The Path to Homeschooling in Virginia

An Opportunity Amidst the Echoes of Covid-19

By Dr. Theresa Snell July 30, 2020


🖨️  For a printable version of this article, click here.   

Covid-19 and its echoes have thrown many into chaos. It has uprooted our norms and left in its wake a bog of uncertainty. For those of you with school-aged children, your shoes now squelch through fears and questions about the 2020-2021 school year. Yet there emerges an opportunity in this to explore non-traditional schooling options. Set aside doubt for a moment and consider your possibilities. Take a small step with me. Homeschooling is not one thing but a varied and individualized choice that CAN fit in your schedule. I have been a homeschooling mom for six years. In this time, I have worked from home, completed a doctoral program, participated in my community, and collected enough hobbies for three people. If homeschooling is even an abstract consideration in your home right now, allow me to answer a few questions to get you started. Whatever your choice, I trust you are thinking in the best interest of those you love.

How It Works

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the home instruction of children who have reached age five on or before September 30th and have not passed their eighteenth birthday is permissible according to statute § 22.1-254.1. 

Kids between 5-18? You’ve got this! You are legal!

To do this, parents must file an annual Notice of Intent to Provide Home Instruction (NOI) with supporting documents and Curriculum Description to their local school division by August 15th of that school year. By August 1st of the subsequent year, in most cases, you must provide proof of Academic Progress. 

Put it in the Calendar! 

August 15, 2020 and August 1, 2021!

To qualify, parents must meet at least one of four criteria:

  1. The parent holds a high school diploma or higher credential and can provide documentation of this.
  2. The parent meets the Board of Education’s teacher qualifications and can provide either a copy of their teacher’s license or a statement from the Virginia Department of Education. 
  3. The parent is able to provide their child with a program of study via correspondence or distance learning courses. They must submit evidence of either acceptance or enrollment that includes the school’s name and address as well as a list of subjects to be studied. 
  4. The parent is able to provide evidence that they are able to provide an adequate education for the child.

            In the past, I have hand-delivered my NOI, copies of my transcripts, my documents, and my Curriculum Description. Not this year. Email and fax options are available in your school division but submitting by postal mail with tracking or confirmed delivery with a return receipt is a guaranteed way to ensure your material is received in a timely manner. Do not ask for a signature to confirm delivery as this will only cause you delays. In one envelope that includes your full name and address on the return portion include all your documents stapled together with the NOI on top. Ensure that your name, contact information, and address are on the NOI.  Put your student’s name on every page in case papers are lost in the shuffle, and take that next step onto firmer ground. You do not have to wait for approval to begin. 

Still Confused? Your county’s school website will have more information.

School Division Homeschool Information:

Fredericksburg City Schools


Dr. Marceline Catlett


210 Ferdinand Street, Fredericksburg, VA 22401






Spotsylvania County


Dr. Stephen Scott Baker


8020 River Stone Dr, Fredericksburg, VA 22407






Point of Contact:

Emily Horne,  Instructional Technology Resource Specialist


Stafford County


Dr. Scott R. Kizner


31 Stafford Ave., Stafford, VA 22554 






Point of Contact: 

Lisa Foeman Boatwright, Executive Director of Policy, Legal Services, & Title IX    


Any Questions?

What is the NOI?

There is no official form for NOIs in Virginia. There are optional NOI forms which can be accessed through the Department of Education’s website, your county’s website, organizations like HEAV, and VAHomeschoolers but your NOI can simply be a letter which details your intention to homeschool, specifies which of the four options listed above your are filing under, provides your contact information, and includes proof that you qualify. Every year I have used an optional NOI, selected option I, submitted copies of my transcripts as proof, included my Curriculum Description and moved forward. Do not be surprised, however, if your NOI acceptance is significantly delayed. I did not receive last year’s until December! 

What is a Curriculum Description?

A Curriculum Description is a list of subjects to be studied during the coming year. Don’t be like me. Do not over complicate this. The superintendent, under VDOE’s Superintendents Memo No. 124, does not have the authority to judge or reject your program of study. There is no specific list of educational subjects mandated by Virginia. So long as what you provide is not your education philosophy but a description, you will be fine. 

What is Option IV?

In six years of homeschooling, I have yet to discuss this fourth option with anyone in my community. You must be out there, right? All Option IV means is that the division superintendent will review your NOI and assess your “ability to provide an adequate education.”You will need to show mastery of language in your submitted letter, include a plan for instruction, and offer a school year overview that demonstrates a reasonable scope and sequence of content.

What is Proof of Education/Progress?

If you are required to submit evidence of Educational Achievement or progress you have choices. Do Not Panic! I will not let you sink now that you have made it this far. You can order, administer, and then provide your district with a nationally normed standardized achievement test score. You may submit ACT/SAT/PSAT evaluations, a report card/transcript from a distance learning/correspondence/higher education institute, or an evaluation letter from a licensed teacher or a person with a master’s degree or higher in an academic discipline. 

If you choose an evaluation over a test, I strongly encourage you to keep a portfolio of your children’s work throughout the year so that you can demonstrate proof of academic progress. No one wants to be scrambling in May to find work from last September before their appointment with an evaluator. Don’t do that to yourself. Some evaluators, like myself, will even work with you throughout the year to maintain your portfolio.

Good record keeping with examples of your student’s work may also help you if ever need proof of your child’s education, volunteer work, or even grades for colleges, military recruiters, employers, volunteer coordinators, or other states if you move. Creating a high school transcript is certainly easier if that information is in one place. Luckily, some online programs will create this for you. 

According to Virginia’s Department of Education (VDOE), this requirement has been waved for the 2019-2020 School Year due to COVID-19 School Closure.

What About Those Kindergarteners?

There are three choices for your five year old homeschool student this year. 

             1. Register them as a homeschool student! 

                        If they are not six by September 30th, they are exempt from end of year testing and evaluation requirements-Thank you statute §22.1-254.1, 

                        subsection C   

                        However, if your student is six by September 30th, end of year testing or 

                        evaluation are required.

            2. Delay. 

                        Under statute §22.1-254 H, you can submit a letter stating that your 

                        student is not ready, either academically or socially, to begin compulsory 

                        attendance at school and you are delaying enrollment. Next year, register                      

                        your child as either a kindergartner or a first grader.

            3. Claim a Religious Exemption under 22.1-254 B, 1.

What is the Certified Tutor Option?

If you prefer, you may have your child(ren) taught by a tutor or teacher who meets the Board of Education’s prescribed qualifications and is approved by the division superintendent. Parents who are certified teachers can teach their own children under this option rather than the Home Instruction Statute. In this instance, notification will be in the form a letter to the division superintendent that includes certification documents and states that you are in compliance with  §22.1-254 A. If you are choosing this, do not check option II on the Notice of Intent form even though it shows “certified tutor” as the second option to homeschool. 

Can I claim a Religious Exemption?

Families with a Religious Exemption are not held to the compulsory attendance code according to §22.1-254 (B)(1) of the Code of Virginia. They do not have to submit a NOI, Curriculum Description, or annual testing/evaluation results. To be approved, you must submit a letter describing your family’s religious beliefs as they pertain to spiritually-based education, include letters from friends, family members, religious leader, or other members of your faith confirming your beliefs. This status may be reviewed periodically to determine if the exemption is still valid.

Moving to the Area? Changed your mind about public school after a month? No Problem!

Any parent who moves into a school division or begins home instruction after the school year has begun only needs to notify the division superintendent of their homeschool intentions as soon as possible and then complete everything we’ve talked about above within 30 days of that notice. If you choose to withdraw from public school after the year has begun, you will need to officially withdraw before beginning to homeschool. Complete and submit your NOI and then contact your child’s school to determine if they have a withdrawal form or is a withdrawal letter is sufficient. 

What curriculum is the best?

Hah! You will not catch me on this one. This is boggy terrain indeed. Squelch. Squish.

This is your plan and your opportunity to get creative and explore what your student is interested in. Virginia does not restrict your choices. So do your research. Make a plan. Do not over plan. Adapt it as life happens. What you thought was the perfect system may not work for your child-even if it works for everyone else. Curriculum planning is a patchwork quilt and not a matching sheet set. 

Sickness and holidays may derail your plans. Show yourself some grace, step back, and reevaluate. Seasons vary. Our children change as they grow. Their aptitudes, abilities, and interests change. We have the opportunity to witness that growth and meet those changing needs since we are right there with them. We know their passions and their struggles. We know our own. 

The freedom to travel, which we have missed so desperately these months, is a gift for homeschoolers. It can educate us in the most wondrous and surprising of ways and introduce us to new ideas and new people. Look into extension programs, co-ops, or  programs with our parks. Volunteer. Get outside and embrace kinesthetic learning in an environment that will soothe your senses. Teach that video game obsessed child the history of programming and register for a coding class.

Curriculum planning is my favorite part. After the first year’s panic over doing  the “right” thing, we homeschoolers peal with delight as we order our material or hunt through used curriculum sales. We watch YouTube videos, read blogs, and some of us think about it far more than we should. Then we set plans aside when something incredible presents itself or a light sparks in our kid’s eyes.

Do not take on too much trying to replicate traditional school or fit everything in. This is about embracing something different. The heavier your burden, the deeper you will sink until you are exhausted and overwhelmed. We cannot give or share our talents if we are depleted so move slowly when everything seems too big and too daunting. Accept help where it is offered and prioritize your well-being.

Battling the “Buts”

But I am not a teacher...

The fact that you worry about being good enough assures me that you will do your best by your child(ren). Remember you are now giving individualized attention. Start with your passions and theirs. Introduce them to the person behind the title of Mom or Dad. Read interesting things, hilarious things, heart-wrenching things. Recruit talented family members, friends, or experts. Attend online or live home educator trainings. They are always so encouraging and innervating. Use the multitude of digital lectures available to introduce topics you are less than comfortable with teaching. Laugh at the videos of adults rapping history facts or find the old science shows they played or us in middle school. 

But I don’t have time...

We are required to teach 180 days a year or 990 hours in Virginia. Some people do this five days a week for a few hours and some slam it out in three days. Some people school year round and some do not. There is no requirement for a six to eight hour workday for elementary school aged children. You will be amazed by how much can be learned in one to two hours of focused attention. 

When you plan, consider your schedule first. You are more than just a homeschooling adult. You are an individual with commitments, meal plans, chores, jobs, and self-care needs. Schedule your outside of the house commitments and delegate chores. Recruit help. There is no requirement that you teach it all. You should not be in this alone. My family is a team. We all clean, cook, and work together. If you are financially able, support a local business during this transition time and hire a cleaning service once a month or a tutor to help with an area of struggle. Enroll in a program you think will help you succeed. Don’t forget... grandparents can help homeschool too.

As a work from home mom, I like that my children know I have interests and commitments beyond our walls and beyond them. I schedule “independent reading time,” “tech time” with learning apps and shows, or let my eldest lead an activity when I am on a deadline and snuggle in for family read alouds when the schedule is less compressed. I post our weekly schedule so everyone knows what is going on and when I might be feeling frazzled. There is often enough time for that which we value. This is your plan and you have a whole year to hit those 180 days. 

But what about socialization?

This one always makes me laugh. My children are so over-socialized. Between co-ops, clubs, extracurriculars, and meet ups, they have a diverse group of friends who span a large range of ages. They teach each other and learn from each other. I have to work hard not to over commit and I encourage you to be careful here. Also, avoid the pitfall of sitting around while your children play. Move! Exercise! Start a book club! Discuss ideas that are bouncing around inside of you! Enjoy your friends during these times and the opportunity to live with your children.

Some Final Thoughts

There will be dozens more questions and dozens of opinions as you walk this path. I hope you feel a little more sure on your feet now and are empowered to make some decisions for what is best for your family. This year does not have to be a tragedy or a torture. Whether you take this opportunity to pursue non-traditional schooling or navigate the new in your public or private schools, I wish you nothing but luck. Remember, it is your choice and your family. Everyone has opinions but you are the one who will be living with this choice. 

Talk openly about your challenges and your curiosity. Play pretend and agree to be in this together. Research some local co-ops or the homeschool discounts on admission prices to some favorite places.  If homeschooling is your choice, remember that August 15th is right around the corner and those NOIs must be submitted.

I have no regrets about our decision to homeschool but it is still a question we will revisit every year as parents. It is a life we are choosing to create together. We recommit to educating our children to be independent thinkers and life-long learners. We recommit to consciously encouraging them to be curious and creative. We accept that there will be hard days and there will be beautiful ones; promising to practice and demonstrate self-care. Then, we ask our children to evaluate their choices and commit to another year together pursuing our interests, expanding our minds, and challenging ourselves. Maybe, this year, you will join us and navigate homeschooling in Virginia. 

- Dr. Theresa Snell holds an educational doctorate in counseling psychology and is a local children’s author. She is a homeschool mother to two, a homeschool tutor, and consultant. Information about the author can be found at

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