In South Carolina, there are three options for schooling children from home. These include forming a district-approved homeschool, homeschooling through the support of the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools, or homeschooling under another homeschool association that meets specific requirements.

History

South Carolina, in the southern United States, legalized homeschooling in 1988. This is one of several states with multiple homeschool options, including homeschooling with approval from the local school district or through a local homeschool association.

Regulation

South Carolina requires parents who elect to homeschool their children, ages 5 to 17, to agree in writing that they will not hold the district responsible for any “educational deficiencies” experienced by homeschooled students. Specific requirements differ according to the homeschool option chosen. This summary focuses on the options that involve a local homeschool association.

Parents who direct their children’s education at home must have at least a high school diploma or GED. Instruction in core subjects is required. Homeschooled students must receive instruction for a minimum of 180 days a year, but there are no specifications on hours, days of the week, etc. Under option three, parents must keep attendance records, a plan book, a portfolio of student work, and evidence of progress. Homeschooled students (in options 2 and 3) may not participate in the statewide assessments.

Homeschooled students may ask for permission to participate in extracurricular activities only and must meet several district requirements. Access for nonpublic students is restricted. According to South Carolina policy, homeschooled students with special needs are not eligible for special services since they are no longer enrolled in public schools. District-approved homeschooled students who fail to progress may receive special services at the parents’ expense.

State Data

South Carolina publicly reports annual homeschool participation. For example, around 11,000 students were homeschooled in 2011, which increased to almost 32,000 by 2022. This is one of a few states where homeschool participation continued to grow after the pandemic. The state also reports disaggregated homeschool participation information by district, grade, and homeschool option.

A bar chart showing homeschool rates in South Carolina from 2011 to 2023, with rates steadily increasing from 2011 to 2017, dropping slightly in 2018, spiking in 2020, and slightly increasing in 2021 and 2022.

Similarly, U.S. Census estimates indicate that around 6.4% of South Carolina families homeschooled in the spring of 2020 and increased to 13.2% by the fall of 2020. Note that these percentages reflect family participation and were slightly higher than the national averages during those times. Student participation could be higher, given that many families have multiple children. In the 2022 and 2023 school years, the U.S. Census found that an average of 4.5% of K-12 students in South Carolina were homeschooled.

Download Homeschool Hub State Data

Cross-Sector Comparison

During the 2019-20 academic year, 2.4% of South Carolina’s K-12 students were homeschooled. Homeschool participation in the state was about half of the nearly 6% of students attending private schools. The percentage of students attending charter schools in South Carolina was only slightly lower than that of students attending private schools, at 4.6%. In 2021-22, 3.5% of South Carolina’s K-12 students were homeschooled, 6.9% of students attended private schools, and 5.7% attended charter schools.

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

School Choice Context

In addition to homeschooling, parents in South Carolina have several educational choices. These options include enrollment in traditional public schools through inter-district choice, charter, and magnet schools. Students also have access to three private school choice funding options, including two tax credit programs for students with special needs and a new education savings account. The South Carolina Education Scholarship Trust Fund Program passed in 2023 and will launch in 2024. However, homeschooled students are not eligible unless they are either kindergarten-aged or attended public school the previous year.

Commentary

South Carolina could expand educational opportunities for all students by providing more access to courses, sports, and extracurriculars offered at local public schools, as many other states do.

Last updated December 2023.