Homeschooling in Iowa & Homeschool Laws


You may be considering homeschooling your children in Iowa, but don’t know where to start regarding state regulations and requirements. This guide will walk you through what you need to know to successfully set up your own homeschool program legally in Iowa. We’ll cover the history of homeschooling in Iowa, current laws and regulations, required notifications and filings, curriculum and testing choices, high school transcripts, extracurricular activities, graduation requirements, and special education services.

History of Homeschooling in Iowa

In 1902, Iowa created the determining age for compulsory school attendance from ages 7 to 14, as well as subject and hour requirements for the school year. Amendments to the Iowa homeschooling laws in 1919 expanded the determining age. In 1953, changes to Iowa homeschooling laws required an Iowa teaching license.

In 1978, homeschooling parents Linda and Bob Sessions faced truancy charges under Iowa law. Despite claiming a religious exemption, they were found guilty according to Iowa homeschool laws. On appeal, the Court ruled their homeschooling was equivalent to teacher instruction by a licensed practitioner, setting a precedent under Iowa law. In 1985, the Department of Public Instruction attempted to solve the problem by specifying hours for homeschooled children; however, each district set its own policy.

In 1989, Iowa passed a law permitting homeschooling under a supervising teacher. There were failed attempts to overturn the requisite teaching certification on constitutional grounds. Then, in 1991, the advocacy efforts of Iowa homeschoolers succeeded in legalizing homeschooling without a licensed teacher.

Homeschooling by a certified teacher and parent-supervised homeschooling programs (HSAPs) were also established under Iowa homeschooling laws. In 2013, Rep. Matt Windschitl was the authority responsible for creating “Independent Private Instruction” with minimal legal requirements under Iowa homeschool laws.

Current Iowa Homeschool Laws and Regulations

Iowa homeschooling laws provide families with three distinct private instruction options:

Competent Private Instruction (CPI): Option 1: Provided by a licensed practitioner. This may involve:

  • Enrollment in the resident district’s home school assistance program,

  • Instruction by a privately retained appropriately licensed teacher (at the family’s own expense), or

  • Instruction provided by a licensed practitioner parent.

Competent Private Instruction (CPI): Option 2: Supervised by primary instructor, a parent, or custodian without a current Iowa teaching license.

Independent Private Instruction (IPI): Offers another avenue for both private instruction options and homeschooling. Under IPI programs, up to four unrelated students can be instructed together, but no tuition or remuneration may be received by the teacher.

These diverse options cater to the varied needs of families, ensuring a tailored approach to education that aligns with individual circumstances and grade level, while complying with legal requirements when homeschooling in Iowa.

How to Set Up a Homeschool In Iowa

Embarking on homeschooling in Iowa presents families with three legally recognized private instruction options under Iowa homeschool laws, offering the flexibility to choose the one that best suits their needs.

Here are the guidelines that homeschool families should take into consideration according to Iowa homeschool laws.

Competent Private Instruction under Option 1:

  • Submit two copies of Form A to the resident school district by September 1.

  • Notify the district of intended dual enrollment by September 1.

  • Inform the local district of the student’s planned HSAP enrollment by September 15.

  • Craft a well-defined instructional plan, ensuring a minimum of 148 days per academic year and 37 days per school quarter.

  • Adhere to HSAP Supplementary Conditions. Public schools may stipulate extra prerequisites for students involved in the Home School Assistance Program, such as mandatory annual testing.

  • Get the updated Form A here.

Competent Private Instruction (CPI) under Option 2 with dual enrollment:

  • Submit two copies of Form A to the resident local district by September 1.

  • If opting for dual enrollment with public school classes, notify the public school by September 1.

  • Get the updated Form A here.

Competent Private Instruction (CPI) under Option 2 without dual enrollment and opt out reporting:

  • No completion of Form A is necessary, as it is not applicable.

Independent Private Instruction (IPI):

  • No completion of Form A is required.

  • Develop a curriculum that covers the essential subjects—mathematics, language arts, science, and social studies. While Iowa homeschooling laws do not prescribe specific time requirements, it is advised to incorporate regular teaching per school quarter in each of these mandated subjects throughout the school year for IPI students.

Consider the following additional information regarding form submission:

  • Submission Address: All forms must be submitted directly to the public school resident district.

  • Resident District Changes: If your public school resident district changes during the school year, a new form is required.

  • September 1 Deadline Exception: If your family decides to provide Competent Private Instruction (CPI) after the September 1 deadline, file Form A within 14 calendar days and 30 calendar days after moving or removing the public school student. If dual enrollment is desired, notify the resident district as soon as possible.

  • September 15 Deadline Exception: If your family moved or removed the student from public school after the September 15 deadline, you have 14 calendar days to request enrollment in the resident public school district’s HSAP.

Maintaining Your Iowa Homeschool

To maintain homeschooling in Iowa, follow these general guidelines under Iowa homeschool laws:

  • Choose Your Option: Select the homeschooling option that best fits your family’s needs.

  • Understand Requirements: Familiarize yourself with Iowa homeschool laws and the specific requirements of your chosen homeschooling option.

  • Submission of Forms: Complete and submit any required forms to your resident public school district.

  • Notification and Dual Enrollment: Notify the public school district about your homeschooling plans, dual enrollment, and any changes in your residency.

  • Keep Detailed Records: Maintain detailed records of your curriculum, instructional hours, and any assessments conducted. This documentation is essential for compliance and potential reviews.

  • Stay Informed: Stay updated on any changes to Iowa homeschooling laws. Be aware of deadlines and exceptions related to Form A and dual enrollment.

  • Adhere to Instructional Requirements: Ensure that you fulfill the required subjects and instructional days based on your chosen homeschooling option.

  • Participate in HSAP: If enrolled in a Home School Assistance Program, comply with any additional requirements set by the local public school district offering the homeschool Iowa program.

  • Stay Organized: Keep your homeschooling records and any correspondence with the local public school district well-organized for easy reference.

  • Regular Assessments: If your homeschooling option requires assessments, conduct them according to the specified guidelines.

Remember, the specific steps may vary based on the chosen homeschooling option, so it’s crucial to adhere to the homeschool requirements associated with your selected homeschool routine.

Additionally, periodically check for any changes in Iowa homeschooling laws to maintain your homeschool in Iowa.

Iowa Homeschool Reporting Requirements

Submission of requirements vary based on the chosen homeschooling option in Iowa:

Independent Private Instruction: 

You are not required to initiate the submission of any forms with your local school district to inform them about your IPI. However, if the school district superintendent issues a written request, you must respond with a letter including:

  • The main instructor of your IPI program.

  • The name and location of the entity overseeing the independent private instruction.

  • The names of the enrolled students including unrelated students.

CPI under Option 2 with dual enrollment:

  • Assessments must be submitted to the school district starting from age 7 or upon the commencement of homeschooling. In grades 5 and below, evaluation covers reading, language arts, and math. For grades 6 and above, assessment extends to reading, language arts, math, social studies, and science.

  • Annual evaluations must be conducted by May 31st and submitted to the school system by August 1st.

Assessment options include:

  • Report card: Utilize a report card from an accredited school. Adequate progress is indicated by passing grades.

  • Teacher review: An appointed teacher assesses progress based on a portfolio of the student’s work. The evaluation scores must be submitted to affirm adequate progress.

  • Standardized test: Choose from approved standardized tests. The student must score above the 30th percentile in each subject area and either achieve an overall grade level score within national norms or demonstrate six months’ progress from the previous evaluation.

To ensure compliance with Iowa homeschooling laws, it is advisable to adhere to the legal option chosen for educating your children when homeschooling in Iowa.

Irrespective of the selected option, it is recommended to maintain essential records for families homeschooling, including:

  • Attendance records.

  • Details of textbooks used.

  • Samples of your student’s schoolwork.

  • Correspondence exchanged with school officials.

  • Portfolios and test results.

  • Any additional documents validating your child’s education in accordance with the law.

These records should be retained for a minimum of two years. Additionally, it’s essential to preserve your student’s high school records and evidence of compliance with Iowa homeschooling laws indefinitely, encompassing any notices filed with authorities.

Homeschool Testing In Iowa

In Iowa, parents have the option to choose between two different legal options for homeschooling: Competent Private Instruction or Independent Private Instruction. Under CPI, students are required to undergo annual testing or portfolio assessments. The testing must be done by a licensed teacher or a person with a bachelor’s degree.

However, if parents choose to begin homeschooling under IPI, there are no testing requirements mandated by Iowa homeschooling laws. It is important to note that while IPI provides more flexibility, students under this option may not be eligible for certain benefits, such as participation in school district programs. Ultimately, the decision between CPI and IPI depends on the family’s preferences and educational goals.

Funding Your Iowa Homeschool

In Iowa, homeschooling is primarily funded by parents who choose to homeschool their children. They are responsible for covering all expenses related to homeschooling, including curriculum, resources, and any extracurricular activities.

The Iowa Department of Education offers some support for families through the Home School Assistance Program (HSAP). This program provides services such as consultations, curriculum guidance, and access to educational resources. However, it’s important to note that the funding for HSAP primarily comes from taxes rather than direct financial assistance to homeschool families. Therefore, homeschool families in Iowa typically do not receive direct funding from the government but may access support services through programs like HSAP.

Federal Tax Breaks

Families may be eligible for certain federal government tax benefits to help offset educational expenses. One option is a Coverdell Education Savings Account, which allows money to grow tax-free when used for qualified education costs. Homeschool parents might also be able to deduct a portion of mortgage interest or rent if part of the home is used regularly and exclusively for homeschooling.

Finally, tax credits or deductions could be available for required books, supplies, equipment and curricula used for homeschool instruction. To learn more about these potential tax advantages, homeschool families should review the information and resources provided by the IRS.

Iowa Immunization Requirements

Immunization requirements vary based on the type of homeschooling:

  • Individual Private Instruction: IPI students are not subject to specific immunization requirements. Parents have the discretion to make immunization decisions based on personal beliefs or medical considerations.

  • Competent Private Instruction, Option 1: For CPI students enrolled in this option, proof of required immunizations or a notarized exemption form is necessary.

  • Competent Private Instruction, Option 2: Similarly to IPI, there are no prescribed immunization requirements for students under CPI Option 2. However, students participating in dual enrollment programs may need to meet the immunization requirements set by the local schools they wish to dual enroll in.

  • See reference here

Iowa State Homeschool Graduation Requirements

Homeschoolers follow different guidelines for diploma attainment compared to traditional public school-ed students. In Iowa, the state doesn’t enforce specific graduation criteria. Consequently, parents have the liberty to establish their own graduation standards, compile transcripts, and issue homeschool high school diplomas.

This varies depending on your selected option:

  • Independent Private Instruction: Iowa school districts do not grant diplomas to IPI students, nor does the state of Iowa. Home educators have the option to issue diplomas themselves or collaborate with a homeschool co-op or curriculum provider that offers diploma services.

  • Competent Private Instruction, Option 1: Students who fulfill the graduation criteria are entitled to receive a high school diploma from the overseeing public school district.

  • Competent Private Instruction, Option 2: Students may qualify to obtain a diploma from the district. Starting in 8th grade, homeschooling families should engage directly with the district to understand their requirements and commence the diploma process.

It’s crucial to note that colleges maintain their own admission prerequisites. Therefore, it’s imperative to thoroughly understand these requirements to ensure your child fulfills both the necessary credit hours and specific course prerequisites for successful application.

Iowa Homeschool Charters

Iowa does not have any homeschool charter schools within the state. All public charter schools are considered regular public schools and have attendance boundaries. There is no option for private school charter-based homeschooling in Iowa.

Iowa’s homeschooling testing requirements vary depending on the homeschooling option chosen. For homeschoolers under CPI Option 2 and IPI, testing isn’t compulsory but remains accessible. Schools are mandated to offer homeschoolers the opportunity to undergo a standardized test. See reference here.  

Standardized Testing Rules for CPI Option 1

  • The supervising teacher must monitor the student for adequate annual progress.

  • The district must provide access to one standardized assessment at no cost and without requiring dual enrollment.

  • The HSAP may require assessment as a condition of enrollment.

Standardized Testing Rules for CPI Option 2

  • The student may need an annual evaluation and report identifying annual assessment results to the district by August 1 of the school year.

  • The district must provide access to one standardized assessment at no cost and without requiring dual enrollment.

Standardized Testing Rules for IPI

  • The student is not required to have an annual evaluation or to report annual evaluations to the district.

  • The district must provide a standardized assessment at no cost if the parent makes a written request.

Local Iowa Homeschooling Resources

There are a number of well-established, homeschool groups, cooperatives, and associations that offer a wide range of local resources including field trips and extracurricular activities for Iowa homeschoolers:

Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE): One of the largest and longest-running organizations. They support homeschool families across the state offering advocacy, regional support, religious based instruction, and special education services. 

HEED Home Educators for Excellence in Des Moines:  HEED is a Christian homeschool support group in Des Moines. They aim to affirm, equip, and encourage families in home education. 

Parents are strongly encouraged to seek out homeschool support groups, public school classes, and co-ops specific to their geographic area within the state. Tapping into the network of other homeschool families is a key piece of successful home education.

In summary, while the state of Iowa provides homeschool families with substantial freedom and flexibility, there are also many private groups and organizations that fill important supportive roles for homeschool community and offer a wealth of resources for home educators to navigate the legal requirements to start homeschooling enrolled students.

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