Homeschooling laws can change, so be sure to check the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction website for updates.
Are you ready to start homeschooling in North Carolina? 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 North Carolina 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 North Carolina homeschool requirements to get you started:
North Carolina Homeschool Law
According to North Carolina Statute § 115C-378, “Every parent, guardian or custodian in this State having charge or control of a child between the ages of seven and 16 years shall cause the child to attend school continuously for a period equal to the time which the public school to which the child is assigned shall be in session. Every parent, guardian, or custodian in this State having charge or control of a child under age seven who is enrolled in a public school in grades kindergarten through two shall also cause the child to attend school continuously for a period equal to the time which the public school to which the child is assigned shall be in session unless the child has withdrawn from school.”
Per the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, a homeschool is defined as “a non public school consisting of the children of not more than two families or households, where the parents or legal guardians or members of either household determine the scope and sequence of the academic instruction, provide academic instruction, and determine additional sources of academic instruction. General Statute 115C-563(a) as amended changes the definition of a home school to allow parents to hire tutors, let their children participate in group settings where they receive instruction (co-ops, 4-H classroom instruction, etc.) and be instructed by an expert that is not a part of the household in the established homeschool (apprenticeships, a homeschool doctor teaching biology, etc.). This will allow homeschool parents more freedom to choose what is best for the education of their children.”
Note, “The North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education (DNPE) is authorized by state law to receive home school notices of intent to begin initial operation and to terminate operation, and to annually inspect the school’s student attendance and nationally standardized achievement test result records. Chief Administrators of home schools should anticipate receiving a request(s) to meet with a DNPE representative at a public location in close proximity to the home school while the home school is in operation” (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction).
What do I need to be eligible to be a homeschool parent?
To homeschool your child in North Carolina, you must hold at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. “For parents/guardians living in households where there are no resident adults who possess a high school diploma (or its equivalent), there are two options available to legally have their children (of compulsory attendance age) home educated.
- First, the parent/guardian may contact the GED (General Equivalency Diploma) test coordinator at a local community college and make arrangements to acquire a GED (or to enroll in the Adult High School Diploma Program there). The GED usually costs less than $10 but takes about 6 – 10 weeks to obtain.
- Second, the parent/guardian might consider approaching the chief administrator of an existing legal home school and ask if he/she would consider enrolling the child in that home school to be taught weekdays on a regular basis by that parent in this already established home school” (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction).
Do I need to notify the school district of my intent to homeschool my child?
Yes! You must send a Notice of Intent to Operate a Home School to the Division of Non-public Education five days prior to the home school’s initial opening date and after July 1 of the school year (July 1-June 30) in which your homeschool will be operating. Notices of Intent are not accepted in May and June. The Notice must include the name and address of the school and the name of the chief administrator, as well as the school name. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the school name must follow these guidelines:
- “Choose a simple name appropriate for inclusion on the student’s future high school diploma and transcript (which will be issued by your individual school). DNPE will not be able to accommodate requests to change the school name once your file is opened.
- The School Name must not exceed 30 characters in length (including spaces and punctuation).
- Do not use the following words in your school name: Charter, college, elementary, grade, grammar, high, incorporated (or Inc.), junior, kindergarten, lower, middle, primary, public, residence, schooling, secondary, seminary, senior, the, university or upper.
- Do not use the name of your curriculum in your school name, even if you are registered with an accredited distance learning program. Example of names NOT allowed: ABEKA, BJU, Bob Jones, Keystone, Liberty, Time for Learning, James Madison, Penn Foster, etc.
- Do not use A or THE at the beginning of your school name.
Any school submitting its Notice of Intent without providing a school name will automatically be assigned a school name as follows: Last name of Chief Administrator + School (Example: Smith School).”
You must also elect whether you will be operating “under either Part 1 or Part 2 of Article 39 of the North Carolina General Statutes as a religious or as a non-religious school” (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction).
“When sending your Notice of Intent to DNPE, always include diploma documentation for all persons named as a provider of academic instruction. Be sure to include the name of the parent/legal guardian who is usually with the student during the day while other area children are normally attending local schools” (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction).
“Upon receiving from DNPE a Notice of Intent to Operate a Home School acknowledgment, show it to the appropriate official in the local school in which the student is currently enrolled” in order to withdraw your child from public school. Remember, “Do not withdraw your child from his/her present school or begin your school until you have received written acknowledgment from DNPE that your completed Notice of Intent to Operate a School form has been received.”
What educational options are available to my homeschooler?
You may also send your child to an already established homeschool with another family: According to the Home School Guidebook: “If a home school (household A) currently listed with DNPE is teaching students who are of North Carolina compulsory attendance age (at least age 7 but not yet age16) and who live in the house wishes to also teach students from ONE additional household (household B), the home school may legally do so.”
Also, once a home school is established, “a North Carolina family may legally enroll its students in a distance learning program (such as a correspondence, internet-based, or audio/video program), and utilize that organization’s textbooks, curriculum, learning materials, etc.” Homeschooled students may also be enrolled in the N.C. Virtual Public School program but will be assessed course fees.
Finally, you may have the option to enroll your child part-time in a local school or community college: “For students who are at least age 16, enrollment in either a local conventional school or college is permissible. For students who are of compulsory attendance age (at least age 7, but not yet age 16), it is permissible if the local conventional school (public or non-public) or college officials allow such part-time arrangements. College level courses (not high school), however, may be taken part-time in any subject at local colleges (either community or four-year, degree-granting colleges/universities). Each local education agency (LEA) may have different policies relating to the enrollment of homeschool students in one or more public school courses. Please inquire of the LEA about their policies on enrolling a homeschooled student in one or more courses and how the student will be classified by the system (as either a visiting student or a public school student of the LEA).” Contact your local community college for options related to the Career and College Promise program.
North Carolina Homeschool Requirements
Even though North Carolina does not highly regulate homeschooling, there are some North Carolina homeschool requirements you must satisfy when you homeschool:
- Begin homeschooling by age 7.
- File the required Notice of Intent to the Division of Non-Public Education to indicate your homeschool’s initial opening. Note that you should not resubmit the Notice of Intent annually even if you are adding another child (simply update the enrollment annually).
- Provide instruction “on a regular schedule for at least nine calendar months of the year, excluding holidays and vacations” (180 days is recommended).
- Provide instruction for at least five clock hours each school day that is of “at least similar quality, scope and duration as local conventional schools” (recommended but not required).
- Administer a nationally standardized test each year to each child.
- Notify the Division of Non-public Education when the homeschool is no longer in operation by calling the DNPE office at (984) 236-0110 or submitting the Home School Updates and Changes form.
- Stay current with homeschooling laws and requirements.
Do I need to administer testing to my homeschooler?
Yes. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, homeschools must “have a nationally standardized achievement test administered annually to each student. The test must involve the subject areas of English grammar, reading, spelling, and mathematics. Records of the test results must be retained at the home school for at least one year and made available to DNPE when requested. The first standardized test must be administered within one year of the home school start date, and then annually thereafter.”
Note that “North Carolina home school law does not mandate that the student achieve a certain minimum score on the nationally standardized test in order for the parent/guardian to be legally permitted to continue to home school that student during the following (or any future) school year” (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction). See here for more information on required homeschool testing.
What records do I need to keep when I homeschool my child?
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction requires that you keep certain records. You must, for example, “maintain at the school disease immunization and annual attendance records for each student.” In fact, immunization records are required to begin your new home school. Homeschool records may be requested for review by the state or local health inspectors on an annual basis. If your homeschool has met the legal requirements and is therefore considered a non-public school, you may choose to obtain and keep a photocopy of a student’s cumulative record from a previous school, and you should maintain any transcripts from courses at a high school or college.
The Department also recommends that you “maintain a current daily log, journal or lesson plan book throughout the entire school year detailing time period for each subject each day and information covered during the specified time period” and that you “retain records at your school until the student has enrolled in a conventional school or has graduated. (It is a good idea to keep this information indefinitely.)”
In addition to the required recordkeeping, we also 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 postsecondary pathways. This includes the following:
- Attendance, required
- Immunization records, required
- Lists of texts and workbooks used
- Student schoolwork samples and/or portfolios
- Test and evaluation results
- Correspondence with school officials
- Copy of the homeschool registration/verification record
You may also be able to find more information on North Carolina homeschool requirements through your local school district.
Other North Carolina Homeschool Policies
Once you make sure that you are following North Carolina homeschool law and meeting North Carolina homeschool requirements, here are some other things you need to know:
Can my homeschooled child participate in extracurricular activities offered by the public school?
Local school districts have the authority to decide whether to allow homeschoolers to participate in school activities and athletics. Contact your local school district to inquire.
See here for information about Driver Eligibility Certificates for homeschoolers.
What if I want to re-enroll my child in public school after homeschooling?
“Whenever a formerly homeschooled student is presented for enrollment at a conventional school (public or non-public) or college, that educational institution will probably request a student transcript/record of grade levels successfully completed, subjects taught, semester grades, nationally standardized test scores, etc., while enrolled in the homeschool. […] The principal of that school will then determine to what grade level the student will be assigned in that school and whether or not the student’s home school transfer credits will be accepted” (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction).
According to the Department, “conventional school authorities are usually reluctant to advance a student:
- More than one grade level above his/her age peers; or,
- To the next grade level if the student was removed during the latter part of the previous school year with failing grades in one or more subjects and then presented for re-enrollment at the beginning of the next school term. A North Carolina conventional school (public or non-public) principal has no legal obligation to accept homeschool credit for students presented for enrollment in his/her school — especially when the student is entering grades 10-12.”
The “DNPE suggests that before finalizing plans for establishing a home school, you first consult with the chief administrator of the local conventional school (public or private) which your child would otherwise be attending. Ask him/her how he/she would handle the grade placement of your child should you decide later to terminate your home school and enroll your child in that school. The initial point of student entry into the North Carolina public school system is the kindergarten level.”
What are my child’s postsecondary options after homeschooling?
Per the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, “North Carolina law states that a homeschool is a non-public school. When a student successfully completes his/her non-public school’s academic requirements for high school graduation, the non-public school itself (not a government agency) maintains academic records of the student’s high school academic work and issues student transcripts and graduation verifications in future years as requested.”
“For this reason, chief administrators of home schools, which have graduated high school seniors, are strongly encouraged to permanently retain student transcripts reflecting all the student’s grade 9-12 academic work. The transcript must include:
- The home school name, address and telephone number
- Social Security number of student
- Titles of subjects completed by the student by school year (for each of those four years)
- The numerical (or letter) grade and unit credit earned for each subject
- Annual nationally standardized test scores
- The month and year of high school graduation
- Signature of the chief administrator and date of signature
[…] If the student is academically gifted and has successfully mastered some traditional high school level courses prior to grade 9, those courses should be so noted on the transcript as having been taken in grade 8, 7, etc.” (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction).
“If the home school administrator is no longer able to provide this verification, the home school graduate should consider either obtaining a GED or enrolling in the North Carolina Adult High School Diploma Program administered through a local NC Community College. […] Individual colleges, the various branches of the United States military and the business community each determine for themselves to what extent a homeschool diploma will be officially recognized by these entities” (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction). Thus, when planning for postsecondary pursuits, contact the relevant college/university, organization, or military branch for admissions requirements.
See the Home School Information, Home School Requirements & Recommendations, and Home School FAQs pages on the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s website for even more information on homeschooling in North Carolina.
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 North Carolina homeschool law and North Carolina 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 North Carolina Homeschool Groups by county.