When I meet new people and the subject of homeschooling comes up, I always wait a minute before I mention that I was homeschooled for eight years. I wait, because I know I’m going to get one of two reactions. More often than not, they will be impressed and want to know more. Or they will get that curious wrinkle in their brow and start backing away slowly. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between feeling when it comes to assumptions about homeschooling. But for many people, that’s all they have – assumptions.
When my family began homeschooling, it was the 80’s and homeschool was still a bit of taboo. The idea of taking your kids out of school and teaching them at home was new to many, and often assumed to be a weird religious or anti-establishment decision. However, over the last three decades, homeschooling has undergone a revolution of sorts. These days, homeschool families are not the socially inept, misfits that they were once assumed to be. Rather, they are “normal,” well-adapted people who are involved in sports, extra-curricular activities, community groups and more.
Of course, this was case when my family homeschooled, as well, but as homeschooling has become more widely accepted, the myths and assumptions start to fade and the reality becomes clear – homeschooling is a very viable option with many benefits. And as a result of wider legal and social acceptance, the resources available to families have also grown by leaps and bounds.
If you’re interested in homeschooling, or simply want to learn a little more, then this guide will walk you through the basics and answer many of the questions you might have about the reality of teaching your kids at home.
What is Homeschooling?
Reasons for Homeschooling
Benefits of Homeschooling
Disadvantages of Homeschooling
Laws & Requirements for Homeschooling in Virginia
Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs
What is Homeschooling?
Simply put, homeschooling is when parents choose to teach their children at home instead of sending them to a traditional public or private school. This may not look the same for everyone. Some parents might choose to homeschool only one of their children, while others may choose to educate all of their children at home. Likewise, as homeschool networks have grown, options like co-ops have also developed, in which multiple families teach together or have professional teachers or tutors teach certain subject matter. Lastly, while homeschooling often means that a parent, or parents, teach their children, it can also include instruction by a professional tutor or education through a correspondence course or distance learning program.
Reasons for Homeschooling
The reasons for homeschooling are as varied and diverse as the families themselves. Some families choose to homeschool because they feel that they can provide a more focused or customized education for their child. In some cases, the child, or children, may have been struggling socially or academically in a traditional school setting. In other cases, the parents may have differing political, ideological or religious views that they do not feel are supported by local school systems. And other families may choose to homeschool in an effort to support or enhance their lifestyle which may include frequent moves or travel, as in the case of many military families. Whatever the reason, there is no right or wrong. Homeschooling is either something that works for your family or it isn’t.
Benefits of Homeschooling
Again, this question can have a wide range of answers. Many families find that they are able to give their children a more individualized education by teaching them at home. For example, if a child excels in one subject, but struggles in another, a parent can choose to focus more time and attention to the area that needs it the most.
Flexibility is another commonly cited benefit of homeschool. Homeschool families are at liberty to make their own schedules and choose their own curriculum. Likewise, many families find that they can get through their work at a faster pace than what might be possible in a traditional school setting thanks to fewer distractions.
Here are a few other things that you might find beneficial about teaching your child at home:
- Ability to adapt your teaching method to your child’s individual learning style.
- Freedom to guide your child with specific religious or ethical influence.
- Reduced social pressure from peers.
- Less exposure to violence, drugs or other risky behaviors that might occur on school grounds.
- Flexibility for talent development in multiple areas. For example, if your child is interested in music and sports, you can schedule morning sessions with a music instructor, leaving time in the afternoon for group sports or other common childhood activities.
- Family bonding.
- Discretionary control for controversial topics such as sex education.
- Increased opportunities for creativity and imagination while learning.
Disadvantages of Homeschooling
As with any decision that includes your family, the choice to homeschool needs to be examined from every angle. And while homeschooling does offer significant benefits, there are aspects that may seem less than ideal. There are considerable responsibilities, pressures and requirements that come along with being your child’s education provider.
Here are a few things that you might want to consider:
- Spending all day, every day with your kids can sometimes be too much of a good thing. It takes a lot of patience to be both parent and teacher day in and day out.
- Keeping up with state laws, regulations and requirements can be confusing and overwhelming. You’ll need to make sure you have a clear understanding of what your legal responsibilities are as a homeschool family.
- Books, materials and extracurricular activities used to supplement school sports and arts programs can be costly.
- People will have opinions about what you’re doing. Most people are supportive of homeschooling as it has become an increasingly viable educational option. However, you might still get some funny looks and have to answer challenging questions.
- Making sure that your children have ample socialization becomes more difficult without immediate access to other kids. This is especially true if you don’t live in a neighborhood or area that has other children with whom your kids can easily interact.
- Constantly adapting to your child’s needs requires a level of intuition, insight and vigilance that can be a challenge to maintain.
Laws and Requirements for Homeschooling in Virginia
Despite some challenges, homeschooling proves to be a wonderful, rewarding option for many families. If you’ve looked carefully at the pros and cons and the pros seem to be winning, you may be faced with yet another challenge: negotiating the legal requirements of your state, which, for the purposes of this article, we will assume is Virginia.
In the simplest terms, homeschooling in Virginia is allowed under three different scenarios.
- Virginia Home Instruction Statute – §22.1-254.1
Under the Virginia Home Instruction Statute, parents must follow four specific steps in order to be compliant with state educational guidelines.
- Meet one of these four criteria and provide proof of that criteria:
- Have a high school diploma and be able to provide a copy of your or your spouse’s diploma or transcripts.
- Be a certified teacher and be able to provide Virginia teacher certification documentation.
- Enroll your child in a program of study or curriculum that is delivered through a correspondence course, a distance learning program or in any other manner. For proof, you can submit an acceptance letter or a copy of your payment receipt.
- Provide evidence that you are able to offer a good education for your child by writing a carefully drafted, grammatically correct letter that states why you are qualified or capable of providing a proper education.
- File a Notice of Intent (which can be downloaded here) or write a letter to your school division superintendent. You’ll need to include a description of the curriculum you plan to use and proof of at least one of the above criteria by August 15 of each year. If you’ve moved to a new school district in the middle of a school year, or choose to homeschool after the school year has begun, then your Notice of Intent or letter must be completed as soon as possible and all other steps completed within 30 days.Here are a few helpful tips for filing your Notice of Intent:
- First, identify your superintendent here.
- Mail your notice or deliver it in person to your superintendent’s office. If you mail it, be sure to request that it be “certified” with a return receipt, which will let you know the date that the superintendent receives it. If you hand deliver it, ask for a written receipt from the superintendent’s office.
- Remember that you are not asking for permission or approval, rather you are simply notifying the superintendent of your decision and proving that you will be providing your child with ample education.
- Be sure to file your notice and get proof of receipt before you withdraw your child from a public school. Failing to do this could result in truancy fines.
- Submit evidence of academic achievement to your school division superintendent by August 1 of each year. Academic achievement can be determined by the following:
- Nationally normed standardized achievement tests
- Equivalent scores on the ACT, SAT, or PSAT test
- Evaluation or assessment, including, but not limited to:
- an evaluation letter from a person licensed to teach in any state, or a letter from a person with a master’s degree or higher in an academic discipline.
- a report card or transcript from a community college or college, college distance-learning program, or home education correspondence school.
- Comply with immunization requirements, which can be found here.
- Meet one of these four criteria and provide proof of that criteria:
- Certified Tutor Provision – 22.1-254(A)
If you have a current Virginia teacher certification, you are allowed to teach your children at home under the certified tutor provision. Your certification must be approved by the division superintendent; however, end-of-year assessments are not required.
- Religious Exemption Statute – §22.1-254(B)(1)
- Children of families who have bona fide (i.e., genuine or sincere) religious beliefs are excused from attendance at school by their school board. This, in turn, means that they can be taught at home. This one may be a bit more difficult to prove, so be sure to read the statute carefully.
If you’ve ever done your own taxes or independently negotiated a contract, then you know all too well that the fine print can be overwhelming and confusing, but crucial to a successful outcome. Homeschooling is no different.
Fortunately, there are a number of organizations out there that provide help navigating these tricky waters. One of the most comprehensive resources for legal questions specific to Virginia is the Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) headquartered right here in Richmond. Their website is a wealth of information and includes many helpful tools, such as the Virginia Homeschool Law Flowchart.
Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs
Having a child with special needs presents unique challenges whether they are in a traditional school or in a home setting. But even without a special needs’ education background, you can help your child achieve their educational goals at home. Homeschooling a child with special needs is no easy task, but fortunately there are resources available – we’ll provide you with some a little later on in this article.
In the meantime, here are a few extra steps you might want to consider:
- Get evaluations from teachers (IEPs, etc) if you are withdrawing your child from a conventional school setting.
- Find an education consultant to work with you on an ongoing basis to keep evaluations and assessments up-to-date. The Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) provides a great list of counselors, testers and tutors in Virginia.
- Document your child’s work and progress carefully and get regular evaluations, just in case you are ever challenged from a legal standpoint.
- Consider joining the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a national advocacy group headquartered in Virginia. They are dedicated to protecting home education rights and offer low-cost legal advice and representation.
- Find other families in the same situation and rely on each other for tips, support and encouragement.
One of the scariest thoughts parents have before entering the world of homeschooling is “I am now completely in charge of my child’s education. What if I screw it up?” That sense of responsibility can be a dead weight on your shoulders – if you let it be.
The fact is, you are not alone. Yes, you will be the one doing the teaching without a team to back you up, but there are countless resources available outside of the home.
If choosing your own curriculum feels overwhelming, look to curriculum resources that are specifically designed to help your figure out the best fit for your family.
If you are worried about social isolation, join a local homeschool group…and don’t worry, we will be providing a list for you further on in this article! If you are worried about your ability to teach, just stop for a moment and breathe. Be honest about your child’s needs, strengths and shortcoming and remember: no one knows your child as well as you do and that is the first step to a successful homeschooling experience.
If teaching solo still seems like too much, consider the alternatives. In some situations, multiple families choose to create homeschool co-ops in which parents take turns teaching specific subjects to their own children, as well as those from other families. Likewise, if you feel that you don’t have what it takes to adequately deliver the guiding principle of a certain subject, there is no shame in getting a tutor. My kids wouldn’t make it through high school if it were up to me to teach anything beyond 5th grade math. And I have no problem admitting it.
Finally, we hope you have a supportive partner who will encourage you throughout the process, but regardless, find someone who has been where you are and succeeded. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions and talk through your fears. Chances are, they will know exactly how you feel and be able to offer helpful tips for overcoming the challenges you will inevitably face.
But I Still Have So Many Questions!! (a.k.a., FAQs)
Now we’ve come to part you’ve been waiting for – the questions. Many parents have similar fears, questions and concerns about homeschooling. After all, this is your kid’s education we’re talking about. This is the thing that will determine whether they become successful members of society or end up on the street leading a life of crime…right?
While it might feel like that at times (ok, most of the time), you’ve got to trust yourself, too. After all, you care enough about your child’s education and well being to even consider taking on the monumental task of homeschooling. You’ll know what to do when the time comes. Nevertheless, we know that you have some concerns…and we’re here to help provide some answers.
Here are 10 common questions that potential homeschoolers might have:
1. What About Socialization?
This is also known as the “is my kid going to be the ‘weird’ kid because they’re homeschooled?” question. The answer is no.
Many parents fear that if their children don’t have ongoing interaction with other children outside of the home, they will no longer be able to navigate social situations. But, thanks to the flexibility of homeschooling, you have complete freedom to choose how much or how little your children are around other kids. Because there are so many homeschool groups in the Richmond area, there are frequent opportunities for fieldtrips, social gatherings and interaction with other children. Likewise, church groups, neighborhood friends and community sports and activities often provide ample chance to socialize and form lasting friendships.
For some kids, the pressures of constant interaction in a traditional school setting can be overwhelming. For others, there’s no such thing as “too much” social time. Homeschooling gives you the opportunity gauge your child’s needs and provide for them accordingly.
2. Can I Actually Do This?
It’s perfectly normal to have misgivings about your ability to teach your own children – especially if you are not a certified teacher. Relax. It’s a big undertaking, make no mistake. But just as you wouldn’t expect your kids to have all of the answers at the beginning of a school year, you shouldn’t expect it of yourself, either. You will learn as they do. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and support along the way. It’s going to take dedication, commitment and the patience of a saint, but you’ve made it this far. Believe in your kids and in yourself and you might just be surprised at what you’re capable of, after all.
3. If I Choose to Homeschool Through High School, Will My Child Get a High School Diploma?
In a word, no. The state of Virginia does not issue diplomas or certificates of completion as some other state do. But don’t worry. This does not have to be a roadblock.
However, if you would prefer your child to have a more “official” document, here are few options:
- Create your own diploma and/or transcripts. This can be something you design or download. While it won’t have any official seals, it will be a tangible document that you can give your child.
- If your child is over the age of 16, they can complete the General Equivalency Diploma, or GED. While this might not carry the same weight as an official diploma, it will provide evidence of their competency.
- They may receive a diploma from an accredited correspondence or distance learning program if that’s the route you have chosen.
There are also ways to make sure that your child gets the “graduation experience.” You can work with your local support group or other homeschool families to organize your own special group graduation event. Or look to a more structured event like the Richmond Regional Home Educators Graduation. This formal, Christian-based ceremony celebrates both the graduate’s and the parents’ achievements; and is sold as package that includes a cap and gown, an (unofficial) diploma, photos, programs, flowers and more.
4. Will My Child Have the Same Chances of Getting into College as Their Traditionally Schooled Peers?
Absolutely. Whether you choose to homeschool all the way through high school, or only for a few years, your children will have all the same opportunities as other applicants.
Most homeschoolers go on to college or vocational school, and subsequently, have careers in the field of their choosing with no trouble. Most colleges these days are familiar with homeschooled applicants and accept the “evidence of academic achievement” reports that you will file each August with your local school division, as well as their test scores from nationally standardized performance tests such as the SAT and ACT, as proof of their academic competence.
As long as you meet the school’s requirements for admission (i.e., SAT or ACT scores, essays, etc.), your kid will be just as “normal” as the next kid. Don’t sweat this one. Chances are, thanks to a highly personalized education, they’ll actually be ahead of the competition when it comes to independent thinking. That’s a good thing, I promise.
5. Ok, let’s get real. What’s this going to cost me?
Homeschooling is not a free endeavor, let’s be clear about that. In addition to your blood, sweat and tears, you’ll need to provide text books and supplies, plus you may want to add in additional activities like art or music lessons. But like most things, it is what you make it.
If your children currently attend a private school, chances are you’ll save money. If they attend public school, keep in mind that even that is not “free.” Factor in the cost of supplies, clothes, school lunches, fundraisers, class projects and field trips. These hidden costs can add up, and as a homeschooler, you can redirect those funds to things like textbooks and resource materials.
Homeschooling can be done whether your budget is large or small – and in this case, less expensive does not mean lower quality. If you’re on a tight budget, search for used textbooks from local homeschool groups or online, rent textbooks from sites like Chegg and take advantage of many free resources available at your local library or from other online resources. And, of course, you can reuse grade-specific materials if you’re teaching multiple children at varying grade levels. Think of these as academic hand-me-downs. The books might be a bit battered by the time they get to the youngest child, but they will have served their purpose.
6. Do I Need to Wait Until the Start of the Next School Year to Get This Party Started?
If you have made the decision to homeschool, then there’s no time like the present…if that’s what your family needs. In other words, you can withdraw your child at any time. Just be sure to read the section above about state requirements in Virginia. Provide your school division with your Notice of Intent before you withdraw your child and make sure you can meet any other necessary criteria within 30 days. Otherwise, you should be good to go.
7. How Do I Determine My Child’s Learning Style?
Every child learns differently. In fact, for many parents, the decision to homeschool comes about when they feel that their child’s unique learning style is not being supported in their current school setting. However, one of the more intimidating aspects of homeschooling for those who don’t have an education background is determining what that style is and how best to support it.
To keep it simple, there are three basic groups of learners:
- Auditory (listeners)
- Visual (lookers)
- Kinesthetic (doers, i.e., learning by movement and touch)
Don’t let this stress you out too much. There are many online resources that can help you with this. For example, try this short quiz offered by Scholastic, or look for resources on homeschooling websites. You can also talk to your child’s teachers to gather some insights into struggles and successes that they may have had in the classroom, which you can then use a jumping off point to plan your own curriculum and teaching style.
8. Wait…What? I Need to Have a “Teaching Style,” Too?
Again, don’t panic. Determining a teaching style or “approach,” is important, especially if you are not a trained teacher. However, remember that one of the greatest advantages of homeschooling is flexibility. Because you are not teaching to an ambiguous set of guidelines or standards, you have the freedom to choose, change and adapt. Learn about different homeschooling approaches, but don’t be afraid to change what isn’t working. Consider taking some learning style quizzes yourself and determine your own learning style. You might just find that this provides insight into ways that you can help your child, as well as determining a comfortable teaching style for yourself.
9. Is My Child Going to Become Too Dependent on Me?
When you are in the role of parent and teacher, you are really and truly the greatest influence in your child’s life. It’s easy to imagine that your child might become too dependent on your opinions, influence or involvement in their daily life and choices. But in reality, homeschool offers a unique opportunity to encourage independent thinking. Of course, this is not exclusive to homeschoolers by any means. Parents prove to be the most powerful influence in their children’s lives – whether they are in a traditional school or otherwise. But, homeschooling does provide freedom from traditional methods and group learning environments, therefore, inspiring a certain level of free and independent thought. Your kids will want to get out there and spread their wings eventually, and being homeschooled will not deter them from doing it.
10. I’m Almost Convinced … But What If It Doesn’t Work Out?
Fear of failure can be a major deterrent for families considering homeschooling. What if your child hates it? What if you hate it? What if you simply feel like homeschooling is not a sustainable solution? It’s ok. All of it. Homeschooling is not for everyone. It’s hard and challenging and exhausting. If you try it, but the rewards are not outweighing the negative scenarios, then perhaps it’s time to return to a traditional school setting. You might worry about the disruption that pulling your child out of conventional school only to put them back in will cause. But kids are adaptable, often more so than their adult counterparts. That being said, the best thing that you can do for your family is to do what works. And you’ll know what’s right when the time comes.
CO-ops and Classes
Homeschooling is one thing when you’re teaching your kids the alphabet, but as they grow, you might find that you want some outside support. Perhaps you feel that your children need periodic exposure to a more formal classroom setting; or perhaps there is subject matter for which they want or need more instruction than you can provide. Whatever your reason, there are many viable options for supplemental classes and co-op style, parent-led teaching in the Richmond area. See our list below to find one that works for your family’s needs.
Areté Christian Academy
Aretè Christian Academy provides middle and high school level classes to supplement the parent-directed education of homeschooled children. They provide classes in a nurturing environment that encourages parental involvement, strives for academic excellence, and promotes the development of Godly character in students.
The Athenian Academy of Richmond
The Athenian Academy is an independent organization offering a wide range of classes designed to meet the diverse supplemental needs of the Richmond homeschooling community. With a focus on upper elementary, middle and high school, The Athenian Academy strives to provide both enrichment and academic opportunities in a comfortable, yet professional, setting. Their curriculum is built on the criteria of a classical Athenian education with equal emphasis on art and literature, as well as science and math – and everything in between.
Bridge Academy is a homeschool co-op that offers academically challenging, Christ-centered classes for grades 1-12. Since 2014, Bridge Academy has provided homeschool families in the Chester/Richmond area with core academic classes, electives (including foreign language, music and art) and social opportunities.
Chesterfield Christian Academy
This co-op is an extension of home education. Its primary focus is to teach students to develop and grow their personal relationship with Christ, and to learn how every subject they study in school can be used to fulfill the will of God for their lives. They strive to support and strengthen Christian families in their endeavor to become the primary social and educational unit.
Henricus Historical Park Home School Programs
Henricus Historical Park recreates everyday 17th-century life in the second successful English settlement in North America and in the Virginia Indian site of Arrohateck. Experience a home school education program designed to help meet curriculum goals in a fun, interactive environment at a living history museum. Henricus offers Home School Days specifically designed for home school children ages 4 to 14 and their teachers! For upcoming schedule, visit their Home School Programs page.
Homeschool Resources Group
This group offers supplementary classes, tutoring and activities for homeschoolers, public schoolers, private schoolers, and adults. They are a STEM/STEAM Center with a focus on career and college development and advanced mastery, with a goal of preparing their students for a competitive and informed future.
James River Home School Academy (formerly Midlothian Christian Academy)
James River Home School Academy (JRHSA) offers an ideal solution for families looking to add on to their existing homeschool program, while enjoying interaction with a larger group. JRHSA meets for two sessions each year, one in the fall, and one in the spring. Classes are held once a week and provide a professional, small group setting focused on interactive, hands-on learning intended to complement your existing homeschool curriculum. While their main campus is in Midlothian, they have recently added a Powhatan campus.
James River Home School Foundation
The James River Home School Foundation, a 100% volunteer-run Christian ministry, is a non-profit founded for the purpose of supporting the homeschool community. They offer programs and opportunities in the areas of academics, athletics and performing arts, which include numerous athletic teams, academic classes, as well as a three-tiered drama program. In addition to support, education and a wide range of supplemental courses, they also offer a Lending Library and Resource Center that is host to more than 6,000 books, resources and curriculum products. The center is located at the Pine Street Baptist Church (400 S. Pine St.) in downtown Richmond.
Maymont Homeschool Mornings
Maymont educators offer a variety of historical and environmental programs that are designed to provide homeschoolers with supplemental educational resources. These programs are fun and easy to incorporate into your planning for the school year. Go to Maymont’s event calendar to register for events online.
Spanish Classes with Tricia
Since 1995, Tricia McClintock has been teaching Spanish to homeschool families through local schools, co-ops and groups, as well providing summer camps and private lesson. Her classes are held Fairmount Christian Church in Mechanicsville, which is also home to Aretè Christian Academy with whom Tricia will be offering middle and high school Spanish classes.
Southside Homeschool Academy
Southside Homeschool Academy offers classes for grades 4-12 designed to supplement the parent-directed education of homeschooled children. Christianity and the Bible are the foundation on which their principles are based; however, they include students and parents from diverse social, economic, and religious backgrounds. Teachers offer their expertise twice per week in a small classroom setting.
Founded more than 20 years ago, Westminster Academy was designed by homeschool families seeking support for homeschooling their children through the middle school and high school years. Today, their parent-guided education model continues and includes two to three days of instruction per week, as well as special school events and activities. Their curriculum seeks academic excellence under Christian principles and strives to provide increased opportunity, support and guidance for all homeschool families, from elementary through high school.
When it comes to sports, homeschoolers may face a few challenges that traditional school children don’t face. While, of course, homeschoolers can participate in community, recreational and private sports’ leagues, many states also allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports. This concession is covered by what is commonly called the Tim Tebow Law. In case you don’t know, Tim Tebow was homeschooled in Florida, but allowed to play for his local high school football team. He then won the Heisman Trophy while playing for the University of Florida and went on to play in the NFL.
The Tim Tebow Law has been in limbo in Virginia for quite some time and has been vetoed for the past two years by Governor Terry McAuliffe. However, just recently the Virginia House of Delegates passed the “Tebow Bill,” which would allow homeschooled students to play high school sports at the school in their residential zone, providing that they a) try out for the team and meet the physical requirements, b) meet the academic standards required from the school and c) pay a fee for participation. The bill will still need to be passed by the Virginia Senate in order to go into effect. To learn more about the bill and where it currently stands visit VAHomeschoolers.org.
In addition to regular community, recreational and private sports’ leagues that are open to everyone, Richmond offers the following programs that cater to homeschool families:
Central Virginia Homeschool Athletic Association
For the past two decades CVHAA has been one of the foremost homeschool athletic organizations in Virginia, offering sports for both boys’ and girls’ in middle school and high school. They offer baseball football, soccer, and volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball, softball and soccer in the spring. CVHAA hosts locations throughout Richmond City, Greater Richmond and Central Virginia.
Chesterfield Homeschool Sports
CHS is a homeschool sports league dedicated to providing homeschool children with an opportunity to participate in team sports and to learn the joy of team participation. CHS provides sports for all children ages 4.5-18 years of age. Teams are taught good sportsmanship and are taught to have Christian attitudes. All teams are coached and led by parent volunteers. CHS offers soccer in the fall and softball in the spring.
Disciples Football is Virginia’s first homeschool football team competing at the high school level. This private Christian school team is comprised of home educated athletes ages 13-18, as well as those who attend private schools and public school. The “Disciples” are members of the Mid Atlantic Christian Conference and were Division I National Champions in 2012, 2015 and 2016. The team hosts spring and summer camps and begins the fall season in early August. Practices are held at Mehfoud Elementary School in Varina and home games are played at Point of Rocks park in Chester.
James River Eagles Athletics (James River Home School Foundation)
The athletics program for the James River Home School Foundation (JRHSF) features Interscholastic Sports, Recreational Sports and Developmental Sports; ensuring that children of all skill levels will have an opportunity to develop athletically while being homeschooled. The James River Eagles are charter members of the Capital City Athletic Conference (CCAC) and play private and Christian schools, as well as other home school teams, in the Richmond area and throughout central Virginia. They currently offer interscholastic basketball, volleyball, soccer and cross-country teams for boys and girls; co-ed recreational volleyball; and developmental teams for 5th and 6th grade basketball players. Practices are held in the Chesterfield, Midlothian, Powhatan, and Richmond areas.
Richmond Spirit Athletics
Richmond Spirit Athletics is a non-profit Christian organization dedicated to providing homeschooled students an opportunity to participate in organized interscholastic sports. Their athletic programs advance athletes through caring instruction, fair competition and healthy interaction. Richmond Spirit athletes compete in basketball, soccer at volleyball at Varsity, Junior Varsity and Middle School levels within the Virginia Commonwealth Athletic Association (VCAA), The VA Homeschool Athletic Assoc. (VHSAA) and the Capital City Athletic Conference (CCAC).
The mission of U-Turn Sports is use sports to train youth for lives of Christian love, purpose and service. Their vision is three-fold: to develop youth to be highly skilled athletes while offering Christian mentoring to them; to reach out and minister to at-risk youth; and to model servant leadership while offering resources to the Richmond community. While U-Turn is committed to the fundamentals of historical Christianity, they welcome kids from any background.
Extra Curricular Activities and Electives
In addition to sports or other physical education programs that you might want to add to your homeschool curriculum, extracurricular and elective courses can round out your child’s learning experience and provide creative stimulation outside of the home classroom. To learn more about the differences between extra curricular and elective courses, and how to make the most of both, you may want to peruse this article by Carol Becker and Diane Kummer, both high school consultants with the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
In the meantime, here a just a few of the many opportunities available for homeschoolers in the Richmond area:
Academy of Music
The Academy of Music operates with the mission of providing everyone, no matter their age or experience, an enriching music education through instrumental or vocal study, ensemble participation and/or music classes. Their Homeschool Program offers everything from Music Discovery for pre-school children to a Touring Choir for high school students. Be sure to check out their complete listing of private, group and ensemble opportunities, as well.
The Animation Course
Chad Stewart, former Disney animator and homeschool Dad offers 12-week online animation courses for 11-18 year olds. He also teaches online drawing classes for multiple ages as well. Weekly classes are one hour long with assignments planned for each principle that is covered in class. Class sessions are held in the fall and summer.
Art by Kathleen
Art Classes by Kathleen promote excellence in art and enjoyment of the artistic experience. Whether you’re apprehensive about your abilities or confident and experienced, her classes can move you along to enjoy the visual arts and achieve what you never thought you could. The instructor, Kathleen Hutton, teaches private lessons out of her home, as well as with local homeschool co-ops, including Areté Christian Academy and Westminster Academy, as well as private schools.
ART IS FUN!
Art is Fun offers lessons in Richmond’s west end for beginning or advanced students ages K-Adult, with the goal of having fun while learning serious art skills and techniques. All mediums are offered, including pencil, colored pencil, pen and ink, watercolor, pastels, oil pastels, acrylic, oil painting, printmaking, and mixed media. All classes, workshops, and summer camps are taught by an experienced award-winning professional artist. All supplies are included and students may join in anytime!
Colonial Driving School – Teen Driver’s Education
Colonial Driving School’s Teen Driver’s Education includes a 30-hour in-class portion that focuses on Virginia specific laws, defensive driving, and safe, responsible car ownership. Additionally, it includes essential behind the wheel training and feedback to ensure safe driving habits and skills. Colonial Driving School is authorized to issue your driver’s license on the spot once you complete the requirements!
Driver’s Education for Homeschoolers
Homeschooled students who meet state requirements can be taught driver’s education at home. For the classroom component of driver’s education, students can take courses at a driver training school, a public or private school, or through one of the correspondence courses listed on the Virginia DMV website. For the in-car portion, find the information you need with the DMV Home-Schooled In-Car Driver Education Information Sheet (HS-3).
Greater Richmond School of Music
The Greater Richmond School of Music Homeschool Band and Choir offers homeschooled students the opportunity to participate and perform in a quality band and choral program. Students do not need any previous musical experience to participate. The curriculum is designed to teach beginning through advanced students. Their highly qualified and experienced instructors have bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education and performance. They offer two Richmond area locations:
9109 Dickey Drive
Mechanicsville, Virginia 23116
Saint Benedict School
3100 Grove Avenue
Richmond, VA 23221
Nathan Mills Guitar Lessons
Nathan Mills teaches private classical, acoustic, and electric guitar lessons in the Richmond area to students of all ages and experience. As a classically-trained guitarist with a Master’s degree in Music Performance who was homeschooled himself, he tailors every lesson to the needs and interests of each individual student. You can hear him play here.
Powhatan Homeschool Music
With Beginner Band, Concert Band, Symphonic Band, and Pep Band, Powhatan Homeschool Music is a quality Band ensemble and private instruction program for beginners through advanced levels. Students with no experience can learn band instruments like flute, oboe, bassoon, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, horn, trombone, tuba, percussion and many others. Experienced students can join the Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Jazz Band, or Pep Band. Band classes are at Banner Christian School, 1501 S. Providence Rd., N. Chesterfield County. Private lessons are also provided at the instructor’s home studio located 12 Minutes west of Route 288 in Powhatan County.
Sunshine Art and Lessons
Sunshine offers a variety of art lessons for all ages and abilities. Lessons are structured by age group and developmental abilities and are available to those with limitations, as well. Students are introduced to a wide range of materials and techniques, allowing them to create and develop a unique style that is all their own. Special homeschool sessions are available to provide art instruction that will supplement your academic curriculum.
Virginia Scholastic Chess Association (VSCA)
The Virginia Scholastic Chess Association (VSCA) promotes the game of chess for all of Virginia’s school children, including homeschooled children. Additionally, they organize and conduct scholastic chess tournaments that help develop healthy social skills promoting racial and cultural harmony, as well as good sportsmanship, patience and personal responsibility. VSCA tournaments provide both individual and team competition. Win, lose or draw, no child is eliminated from a tournament and each child can build self esteem by feeling that he or she is part of a team. VSCA is headquartered in Richmond.
Resources for Homeschooling with Special Needs
Homeschooling a child with special needs can present a unique set of challenges, especially if you are not trained in special needs’ education. However, there are many resources available that will help you on your journey and provide support and encouragement for you and your child.
HSLDA Special Needs Counseling
In addition to providing extensive advice, legal information and support for homeschool families nationwide, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) provides support and counseling for those homeschooling children with special needs. They provide access to “struggling learners” counselors who will help you navigate the challenges of homeschooling a child who might need a little extra help. Click here to see a list of counselors.
National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network (NATHHAN)
This Christian organization focuses on supporting, encouraging and mentoring families who homeschool children with special needs. While they are not local to Richmond, they offer an expansive online resource library, including newsletters, legal updates, book reviews, and more.
Special Needs Homeschooling
This award-winning blog was started by Heather Laurie, a mother of five who began homeschooling after four of her five children were diagnosed with autism. The site provides learning resources, speaking events, newsletters and a store with materials, books and supplemental resources like webinars to help you in your pursuit of providing a strong special needs’ homeschooling experience. You can also visit Special Needs Homeschooling on Facebook.
VA Homeschoolers – Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs
VA Homeschoolers provides a wealth of information for all homeschool families in Virginia. If you are interested in homeschooling, or are currently homeschooling, a child with special needs, their special needs resource page provides everything you need to know, from FAQs to a list of local and regional resources.
Many experienced homeschool families claim that their local support groups were the thing that kept them going. Support groups provides socialization for you and your kids, they offer insights and tips, they provide encouragement on those days when you feel like you might be crazy for taking on this task, but most of all, they provide a sense of community. Fortunately, the Richmond area homeschool network is large and offers a wide variety of support groups in just about every region.
Chesterfield Home Educators of Virginia
CHEVA is a comprehensive homeschool support group for residents of Chesterfield County and the surrounding areas. This group offers online support and discussion, field trip opportunities, park days, and more.
Classical Conversations of Glen Allen
Classical Conversations supports homeschooling parents by cultivating the love of learning through a Christian worldview in fellowship with other families. They believe there are three keys to a great education: Classical principles, Christian values, and Community.
East Henrico Homeschoolers
This Yahoo group offers ideas and get-togethers specifically in the East Richmond, East Henrico, and New Kent areas, but is open to anyone.
Hanover Home Schoolers
Hanover Home Schoolers is a loosely organized, inclusive support group for all homeschooling families. They have members from all over the region – King William to Chesterfield, Goochland to Charles City and beyond. Their members are in 12 counties and the City of Richmond at present, which means it’s easy to find other homeschool families wherever you live. They welcome homeschoolers of all faiths and homeschooling styles. The link above is to their Yahoo group which they use for the distribution of their newsletter and announcements.
Homeschool Family Connection (formerly Home Educators at Grove)
This is a homeschool support group originating out of, but not exclusive to, members of Grove Avenue Baptist Church. Their support group is built on the truths of the Word of God. Throughout the year, the group plans a wide variety of activities, including field trips, clubs, parties, geography and science fairs, curriculum sales, variety shows and field day events, Back-to-School and End-of-the-Year Family picnics.
Homeschool Support Group VA
Homeschool Support Group VA services Chesterfield County. They exist to help meet the needs of families with preschool, elementary, middle school, and high school children who are at least strongly interested in homeschooling as an educational option for their family and believe in upholding biblical Christian values and nurturing training of children to honor God. Join their Yahoo Group to learn more.
James River Home School Foundation
The James River Home School Foundation, a 100% volunteer-run Christian ministry, was incorporated in the summer of 2009, as a non-profit entity with the goal and purpose of supporting the home school community by offering programs and opportunities in the areas of academics, athletics and performing arts. They offer numerous athletic teams, academic classes, as well as the three-tiered drama program.
Midlothian Home Educators
This Yahoo Group offers a place for home educators in the Midlothian area to share news, ideas, tips and encouragement.
RAH Our Lady of Grace
This Yahoo Group is hosted by RAH Our Lady of Grace, a homeschool support group designed for Catholic homeschool families in the Richmond area. The group provides a place where like-minded homeschoolers in Richmond can gather and share resources, events and ideas consistent with their Catholic faith and heritage.
Richmond Area Homeschoolers
This is an active, inclusive Yahoo Group generated by Richmond area homeschoolers that exists to share ideas, organize get-togethers, and provide general support. They plan park outings, organize regular field trips, and host annual events including a “Not Back to School Party” in September and a Spring Picnic in March. If you have an idea for a great homeschool activity, then this is the place to start organizing it.
Richmond Preschool Homeschoolers
Richmond Preschool Homeschoolers is an inclusive Yahoo Group comprised of Richmond area homeschoolers with preschool aged children. The group shares ideas, organizes get-togethers, and offers general support. They host play dates in the park, as well as field trips suited to preschool aged children.
This is a group of Richmond area “unschoolers” – homeschoolers who follow John Holt’s notion of child-led learning. Unschooling allows children to learn naturally, without adult-imposed “lessons”, schedules, or timelines. This list is to discuss anything related to homeschooling/unschooling, for support, and to arrange informal get-togethers with other unschoolers.
South of the James Homeschoolers
This is an active, parent-led support group composed of families with diverse backgrounds, experiences and beliefs who homeschool primarily for educational reasons. They host recurring activities like park days, book clubs and holiday parties, as wells as impromptu field trips and other outings. And while their primary focus is the kids, they provide plenty of opportunities for parents, too, with monthly meetings and moms’ night out. Email email@example.com for information about membership and events.
Training and Educating African American Children at Home
TEAACH is a group founded to connect all children, Black / African American, Biracial, and all home educators of color, in Central Virginia. This group is for homeschooled children in elementary, middle school and high school in the Piedmont area of Central Virginia, from Fredericksburg, to Richmond, to Charlottesville and all the surrounding counties, including Louisa, Albemarle, Green, Madison, Orange, Caroline, Spotsylvania, Fluvanna, Hannover, Goochland, and Henrico County. The goal is to provide fellowship for homeschooled children who share the same cultural, history and vision in a way that supports families in the endeavor to raise Christian children. Join the Yahoo Group at the link above, or visit TEAACH on Facebook.
Tri-Cities Homeschool Educators
This active, membership-based group provides encouragement in homeschooling; access to recreational activities; and support in parenting and spiritual needs for homeschool families in the Greater Richmond Area. They meet at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Colonial Heights. Membership is not required to attend monthly support meetings, however, membership does provide benefits in the form of additional resources, discounts at select local stores and businesses, group activities, personalized mentoring, access to group testing and more.
Work and Homeschool Richmond Group
This is a group for working parents that homeschool their children and live in or nearby the Richmond VA area. Their purpose is to help working families connect. (NOTE: They have not had a great deal of activity on their Yahoo Group page recently, but be sure to check it out if you are interested in connecting with other working homeschool families.)
Statewide and National Homeschool Resources
There are a number of organizations, associations and groups created for the express purpose of providing valuable resources, support and encouragement to homeschool families from all backgrounds. These groups operate at regional, statewide and national levels, but often provide local resource searches. They can be invaluable in keeping you up-to-date with the latest news, laws and learning techniques.
Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV)
HEAV is a member-supported, statewide, non-profit homeschool association that operates from a biblical worldview. They work to promote and protect homeschool interests in Virginia through information, legislation, and resources. Their site offers a vast amount of information in easy-to-understand formats designed to help you see just how much you can accomplish as a homeschool family.
Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA)
HSLDA was founded in 1983 by two lawyers, who also happened to be homeschool dads. Over the years, HSLDA has provided affordable legal advocacy as a non-profit ministry that defends and advances the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms. HSLDA is a membership-based organization, however, they offer extensive materials, resources and information for free on their site. Headquartered in Purcellville, Virginia, they serve homeschool families on a national level.
Time 4 Learning – Homeschooling Guide
This site provides information, resources, and curriculum to help you get started on your homeschooling adventure. They will help guide you through the process of homeschooling in Virginia, as well as provide other valuable resources, including an online homeschool parent and community forum.
The Homeschool Mom
The Homeschool Mom is an in-depth resource for homeschool families nationwide. They provide everything you need as a potential homeschooler, a new homeschooler, or a seasoned veteran. From tips and resources, to legislative updates and printable lesson plans, The Homeschool Mom is a one-stop shop for homeschooling information. For local resources, be sure to visit their Virginia page to get state-specific information, support groups and more.
This inclusive organization brings together individuals, families, homeschool organizations, and businesses to promote and protect the interests of Virginia homeschoolers. The support homeschoolers through the state of Virginia through legislative work, assistance to individual homeschoolers, and by providing information, speakers, events and resources.
There is no doubt that homeschooling can be an intimidating prospect – but it can also be one of the most rewarding challenges you’ll ever face. While, at the end of the day, you have to do what’s right for your family, we hope that this article has answered some of your questions, calmed some of your fears, and most of all, helped you decide whether or not homeschooling is right for you.