in hand, write a letter of withdrawal to the principal of the school. Send the letter certified mail, return receipt requested, to receive proof of delivery. If the school subsequently contacts you and says that you must do more (come to the office, fill out a form, etc.), do not go to the school. Instead, send a letter of assurance.

Such a letter meets TEA guidelines of cooperation with the school district in compliance with the compulsory attendance laws. (See the commissioner’s letter) Unless the school district has evidence that your letter of assurance is not true, this should be the end of your contact with the school district over withdrawal.

2. I have decided to home school. What do I need to do? My child is NOT enrolled in public school.

There is no need to contact the school district if your child is not enrolled in public school. Simply obtain curriculum and begin. It is wise to find a local support group to help you in this endeavor. If the school contacts you and says that you must do more (come to the central office, fill out a form, etc.), do not go to the school. Instead send a letter of assurance to the principal. You will find more information for new home schoolers on our Getting Started page.

3. How do I get started home schooling my child(ren)?

Check out our Getting Started section for more information and our Help for Home Schooling section for many informative articles.

4. What do I need to know to home school my special needs child?

You will find several articles on homeschooling special needs children in our Special Needs Section http://thsc.org/Categories.aspx?Id=special_needs. In addition, click on the following links:
Texas’ Special Kids Main Resource Site

Frequently Asked Questions and Curriculum Recommendations

NATHHAN National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network


CURRICULUM


1. What is the required curriculum? Where do I find it?

In order to be a legitimate home school in Texas, you must have a curriculum which teaches 5 subjects:

  • Reading
  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Mathematics
  • A study of good citizenship

In addition, the law states that you must pursue that curriculum in a bona fide (not a sham) manner. This curriculum may be obtained from any source and can consist of books, workbooks, other written materials, or materials on an electronic monitor, including computer or video screens, or any combination thereof. See our listing of curriculum and resource providers. There are no other rules for home schooling in Texas.

2. Must the school district approve my curriculum?

Absolutely not! Home schools in Texas are private schools, and private schools are not regulated by the state. The school district has no authority to approve curricula used by private schools.

3. What is a 'study of good citizenship'?

“Good citizenship” is usually taken to mean civics. Public schools teach one semester of civics, usually in the senior year of high school. Teaching U.S. and Texas history, government (theoretical and practical), the Pledge of Allegiance, and similar activities will also help meet this requirement.

THSC provides several ways to help you meet this requirement:

4. Do I need accredited curriculum? If so, where can I get it?

Actually, schools are accredited–not curricula. To be accredited, a school must meet certain standards, such as holding classes the same number of days and hours as are required of public schools, employing certified teachers, etc. These rules do not apply to home schools. So, no, you do not need a certain type of curricula.

There are accredited correspondence schools in which home school students can enroll. In these cases, teachers from the schools make the assignments and grade the work. These programs tend to be more expensive, because the school is doing more of the work. Examples of such schools would be Alpha Omega Academy (Christian) and Texas Tech ISD (secular).

The major benefit of enrolling in an accredited school is that if your child wants to enroll in a public school in the future, the school would accept his credits, and he should not have to undergo testing for grade placement.

Enrollment in an accredited school is not necessary for college entrance. See Home Schooling Teens section in these FAQs.


SCHOOL DISTRICT

1. Do I need to register with the local school district?

No. Home schools in Texas are private schools and are not regulated by the state. Private schools are not required to register their students with the local school district. If your children are currently enrolled in public schools, you should follow the procedure outlined in question #1. NOTE: Home school families are not required to present an annual letter of assurance. (See the commissioner’s letter.)

2. What if a school district official calls or a truant officer comes to the door?

  • Be polite and friendly. Smile. Stay calm.
  • Get his name and business card.
  • Ask what prompted his visit or call.
  • Tell him, “My children are privately educated at home.”
  • Answer other questions with, “I will be glad to cooperate as far as the law requires, but you will need to give me your request in writing.”
  • Repeat the above statements as often as necessary. Do not be afraid of silence.
  • After he leaves, write down everything that occurred.
  • Call THSC Association, (806) 744-4441, as soon as possible to report the contact.

Do not allow him to enter your home or to speak to your children. The only legal ways into your home are with your permission or with a search warrant.

If you receive a written request, respond with a letter of assurance. If you do not respond to a written request in a timely manner, the school district can file truancy charges against you for lack of cooperation.

3. What if the school district wants me to fill out a form?

You may fill out the form if you wish. However, THSC does not recommend doing so. In order to cooperate with the school district’s inquiry, you are only legally required to give a letter of assurance. Many times, school forms ask for information that is not required. Also, voluntary compliance with an unlawful request can lead to the request becoming mandatory.

4. May my child participate in classes at the public school?

A local public school could allow your child to participate in classes. The policy on this matter is established by the locally elected school board.

5. May my child participate in extracurricular activities at the public school?

At this time, a local public school could allow your child to play in the band or other such activities. The policy on this matter is established by the locally elected school board. However, the student would not be allowed to participate in events sponsored by the University Interscholastic League (UIL). UIL rules require all participants to be full-time students enrolled in public schools.

6. What happens if we want to enroll our child in the public school?

School districts set the requirements for entry into their schools. This is a local decision–not one made by the state of Texas. You should ask the local school district for written copies of its policy regarding enrolling students from unaccredited private schools. (Read the letter from the commissioner of education to school districts concerning this matter.)

REQUIREMENTS


1. How many days per year must we have school?

The Texas Education Code requires that public schools meet 180 days per year; public school students must attend 170 days/year. This ruling applies to public schools only. Home schools in Texas are private schools, and the state of Texas does not regulate the number of days per year that private schools must be in session or the number of days a student must attend.

2. How many hours a day must we conduct school?

Home schools in Texas are private schools and are not regulated by the state. No minimum hours are required. You will probably find that your student can accomplish more work in a shorter period of time than a public school child if for no other reason than not having to stand in line, wait for roll call, and the like.

3. What is the compulsory school age requirement?

A child who is age six as of September 1 of the current school year and who has not yet reached his 18th birthday must attend school through the year in which he turns 18 unless he has graduated. (See excerpt from Texas Education Code on this matter.)

4. What about testing my child?

Although the state of Texas does not require testing of private school students, many parents give their children annual tests using nationally normed achievement tests. Ask your home school group for assistance.

5. May my child go out in public during the day? What if someone questions him about why he is not in school?

Home schools in Texas are private schools. Home schoolers are law-abiding citizens and should not feel the need to hide during the day. If someone asks you or your child why he is not in school, simply respond that you educate at home. Be aware that if your child is in public without you and your city has a daytime curfew, you will probably encounter difficulties.

6. What if I work?

Remember that home schools are private schools. There is no requirement for hours or the time when education must take place. The only requirement is that a written curriculum covering the basic areas must be pursued in a bona fide manner. Consequently, one could work and also teach his child. While this is difficult and takes some discipline, it is certainly possible and legal.

7. May someone else home school my child?

Yes. Home schools in Texas are private schools. (See Leeper Case Decisions.) Private schools are not regulated by the state of Texas. There are no requirements, such as teacher certification or curriculum approval. The ruling of the Leeper case states that a parent “or one standing in parental authority” may educate a child.

However, if a person is teaching more than three students outside her family, the teacher may encounter problems with local zoning ordinances, and the state will require that the teacher be licensed for child care.



HOME SCHOOLING TEENS



1. What is required for graduation?

Home schools in Texas are private schools and are not regulated by the state. Therefore, home schools, just as other private schools, set their own graduation standards. There is no minimum age requirement for graduation.

2. How can my child receive a diploma?

When a student meets the requirements set by his school for graduation, he may receive a diploma. Diplomas may be ordered from the Texas Home School Coalition Association and other sources.

3. Can my home educated students get into college?

Yes. Some colleges and universities are friendlier toward home schoolers than others, so some will be easier to work with.

In Texas, state colleges are required to accept a home school graduate’s diploma and transcript and to treat a home school graduate just as they would any other applicant. Home school graduates are accepted at most colleges and universities around the nation, and are even recruited by many. Read our High School and Beyond section.

4. How does my student obtain a driver license?

6. What if I work?

Remember that home schools are private schools. There is no requirement for hours or the time when education must take place. The only requirement is that a written curriculum covering the basic areas must be pursued in a bona fide manner. Consequently, one could work and also teach his child. While this is difficult and takes some discipline, it is certainly possible and legal.

5. My local DPS office tells me they won't accept the VOE from me.

DPS should not be asking anything of a home school student that they do not ask of a public school student. Make sure you have followed these steps:

If the DPS office still will not accept this information, make sure you get the name of the person that you are dealing with and the name of his/her supervisor. Then give us a call at (806) 744-4441, and we will help you know.

6. What do I do to provide a transcript for my child?

There are several sources for transcript template kits and/or software that you can simply fill in based on your own grading records.

Transcripts should include the following information:

  • student’s name and social security number
  • school name
  • courses completed
  • grading scale used
  • grade on each course
  • grade point for each semester
  • cumulative grade point average (GPA) at the end of each year and at the end of high school
  • dates of completion
  • scores of any achievement tests (e.g., SAT and/or ACT) with the scores for each section and the cumulative score
  • graduation date
  • credits earned and weight of each credit (You can assign the number of credits you think is appropriate for each class.)
  • volunteer work
  • extracurricular activities and awards earned

You should sign your name at the bottom as the administrator of the school and date it. You might even want to get it notarized.


TAXES/GOVERNMENT BENEFITS


1. Since my children do not attend public school, do we get a tax break on our school property taxes?

No. Home school families, like all families in Texas who own property, must pay local property taxes. Property owners who have no children are also required by law to pay property taxes to support public schools.

2. Can our family continue to receive public assistance if we homeschool?

Yes. The Texas Department of Human Services (TDHS) has no legal basis for denying applicants solely because they choose to home school. Within the Texas Works Handbook, the operations manual for TDHS, under section 1600-A, 1610 Eligibility Requirements, the agency clearly states, “A child or teen parent who is home schooled is attending school. Accept the parent’s statement that the child attends school at home.”

If you have trouble claiming benefits from state or federal agencies because of your home school status, you may call the THSC Association at (806) 744-4441.

3. Are home schoolers eligible to receive the IRS deduction allowed for qualified educational expenses?

No. The IRS says that home schoolers are NOT educators eligible to take the $250 deduction allowed for qualified expenses paid by teachers. For more information see page 30 of the 2012 Form 1040 Instructions Booklet.

4. Can my child receive Social Security benefits while home schooling?

Yes. Families choosing to home school their are completely protected under §404.367 of the Social Security Code.

This section states, “You may be eligible for child’s benefits if you are a full-time elementary or secondary school student.” The code then lists qualifications as to who can be considered a full-time elementary or secondary student, stating that one must “attend a school which provides elementary or secondary education as determined under the law of the state or other jurisdiction in which it is located.” Home school children are said to be in compliance with this regulation if they “(a)(1) … are instructed in elementary or secondary education at home in accordance with the home school law of the State or other jurisdiction in which [they] reside.” Furthermore, home school students must carry “(b) … a subject load which is considered full-time for day students under standards and practices set by the State or other jurisdiction in which [they] reside.” (The full text of §404.367 is available online at www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/cfr20/404/404-0367.htm.)

According to Social Security Administration Policy RS 00205.275, student benefits are payable if:

  • the student is a full-time student,
  • the state in which the home school is located recognizes home schools as an educational institution,
  • the home school is in compliance with state requirements for home schools, and
  • the student meets all other requirements for benefits.

This policy goes on to say, “The child’s home school instructor must submit evidence that state requirements for home schooling are met. The home schooling instructor is the certifying school official for FTA purposes on Form SSA-1372, Student’s Statement Regarding School Attendance.”

The state of Texas recognizes home schools as private schools, and the only requirement for them is to pursue a curriculum that meets the basic educational goals of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and a study of good citizenship. For Texas students, evidence of complying with state law would simply be a list of the courses being taught. (Click here for a legal opinion by counsel to the SSA concerning Texas State Law Requirements for Home Schooling.)

If you have trouble claiming benefits from state or federal agencies because of your home school status, you may call the THSC Association at (806) 744-4441.

5. Can home schoolers take advantage of Education Savings Accounts?

Yes. Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) have been established by the federal government to be much like an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). These accounts may be established, and up to $2,000 per year may be contributed to the account by family members as a non-tax-deductible contribution. The proceeds and interest accrued in these accounts may then be used for educational expenses like tuition, books, and supplies for not only higher education (college) needs but also elementary and secondary education needs as well. In states like Texas that view home schools as private schools, ESAs may be used for students in home schools as well as traditional public or private schools. For more information, see IRS Publication 970, page 40.


PROBLEM SITUATIONS


1. What do I do if a CPS (Child Protective Services) worker comes to my door?

See our Child Protective Service page under (Legal) Problem Situations.

2. What about custody and home schooling?

Read “Homeschooling and Child Custody” by THSC President Tim Lambert.

3. What should my children do if accosted for violating daytime curfew laws?

We encourage you to tell your children that in such a situation they should ask for identification of the person who is asking such questions. Rather than answering their questions, the child should refer the questioner to his parents unless, of course, it is a uniformed police officer.

To see if such a curfew exists in your area, review the website of your city or county.

THSC offers student ID cards for home school students. These cards are meant to allow home school students to take advantage of discounts for students. Although they are not designed for situations involving curfew laws, they might be useful if presented as an unofficial form of identification.

Find out more about THSC membership benefits, including teacher and student ID cards.

4. I am being required to provide proof of home schooling in order to receive public assistance.

See #2 under TAXES/GOVERNMENT BENEFITS.

5. Will my child still get Social Security benefits if we home school?

See #4 under TAXES/GOVERNMENT BENEFITS.

JURY DUTY


1. Am I exempt from jury duty because I am a home school teacher?

Yes, if your child is younger than 10 years old.

Section 62.106 of the Texas Government Code states that a person qualified to serve as a petit juror may establish an exemption from jury service if the person has legal custody of a child younger than 10 years of age and the person’s service on the jury requires leaving the child without adequate supervision.