Step 1: Choose how you will legally register to homeschool
Option 1: Independent Homeschooler. You may register as an "Independent Homeschooler" with the Director of Schools or his/her appointee in the district your child would be zoned to. You will often see the term "LEA" used for this option. That stands for "local education association". It is free to register as an "independent homeschooler" and you do this by turning in a Letter of Intent (see form). This is a fine choice with no downside for students up to grade 5, which is the first year of mandatory testing (testing is mandatory in this option only in grades 5, 7, 9). You are required to homeschool for 4 hours per day, 180 days per year. After registering, attendance is all you will report to the school district and that is only collected at the end of the year. You will not report grades to the LEA, as they do not produce a transcript for your child. No services or assistance will be offered to you. We do not recommend that you register your high school students solely with your local school district, as it can make the college application process somewhat more complicated, although many families do navigate that just fine. If a student intends to try out for a high school sports team, you must be registered with the school district, but you may also register with an umbrella school for all your record keeping and high school counseling needs.
Option 2: Church-related Umbrella School. You will hear people refer to these as their "CRS" or their "Umbrella School". This is because state law used to make a distinction between the two. They can be a bricks-and-mortar school that operates as a private school but has chosen to use their resources to cultivate a homeschool community (like Maryville Christian School) or a company that is exclusively dedicated to recordkeeping and counseling and other needs of homeschool families (like HomeLife Academy). Many of those are staffed by experienced ("seasoned") homeschoolers who can walk you through the process of getting started and answer your questions, sometimes no matter the time of day. Typically, the reporting that they require is done online, so the physical location of the school is not important, although if you plan to use the Tennessee Hope and/or Promise Scholarships, you will need to be registered with a school within the state at least two years before graduation. Because many families prefer different tests (or no tests) than the public schools provide, and because many more services are provided by Umbrella Schools, such as grade reporting, transcripts, and academic counseling, a lot of people choose to register with an Christian-related Umbrella school by around grade 5, when mandatory testing would begin for Independent Homeschoolers registered with the LEA (option 1, above). It generally costs between $125 and $175 per year for most Christian-related Umbrella schools and typically there is a family cap on fees. You will need to advise the school district that you are withdrawing your child and transferring him to such-and-such school, and that your specific Church-related Umbrella School will be in touch for your transcripts. Your Umbrella School will typically take care of all the rest.
Commonly used Christian-related Umbrella Schools in Tennessee:
HomeLife Academy (highly recommended for all grades, but particularly for homeschooled high schoolers)
Berean Christian Academy
The Farm School (secular)
Option 3: Accredited Online Schools. Familes may also enroll their child in an Accredited Online School. It is up to the parent to determine that the school has legitimate accreditation status, as you are required to provide evidence of this to the local school district upon withdrawing from public school. You will find the list of accrediting bodies here under "Accredited Online Schools". Please do not feel pressured to register with an expensive online school, which, if your child is already struggling academically, may be leaping from the frying pan into the fire. In the case of high school students, in particular, this option sometimes lacks the flexibility they need to master each subject. This can play out in GPA, which of course, affects college prospects. The primary benefit of homeschooling is the ability to customize a program specific to your child's learning style, interests, and aptitudes. For the parent that lacks confidence in a given subject, there are plenty of online curriculum resources that can be a good fit within the context of the rest of your program and those do not require a commitment to a whole canned program. Often, you can find a class that someone else is teaching at a homeschool cooperative or Enrichment program, like the one BHEA hosts.