When people find out that I have recently filed for "religious exemption" I am greeted with several reactions. One is, "What is that?" Another is, "why would you need that?" But the most frequent (at least in my circles of contact) is, "Wow, I'd like to learn more about that." I believe that if more Virginians who are already homeschooling knew more about this right, more would take advantage of it. It IS a right. If your reasons for homeschooling are motivated by bona fide religious beliefs, then you are eligible to take advantage of this right.
Admittedly, Virginia is a fairly easy state in which to homeschool. It is not as easy as Texas or strangely, New Jersey (both have no requirements for notification or testing), but it is not as complicated as in New England or Pennsylvania. You can see on this map which states are regulated heavily, moderately, or not at all. In our fair Commonwealth, you may home educate under several provisions, (see the pdf file posted here) but the one most frequently utilized requires the parent to have a high school diploma, notify the superintendant of their intent to homeschool, provide a list of curricula that they plan to use, and submit an evaluation at the end of the school year with proof of progress (either standardized test scores or a professional evaluator's report). Another provision states that a parent may home educate as a certified tutor, that is, if said parent has a teaching certificate then they only need to provide notification once, and then they may home school their children. Religious exemption, unlike both of these provisions actually exempts a child from the compulsory education statute, and liberates the parents from any state oversight or regulation.
In this series, I hope to answer the ubiquitous questions I mentioned above:
1. What is religious exemption from compulsory education?
2. Why would we need a provision for religious exemption? (Which also answers the primary reasons why our family chose this route)
Hopefully this will be of assistance to anyone who is considering this course for his or her family. I am not an attorney, so please do not take this in any way as legal advice. It is merely information that I have gleaned and used in my experience while filing for religious exemption. It does not make me an expert on the subject, though my convictions concerning this run deep. My information is well-researched and accurate to the best of my knowledge. If there are errors at any point along the way, I will do my best to correct them.
This all sounds rather clinical, but our reasons for making this choice for our family are anything but. In the last part of this series, I will delineate the process that took us from choosing to homeschool in the first place, to our decision to file for religious exemption. It is a journey of faith, growth, and ultimately deep conviction of how God is calling us as parents to raise and nurture our children, body mind and spirit.
Link to Part 2: What is Religious Exemption