Our family began homeschooling six years ago, and although a lot of energy went into making plans and considering curriculum, my first concern was how to do it legally. I had taught in the public school system for more than a decade and had no desire to inadvertently break any truancy laws in the process of educating my own daughter. Where to begin?
To my delight, the answers were not hard to find. The South Carolina Department of Education has several helpful links on their website, and the rules for homeschooling in South Carolina are spelled out plainly in legislation. There are also good explanations on the website for Carolina Homeschooler, and also on the website for the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (which has information about the other forty-nine states too). All of these are great resources when you are doing your own research.
Please note: The summary below is NOT legal advice, but my understanding of the law as stated in the South Carolina Department of Education link above.
To sum up, there are three pathways, or “options,” for homeschooling in South Carolina. All three options require:
- Parents to have a high school diploma or GED
- Instruction in math, science, reading, writing, and social studies and, in grades 7 through 12, literature and composition
- 180 days of schooling
- Records demonstrating attendance, instruction, and progress
The primary differences are summarized below:
Submit an application to homeschool through your local school district. If you choose this option, your curriculum must be approved by your school district and your child will participate in state testing, administered by a state employee. You must maintain records of what is taught, and these records may be requested by school officials with reasonable notice. A semiannual progress report must be submitted to the school district for review. If at any time the district believes a homeschool is not operating the according to what is spelled out in the legislation, they can give the parents 30 days to correct any deficiencies before withdrawing their approval. You must teach your children for 180 school days, and your school day is expected to be four and a half hours long (not counting lunch and recess). There are also various regulations regarding testing, and the consequences of not doing well on those tests, that parents should be sure to understand.
Sign up to homeschool through SCAIHS, the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools. There is an annual fee per family ranging from $350 to $450, depending on how many children you are enrolling, plus additional fees for high school, seniors, and special needs. (If your child is in kindergarten, though, the fee is only $45, and there is a 5% discount for military, police, firemen, missionaries, and full time pastors.) If you choose this option, your curriculum choices must be approved by SCAIHS, your child is required to participate in annual testing, and you are accountable to SCAIHS to demonstrate that you are fulfilling all legal requirements of homeschooling, including finishing 180 instructional days by May 31. They also provide many services to parents, including a 15% discount at their bookstore. SCAIHS must report the number and grade levels (but not names) of homeschooled children to local school districts.
Sign up to homeschool through an “Option 3 accountability group,” which is an association of homeschooling families of no fewer than 50 members. These accountability groups then report the number and grade levels (but not names) of homeschooled children to local school districts by the end of January. Generally, Option 3 accountability groups are less expensive than SCAIHS. At the same time, the amount of support they offer parents varies from group to group, so checking them out yourself and seeing what they offer and what you need is the best bet. Your curriculum must include reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and, in grades 7–12, composition and literature, but there is no set curriculum that must be followed, so there tends to be more flexibility with Option 3. You must keep educational records, including a plan book, a portfolio of samples of academic work, and a semi-annual progress report that shows attendance.
South Carolina homeschool laws are not the most lenient in our country, but they aren’t the strictest either. I am thankful to live in a state that makes homeschooling very doable, and I am grateful to the homeschool advocates around our state who have lobbied for options two and three over the years.