Do the Texas homeschool laws seem confusing? It might feel overwhelming to jump into homeschooling, worried over whether you are truly following all the rules you are supposed to be following.
As a dedicated parent, we applaud you wanting to make sure you are doing the right thing for your homeschooled student.
Great news for you: It’s simple! There are only three requirements:
- Your schooling must be bona fide
- Your curriculum must be in visual form
- such as a book, workbook or video
- Your curriculum must include the five basic subjects of
- good citizenship (similar to civics).
Let’s dive deeper into these three requirements.
First, a little history…
Currently, Texas is renowned as one of the most free states to homeschool. Texas doesn’t make homeschool families jump through lots of hoops. And Texas homeschool students continue to excel academically and to be pursued by colleges and universities.
Yet, did you know that homeschooling wasn’t always legal in Texas? Check out this video about the history of homeschooling laws in Texas and the heroes that paved the way for you here in the Lone Star State.
Is Texas really more free than other states?
We absolutely have more freedom as homeschoolers than in other states. If you are curious, here is an overview of some of the things that other homeschooling families have to bend over backward to follow in other states. Some states seem to treat their homeschoolers more like criminals than like free citizens.
Where can I find the laws?
The full text of the law regarding homeschooling is found here, from the Texas Constitution and Statutes site. The Texas Education Agency has published the Commissioner’s Informational Homeschool Letter with further generalized information.
There is also legal precedent (a previously reported court opinion that establishes the legal in the future on the same legal question) found in the Leeper case. A summary of their findings state that:
“a school-age child residing in the State of Texas who is pursuing under the direction of a parent or parents or one standing in parental authority in or through the child’s home
- in a bona fide (good faith, not a sham or subterfuge) manner,
- a curriculum consisting of books, workbooks, other written materials, including that which appears on an electronic screen of either a computer or video tape monitor, or any combination of the preceding from cither (1) of a private or parochial school which exists apart from the child’s home or (2) which has been developed or obtained from any source,
- said curriculum designed to meet basic education goals of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics and a study of good citizenship, is in attendance upon a private or parochial school within the meaning of Section 21.033(a)(l) of the Texas Education Code and exempt from the requirements of compulsory attendance at a public school.”
The law classifies students from six to 19 years of age as “school-age children.”
What does “bona fide” actually mean?
Bona fide is a term that means “sincerely; without intention to deceive; authentic.” Basically, your homeschool must use a “written curriculum” that is a real, authentic curriculum with a structure. Also, yes, online curriculum programs meet the written curriculum requirement.
What this law is trying to avoid is general laziness: such as declaring you’ve taught your fourth grader all the math they need to know for the week because you made cookies together today and the recipe had fractions written on the ingredient list.
Yes, cooking together does teach real-world math, but knowing how to measure one cup of flour is not all the math your child needs to know to be successful. You get it. Homeschooling takes effort and dedication!
What about the required subjects?
Any of the curriculum style approaches described on HomeEducator.com would be considered “bona fide” under Texas law. You can also check out Cathy Duffy Reviews to find just the right curriculum for your children.
Just make sure that you are teaching reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics and good citizenship and you are good to go! Many language arts homeschool curriculums include reading, spelling and grammar in one program.
You can teach these subjects daily or break up your schedule into weekly lessons. For instance, you could teach reading, spelling and grammar on Mondays and Wednesdays and follow with mathematics and good citizenship on Tuesdays and Thursdays, saving Fridays for field trips.
You can add as many other subjects as you and your family would like to explore. The sky’s the limit!
Is my homeschool classified as a private school in Texas law?
Yes. Homeschools in Texas are legally classified as a type of private school. They are consequently subject to different requirements than other types of private schools.
The classification of homeschools as private schools within the meaning of the Leeper decision deals with the compulsory attendance statue, or how many days per year a student has to be in school. The Leeper decision did not classify home schools to be the same as all other types of private school in all contexts.
What do I do legally if my child has been enrolled in public school?
If your child is or recently has been a student of a Texas public school, you must officially withdraw them. You can do that by submitting a withdrawal letter.
If your child’s school district requests more information or asks for you to come to the school to fill out paperwork, you are not legally required to go to the school in person. Instead, send a letter of assurance, which explains that the child is to attend homeschool.
If you join THSC, you get public school withdrawal support: If you run into any trouble while withdrawing, we’ll work with your school. Thousands of Texas homeschool families have withdrawn from public school to homeschool.
We can connect your family with an invaluable wealth of information and support, so don’t feel alone in the withdrawal process. We’ve been there before many times and are happy to help you at any step in the process!
Do I have to register with the public school if my child has never attended public school before?
Absolutely not. If your child has never attended a public school, do not contact your local school. You are free to begin homeschooling any time. There is no one that you need to get permission from and no forms you need to fill out in Texas.
How do I fulfil the Good Citizenship requirement?
Texas requires that students learn good citizenship as one of their subjects. Teaching good citizenship should develop the character qualities and the mindset of a good citizen.
The pledge of allegiance for lower grades and history, civics, and government for higher grades would all qualify as good citizenship. Learn more about teaching good citizenship here.
Do I have to keep attendance records?
Parents in Texas are not required to keep attendance records for each school year, but THSC offers planning tools and resources if you would like to do so for your own records. Remember, the goal is learning!
What about other types of record keeping?
There are other types of records besides attendance records. While you are not required by the state of Texas to keep records, we recommend that you keep a copy of the following items just to cover all your bases:
- A portfolio of work by each student showing what they’ve accomplished in each grade.
- Notes on what textbooks, workbooks and lesson plans you’ve used each year.
- Copies of any correspondence that you’ve had with the public school.
- Test results from tests that you’ve given, though standardized testing is not required.
- Field trips attended, including those taken with support groups.
How does my high school student graduate from homeschooling?
THSC members have access to high school transcript and diploma templates.
The TEA recommended high school program consists of 26 credits. The core recommended course sample is:
- Four credits of English/Language Arts
- Four credits of Mathematics, including Algebra I, II and Geometry
- Four credits of Science, including Biology, Chemistry and Physics
- Four credits of Social Studies, including World History, World Geography, U.S. History, one-half credit Government one-half credit Economics
- One credit of Physical Education
- One-half credit of Speech
- One credit of Fine Arts
- Five-and a half credits of Electives
- Two credits of Foreign Language Studies.
As a parent, you are in charge of graduating your homeschool student. The administrators of a homeschool (the parents) have the ability to determine requirements for graduation, just like private schools do.
When your child has completed what you determine to be your school’s requirements for graduation, you may graduate them and award a diploma. Read more about graduating your high school student.
Texas Homeschooling Laws Aren’t a Mystery…
Now you’ve gotten an in-depth lesson about the official State of Texas homeschooling laws! You now know about creating the best homeschool possible for your children and making sure to do so legally.
“Don’t be afraid to give your children the leg up to join the ranks of Mozart, Bach, Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Monet, da Vinci, Einstein, Newton, Pascal, Edison, and countless other world-shaking individuals who don’t need introductions other than their familiar last names…” (source)
Let us be there for you!
THSC believes that parents should be empowered to raise and educate their children as the next generation of leaders. As a THSC member, we support your family to do just that! Have you joined? If not, check out our membership benefits that are Keeping Texas Families Free.