FAQ – Residence/Guardianship

Can my children be homeschooled by their grandparent?

The home instruction statute 22.1-254.1 says “…every parent, guardian, or other person in the Commonwealth having control or charge of any child…shall…or provide for home instruction of such child, or have such child taught by a tutor or teacher of qualifications prescribed by the Board of Education and approved by the division superintendent.” The legal status of having someone else homeschool one’s children is a gray area in the homeschool statute (unless that person is a certified teacher, qualifying under the Approved Tutor provision.) Many families in Virginia have their children homeschooled by family or friends although this is not addressed in the law. Should you choose to have a grandparent assist in homeschooling your children, as the parent/guardian of the child you should be the person to file the NOI.

I would like to homeschool my own children and homeschool other people’s children along with my own kids, in my home. Would this classify me as a homeschool or as a private school?

Your question gets into one of the many gray areas surrounding homeschooling in Virginia. There definitely is a market for providing instruction to homeschooled children, but you need to be very careful what you call this instruction, how/where you provide it, and how often you are providing it.

The legal status of having someone else homeschool one’s children (even a family member) is questionable unless that “someone else” has a valid teacher’s license (in which case it’s called “tutoring”, not “home instruction”).

If you provide instruction to multiple children (other than your own) in your own home or elsewhere for more than a couple hours per day/week, and charge money for your services, then you are running a “school” and are subject to the same regulations as private schools. Depending on where you live, you may also be subject to the same regulations as persons running a home business.

Exceptions:

Many individuals supplement their income by teaching individual academic or enrichment subjects to other people’s children. (Examples: a writing class or a drawing class offered in a home, co-op, rec center, church, etc.) Teaching a single class in your home a couple times a week does not make you a “school”.

Some individuals with valid teacher’s licenses work as tutors to other people’s children, teaching some or all academic subjects. If a parent hires a tutor to provide instruction in most or all academic subjects, this is called “hiring a tutor” and the child is being educated under the “approved tutor provision” of the Code of Virginia 22.1-254. This is NOT considered “home instruction” in Virginia for legal purposes, even if the child is receiving all his instruction inside his/her own home. Tutoring a single child in your home does not make you a “school,” either.

Before embarking on any homeschool-related business, we strongly recommend that you talk with families in your community to gauge interest in your business and services. The homeschool market is mature and there may be other entrepreneurs in your community who are already providing these services. Or interest may not be sufficient to provide a full-time income. It’s better to find this out before going to all the trouble of starting up a business.

What is the difference between homeschooling and having your own private school in your home?

Private schools are regulated through the Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE). They can tell you about which laws specifically govern private schools. However, in Virginia, home instruction is not considered to be a “school” or a “private school”. It is governed under the home instruction statute, not the private school laws.

How does one qualify to be an approved homeschool tutor?

To become a “tutor of qualifications” or an “approved tutor” teaching students who are not enrolled in public schools, you must have a valid Virginia teaching license. While this may sound like “homeschooling”, it is not considered “home instruction” under Virginia law—it’s considered “tutoring”. Tutored students are not subject to the home instruction statute (22.1-254.1). Either the tutor or the parents would submit the tutor’s teaching credentials to the school division; no additional reporting to the school division is required by law. You may read more about the Tutor provision by visiting Approved Tutor Provision.

If we are moving out of state or overseas, can we still homeschool under Virginia law if we maintain our residence or are military?

Children are required to comply with the school attendance laws of the state where they reside. You should contact a state homeschooling organization where you will be residing or consult the laws of the country where you will be residing. Military families can get more information on the site The Military Homeschoolers.

Can we file under Virginia homeschool law if we are living in Virginia but our kids are living with their grandparents (who will be homeschooling them) in another state?

Children are required to comply with the school attendance laws of the state where they reside not the state where their parents reside. So if the grandparents have physical custody of the child in another state, then they are responsible for seeing that the child is educated—whether that means sending him to the public school down the road, the local private school, or homeschooling him. You should contact a state homeschooling organization in the state where your child reside to get information about how to best comply with the laws in that state.

My friend’s child is home schooled, but, basically is not being taught. I am concerned and wonder what can I do?

It is important to understand that home education is as unique as each family that chooses to undertake it.  It may be that your neighbor’s child is playing outside at 10 a.m., while other neighborhood children are in class, but spends Saturday evenings doing math with her dad or begins reading history books before the school bus has driven down the street.  In Virginia, homeschooling parents are responsible for deciding what their children will learn, what materials and learning experiences are best for their families, and the schedule for learning and other family activities.  Many homeschooling families intentionally choose not to replicate the institutional school approach at home, and instead integrate learning across their entire family lifestyle.  In some cases, children with special educational or emotional needs are homeschooled when the public school system cannot meet their individual educational and other needs; someone outside the family may not even be aware of the child’s unique circumstances. So while it may seem to you that your neighbor’s child is “not being taught,” she may in fact be learning all the time, but not in ways that look recognizably like “school” to someone outside the family.

Unfortunately, not every family that chooses homeschooling is well-equipped to succeed in the long run.  In other cases, a family financial or health crisis may create insurmountable challenges that interfere with the parents’ ability to adequately address their children’s needs.  Support from family, friends, neighbors and the homeschooling community can provide the bridge that helps a family in a vulnerable or difficult situation reach a better place. If you are concerned about your neighbors, you could try to reach out to them.  Let them know about VaHomeschoolers and the resources we provide to homeschooling families.  Offer them our toll-free helpline number (866) 513-6173, and we will do everything we can to connect the family with what they need to succeed in homeschooling.

If you have reason to believe that this family is not in compliance with the compulsory attendance code, you can contact the superintendent’s office of your local public school division with your concerns. The compulsory attendance code covers annual reporting and evaluation requirements for home instructed students. Keep in mind that this family may have filed with the school division for a religious exemption from the compulsory attendance code, or may be using a private, home-based tutor, in which case they would be exempt from these requirements.

If you continue to feel truly concerned about your young neighbor’s safety because you think he or she may be abused or neglected, please contact the Virginia Department of Social Services’ Child Protective Services.  This is a very difficult call to make, but CPS will investigate your concerns about physical and emotional abuse and neglect, and work to provide the family with assistance and to protect the children if necessary.  CPS does not investigate issues related solely to educational matters, as there is no definition of “educational neglect” in Virginia.  VaHomeschoolers also has information for homeschooling families who have been contacted by CPS, which you may wish to review  Answering Child Protective Services (CPS) Questions.


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