Ever wonder what it would be like to homeschool in a different state? We all know that homeschooling is growing in popularity in the United States, and today we are going to learn more about South Carolina! Schoolhouse Ambassador Sara Starnes shares her journey to homeschooling in the state of South Carolina. How do you go about being a homeschooler in South Carolina? Where can you turn for support? What are some of the unique learning opportunities in South Carolina? Sara answers all these questions and more in our interview.
What If You Wanted To Homeschool in South Carolina?
Sara started her homeschooling journey with her oldest son, Matt, who has special needs. They started homeschooling him during his high school years after the high school he was scheduled to attend became unwilling to allow him to try for a diploma. The high school told Sara that when her son turned 17 he would drop out and not receive a diploma. “They did not understand why I was trying so hard,” Sara shared. “According to him he was too immature on paper to do regular classes or get a diploma.” So they pulled him out of public school before the start of ninth grade to start homeschooling him so he could earn a diploma.
While her oldest son, Matt, has completed his homeschool journey, the younger three children are ages fourteen, eight, and five and are still on their own journey. “My husband and I have homeschooled for eight years now and will continue to do so. We decided to pull the then fourth grader out of his school while having an infant in the home and homeschooled the two boys together. I now homeschool three children and I would not change that at all,” Sara said.
Homeschooling Around the United States – South Carolina: Questions and Answers:
Q. How do you start homeschooling in South Carolina?
A. You must join one of the three options under SC DOE laws. As long as you have joined an option organization you may homeschool in South Carolina.
Option One (1) is through the school districts. Not all of the districts offer or follow option 1 so they may tell you to do virtual learning. They require following state standards for graduation as well.
Option Two (2) is through S.C.A.I.H.S (South Carolina Association of Independent Homeschoolers) they are also a Christian based organization.
This organization has their own rules and regulations. They require testing starting in third grade. Their fees are much more costly than choosing option 1 or 3. They follow the state standards for graduation.
Option three (3) is what most of us in South Carolina choose to do. Associations are registered with the South Carolina Department of Education. You join a homeschool association most are very reasonable for the year and allow for the most freedom. Most associations allow you to pick and choose what curriculum you use. You may unschool, life school, use co-ops or a tutor when needed. Oversight is very minimal and we are free to teach Bible and Biblical views under Option 3. All of the associations are ran differently such as some require testing, how much you may outsource, some may ask you to grade or do ranking through the association. Each association may set their own rules or regulations in addition to what is in the SC Code of Law for homeschool or education. You are welcome to switch associations if you are unhappy with the current one you are with. We must cover 180 day, keep our own records, and follow whatever regulations the association we are with requires.
Q. Do you need to notify anyone (school district, government agency)?
A. Not, particularly. We are not an intent to homeschool state; however, some schools do require a letter from whichever option you will be choosing. For me personally my association had to send a letter for homeschooling to the school district before they would show proof my son was withdrawn from school. Joining an option should be all that is needed in order to homeschool in South Carolina.
Q. Where can you find more of the legal requirements?
A. Many associations have their own websites for what they require. The South Carolina Department of Education site has information on homeschooling and accountability. The South Carolina Homeschooling Connection has a list of associations and other information for homeschooling in South Carolina.
Q. Do you need a set curriculum or can you pick and choose based upon your homeschool philosophy?
A. I have never been forced to use a set curriculum under option 3. I may use the Bible, workbooks, internet, TV or movies, books, or the library.
Everything counts as learning. I may use cooking or cleaning (such as chores, these count as life skills), we can use field trips, church outings or events, and anything else we consider to be school. I just have to document what we have covered in the day or the week. As long as your association or option you are under allows you to choose what you do, then you may do whatever you feel suits your family and children the best.
Finding Support in South Carolina
Q. What support networks are available?
A. We can use social media to search for groups and most associations have a list of where to find groups or even offer meetups. Many co-ops also offer field trips or meetups outside of class times. We have a teen specific group that is open to middle school and high schoolers. South Carolina also has a lot of sports groups available especially for youth. My son Josh is involved with archery. S3DA is a national organization that is open to ages 7 or so to a senior in high school. We have been able to have archery teams started by homeschoolers in our area.
Q. Where do you suggest looking to meet up with other homeschoolers in your country?
A. I have met so many homeschoolers on social media or just by using homeschool blogs and I love being in homeschool mom groups. I have friends in Canada and have chatted with moms in Mexico and the Bahamas too.
Q. Why do people choose to homeschool in your state?
A. I believe that so many in South Carolina choose to homeschool because we are pretty relaxed on homeschool laws, so it makes it easy to begin homeschooling. More and more families are able to work from home so keeping their children home just makes sense (at least for us it does since my children’s daddy is home).
Q. Are there religious reasons why people choose to homeschool in South Carolina?
A.Yes, I believe that many like us do not want the schools to teach our children religion and that the Bible tells us our children were given to us and we are to be training or teaching them. Schools have made it difficult for Bible study or Christian fellowship to take place and I believe many families want to have the freedom to teach their children the way they feel they should be taught. I do have secular friends who homeschool and their reason for it is simply just not agreeing to what schools are teaching and allowing. I believe many are realizing that our children need to be home if the families are religious or not. For us, it wasn’t about being Christian at first but what was the right thing for our son to do.
Q. Are there reasons due to the quality of schools why people homeschool?
A. Our schools are some of the lowest ranked in the nation (currently ranked at 44th). Lack of services and teachers no longer want to teach, I feel are part of the problems. For us, personally it came down to our son being behind due to teachers feeling like their hands were tied because they had to follow the district’s rules or regulations. They could not teach the way they felt was best. The schools as a whole did not do enough to help him succeed or be able to adequately learn (I am being specific of how things were handled for us). Many families that I talk to are very frustrated with our schools. Not every school in our state has these particular issues but I know many who live statewide and I have certainly heard similar stories.
Q. How can you incorporate your home state into your homeschool studies?
A. We can go to the library and check out books about our state. We have local and state television stations that will air information about our state. I have the children do coloring pages about our state. We enjoy going to see the animals on display at our local nature museum with many are state specific. And we also have many state parks here that present classes about our state. We read books out loud about South Carolina. Living only a few hours drive to the mountains and the beaches, we can go on road trips to see our state and explore many different areas. We also have a state museum in Columbia that has nothing but South Carolina history artifacts and memorabilia in it. We have only ever lived in South Carolina so knowing about our state is very important to me.
Q. What is easy to teach in your state (nature studies, art, math)?
A. I find being able to go on local trips to the nature museum is great for teaching about the animals found here or that were here. We can also learn about local artists by going to the local art museum. Our state is full of history and places to go see and things to go do. We have a museum in Columbia (our state capital) that is dedicated to the Civil War and we can learn all about how the war started right here just outside of Charleston. We have Brattonsville which is a living history plantation right here in my town and they do living history days and social media videos.
Several years back we were even able to do a tour of the Governor’s mansion and was able to play with his dog while there visiting. We are located in one of the largest cities in the state so we have so much to do just within a 20 minute drive of my home such as the museums, art gallery, Main Street, parks and even a few battlegrounds within 30 minutes of us. There is even a telephone museum here.
South Carolina has several artists, photographers, actors, sports athletes and musicians. One of the more famous people from here is Vernon Grant who created Snap, Crackle and Pop.
Q. What else should people know about homeschooling in your state?
A. While homeschooling in the state of South Carolina, you must cover 180 days, keep a plan book, schedule or a calendar of what you do each day, week or month as well as keep a record of days done. What counts as homeschooling? Attending church, youth group, learning on the weekends, having family discussions, all count towards homeschooling. Curriculum is simply the material you choose to use. You may use online education or do more traditional with textbooks or workbooks or no curriculum and just use the internet and library resources.
Under option 3 with most associations, as long as your child is learning, you are just fine. Depending upon the option you are under or your association, complete a 90 day and 180 day progress report. Having a secular or religious based association does not have a bearing on whether or not you can teach the way you feel is best. There is no bearing on whether you want to teach Bible and Christianity or not.
You must teach the following subjects: math, science, social studies, reading and writing or literature. Keep examples of work and that may include pictures or art that your students do so that if you ever had to show someone (such as your association or option organization you can do so.)
Under option 3 you do not have to have proof of vaccines either unless for some reason an association requires it. No association can be accredited nor can they offer legal support to someone in another state. A parent or legal guardian may also issue their own transcript and diploma according to when they feel the student is ready to graduate. Some have graduated as young as 14 or 15 and gone on to attend colleges.
Moving to South Carolina?
If you are thinking of moving to South Carolina, do your research. Some associations do cost more to join than others. They are required to keep families legal. Some associations do ranking and do require testing. If you are in South Carolina or moving here, check each association out to be sure you aren’t going to be over regulated as some do more than what is written in the SC homeschool laws. Finally, you can find more information about homeschooling and support groups by visiting SchoolhouseConnect.com.
You can also read about homeschooling in other across the United States in our series!