Homeschooling in Iowa: Guidance for Getting Started
Great news: It’s easy to homeschool in Iowa, and The Corn State provides quite a few benefits for homeschool families. Find out which of the three avenues of Iowa homeschooling suit your preferences. There are options for families who like full autonomy and options for families who prefer more school oversight and support.
In this guide, you’ll find out where to go for the most up-to-date Iowa homeschooling information, what forms to fill out, how to get started as a new Iowan homeschooler, what qualifications you need, what subjects to teach, how many days of instruction are required, and the best Iowan field trips.
DISCLAIMER: This article is not written as legal advice. Check with your local school board and official Iowa state laws before making decisions about educating your children.
Is it easy to homeschool in Iowa?
Although the homeschooling laws are a bit complex, it’s actually easy to homeschool in Iowa. There are options for families who want nearly complete independence as well as options for families who prefer support from professional teachers in their district.
Nancy H. is a Sonlighter in Iowa who shares her experience:
It is very easy to homeschool in Iowa. I have lived and homeschooled in two other states, and Iowa's homeschool law seems quite unique to me. Initially it seemed very complicated to understand because there are several options. But once I understood how it worked, I really think it's ideal. If you want to be completely independent in your homeschool, you don't have to report anything at all. However, if you want to use public school resources, then you can choose a reporting method that works best for your situation.”
Is homeschooling regulated in Iowa?
There are some regulations, but in general, Iowa is a state with a low level of regulation over homeschoolers. The degree of regulation depends on what avenue you take as a homeschooler. If you opt to receive services from your local public school, then you will have a bit more regulation than a homeschooler who wants to go it alone without support from local schools.
Requirements for Homeschooling in Iowa
The Hawkeye State is unique in that there are multiple options for homeschooling in Iowa. Here’s an outline of those options with their acronyms that will be used throughout the rest of this guide:
Independent Private Instruction IPI
Competent Private Instruction CPI Option 1
- with a licensed teacher you privately retain at your own expense
- by a parent or guardian who is a licensed teacher
- with enrollment in a Home School Assistance Program (HSAP)
Competent Private Instruction CPI Option 2
- with dual enrollment
- with optional reporting
- with no reporting
What are homeschool requirements in Iowa?
Each type of homeschooling has its own unique requirements. In general, the Iowa homeschooling options with greater support from the local school system (in terms of curriculum, courses, teacher expertise, etc.) come with more requirements on the part of the family (things like annual standardized testing, paperwork, record keeping, immunizations, etc.). So a big choice to make as a homeschooler in Iowa is what degree of public school resources you’d like to use.
The Iowa Department of Education provides a very detailed guide called the Private Instruction Handbook. Since it’s updated each year, get the latest version directly from the Iowa DOE here. In it, you can find the most up-to-date homeschool requirements for the state of Iowa.
For families homeschooling under IPI, CPI Option 1, or CPI Option 2, students must make adequate progress in these academic areas:
- Language arts
- Social studies
Adequate progress is defined as “evaluation scores above the 30th percentile based on national norms in each of the required areas and indicate the student has made six months’ progress from the previous evaluation or is at or above grade level for their age.”
How many days are required for homeschool in Iowa?
Although there are no stated hour requirements for homeschooling in Iowa, there are daily minimums. Iowa law requires students homeschooling under CPI Option 1 to receive instruction on a daily basis for at least 148 days during a school year. This requirement is further defined as at least 37 days each quarter.
Families who homeschool under CPI Option 2 or IPI are not held to these same daily minimums, but students still must make adequate progress year by year. And IPI families must provide a report to the school district if it’s requested.
It’s easy to keep accurate and detailed homeschool records with the Sonlight Planner. It has room not only for attendance records but for other plans such as extracurricular activities, goals, book logs, meal planning, curriculum lists, etc.
Do you have to be certified to homeschool in Iowa?
No, a parent can homeschool without being a certified teacher or without having a college degree under IPI or CPI Option 2.
However, CPI Option 1 does require a teacher with a valid Iowa teaching license appropriate for the student’s grade level and the subject matter being taught.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Iowa State Quarter is the nation’s only education quarter.
The coin is inscribed “Foundation in Education” and pictures a teacher and her students planting a tree. The inspiration for the coin’s artwork is Grant Wood’s Arbor Day, a 1932 painting depicting an 1890s schoolhouse in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Do parents need qualifications to homeschool in Iowa?
In Iowa, there are options for homeschooling under the direction of a licensed teacher (CPI Option 1) as well as options that do not require any special qualifications (IPI and CPI Option 2).
Who is eligible for homeschooling?
Any student may receive independent private instruction (IPI) in Iowa.
Do you need to report homeschooling in Iowa?
Reporting varies depending on the method of homeschooling you choose.
There is no form required to enroll a student in IPI. However, it’s advised (by both the Iowa department of education and most Iowa homeschool organizations) that you inform your resident district of your intent to provide IPI. Please note that if parents do not send children to school and also do not provide IPI, they are subject to truancy prosecution.
If you are using CPI Option 1, you will need to file CPI Form A. Get the most current form from the Iowa Department of Education here. This form is optional if you choose CPI Option 2.
Form A is called a CPI Report. It’s not a letter of intent or affidavit, but it is a necessary document to file for many Iowa homeschoolers.
Is unschooling legal in Iowa?
Unschooling is legal in Iowa. As long as you meet the requirements for the type of homeschooling you choose, you can use the child-led style of unschooling.
Can I homeschool someone else's child in Iowa?
Yes. Under IPI programs, up to 4 unrelated students can be instructed together, but no tuition or remuneration may be received by the teacher.
If homeschooling under CPI Option 1, a licensed practitioner is hired by the family and can homeschool children who are not their own.
What do I need to homeschool my child in Iowa?
Iowa homeschooling statutes require that IPI students receive instruction in these four key subject areas:
So you’ll need resources to teach those areas. Although the state does not provide any specific requirements in terms of curriculum, methods, or specific lesson plans, your life as a homeschool parent will be infinitely easier if you purchase a pre-planned, trusted curriculum like Sonlight.
Besides those subject areas, you’ll need to organize your home so you have both an area to store your materials and a place to do your schoolwork: a couch for reading, a table for written work, and a kitchen counter for hands-on crafts and experiments.
You’ll need discipline as the homeschool parent
- to follow through with your lessons
- to keep a consistent schedule (meeting your 148 days of instruction where required)
- to keep good records and fulfill all the Iowa regulations
Do you have to have a curriculum when homeschooling in Iowa?
Iowa does not mandate any specific curriculum under CPI, but the required content areas must be covered. Using a professionally designed curriculum is the best way to ensure that you are covering the required topics and that your child is making adequate progress.
A Sonlight All-Subjects Package goes well beyond the requirements outlined in Iowa state mandates. With an ASP, you are assured that your children are meeting—and exceeding—all the homeschool requirements of the Land of the Rolling Prairie!
While there are myriad online homeschool options that let you plop your child in front of a screen for their instruction, there’s no substitute for real books and conversations with a loving adult. See the priceless advantages of Sonlight’s literature-based approach here and why it’s preferred to virtual programs.
Do homeschoolers have to take standardized tests in Iowa?
Iowa education laws about homeschooling testing depend on what kind of homeschooler you are. For homeschoolers under CPI Option 2 and IPI, testing is not required, but it is available. The schools are obligated to provide any homeschooler access to a standardized assessment.
To take advantage of the free standardized assessment for your child, simply submit a request to your school district. Do this early in the school year so the district has plenty of time to prepare for your child’s test.
- The supervising teacher must monitor the student for adequate annual progress.
- The district must provide access to one courtesy standardized assessment at no cost and without requiring dual enrollment.
- The HSAP may require assessment as a condition of enrollment
- The student may be evaluated annually and report results to the district by August 1 of the year of instruction.
- The district must provide access to one courtesy standardized assessment at no cost and without requiring dual enrollment.
- The student is not required to be annually evaluated or to report results to the district.
- The district must provide a courtesy standardized assessment at no cost if the parent, guardian, or custodian requests it and provides the district with sufficient advance notice.
Getting Starting & Timing
Ready to take advantage of the many benefits of homeschooling in Iowa? Here’s how homeschooling works in Iowa so you can get started right away and feel confident about your decisions!
How do I start homeschooling in Iowa?
Regardless of your state, some of the steps are universal. Read those basics of getting started with homeschooling here.
When it comes to homeschooling specifically in Iowa, you’ll want to follow these steps.
- Decide which legally defined type of homeschooling you want to follow: IPI, CPI Option 1, or CPI Option 2. There are many factors to consider from required records, standardized testing, and immunizations. So read the official Iowa Department of Education documents and talk to a few actual Iowa homeschoolers before you make your decision.
- If your child is already a public school student, be sure to officially withdraw them.
- In the case of homeschooling under either CPI option, file Form A: CPI Report with your district.
- Grab your calendar and curriculum catalog to make a plan for the required days of instruction (CPI Option 2) and academic areas (all homeschoolers).
- Throughout the school year, maintain good records in case you are ever asked to provide documentation.
- Enjoy learning alongside your children! Homeschooling is a joyous adventure!
At what age is school mandatory in Iowa?
School is compulsory in Iowa from ages 6 to 16. (Sept. 15 is the cut off date for determining age.) So during those ages, a child must either be enrolled in public or private school or be homeschooled according to state requirements.
Can you skip kindergarten in Iowa?
Since school is not compulsory in Iowa until age 6, yes, you can skip kindergarten entirely and start your child’s formal education at grade 1. However, many five-year-olds are ready for an hour or two each day of gentle learning, so don’t rule out kindergarten as a homeschooler.
Even though it’s not required, you can still begin homeschooling at age 3, 4, or 5 by using a program at home. Sonlight offers 3 delightful packages that give your at-home preschool or kindergarten direction without being too school-ish.
- Preschool for ages 3-4
- Pre-K for ages 4-5
- Kindergarten American History for ages 5-7
If you’re unsure which one best suits your youngster, reach out to an Advisor for expert help.
How long can you homeschool a child?
You can homeschool a child from preschool through high school—their entire educational career. Or you can opt to homeschool for just one year or a few years.
There are many different paths to homeschooling. Some families know from their child’s infancy that they will homeschool, and so their children never enroll in a public school. Other families simply assume their children will attend public schools but are surprised to discover in elementary grades that public school isn’t working. So they withdraw their children and begin to homeschool.
Must-see Iowa Field Trips for Homeschoolers
Homeschoolers are sometimes called road-schoolers or world-schoolers because of their tendency not to stay at home. There’s so much learning to be had out in the broader world: historical sites, museums, galleries, parks, zoos, and reenactments. Make room for field trips in your homeschool routine. These excursions still count as a day of school!
Document your trips and what you learned by using our free printable field trip log which is an excerpt from the Sonlight homeschool planner.
Top Historic Field Trip Destinations in Iowa
There’s so much history to explore in Iowa! Here are fifteen great field trip destinations, many of which you can tie to your American history studies.
- The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum
- Effigy Mounds
- Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area
- Historic Squirrel Cage Jail
- American Gothic House
- Iowa 80 Trucking Museum
- Vermeer Windmill, Pella Historical Museums
- John Wayne Birthplace Museum
- Glenn Miller Birthplace Home & Museum
- Buffalo Bill Cody Homestead
- Laura Ingalls Wilder Park & Museum
- Wyatt Earp House
- Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad
- Living History Farms
- Guthrie County Historical Village and Museum
Great Museums in Iowa
5 National Wildlife Refuges in Iowa
Financial Considerations for Homeschooling in Iowa
Homeschooling is an investment. At least one parent will probably have to sacrifice some working hours to devote to instructing the children. And you’ll want to equip your home with a vibrant collection of tools for learning: basic school supplies, loads of great books, pre-planned homeschool curriculum, consumable workbooks, hands-on kits, enrichment activities, and a cozy learning spot in your home. These necessities do cost money, but like anything, you have lots of choices and can be as frugal or as extravagant as you prefer.
How much does it cost to homeschool in Iowa?
Wondering about the cost of homeschooling in Iowa? First look at our detailed article How Much Does Homeschooling Cost? It states that the annual expense to homeschool one child ranges from $500 to $2500 (per school year).
In general, it costs more to homeschool as children get older and need more specialized curriculum and outside teachers. Younger children can get by with a stack of great books and some math manipulatives!
It’s more cost effective to homeschool multiple children since you can often combine them in a single program and can reuse materials with younger siblings in future years.
As you seek to stretch your homeschool dollars, look for publishers who provide payment plans, a money back guarantee, and a high quality program that will enrich your home library instead of providing fodder for the recycle bin.
Does Iowa pay for homeschooling?
There are no Iowa grants or state funding for homeschooling in Iowa. Nor is there any school voucher program. If you opt to homeschool, you’ll bear the financial burden entirely on your own unless you enroll in a Home School Assistance Program (HSAP) or use the CPI options for dual enrollment.
How can I homeschool in Iowa for free?
You can homeschool in Iowa for free, but be prepared to invest quite a bit of time and energy hunting for quality resources, organizing and or printing freebies, and structuring them into a cohesive unit of study.
Basically, free homeschooling in Iowa is possible, but it’s quite a lot of work and can leave you feeling unsettled: Is this enough? Are my children getting an adequate education? Does this fulfill what the state requires?
If you purchase a well-planned curriculum, not only will you save time and hassles, you can be confident that your children are learning far more than the minimum! Basically, buying a curriculum is worth it.
Iowa does not pay teachers or parents to homeschool. Iowa does not provide state funding for homeschooling except by way of the public school resources available to families through CPI Option 1.
No, homeschooling is not a tax write-off. Homeschooling is not tax-deductible on Iowa state tax returns or on federal tax returns.
Yes, even if you don’t use public schools, you are still legally obligated to pay taxes. There are no tax breaks for being a homeschooler in Iowa.
Partnering with Schools in Iowa
Iowa makes partnering with schools a natural part of homeschooling if you use Options 1 or 2 under CPI. This collaboration is called dual enrollment. Note that IPI homeschoolers are not eligible for this special arrangement.
For CPI students, Iowa homeschool statutes say:
The student may dual enroll in the district for academics, special education, and/or extracurricular activities (e.g., athletics). If dually enrolled, the student must file Form A with the district.
Nancy H. is an Iowan Sonlighter who has enjoyed dual enrollment:
My kids have taken advantage of a number of high school courses at the public school, as well as extracurricular activities and community college courses. This has been remarkably easy to do! Taking select public school classes feels quite normal here, whereas this felt like a big deal in other states where it was allowed (but we often felt we were treated like outsiders).”
Iowa homeschool laws allow for CPI homeschoolers to receive no more than three-fourths of their instruction via the public school. And, of course, any activity fees for these classes are the responsibility of the homeschool family.
Christian Homeschooling in Iowa
Among the dozens of benefits to homeschooling, one that is commonly in the top three reasons to homeschool is to pass along your Christian faith to your children throughout your day-to-day academic lessons.
If you’d like to take a Christian approach to homeschooling in Iowa, shop Sonlight’s History / Bible/ Literature packages. Sonlight is the original literature-based, Christian curriculum and was initially created for American missionaries serving abroad.
Sonlight integrates missionary biographies, Bible passages, and God-centered discussions through the finely crafted lesson plans.
Finding Homeschool Community in Iowa
An excellent starting point for finding homeschool community in Iowa is the huge Christian organization Homeschool Iowa, founded in 1992. This group offers online groups as well as in-person local support groups.
Sonlight offers similar options for networking that also include homeschoolers from other states beyond Iowa.
Homeschooling High School in Iowa
The high school years are incredibly rewarding grades to homeschool! Ignore the frightening portrayals of this period as a high-stakes obstacle course to graduation. These last years of your homeschool journey can be custom-tailored to perfectly meet your teen’s future goals. Homeschooling can minimize the typical drudgery of high school and optimize all the perks: independence, advanced studies in topics of interest, and time for work or volunteering.
Iowa provides high school homeschoolers valuable benefits if they are homeschooling under CPI Options 1 or 2. IPI families are still eligible for concurrent enrollment at colleges (where a high schooler gets both high school and college credit by taking a college course), but the additional benefits listed below are not available.
- Advanced Placement Classes and Exams
- Post Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO) — enrollment in eligible college courses with tuition reimbursed by school
Regardless of homeschool status (IPI or CPI), all Iowa districts must offer or make driver’s education available without the requirement of dual enrollment. But parents can, if desired, follow the stipulations outlined here to serve as the child’s driver’s education teacher themselves. For example, Driver's Ed in a Box (below) is an approved curriculum by the Iowa Department of Transportation.
- Driver Ed in a BoxRetail Price $207.00 Special Price $165.60
- Sonlight's College and Career Planning KitRetail Price $83.94 Special Price $67.15
High School Transcript & Diploma for Iowan Homeschoolers
If homeschooling under CPI, contact your local district no later than eighth grade to find out if it will issue a diploma. Otherwise, you’ll be responsible to keep track of credits/grades for issuing a transcript and awarding a diploma.
Although creating a transcript may at first sound scary, it’s, in fact, a simple matter of advance planning and ongoing record keeping. Download Sonlight’s free guide to transcripts for step-by-step guidance.
Although IPI students are not held to the Iowa state requirements for graduation, it’s wise to fulfill at least the minimum credits:
- ½ financial literacy
- 1 physical education
- 3 science
- 3 math
- 3 social studies, including
- 4 English language arts
Better yet, if your teen is college-bound, check with your teen’s institutions of choice to see what they require for admissions. Typically college requirements are more stringent than state minimums, so base your 4-year high school plan on what you anticipate your child’s future plans to be.