Disclaimer:The information provided here is based upon my personal experience and those individuals I have come in contact with. In no way should any information on this site be considered legal advice. I urge everyone to familiarize themselves with the State of Alabama Education Code and to seek out other websites pertaining to homeschooling. Do not rely solely upon what you find at any one site!
- What is a church school?
- Are church schools the same as a support group?
- Can I homeschool without using a church school?
- Why do I have to use a church school in order to homeschool in Alabama?
- What does a church school do for me?
- If I do not belong to a church, will a church school enroll my children?
- I am not religious. Do I still have to use a church school? And will a church school enroll my children?
- Does a church school provide everything I need to homeschool my child?
- Why do church schools cost so much money?
- Will the church school require I submit my children to testing? Or regulate the curricula I use?
- Will my child be able to enter college with a church school diploma?
- Do all church schools require a statement of faith?
- What is HSLDA?
- Why do some church schools require membership in HSLDA while other church schools do not?
What is a church school?
A church school is nothing more than a ministry of a church. Most are run by members of a church, others are run by individuals who have found a church to sponsor them, and some are run by individuals who believe that their home is their church and their ministry is to help other parents to home educate their own children. The church school occasionally has a bricks-and-mortar building, but not always. Sometimes the church that is running the church school also operates an on-site church school, but not always.
Are church schools the same as a support group?
No, not at all. Many church schools can, and do, offer the same opportunities for socialization and networking that the support groups offer. But the support groups are not church schools and therefore cannot legally enable you to homeschool. Many people find it necessary to join a church school and a support group, especially if the church school they join does not offer a lot in the way of local support. We provide a listing of Alabama Support Groups for homeschoolers here.
Can I homeschool without using a church school?
If you are a certified teacher in the state of Alabama, you can home tutor your children. You must work with your local school superintendent and follow the public school’s guidelines. Some public schools will let you use the curriculum of your choice; others will require you to use the public school curriculum. How well homeschooling works this way mostly depends upon your relationship with the local public school officials.
Your other option is to establish a private school, following the guidelines laid out in the Code of Alabama under Title 16: Education.
Why do I have to use a church school in order to homeschool in Alabama?
The church school situation here in Alabama can seem pretty confusing at first, but it is really not too difficult. Basically, there are three ways to legally homeschool in AL, although none of them is called homeschooling:
- If you are a certified teacher in AL, you can home tutor your own children, working through your local school board.
- You can create a private school following the guidelines laid out in the Code of Alabama under Title 16: Education. (http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/alison/CodeOfAlabama/1975/Coatoc.htm )
- Through a church school (sometimes referred to as a church cover school, cover, umbrella, etc.). This is the most commonly used homeschool option.
The separation of school & state enables us to homeschool our children by enrolling them in a church school. Technically, we are a satellite of a church school, tutoring our children at home through the auspices of a church school which is a ministry of that church. It does work rather well, though, and allows us to home educate with very little government oversight.
There are three State of Alabama requirements through the church school laws:
- The parent must file a CSEF (Church School Enrollment Form) for each compulsory attendance-aged child (Compulsory school attendance age is 6 – 17) with the local school superintendent’s office. The church school director provides the CSEF, which both the church school director and the legal guardian of the child must sign. Some church schools file the CSEF themselves, but legally it is the parent’s responsibility to ensure it is done.
- Attendance must be kept (although it is up to the church school how this is accomplished).
- The church school must submit a notification of withdrawal to the local superintendent if/when you withdraw your children from that church school.
All other rules and regulations stated by a church school are those that the church school has decided to put into place. They are not a state requirement, no matter what that church school may tell you.
What does a church school do for me?
The church school allows you to legally homeschool in Alabama without having to worry about the public school officials declaring your child truant and without having to follow the guidelines of what the public school considers education (depending upon the church school you choose).
If I do not belong to a church, will a church school enroll my children?
Some church schools are open only to their own church members and some are open only to members of their own particular denomination or faith. There are many, though, throughout the state that are open to enrollment for everyone, regardless of your faith or lack thereof, regardless of your church membership or lack thereof.
I am not religious. Do I still have to use a church school? And will a church school enroll my children?
If you are an Alabama-certified teacher, you can home tutor. Or you can set up your own private school. Or you can use a church school.
Thankfully, more and more church schools are realizing that many people homeschooling today are not doing so for religious reasons. You should be able to locate many church schools that accept enrollment of any and all students.
Does a church school provide everything I need to homeschool my child?
A church school will only supply you with the legal means with which to home educate your child. In addition, they may offer advice, workshops, and other means of helping you decide just what to use for your child. No church schools that I am aware of will provide you with curriculum.
Why do church schools cost so much money?
Some do cost quite a bit, while others are much more reasonably priced. Much depends upon what you are looking for or requiring from a church school. If you want one that offers workshops, science fairs, field trips, resource centers, co-op classes, etc., then you are going to pay more for your choice. If you prefer a church school that only sends out a monthly newsletters, arranges a few field trips around the state, and mostly just leaves you alone, then there are some that will do that for you and not charge you very much in the process. But even those church schools find it necessary to charge something for their efforts. Perhaps they have an Internet presence that costs them money. Perhaps they are prepared to do battle for the rights of their enrolled families and may incur legal expense. Or perhaps they simply have expenses such as a file cabinet, copy machine, postage, fax machine, newsletter copies to mail, and an answering machine constantly full of long distance calls to return from prospective homeschoolers.
To view a questionnaire that may help you determine what you might need in a church school, please visit our Alabama Church School Questionnaire page.
Will the church school require I submit my children to testing? Or regulate the curricula I use?
It depends upon the church school you choose. Since the state does not regulate church schools, each school can decide its own requirements. Some do require annual testing or would like to have some say in the curricula you use. Most church schools do not. But there is no Alabama law requiring church schooled children to be tested annually.
Will my child be able to enter college with a church school diploma?
Yes. Most colleges will gladly accept a church school diploma, the same as they will any church school or private school diploma. Mostly what the colleges want seems to be those ACT or SAT test scores, along with a diploma and transcript.
Do all church schools require a statement of faith?
No, not all. Many do, but many more church schools are inclusive, open to all individuals, and do not require any signed statement of faith. Most are still Christian, but do not require a signed statement of faith or require religious instruction. There are some church schools that are non-Christian, also.
What is HSLDA?
HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association is a very controversial organization amongst homeschoolers. Some swear by them and would not think of homeschooling without being a member of HSLDA, while other homeschoolers swear at them and wish they would stay out of the legislative arena.
You will need to make up your own mind how you feel about HSLDA and whether you wish to be a member or not.
Other alternatives to HSLDA include hiring your own lawyer (try to find one that is familiar with the education laws of your state), Rutherford Institute, and the Southeast Law Institute. Also, check with your local Libertarian Party for information about lawyers who take an interest in civil rights cases and cases of personal liberties and freedom.
Why do some church schools require membership in HSLDA while other church schools do not?
Many church schools in Alabama require membership in HSLDA. Many more are offering the option or simply not requiring membership in HSLDA at all, not believing it is worth the money spent or believing there are better alternatives should one need legal representation.