North Carolina has the second largest percentage of homeschool students in the United States at nearly 9%. State representatives may inspect homeschool records, and a number of homeschools are randomly selected for this inspection each year with little notice.

History

In the southern United States, North Carolina legalized homeschooling in 1988. Homeschools are a type of private school, either religious or nonreligious. A home school cannot educate children from more than two families and must select a school name. Procedures for name selection are spelled out in the guidebook.

Regulation

North Carolina provides a detailed website for homeschool parents with a guidebook and other information. Parents electing to homeschool their children, ages 7 to 16, must notify the Division of Nonpublic Education and update the notice annually. This office may inspect records, including attendance and testing, although this inspection appears to occur outside the home. See here on page 3 for details. Parents are expected to operate the school for at least nine calendar months. No specific curriculum or subject instruction is required.

Parents who direct their children’s education at home must have a high school diploma or GED. Homeschooled students must take a “national standardized test” annually. The results must be retained and provided for inspection upon request. Interestingly, the North Carolina state test is neither required nor meets the homeschool testing requirement. This is because the state tests are not nationally normed.

North Carolina provides no access for nonpublic students, including homeschooled students, to educational opportunities at their local public schools. In fact, it is one of a small handful of states across the U.S. that provide zero access. North Carolina homeschooled students are not eligible for special services since they are no longer enrolled in public schools.

State Data

Homeschool growth in North Carolina over the last decade is strong. For example, around 33,000 students reported homeschooling in 2000 and increased to 83,000 by 2010. At the height of the pandemic, homeschool counts in North Carolina hit nearly 180,000. Data on homeschool participation by county and age are also available.

A bar chart showing homeschool rates in North Carolina from 1999 to 2023, with rates steadily increasing from 1999 to 2019, spiking in 2020, and then decreasing in 2021 and 2022.

Similarly, U.S. Census estimates indicate that around 5% of North Carolina families homeschooled in the spring of 2020 and increased to 9.4% by the fall of 2020. Note that these percentages reflect family participation. Student participation would be higher, given that many families have more than one child. Considering the 2022 and 2023 school years, the U.S. Census found that an average of 5.2% of K-12 students in North Carolina were homeschooled.

Download Homeschool Hub State Data

Cross-Sector Comparison

During the 2019-20 academic year, 8.1% of North Carolina’s K-12 students were homeschooled. This percentage is the highest in the nation. Homeschool participation in the state was higher than both the 6.6% of students attending private schools, and the 6.4% of students attending charter schools. In 2021-22, 8.85% of North Carolina’s K-12 students were homeschooled, 7% attended private schools, and 7.3% attended charter schools.

A pie chart showing home, charter, private, and traditional public school percentages in North Carolina in 2021-22

School Choice Context

In addition to homeschooling, parents in North Carolina have various educational choices available. These options include traditional public schools (although there are no open enrollment options), charter, magnet, and two private school choice options, including an educational savings account for students with special needs.

Commentary

The homeschool testing requirement holds homeschool students to a higher standard than public school students in the state. Public students do not test annually, and they do not take a nationally normed assessment.

Last updated December 2023.