Homeschool Co-op or Daycare?

I am a former homeschooler as well as a former teacher, and I am planning to offer a small homeschool co-op out of my home in Illinois this fall for 8 children (none which are mine).

I had someone ask about the need for a license to do so (through DCFS), and while I’ve looked into it extensively, I haven’t been able to find anything concrete. I just want to make sure I’m not doing anything illegal.

Your advice and suggestions are appreciated.
Thank you!

Basically I think you are asking: Is my planned group a homeschool co-op or a daycare?

I cannot answer that for you. It’s a legal question and I’m not an attorney. I’m an accountant and I have no desire to become an expert on daycare licensing laws. 🙂

But I have some criteria that makes a group a homeschool co-op:

A Homeschool Co-op is:

1. Every participating family is legally homeschooling according to their state homeschool laws.

Look up your state homeschool laws here:

2. Parents (or legal custodians) are the main provider of their children’s homeschool education.
In most states being the main provider of education means limited instruction by a non-parental instructor. Some states go so far as to put day and hour restrictions on non-parental instruction. Most homeschool co-ops meet only one day a week; some may meet two days a week to maintain the requirement that the parent is the main provider of the child’s homeschool education.

This also may mean that if a child is enrolled in a public school virtual program, they are not a homeschooled student, even if the virtual public school instruction takes place in the child’s home. Illinois and several other states do have a dual enrollment policy (or part time public school option), usually for high school students, so look into the details for your state.

3. A homeschool co-op means that parents stay on-site and cooperatively help in the classroom as a teacher or helper. There are “drop off” programs for homeschool students. They do not use parent volunteers but rather hire instructors. They are not “co-ops” because the parents are not cooperatively sharing the teaching, but they are still homeschool educational programs.

These homeschool programs may or may not need to be licensed as daycare centers depending on their state laws, how frequently they meet, etc.

Look up your state’s daycare licensing laws here:

The best advice I could offer to Natalie is to contact the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services Child Care Licensing Agency. Natalie will need explain to the details of her situation and see what they advise.

Carol Topp, CPA
Helping Homeschool Leaders

Is your homeschool program running a daycare?


True story: A homeschool program was meeting at a church one day a week. They provided nursery care and a preschool for younger siblings of the homeschool students enrolled in the program. The church also had a preschool program operating as a licensed daycare. One day while a state inspector was visiting the church’s preschool, he noticed another group of young children in another hallway.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Well, those are the children involved in a homeschool program that meets here,” was the reply.

The inspector visited the homeschool program to ask a few questions to determine if the homeschool program was running an unlicensed daycare!

Is your homeschool program running an unlicensed daycare? Should your homeschool preschool be licensed?

It pays to take a little time to check your state laws regarding allowable exemptions from being licensed.

I checked out the laws regarding childcare or daycare licensing in my state of Ohio.

Some examples of programs which do not require licensure (in Ohio):
• Care provided in a child’s own home;
• Programs which operate two weeks or less a year;
• Programs where parents remain on the premises (unless at the parent’s employment site);
• Specialized training in specific subjects, such as art, drama, dance, swimming, etc.
• Programs which operate one day a week for no more than six hours.

So a homeschool program in Ohio might qualify to run a childcare program without being licensed if the parents remain on the premises or the program operates only one day a week for less than 6 hours. The other criteria of specialized training may apply as well, but a lot of homeschool programs do not specialize; they offer a variety of educational classes.

Check out your state laws regarding daycare licensing. Every state is different!

Carol Topp, CPA