Over the years, the Virginia schools (like many school systems across the nation) have been losing their public school students to home schooling. Henry County, for example, has seen an increase in home-schooled students from eight to 99 over the past 11 years.
In April 1999, the nation watched in horror the news reports on Colorado’s Columbine High School shootings, where 12 students and one teacher were fatally shot and 24 others were wounded by two teens who then killed themselves. Afterwards, the Virginia schools saw a steady increase of applications from parents who wished to home school their children.
Though the number of children who are home schooled has continued to increase within the Virginia schools, the reasons have changed. Though school violence and security remains to be a primary concern of Virginia schools’ parents, they now have a variety of other reasons, including:
• Too much emphasis on the standardized testing now required within the Virginia schools, fearing their children are being taught only to pass tests rather than a focus on actual learning that is retained and useful later in life; home-schooled children are not required to take the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests;
• The ability of Virginia schools’ children to adjust to the middle and high school environments; many parents home school their children during the middle school years and place them back into the Virginia schools for high school;
• Virginia schools’ parents’ perception of negative influences within the traditional school environment; this is especially true for families with strong religious beliefs; and
• Some Virginia schools’ parents simply want to keep their children at home for a longer period, placing them back within the Virginia schools for high school.
Religious Exemption. If a parent applies for release of their child from the Virginia schools for religious reasons, they are exempt from enrolling their child in any other form of education through age 18. They may wish to do so and can, but they are not required to do so by the Virginia schools. If they do enroll the child elsewhere or home schooling, they also are not required to keep the Virginia schools apprised of the child’s progress.
Other Exceptions. In order for parents to home school their children, other than under the religious exemption, they must meet one of four requirements developed by the Virginia schools:
• Requirement 1 — Effective July 1, 2006, the parent, who will be teaching the child, must have a high school diploma and provide to the Virginia schools a description of the curriculum he/she plans to use for the child. The child does not have to meet Virginia schools’ graduation requirements and receives no diploma; however, progress must be shown to the Virginia schools at the end of each year.
• Requirement 2 — The parent, who will be teaching the child, must have a current teacher certification and provide to the Virginia schools a description of the curriculum he/she plans to use for the child. The child does not have to meet Virginia schools’ graduation requirements and receives no diploma; however, here too progress must be shown to the Virginia schools at the end of each year.
• Requirement 3 — Parent enrolls child into a Virginia schools’ recognized correspondence home school. There are approximately 19 such schools across the nation. A list may be obtained from the Virginia schools. Correspondence schools are private businesses that operate as schools, charging for their services. They usually cost $800 to $1,200 annually per student, though some charge as much as $4,000 a year. The more you pay, the more services you get, including report cards, transcripts and diplomas. Though coursework is administered by the parent, he/she has no educational level requirement. The child meets the graduation requirements of the correspondence school; however, progress must be shown to the Virginia schools at the end of each year.
• Requirement 4 — No educational level must be met by the parent teaching the child. They must provide to the Virginia schools a description of the curriculum he/she plans to use for the child, which must include the Virginia schools’ SOL in language arts and mathematics. The child does not have to meet Virginia schools’ graduation requirements and receives no diploma; however, progress must be shown to the Virginia schools at the end of each year.
Description of the curriculum in requirements one, two and four above includes a list of the subjects that will be taught and the textbooks that will be used for language arts and mathematics.
In all four requirements above, the child’s academic progress must be proved to the Virginia schools either with SOL test scores (the child would have to submit to testing by the Virginia schools and score above the 23rd percentile) or through a provided a portfolio of the child’s work. For more information please visit Virginia School Ratings and Virginia School Rankings