Interested in homeschooling in South Carolina? Don’t know where to start?
Our FAQs answer the questions new homeschoolers ask the most often. If you have a question that’s not answered at these links, please feel free to email us.
Homeschooling, Virtual Public School, or…? What’s the difference?
It’s important to understand the difference between homeschooling, virtual public schooling, private schooling, and other options. Each one has different legal (and practical) requirements. So read this before you do anything else: What is homeschooling?
I’ve decided homeschooling is the best choice for me. How do I do it? What does the law require? Can foster parents homeschool? Can I postpone jury duty? Do we have access to interscholastic activities at the public schools?
The law that covers Option 3 of South Carolina’s homeschool law (the most popular option) describes exactly what’s required. Many people skip this step and end up doing (and spending) way more than what’s required. This version has explanatory notes to make things easier: Third Option Homeschooling
Homeschooling foster children, postponing jury duty, and access to sports, etc., is also discussed at that link.
I understand I need to register with a homeschool accountability association to comply with Option 3 requirements. How do I decide which one?
There are many great Option 3 associations, some offering just the basics (they’ll keep you legal and that’s it), while others offer field trips, classes, co-ops, and more. Research the different associations listed at the SC Department of Education’s website and narrow down your list to three or so. Then email each with specific questions to see which is the best fit for your family. (For more information about Carolina Homeschooler’s services, visit our membership page.)
Do I need to notify my local school, district, or the SC Department of Education that I’m homeschooling? Do I send a “letter of intent” to anyone? Do I need a “letter of withdrawal” to withdraw my students?
South Carolina is not a “notification” or “letter of intent” state. (Contrary to what people may tell you.)
You’re not required to notify, send a “letter of intent,” or a “letter of withdrawal” to the local school, school district, SC Department of Education, or any other state organization.
If you’ve already registered with your local school district, or you were enrolled in the public schools the previous year, you’ll need to officially withdraw your students. Take a copy of your homeschool association membership letter with you in case they ask for proof of homeschooling. (Due to the pandemic, I recommend contacting them via email instead, and attach a copy of your association membership letter if they require verification.)
If your children have never attended a SC public school, then there’s no need to officially withdraw your students (since they were never registered to begin with). Just register with a homeschool association.
If your children were previously enrolled in a private school, or you’re transferring to SC from another state, then you don’t need to notify anyone. Just register with a homeschool association.
If officials from your local district call to ask why your children aren’t in school, politely explain that you’re homeschooling. If they ask for proof, mail them a copy of your homeschool association membership letter. Send it via email or trackable mail so you’ll have proof that you sent it.
My child is in kindergarten (he/she doesn’t turn 6 on or before September 1st). What are my options?
You can sign a “kindergarten waiver” through your local school district. The waiver is a simple statement that releases the school district from any educational “deficiencies” that occur due to the absence of your child from kindergarten. If you sign the waiver, you don’t have to register with a homeschool association for oversight, count attendance, or do any record-keeping.
Many parents choose oversight by a homeschool association for their kindergartener in order to avoid contact with their local school district, or to participate in activities organized by the association, but it’s not required.
The compulsory attendance age in SC is 5 years old (or 6 years old with a kindergarten waiver) before September 1 until the child reaches 17 or graduates from high school.
Can I start homeschooling any time during the year?
Yes, you can begin homeschooling even after school starts in your area. Talk to the director of the association you choose about the best way to withdraw your child with the least hassle. In my experience, most school districts are respectful of a parent’s decision to homeschool.
SC law mandates that you teach for 180 days each year. Count the days spent previously in public school as part of your attendance total for the year – you don’t need to start over.
Can I homeschool on weekends? At night? In the summer? Do I have to keep a regular school schedule?
You can follow a traditional school schedule, if you wish, or you can school year-round, 3 weeks on and 1 week off, four days per week, include weekends, incorporate a second- or third-shift schedule, or whatever best meets the needs of your family.
Keep in mind that learning happens 365 days a year, but you’re only legally required to document 180 of those days.
Are there certain requirements for each grade level?
According to SC law, you must cover reading, writing, math, science, and social studies, and in grades 7-12, literature and composition. This is usually understood to mean that in grades 7-12, reading becomes “literature”, and writing becomes “composition.”
What you teach within those general subject areas is up to you. There is no requirement that a child must learn geography or earth science in a specific grade. A lot of “experts” disagree about what children should learn and when. Schools in different states, different counties, different districts, and even different classrooms in the same school often disagree, so I wouldn’t worry too much about trying to meet someone else’s standard.
That said, a general guideline is often helpful to new homeschoolers, and to more experienced homeschoolers who want new ideas. I recommend World Book’s Typical Course of Study for this purpose. If you decide to use it, remember it’s just a guideline – feel free to deviate from it as needed.
High school may work a little differently, depending on your student’s goals. See my Homeschooling High School FAQ below for more information.
Do we have to do every subject every day? Do we have to teach a specific number of hours each day?
Don’t feel you have to interrupt a fascinating science experiment or engrossing history book, or cut a field trip short, just so you can do math that day. Meaningful learning doesn’t work that way.
We’re required to teach 180 days a year. There’s no daily hourly requirement.
Keeping a weekly journal (instead of a daily planner) is a great way to document so you don’t feel you have to do every subject, every day. (Record-keeping methods are discussed in a separate FAQ.)
What counts as learning? Do (summer camps, scouts, online classes, field trips, etc.) count?
All learning counts. Every bit of it. It’s important to get out of the mindset that learning only happens when it’s planned, scheduled, directed, or approved by someone else. Children learn the most, and retain it much longer, if they’re the ones who initiate it, take ownership of it, and have input into what they’re learning. I don’t know of any research that doesn’t support this fact.
Traditional schools can’t allow student-led (or interest-led) learning because teachers don’t have time to facilitate a class full of students if each of them are learning different things, and it would be too expensive for them to provide the resources for each individual student even if they did. (And because all the materials would first have to be passed through committee after committee to make sure they’re “suitable” – however they define it.)
As homeschoolers, we don’t have any of these constraints. We learn 365 days a year, in a multitude of ways. As a SC homeschooler, it’ll be your job to document 180 of those days.
Do I have to do all the teaching? Can I hire tutors? Can my students take a class online? Can grandma help?
Parents, guardians, and foster parents (with the agency’s approval) are the ones who are responsible for their children’s education. You choose the curriculum that will cover the required subjects, document learning and attendance, keep samples of your children’s work, etc.
However, you can hire tutors, get grandma to help, do cooperative learning classes, outsource a specific subject, do online courses, or whatever. You decide what learning looks like for your family.
I just want to make sure I understand – my children are enrolled through one of SC’s online virtual charter schools. Are we homeschoolers?
Your children are public school students and must follow public school requirements (curriculum, testing, schedules, etc.) You can’t choose your own curriculum or schedule, and you’ll have to answer to a certified teacher who will monitor their learning and administer the required tests.
Homeschoolers are governed by SC’s homeschool law and have much more freedom to choose our own curriculum, subjects, methods of assessment, and days/hours of attendance. Our children are not considered public school students, can learn at their own pace, and don’t have to answer to a certified teacher.
All that said, we’re not saying (nor implying) that homeschooling is better (or worse) than virtual charter schooling – it is a legal distinction that must remain clear in order to protect our rights as homeschoolers. We believe that the focus should be on what’s best for the children, not on which method is “better.”
Still confused about the difference between homeschooling and public virtual charter schooling? Read this.
My children are enrolled in an online private school. Do we have to register as homeschoolers?
Yes, because you have to be “counted” somewhere in a public or private school, or a homeschool association that reports to the South Carolina Department of Education.
Most online schools don’t report to the South Carolina Department of Education. The online school is providing your curriculum, but you’re still homeschooling.
Homeschooling Methods & Resources
What are the different homeschooling methods? I feel so overwhelmed!
Homeschooling methods range from a very structured “school-at-home” approach to a completely unstructured, interest-led “unschooling” approach, with a lot of variation in between.
My homeschool guide, Homeschooling Essentials: A Practical Guide to Getting Started has detailed information about homeschool methods, schedules, testing, handling problems, keeping records, curriculum reviews, descriptions of typical days. It contains tons of practical advice from hundreds of experienced homeschoolers who answered my surveys. (It’s also available as an audiobook.)
You can also learn about different methods by getting involved with a local support group or online Facebook group. (I recommend the South Carolina Homeschooling Families Facebook group to get connected with other SC homeschooling families, and the Homeschool Resources Support Group on Facebook for curriculum suggestions and reviews.)
Find a group (whether local or online) that you feel comfortable with and ask the more experienced parents how they homeschool and what resources they’ve enjoyed using.
Through trial and error, you’ll eventually settle into a method that best suits your family.
Do we have to use textbooks and worksheets? What other resources are available? How do I choose a curriculum?
You don’t have to use textbooks and worksheets, if you don’t want to. And you don’t have to create an entire curriculum on your own, either.
Some families prefer a “school-in-a-box” curriculum, complete with textbooks, teacher’s guides, and tests, while others prefer resources based on a specific subject or learning method (unit studies, classical studies, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, classical, etc.).
Other families choose resources from their local library, state and national parks, travel, educational television, online streaming, documentaries, videos, experiment kits, museums, zoos, etc.
Before buying anything, talk to other homeschoolers who’ve had several years of experience. (I recommend the Homeschool Resources Support Group on Facebook.) Try to find families who have children with different learning styles, and who aren’t locked into a specific curriculum. They’ll be able to share what works with each of their children, and what doesn’t, and why. If they’re local, arrange a time to see their materials yourself before making a decision.
You can find experienced homeschoolers at local support group meetings, or in online groups. My homeschooling guide (linked above) includes reviews of favorite resources and curriculum. You can also view materials at a homeschool conference or used book fair. (Go in with an idea of what you want, though, or all the choices can get overwhelming – and expensive!)
Should I start out with a pre-packaged, all-in-one curriculum?
Sometimes new homeschoolers feel more comfortable starting out with something that’s completely set up for them – textbooks, assignments, tests, teacher’s guides, schedules, etc. As they become more experienced, they tend to become more comfortable and don’t need an all-in-one solution.
If you decide to start out with a pre-packaged curriculum, remember to make the curriculum fit your children’s needs instead of trying to make your children fit the curriculum. You paid for it, so use it as a tool. If a certain aspect of it isn’t working, either tweak it to fit, or throw it out and find something else.
Your children don’t have to do every assignment, complete every worksheet, or take every test. The publishers don’t know your children, so they can’t tailor it to their needs. But you can (and should). In many cases, burnout results from parents trying to make their children fit into a one-size-fits-all curriculum.
If you choose resources that fit your child’s learning style and ability level in each subject area, everyone will be happier, and your children will learn (and retain) more. For ideas on how to find these resources, read the “choosing curriculum and resources” question above.
I know a family who homeschools and they say if I don’t use “ABC” curriculum, then I’m shortchanging my children.
Their attitude reflects their own insecurities – the more people they can talk into using what they’re using, the more it validates their belief that they’re using the perfect curriculum.
After 25+ years of homeschooling, I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” curriculum. Each family is different, and each child is different. What works for one, won’t work for another.
Many homeschoolers have gone on to college and started careers after using “ABC” curriculum, but just as many have gone on to greater heights using “XYZ” curriculum, or no structured curriculum at all.
Trust me on this one. Choose your resources based on your own children’s needs, not someone else’s insecurities.
Record-Keeping & Testing
How do I keep the required educational records, such as journals or plan books, portfolios, and bi-annual reports?
Journals and Plan Books
Journals and plan books are records of what your children learn during the year. You can maintain these daily, weekly, or somewhere in between.
A journal is used to document topics and activities after your children complete them. This method is great for families who lean toward a child-led or unschooling approach because you never know what each day will bring. Recording the details at the end of the day makes more sense. This method is homeschool-friendly, but can also cause stress if you’re the type of person who feels “scattered” if you don’t have a plan or a list in front of you.
A plan book is used when you list each day’s (or week’s or month’s) activities in advance. This approach is better for those who feel more comfortable with structure and having a “plan of attack.” You can still delete assignments that you don’t get to, or add activities if you do more than you expect. However, it may make you feel overwhelmed and “behind” if you don’t do everything you initially planned.
If neither a journal nor a plan book seem quite right for you, start with a combination of the two and adjust from there. Just write down a bare skeleton (maybe weekly goals), and allow yourself and your kids to be flexible within those goals. Fill in the details as they accomplish each task and add new ideas and opportunities as they arise. Also, keep in mind that we learn 365 days a year, but you only have to document 180 days.
The required portfolio will contain samples of your children’s work. There are no rules for how many or what types of samples. If you use a structured curriculum, include some worksheets, assignments, and tests if you use them. Math usually fits into this category.
If you’re more relaxed, you’ll have to get more creative. For reading, consider including a book list. For writing, include some samples of your child’s written work – paragraphs, essays, poems, riddles, copies of letters they’ve written to family or friends, etc.
For social studies, consider including a book list (historical fiction, non-fiction, etc.), brochures and pictures from field trips, and titles of magazines, videos, and documentaries that would fit into this category. Use the same approach with science (brochures from fieldtrips, photos of experiments or projects, titles of magazines, book list, etc.).
Semiannual Progress Reports
The required semiannual progress report (usually required at the end of 90 days, and at the end of 180 days) can be a simple report card, or it can be a summary of topics studied and skills learned during the preceding 90-day period.
If you use the “summary” approach and use your computer for your plan book or journal, you can just copy and paste topics from those records into a page divided into the required subjects and add a statement regarding the number of days your child attended your homeschool during that period.
If you use the “report card” approach and don’t give grades in your homeschool, you can use “satisfactory” and “needs improvement” instead.
The high school level becomes a little more involved if your child is planning on going to college and applies for state scholarships. At that point, grade point average and SAT or ACT scores are needed. See my Homeschooling High School FAQ below for more information.
Is standardized testing required? Recommended?
Registering with an Option 3 association allows parents much more freedom to decide what’s best for their children. Most, if not all, of these associations leave the testing decision up to the parents. If you decide to use standardized tests, the results will be sent directly to you. You don’t have to report the scores to anyone else.
Testing can be helpful in reassuring reluctant husbands, family, and friends, but they can also cause stress for parents and children.
If you decide to test, remember that tests really have nothing to do with learning. They’re normed on public school students, not homeschooled students, so they don’t accurately reflect the broad range of knowledge that is typical of homeschooled students.
In addition, they’re usually administered with time restrictions. This penalizes homeschoolers who aren’t as experienced working under conditions with artificial time constraints. We tend to give our children time to think through problems. We value quality and accuracy over speed. (After all, there are very few situations where doing a math problem in five seconds flat will ever be a life or death situation.)
To complicate things even more, sometimes the tests are published by the same company that publishes public school textbooks. The tests are developed to correlate with what’s taught in the textbooks, so if your children aren’t using their textbooks in the areas of social studies and science, then they’re not going to score well in those areas. The texts/tests may cover American History in the 5th grade, for example, but your 5th-grader studied Ancient History instead.
So what’s the use in testing? As mentioned before, they tend to reassure spouses, parents, and friends. And sometimes it reassures moms, too. The scores will give you a general idea of how your child is doing in the tested subject areas when compared to publicly schooled students.
If you decide to test, consider skipping the science and social studies portions and just focus on the reading, language arts, and math sections. These three sections are more skill-related and depend less on content that may correlate with a specific text.
Also, keep in mind that many sections of the test will have time limits, so help your children become more comfortable with timed situations before administering the test.
And finally, if you decide to test, keep in mind what the test scores actually mean. Don’t expect your child to do advanced work just because they score at a higher level. If test results indicate that your child scored at a high school level in math, it doesn’t mean that she can do high school-level math. It just means that she answered as many questions correctly as the high school students they used to “norm” the test.
Your children may be above the “norm” for their age group, but whether or not they’re ready for Algebra is another matter entirely. You’ll know when they’re ready to progress to each stage of learning. Don’t let the test scores replace your own judgement.
Homeschooling High School
Can I homeschool my high school student? How difficult is it?
Yes, you can! Personally, I’ve found it just as rewarding as homeschooling younger students. However, it requires more planning to prepare your student for future goals. It also involves a little more “paperwork” if your student needs a transcript and plans to apply for state scholarships.
What classes should my student take? How many do they need to graduate? How do I grade their work and give them credits?
I recommend planning for six to eight classes per year (24-32 total credits), where each full course earns one credit, and each semester course earns half a credit.
I go into more detail about choosing classes and awarding credits in my private member’s area and in my guide, Homeschooling Essentials, but if you want to see what South Carolina requires for their public school diploma, see SC High School Course Requirements. Homeschoolers are not required to follow SC’s graduation requirements.
Will my homeschool student get a high school diploma?
South Carolina doesn’t award diplomas to students in homeschools or private schools. They only award diplomas to their public school students.
You can issue a diploma to your student, or you can join a homeschool association that provides one.
However, in my experience, colleges and employers usually don’t care much about diplomas. They want to see your student’s transcript and SAT or ACT test scores. No one has ever asked to see my (or my husband’s or children’s) high school (or college) diplomas or degrees.
That said, they’re a great keepsake for your student and many reputable companies provide beautiful diplomas (and graduation announcements, caps and gowns, class rings, etc.).
How will my student get a transcript? What’s on a transcript?
You’ll have to create one based on your high school student’s work. Regardless of the association you register with, they will take the information you give them, copy it to their form, and that’s the transcript they’ll provide to colleges. Colleges understand that these transcripts originate from parents.
Transcripts contain a list of your student’s courses, type of course (college prep, tech prep, honors, etc.), grades earned (based on the South Carolina Uniform Grading Policy), cumulative grade point average, and SAT/ACT scores. If your homeschool association ranks students, then your student’s class rank is on the transcript, too.
Is a class rank required to qualify for SC’s state-sponsored scholarships (LIFE, HOPE, and Palmetto Fellows)? Does Carolina Homeschooler provide a class rank for students?
A class rank is not required for state scholarships – it’s only one of the criteria students can qualify with for some SC scholarships. The basic requirements for these scholarships are listed below. Click on the links for more information.
For the LIFE Scholarship:
If a student is entering a four-year institution, they must meet two out of the three criteria below:
- a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA based on the SC Uniform Grading Policy;
- a minimum 1100 SAT or 24 ACT; or
- rank in the top 30% of the graduating class
(If your student’s GPA is below 3.0 or SAT/ACT scores are lower than the minimums listed, then ranking would be beneficial for your student if you think your student will rank 30% or higher. In that case, make sure you join an association that provides ranking.)
If a student is entering a two-year institution (technical college, two-year regional USC campus), then they must meet the following criteria:
- a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA based on the SC Uniform Grading Policy (the SAT/ACT score and class rank requirements are waived)
For the HOPE Scholarship:
The student must attend an eligible four-year institution and meet the following criteria:
- a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA based on the SC Uniform Grading Policy
For the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship:
Students must attend an eligible four-year institution and meet the following criteria:
- Score at least 1200 on the SAT (27 on the ACT) by the November national test administration, earn a minimum 3.50 cumulative GPA on the SC Uniform Grading Policy at the end of the junior year, and rank in the top six percent of the class at the end of either the sophomore or the junior year; or
- Score at least 1400 on the SAT (32 on the ACT) by the November national test administration and earn a minimum 4.00 cumulative GPA on the at the end of the junior year.
For information about the SC Need-Based Grant, Lottery Tuition Assistance, and more programs, see the SC Commission on Higher Education’s website.
Carolina Homeschooler has a no-ranking policy.
Problems & Issues
My friends and family are against homeschooling. They’re trying to talk me out of it and it’s causing arguments.
Put the “burden of proof” on your family and friends and don’t participate in any more arguments or homeschooling debates. Explain that you have an unfair advantage over them because you’ve done your research and they haven’t.
Put the ball in their court. Tell them you would be happy to debate the merits of homeschooling with them once they finish researching the subject as much as you have. Provide them with a list of books, magazines, websites, articles, research, and anything else you can find on the subject. Make sure you’ve read the resources on the list so you can actually discuss them with anyone who accepts your offer. My guess is that no one will take you up on it.
At this point, it’s very important that you follow through by not letting yourself be drawn into discussing or debating homeschooling with any of them until they’ve read at least some of the references on your list.
Be kind, but firm, and say something like: “I understand your concerns and know that you just want the best for little Johnny because you love him. I love him, too, and that’s why I decided to homeschool him, especially after reading all the research that supports homeschooling as a wonderful educational alternative. I’d be happy to discuss this further with you, though. Have you read any of the books, magazines, or other things I suggested? No? Well, I’m excited at the thought of discussing this with you so let me know when you get a chance to read them!”
Then smile real big and change the subject. If they try to bring you back to the argument, remind them about your unfair advantage over them, and then change the subject again. It may take a while, but they’ll give up or actually read the research and become converts.
My husband is uncertain about homeschooling. How can I convince him that it’s right for our family?
Try to ease him into it slowly. Offer to give him books, articles, or websites to read so he can become more comfortable with the idea.
If he’s still against it, ask him to give it a “trial run” for one year (or one semester if he won’t go for a full year). After that, you both can evaluate how things go and decide whether to keep on homeschooling the next year. Usually that’s all it takes. Your husband will see the benefits of homeschooling and be more supportive.
If a trial run isn’t quite enough to sway him, offer to test the children at the end of the year. If their scores are within the average range or above, then that should reassure him that they’re achieving at an average level when compared with publicly schooled students.
Test results can also be used as a way to reassure family and friends who are a little leery about homeschooling. Use the “testing” offer as a last resort, though. Testing can cause stress for everyone and really has nothing to do with learning.
When strangers find out we’re homeschoolers, they try to quiz my children. Even my relatives quiz the children to see how much they’re learning. It makes my children feel very uncomfortable. What can I do?
I don’t think people understand how uncomfortable children are with “quizzing” (whether they’re homeschoolers or not). How would they feel if people repeatedly put them on the spot and demanded that they produce “proof” of their knowledge?
While adults can often refuse to “perform,” children often feel trapped into answering because they’re taught to be polite to adults. So when it happens to your children, step in and kindly explain that you don’t normally allow people to quiz your children. However, if they’d allow your children to quiz them first, you might make an exception.
Most people won’t accept the challenge. In case they do, however, prepare questions beforehand that your children can ask. (The more difficult, the better.)
If that strategy doesn’t appeal to you, you could ask the offenders outright, “Would you try to quiz my children if they were publicly schooled?” That would hopefully make them stop to think about their motives.
After you intervene a few times, your children may feel comfortable coming up with their own strategies. Maybe something like, “Oh, are we playing a trivia game? Cool! Let us go first!” I’ve also heard of children answering a stranger’s question with, “Why are you asking me? Don’t you know the answer?”
My son is shy and gets upset every morning before school. Everyone tells me that making him go to school will eventually get him out of his shyness, but my instincts tell me that homeschooling would be better for him.
Shyness is not overcome by forcing a child into an uncomfortable situation and surrounding him with 25 to 30 same-age peers every day for 6 to 8 hours.
Shyness is overcome by gradual interaction and acceptance of a few close friends and the steady introduction of new people and new situations when a child is ready.
By slowly building your son’s interactions with new people and situations, he’ll become more confident and better able to adapt to the new experiences he will face as he grows older.
My mom constantly raves about her other grandchildren’s accomplishments and the great education they’re getting in our local public schools. She even brags about kids she hears about on the news – the awards and medals they get, and how great their schools are. When I try to share what my children are doing as homeschoolers, she asks me why I’m getting so defensive. She never seems to care about the interesting things we’re doing, and the children are starting to notice.
It sounds like your mom disapproves of your homeschooling. She’s using a passive-aggressive approach to try to make you stop. She doesn’t want to actively interfere, so she’s trying to get you to decide to stop on your own. This proves (to her) that she knows what’s best for your children and you can’t blame her for anything.
Now that you know her intentions, it’s very easy to stop her – just don’t play her game. When she brags about other children, say, “Really?! That’s great!” and change the subject to something completely unrelated to homeschooling or education in general.
Don’t be surprised if she tries it again and again. Just be firm and respond with, “Wow! That’s interesting!” and change the subject again. And so on, and so on. Just don’t engage with her on the topic – ever.
If you are consistent and don’t respond to her attempts to get you riled, she’ll eventually stop trying, or she’ll come right out and tell you she wants you to put them in school. Then you can finally discuss what is bothering her and resolve the real problem.