If you are thinking of homeschooling your child or children in the state of Alabama, there are essential steps that you will need to be complete first.
The first step to homeschool in Alabama is choosing which method of homeschooling you will use. Next, gather all necessary documents to submit to the new teaching team and the local superintendent. Complete a student withdrawal form from public school. Take time to get familiar with the curriculum and the new schedule.
Knowing which educational option would be best for your family might seem intimidating. Once you know more about each one, the final decision could be easier than you thought.
Essential Steps to Start Homeschooling in Alabama
The first step is deciding what schooling option you are going to choose. There are six educational platforms, outside of public schooling, that Alabama recognizes. Those are a church school, private school, private tutor, online, cover school, and unschooling.
Next, you will need to provide enrollment forms, attendance records, and immunization records to the new educational team, as well as the superintendent of your local public school. If your child is currently enrolled or scheduled to be enrolled in public school, a completed withdrawal form is needed to properly withdraw your student from the current or upcoming school year. It is necessary to avoid any truancies reported to the school board.
You may be required to choose a curriculum if one is not already in place. It is vital to choose a curriculum that is understandable, applicable and provides the core learning concepts for the student’s age and grade level. If online education is the preferred homeschooling method for your child, it will require access to a computer with an internet connection. A book-based education will require a purchased, or borrowed, set of curricula-related books to use throughout the homeschooling year.
Sticking to a learning schedule is beneficial for parents, students, and caregivers. If the chosen facility does not already establish a daily program, you will need to put one in place that works well with everyone’s schedules and the child.
Joining an Alabama Homeschool Association will be a resource step you do not want to skip. The Alabama Homeschool Association, or AHA, is a state-wide organization to help answer questions about the homeschooling process, laws, and address any other concerns you might have.
Once you have completed these steps, you and your child are well on the way to starting a new journey through homeschooling.
Is Homeschooling the Right Decision?
Alabama is a low regulation state when it comes to homeschooling. Children between the ages of 6 and 17 will be required to attend and participate in an educational program. Deciding to homeschool your child, or children, can be a big decision to make. The education received from one of the various methods of homeschooling allowed in Alabama might not be the replica of that obtained through a local public school, but that does not mean the education would be any less valuable.
Some children learn more through a hands-on approach, while others gain more from lectures and listening. There will be children who are more self-led and prefer to read, analyze, and process information in their own time. Some children will learn best through a mix of learning styles as they advance into new topics and lessons.
Understanding what your child’s learning preference is, their struggles, and their educational desires will help you decide if homeschooling is the right choice to make. It is always important to include your child in the homeschooling discussion to ensure the decision is made with everyone having a chance to voice their opinion and have questions answered. There is no right or wrong choice, as only you and your family will know what will work best for all involved.
What is a Church School?
A church school is a form of homeschooling done through a local participating church. The grades offered are K-12 and preschool. Schooling is accomplished through an onsite program, or at home with lesson instruction. The church does not receive federal funding for educational programs, making it the church’s responsibility to establish policies for teacher qualification, the number of days expected for students’ attendance, and the required subjects that will be covered.
When enrolling in a church school, it is the parent’s responsibility to complete a church school enrollment form and submit it to the local public school superintendent. The teachers at the church school must maintain an attendance record for all the students and school days of the school year. CHEF, Christian Home Education Fellowship, has created a list of church schools in Alabama that allow homeschool students to enroll. You can view that list here.
What is Private School?
Private schools can have their campus, be established by a parent or caregiver as home-based, or be a home-based extension of an already existing private school. Preschool through twelfth grade is available with private schooling. Private schools do not receive federal funds but can apply for federal grants and scholarships, along with student tuition and donations, to provide educational resources for families.
It is the responsibility of the private school to submit the names and addresses of all students enrolled in the school by the fifth day of the new school year. They also have to report all unexcused absences to the county superintendent every week. Teachers are required to maintain an attendance record for their students for the school year. It is the parent’s responsibility to provide the school with proof of immunization or a medical or religious exemption from vaccination.
What is a Private Tutor?
In the state of Alabama, a private tutor must be an Alabama certified teacher. Tutors are to instruct in English and follow the same lessons that are being taught in public school. While the typical public school day is six to eight hours in length, a private tutor must teach no less than three hours a day between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm. Each school year is required to consist of 140 days. It is the responsibility of the tutor to submit their list of students, subjects taught, tutoring schedule, attendance, and student work portfolio to the superintendent.
What is Online Homeschooling?
Online homeschooling is handy for a busy family, students who work better outside of the crowded classroom, or those with good time-management and self-discipline skills. There are teacher-led, self-led, parent-led, and a mix of two or three program options to be an all-in-one package. Some of the online programs are free, and others may require a monthly or annual membership fee.
Monarch, a Christian based online program, can be both parent and student-led with either a monthly or yearly membership. K12 is tuition-free and set up to instruct homeschooled students through real-time classes, taught online by certified teachers. A list of other online homeschool programs can be found here.
What is Cover School?
Cover school is another name for church school or umbrella school. Up until 2014, this was the only way to homeschool in the state of Alabama. When researching cover schools, umbrella schools, or church schools, the names are frequently used interchangeably.
What is Unschooling?
Unschooling is more child-led than any other option. This method allows the student to pursue their interests rather than use a pre-made curriculum. Even though the name is unschooling, it is still an active learning process using everything around the student to engage the learner to be a part of what they are learning instead of merely learning.
Some families will use unschooling to study one part of the curriculum with a minimal structured routine. Others might be more structured and incorporate multiple subjects with room for personal interests. Some students and families prefer a structured way. They want to focus on core subjects while they gradually transition into a more in-depth, unschooling approach to allow themselves more freedom to pursue their interests.
Before making the jump to unschooling, you will want to contact local cover schools to see if they work with unschoolers, should the student ever want to transition back into that kind of homeschool program. You will also want to contact your local superintendent to ask what type of record-keeping will be required and what documents need to be submitted while choosing to follow an unschooled self-directed program in your county.
Where Can I Find Homeschool Curriculum?
If choosing a curriculum is your choice and responsibility, there are many resources available to you and your child. Your local library is a great place to start searching for free books, community events, and local tutoring. Online, the possibilities are almost endless.
Duolingo is free to use and offers fun language learning activities. Alpha Omega Publications, AOP, is a Christian-based learning platform that offers online, digital, student-paced, and teacher-led programs. K12 is a teacher-led online program. If you are looking to create your own curriculum and not use a pre-made package, School House Teachers has hundreds of lessons available to teach online using a single sign-on. You can access videos, print complete lesson plans, and gain access to Applecore for student record keeping. For young learners, ABC Mouse is a fun and interactive program that teaches reading, math, science, and colors.
There are many other resources available. Joining a local homeschool co-op is a great way to meet other homeschool parents and students. Other co-op members will surely have a list of resources they use and would recommend as well.
Can My Child Still Play School Sports While Homeschooled?
Homeschooled students can still participate in sporting activities; however, the requirements and options may differ from those of public school students. To play on a public school team, a homeschooled student will need to enroll and attend two electives at the school the student is zoned to attend. If P.E. is required to play the sport, the homeschooled student can take P.E. as one of the elective classes. If virtual courses are available for the electives, they will count towards the requirement.
Another option that does not require going through a public school is to join a community team. There are also sports clubs, competitive teams, city teams, county teams, and private tuition-based sports teams that homeschool students can join.
Can I Get Help with My Child’s Special Needs and Behaviors While Homeschooling?
Your child is eligible to receive special education services if enrolled in public or private schools. Church schools are not recognized as private schools, so they do not qualify for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, funding. Students with disabilities that have enrolled in a church school are eligible for testing through public schools but not entitled to the services of the public school. Public schools are required to share IDEA funding with private schools, allowing private schools to offer services for those in need.
Are There Graduation Requirements for Homeschooled Students?
Homeschool students have similar graduation requirements to public school students. The number of credits needed to be considered a high school graduate is 24. That number gets broken down into four credits each for English Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, and Science. One credit is needed for P.E., and one for a Career Preparedness course. Three credits are required in Foreign Language or Arts, 2.5 credits in electives, and 0.5 credits in a Health Education class.
Higher learning institutions such as community colleges or public universities, cannot deny enrollment to homeschool or non-public school students. Those who graduate from church schools or private schools will no longer have to take a GED test prior to being accepted into a state college.