When our family began making plans to homeschool, 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 rules for homeschooling in South Carolina are spelled out plainly in legislation. There are also good explanations on the website for Carolina Homeschoolers, 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/literature, writing/composition, and social studies
- 180 days of schooling
- Records demonstrating attendance, instruction, and progress
The primary differences are summarized below:
Sign up to homeschool through your local school district. If you choose this option, your curriculum must be approved by your school district and you will participate in state testing. 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. Your school day is expected to be four and a half hours long (not counting lunch and recess).
Sign up to homeschool through SCAIHS, the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools. There is an annual fee per child that ranges from $340 to $450, depending on how many children you are enrolling. (If your child is in kindergarten, though, the fee is only $25.) If you choose this option, your curriculum choices must be approved by SCAIHS, you are required to get your child tested annually, and you are accountable to SCAIHS to demonstrate that you are fulfilling all legal requirements of homeschooling. They also provide many services to parents. SCAIHS must report the number and grade levels (but not names) of homeschooled children to local school districts.
Sign up to homeschool through “Option 3 accountability group”, which is an association of homeschooling families of no fewer than 50 members (the approved list can be found HERE) These accountability groups then report the number and grade levels (but not names) of homeschooled children to local school districts. Generally, Option 3 accountability groups are less expensive than SCAIHS. 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. Families must submit mid-year and end-of-year reports of attendance and keep records of work done in the areas of reading, writing, math, science, and social studies, but there is no set curriculum that must be followed, so there tends to be more flexibility with Option 3.
South Carolina homeschool laws are not the most lenient in our country, but neither are they the strictest. 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.
If you homeschool, which option do you use? Tell us why it works for your family!