Alabama

Alabama law allows parents to educate their children at home either through enrollment in a church “umbrella” school or under the state’s private tutor law. Many church schools exist solely for the purpose of enrolling homeschooled students, and most homeschooling parents in Alabama choose this route.

  • Umbrella school: Parents may homeschool under the state’s church school law by enrolling their children in church schools and teaching them at home. Parents must provide one-time notice to the local school district and maintain attendance records. There are no parent qualification, instruction time, subject, or assessment requirements.
  • Private tutor: Parents may homeschool under the private tutor law, which requires one-time notice, a teaching certificate, 140 days of instruction “in the several branches of study required to be taught in the public schools of this state,” and attendance records, but has no assessment requirement.

Compulsory attendance applies to children “between the ages of six and 17 years.” A parent may postpone enrolling a child in school until he or she is seven by notifying the local school board in writing. See Alabama Code § 16-28-3.


Umbrella School Option

Homeschooling through enrollment in a church school satisfies the compulsory education law. According to state law, “church school includes only such schools as offer instruction in grades K-12, or any combination thereof . . . and are operated as a ministry of a local church, group of churches, denomination, and/or association of churches on a nonprofit basis which do not receive any state or federal funding.” See Ala. Code § 16-28-3 and § 16-28-1(2).

Notification: Parents must file a one-time notice of their child(ren)’s “enrollment and attendance” in a church school, cosigned by the church school administrator, with the local superintendent. Should a child cease to attend a church school, the church school must notify the local superintendent. See § 16-28-7.
Qualifications: No state requirements.
Days or hours: No state requirements.
Subjects: Church schools must “offer instruction,” but what instruction is not stipulated. See § 16-28-1(2).
Bookkeeping: The principal teacher of a church school must keep attendance; however, there are no required days or hours of instruction and no reporting requirement. Unlike private schools or private tutors, church schools are not required to “make and furnish all reports that may be required by the State Superintendent of Education [or by local superintendents].” See § 16-28-8.
Assessment: No state requirements.
Intervention: The attendance officer may investigate students absent from school to ensure that there is “valid reason” for the child’s absence—i.e., that the child is enrolled in a private or church school or being educated by a private tutor. Should no valid reason be found, the attendance officer shall require the child’s attendance in school and may press charges. See § 16-28-16.
Other: n/a

Private Tutor Law

Parents may choose to homeschool by hiring a private tutor. It is rare for homeschoolers in Alabama to choose this option. See Ala. Code § 16-28-3 and § 16-28-5.

Notification: The private tutor must submit to the superintendent a one-time notice of the child or children under instruction, the subjects taught, and the proposed hours of instruction. See § 16-28-5.
Qualifications: The private tutor much have a state teaching certificate. See § 16-28-5.
Days or hours: The private tutor must provide “at least three hours a day for 140 days each calendar year, between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M.” See § 16-28-5.
Subjects: The private tutor must offer in the English language “instruction in the several branches of study required to be taught in the public schools of this state.” See § 16-28-5.
Bookkeeping: The private tutor “shall keep a register of work, showing daily the hours used for instruction and the presence or absence of any child being instructed and shall make such reports as the State Board of Education may require.” See § 16-28-5.
Assessment: None.
Intervention: The attendance officer may investigate students absent from school to ensure that there is “valid reason” for the child’s absence—i.e., that the child is enrolled in a private or church school or being educated by a private tutor. Should no valid reason be found, the attendance officer shall require the child’s attendance in school and may press charges. See § 16-28-16.
Other: n/a

Services Available to Homeschooled Students

Special needs: Homeschooled students are eligible for special needs testing through their local public schools, but not entitled to special needs services offered through these schools. This is because church schools are considered distinct from private schools, and IDEA only requires public schools to share some of their special needs funding with private schools.  
Part-time enrollment: State law neither prohibits nor requires public schools to allow homeschooled students to enroll in individual classes, leaving the matter up to the local school district.
Athletics: The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) changed its eligibility rules in 2016 to allow homeschooled students to participate in public school athletics provided they do not receive more practice time than their public school peers. You can read the old AHSAA Eligibility Rules here.
Other: n/a

Background:

Early homeschoolers enrolled their children in church schools while educating them at home. Over time, homeschoolers created their own church schools for the purpose of enrolling homeschooled students. To this day, Alabama does not have a homeschool statute, and homeschooling continues to take place under the state’s church school law.


Resources:

The Alabama Department of Education does not offer any information or fact sheets on homeschooling in Alabama.

Ala. Code § 16-28

Alabama, International Center for Home Education Research


This overview is for informational purposes only and does not constitute the giving of legal advice. Page last updated September 2015. 

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