Homeschooling laws can change, so be sure to check the Iowa Department of Education website for updates.
Are you ready to start homeschooling in Iowa? You may have many questions about topics like what you need to do to begin, what recordkeeping and testing is required, and how you need to interact with your local school district. You will want to start by understanding Iowa homeschool law. You may feel overwhelmed as you start this process, but there are resources available and other homeschoolers who have already succeeded on this adventure!
Here is some information on Iowa homeschool requirements to get you started:
Iowa Homeschool Law
According to Iowa Code § 299.1, “Except as provided in section 299.2, the parent, guardian, or legal or actual custodian of a child who is of compulsory attendance age shall cause the child to attend some public school or an accredited nonpublic school, or place the child under competent private instruction or independent private instruction in accordance with the provisions of chapter 299A, during a school year, as defined under section 279.10.”
Compulsory attendance age is described as follows (Iowa Code § 299.1A):
- “Except as provided in subsections 2 and 3, a child who has reached the age of six and is under sixteen years of age by September 15 is of compulsory attendance age. However, if a child enrolled in a school district or accredited nonpublic school reaches the age of sixteen on or after September 15, the child remains of compulsory age until the end of the regular school calendar.
- A child who has reached the age of five by September 15 and who is enrolled in a school district shall be considered to be of compulsory attendance age unless the parent or guardian of the child notifies the school district in writing of the parent’s or guardian’s intent to remove the child from enrollment in the school district.
- A child who has reached the age of four by September 15 and who is enrolled in the statewide preschool program under chapter 256C shall be considered to be of compulsory attendance age unless the parent or guardian of the child submits written notice to the school district implementing the program of the parent’s or guardian’s intent to remove the child from enrollment in the preschool program.”
According to the Iowa Department of Education, there are four options for homeschooling:
- “Full-time home school with the support of a certified teacher (Competent Private Instruction): Home instruction is supervised by a teacher hired by the family or provided by a district’s Home School Assistance program (HSAP).
- Full-time home school without the support of a certified teacher (Competent Private Instruction or Independent Private Instruction): The family provides the total educational program with no interaction with a public school or certified teacher.
- Part-time homeschool with part-time enrollment in a school district (Competent Private Instruction): The student completes some instruction at home and participates in a public school for some instruction or extra-curricular activities.
- Attendance at a non-accredited school (Competent Private Instruction): A student attends a school that does not meet accreditation standards.”
For purposes of this post, the focus will be on Independent Private Instruction (IPI), which meets the following criteria:
- “Is not accredited.
- Not more than four unrelated students.
- No tuition, fees, or other remuneration.
- Private or religious-based instruction as its primary purpose.
- Teaches mathematics, reading and language arts, science, and social studies.
- Provides report on request.
- Not nonpublic school or CPI [Competent Private Instruction]
- Exempt from all state statutes/rules except as otherwise provided in chapter 299 and 299A. Iowa Code § 299A.1 (2) (b).”
For information on the other three homeschooling options, see the “Private Instruction Comparison Chart” and detailed information in the current “Private Instruction Handbook,” both found on the Home Schooling (Private Instruction) page on the Iowa Department of Education website.
What do I need to be eligible to be a homeschool parent?
There are no required qualifications for you to homeschool your child.
Do I need to notify the school district of my intent to homeschool my child?
“To enroll a child in IPI for the first time there is no form required. A parent, guardian, or legal or actual custodian choosing IPI is advised to inform the district that they will be choosing this option.” A district superintendent or the director of the department of education may request, in writing, that a parent or guardian “notify the school district of residence of the decision to elect Independent Private Instruction for purposes of compliance with compulsory attendance and truancy laws (Iowa Code § 299.1 and Iowa Code § 299.8).” If this occurs, the school district will then provide the FERPA Parent, Guardian, or Legal or Actual Custodian Notification Form: Independent Private Instruction.
What educational options are available to my homeschooler?
Homeschool students will be able to access e-Learning Central course content through the local district. Check with your local district for course availability and registration.
According to the Iowa Department of Education, students in Independent Private Instruction may access Senior Year Plus programming through the district. “This applies only to concurrent enrollment in community colleges under Iowa Code § 261E.8. No other Senior Year Plus options are available.” You should contact your district of residence to enroll in concurrent enrollment courses, preferably at the beginning of the school year.
Iowa Homeschool Requirements
Even though Iowa does not highly regulate homeschooling, there are some Iowa homeschool requirements you must satisfy when you homeschool:
- Begin homeschooling by age 6 (or earlier without prior written notice if your child reaches the age of four (for preschool) or the age of five by September 15) (Iowa Code § 299.1A).
- Notify the district of residence of the intent to homeschool.
- Submit a report “identifying the primary instructor, location, name of the authority responsible for the independent private instruction, and the name of the students enrolled,” if requested by the superintendent of the district of residence.
- Teach the four required content areas: mathematics, science, reading and language arts, and social studies.
- Stay current with homeschooling laws and requirements.
Do I need to administer testing to my homeschooler?
No! When participating in Independent Private Instruction, “there is no requirement for students to be assessed annually (Iowa Code § 299A.1 (2) (b)). If requested and with advanced notice to the district, the district shall provide courtesy standardized testing at no costs.” Requests should be made by October 1 or within 14 days of moving into the district.
What records do I need to keep when I homeschool my child?
In Iowa, mandatory reporting is described as follows by the Iowa Department of Education: “The parent or guardian of a student enrolled provides upon written request from the superintendent in the district of residence or the director of the department of education a report identifying the primary instructor, location, name of the authority responsible for the independent instruction, and the names of the students enrolled (Iowa Code § 299A.1 (2) (b) (6)).”
Because “IPI instructors are responsible for accountability of their own students’ progress,” we recommend you do some personal recordkeeping to provide verification of education in the event you would need to show some form of educational proof to the state or other legal entities or to prepare for re-entry into public school or post-secondary pathways. This includes the following:
- Immunization records (although a child in IPI is exempt from immunization requirements)
- Lists of texts and workbooks used
- Student schoolwork samples and/or portfolios
- Test and evaluation results
- Correspondence with school officials
You may also be able to find more information on Iowa homeschool requirements through your local school district.
Other Iowa Homeschool Policies
Once you make sure that you are following Iowa homeschool law and meeting Iowa homeschool requirements, here are some other things you need to know:
Can my homeschooled child participate in extracurricular activities offered by the public school?
When participating in Independent Private Instruction, “students cannot dual enroll with the district for academics (including special education) or extracurricular activities.” However, “driver’s education shall be offered or made available by the district. Dual enrollment is not required” (Iowa Code § 321.178). If you are interested in driver’s education, you should notify the resident district by the beginning of the year, preferably.
What are my child’s postsecondary options after homeschooling?
The Iowa Department of Education makes the following recommendation with respect to high school diplomas: “The Iowa Department of Education cannot issue diplomas, and the district of residence may not be compelled to issue a diploma. This is a local decision. Families desiring a district diploma for their children are urged to contact their resident high school administrators during their child’s 8th grade year to coordinate these credits.”
See the Home Schooling (Private Instruction) page on the Iowa Department of Education’s website for even more information on homeschooling in Iowa and access to a Private Instruction Handbook.
Connect With Local Homeschoolers
Remember, too, that you are not alone. You should connect with local homeschoolers from your state, who can help you with Iowa homeschool law and Iowa homeschool requirements and offer you all kinds of practical advice and suggestions. They can give you guidance on everything from curriculum to daily schedules to recordkeeping, and they may be able to share information about local resources, support groups, and field trips. Click the image below to find Iowa Homeschool Groups by county.