A homeschool is defined as “a nonpublic school consisting of the children of not more than two families or households, where the parents or legal guardians or members of either household determine the scope and sequence of academic instruction, provide academic instruction, and determine additional sources of academic instruction.” See Gen. Stat. § 115C-563(a). Homeschools follow the requirements for either religious schools or independent schools, with a few modifications, and are overseen by the Department of Non-Public Education (DNPE). The law described in this section is contained in Gen. Stat. § 115C-547 to § 115C-567.
|Notification:||There is no requirement that parents withdrawing their children from public school notify their child’s school of their intent to homeschool. However, parents or guardians wishing to establish a homeschool must file a one-time online form with the DNPE, providing only their school’s name and address and the name of the school’s owner and chief administrator. Parents or guardians must choose whether to operate as a “private church school or school of religious charter” or “qualified nonpublic school”; the requirements for each option are identical. Parents or guardians must notify the DNPE if any information has changed (for instance, if the family moves), or when the homeschool is terminated. See Gen. Stat. § 115C-552 and § 115C-560.|
|Qualifications:||Any individual providing instruction in a homeschool must have a high school diploma or its equivalent. See Gen. Stat. § 115C-564.|
|Days or hours:||A homeschool must operate “on a regular schedule, excluding reasonable holidays and vacations, during at least nine calendar months of the year.” See Gen. Stat. § 115C-548 and § 115C-556.|
|Bookkeeping:||Parents or guardians must maintain the results of nationally standardized achievement tests for one year after they are taken, and must also maintain attendance and immunization records. These records must be made available for inspection. See Gen. Stat. § 115C-548, § 115C-549, § 115C-556, and § 115C-557.|
|Assessment:||Each year, homeschooled students must take a nationally standardized achievement test that covers English grammar, reading, spelling, and mathematics. Completion of the science and social studies sections is not required. While the tests must be annual there is no requirement that they be given at a specific time of year, and there are no qualifications laid out for whom may administer them. For one year after testing, homeschool parents or guardians are required by law to make their children’s test scores available on site for inspection by the DNPE. See Gen. Stat. § 115C-549, § 115C-557, and § 115C-564. Rather than conducting individual on-site visits, the DNPE randomly selects homeschools that are in their second, fourth, seventh, and tenth years of homeschooling and requests the homeschool administrator of each to attend a Record Review Meeting at a local public center. Attendance is not mandatory. If parents or guardians would like written confirmation that their homeschool is in compliance, they may mail a copy of their children’s latest nationally standardized achievement test scores, along with attendance and vaccination records, to the DNPE and request an Inspection Verification Certificate.|
|Intervention:||When the DNPE receives by mail a written complaint filled out using the Citizen Complaint Form available on the DNPE website, the division contacts the homeschool against which the complaint was lodged and requests them to send a copy of their latest nationally standardized achievement test scores, attendance records, and vaccination records to document their compliance with the law. If homeschool parent or guardian sends this information to the DNPE as requested, the complaint is dismissed. If this information is not provided, the homeschool is closed and removed from the DNPE listing. In this case, the DNPE mails a notice to the superintendent of the county where the homeschool was located and informs him or her that a listed homeschool has been closed. The superintendent then sends a truancy officer to visit the family to ensure that the children will be enrolled in public school. The DNPE receives 30 to 40 such complaints each year, and about half of the affected schools are closed as a result. The number of complaints would be substantially higher if the DNPE took them anonymously and by phone rather than requiring them to signed and submitted by mail.|
Services Available to Homeschooled Students
|Part-time enrollment:||Yes, at the district’s discretion.|
|Extracurriculars:||Yes, at the district’s discretion. However, the rules of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) require students to be enrolled in and attending the schools for which they play, thus barring homeschooled students from participating.|
|Disabilities:||Yes. Public schools are required by federal law to offer evaluations to all students with disabilities in their districts, including homeschooled students. Because homeschools in North Carolina operate as private schools, homeschooled students with disabilities are eligible for services provided by public schools using federal IDEA funding. Some homeschool parents of children with disabilities may qualify for an income tax credit.|
Early homeschoolers attempted to homeschool under the state’s private school law. Homeschoolers faced opposition from the Department of Non-Public Education (DNPE) until the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled in Delconte v. State (1985) that they should be permitted to operate under the rules governing private schools. In 1987 the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) proposed legislation to bring homeschooling under the jurisdiction of local boards of education. The legislature passed the state’s current homeschool law in 1988, distinguishing homeschools from private schools but keeping them under the authority of the DNPE.
For more, see A History of Homeschooling in North Carolina.
This overview is for informational purposes only and does not constitute the giving of legal advice.