I’m new to homeschooling in South Carolina. What do I need to do?
- First, read the law that covers Third Option homeschooling (this is the option the vast majority of homeschoolers in SC use).
- Next, read through all the sections in this FAQ and the other links in the Homeschool FAQs drop-down menu. They will answer many of the questions you have.
- Decide on the resources and methods you’d like to start out with, but keep in mind that it’s perfectly fine to make adjustments as you go along. Methods range from a school-at-home approach (textbooks and tests), to a completely relaxed unschooling method where students decide what to learn and when. Most homeschoolers fall somewhere in between the two extremes. You can use documentaries, videos, field trips, experiments and projects, magazines, library books, and any other resource available.
- If you want in-depth information to help you make curriculum choices, my homeschooling guide (also available in audiobook) discusses homeschool methods, schedules, testing, dealing with problems, keeping records, and has curriculum reviews, descriptions of typical days, and practical advice from hundreds of experienced homeschoolers.
- Register with a Third Option association. Narrow your list down to three or so, then email your choices with specific questions to see which one is the best fit for your family. Complete the required paperwork, and make your payment. (For more information about Carolina Homeschooler’s services, visit our membership area.)
- If you’ve already registered with your local school district, or you decide to begin homeschooling mid-school-year, you’ll need to officially withdraw your students. Take a copy of your association membership letter with you in case they ask for proof of homeschooling. You don’t need to notify the SC Department of Education (or any other state organization) that you’re homeschooling.
- If your children have never attended a SC school, you don’t need to notify the school district, SC Department of Education (or any other state organization) that you’re homeschooling.
- Read the Record-Keeping FAQ section to learn how to document your children’s work during the school year.
- Join our forums so you can get help and support as you go along, and subscribe to our mailing list to keep informed about new events and trips.
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?
South Carolina is not a “notification” or “letter of intent” state. You don’t need to notify the school district, SC Department of Education (or any other state organization) that you’re homeschooling.
If you’ve already registered with your local school district, or you were enrolled in the public schools and decide to begin homeschooling mid-school-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.
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, get their name and address, and tell them you’ll mail a copy of your homeschool association membership letter. Send it via trackable mail so you’ll have proof that you sent it and that it arrived.
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. Remember that 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.
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. 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.
Are there certain requirements for each grade level?
According to state 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.” I recommend listing the subjects as Reading/Literature and Writing/Composition once they reach 7th grade and just keep learning as you were.
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 for more information.
What counts as learning? Do (summer camps, scouts, online classes, field trips, etc.) count?
Yes, all learning counts. 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 what they’ve learned 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 committees to make sure they’re “suitable” – however they define it.)
As homeschoolers, we don’t have any of these constraints. Just remember that children (and adults!) learn 365 days a year. It’ll be your job to document 180 of those days if you’re a SC homeschooler.
Can you recommend materials? Do you provide curriculum counseling?
Each family is different and each child within the family may learn differently. It’s difficult to recommend specific resources unless I know more about the age and ability levels of each child. Please read the suggestions about how to find appropriate resources in the Methods and Resources section of this FAQ, and consider joining our forums for tips and advice from other homeschooling families.
What are the advantages of enrolling in a Third Option association?
The main advantages of an Option 3 association are less record-keeping, no mandated testing, less intrusion, and less cost. Families also benefit from the mandate written into the law that gives parents the responsibility of maintaining student records, ensuring a higher level of privacy for enrolled families.
Most Option 3 associations provide extra services such as online classes, field trips, transcripts, diplomas, graduation ceremonies, regular office hours, bookstores, resource centers, special needs counseling, curriculum counseling, scholarship guidance, and more. Check with the different associations to see which offer the services that are important to you. Here’s what Carolina Homeschooler offers.
I heard that my children may not be accepted into college unless we homeschool through Option 1 or Option 2. Is that true?
No, it isn’t. Regardless of what option you choose (1, 2, or 3), their primary purpose is to provide the mandated accountability for your homeschool. That’s it. They don’t provide the materials or the education – you do. They also don’t provide a state-accredited diploma. The SC Department of Education only accredits diplomas that are distributed through their public schools. Private school diplomas, homeschool association diplomas, and parent-made diplomas are all outside of the state’s purview.
In any case, the most important aspect of the college application, admission, and scholarship process is your child’s transcript and SAT or ACT scores, not diplomas. A transcript provides details about what your student has accomplished, a diploma doesn’t. Colleges and scholarship committees most likely won’t even ask for a copy of your child’s diploma.
Many associations have boasted Palmetto, LIFE, and college-specific scholarship recipients. Students from every association have been admitted to colleges, started careers, or have gone on to achieve great things, regardless of the association they “graduated” from.
Choose an association which provides the level of expertise and assistance you need to navigate the college admissions and scholarship process. Ask them questions about their experience before choosing the one that’s right for you.
The information I received from the SC Department of Education says I have to homeschool for 4.5 hours each day and fill out forms for my local school district. Is that correct?
The paperwork you received tends to confuse many prospective homeschoolers. The 4.5 hour per day and forms are requirements for those who homeschool under section 59-65-40 (through the oversight of the local school district, otherwise known as Option 1). They are not requirements for those homeschooling under section 59-65-47 (Option 3). For exact requirements for Third Option homeschoolers, read the text of the law for yourself.
My children are enrolled through one of SC’s online virtual charter schools. Are we homeschoolers?
No, 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.”
How do I meet other homeschoolers?
Visit our forums to connect with other homeschoolers in your local area. If you enjoy traveling, consider joining us on one of our local field trips and events, and on our national and international group trips featured at our sister site, Traveling Homeschoolers.