It is the very fact that there is no legal definition of homeschooling that protects us from unnecessary state oversight. We enjoy the ability to homeschool through the separation of church and state principle, enabling us to homeschooling pretty much as we please without interference from the State of Alabama.
In Alabama we are legally considered church schoolers, not homeschoolers. We enroll our children in a Church School, sometimes called a church cover school, a covering or an umbrella school. These church schools are not actual bricks and mortar schools, but a service offered to homeschoolers and often thought of as part of a church's mission to its members and/or community. And since there are so few rules set by the State to oversee church schools (both the bricks and mortar type and those offered as a service to homeschoolers), the church schools themselves are free to set their own rules and regulations as they deem necessary. And we are free to pick and choose amongst those church schools to find the one that best suits us. It might be that your family desires a church school that requires testing. Or one that requires its members to be of a particular religion. Or one that does not care at all about your religion (or lack thereof). Or one that requires monthly reporting. Or one that requires yearly reporting. Whatever your family's needs are, likely there is a church school that will work for you.
If you don't find a church school that suits your needs and you belong to a church, you might consider asking your church to begin a church school for homeschoolers. Also, many people decide that since they home church, they will be their own church school. Over the past decade or so, more and more families are choosing the option of forming their own church school. If this is an option that appeals to you, I suggest you ask around on the various Alabama e-mail lists for others who are doing the same and talk with them. Know the Alabama laws governing church schools. Be prepared to defend your belief (in a court of law) that your home is your church. I don't say this to scare you, simply to urge you to be informed and knowledgeable. One never knows when the homeschooling climate might take a sudden change for the worse in Alabama and who might be the first to be a test case in the court systems. My guess is that it'll be the individual family church school rather than the large church-sponsored church schools. NOTE: In 2013 ALSDE (Alabama State Department of Education) proposed the creation of a Board of Non-public education and also created a handbook to provide "information pertaining to the establishment, creation, and licensing of all non-public schools operating in the state of Alabama." (I will be posting more information about the 2013 proposals soon on the LeapingFromTheBox.com blog.
So, take your time. Follow the links here, read the laws, investigate several church schools, ask questions of the church school administrators/directors, ask questions of other homeschoolers to find out what they like and don't like about their particular church school, and then choose. And remember, the church school that fits your needs this year may not fit your needs two years from now and that is fine. It is not difficult to change church schools. Also, new church schools open all the time - no one site can possibly list them all. So ask around, join e-mail lists (see the e-lists directory), and see what's out there!
Disclaimer: The information provided here is based upon my personal experience and those individuals I have come in contact with. In no way should any information on this site be considered legal advice. I urge everyone to familiarize themselves with the State of Alabama Education Code, to seek out other web sites pertaining to homeschooling, and talk to your own legal counsel. Do not rely solely upon what you find at any one site!
For more specifics about how we homeschool (church school) in Alabama.
Link to the State of Alabama Education Code that pertains to church schools. The best way to be informed is to read the code for yourself!
Descriptions of many church schools offering services to Alabama homeschoolers. (If your church school is not listed here, please contact me!)
Descriptions of many Alabama homeschooling support groups. (If your support group is not listed here, please contact me!)
A list of questions prospective homeschoolers can use when searching for a church school.
Descriptions of many homeschool co-operatives in Alabama. (If your co-operative is not listed here, please contact me!)
Check the Alabama page for homeschool email lists, support groups, Facebook Groups, Associations, message boards, forums and newsletters. State groups and/or local groups can be a wonderful place of support in your homeschooling journey.
Support the Southeast Law Institute (formerly The Rutherford Institute of Alabama, Inc.), a legal organization providing free legal and educational services in five areas of priority, two of which are 1)Defending individual religious freedoms; and 2)Protecting parental rights.