How to Start Homeschooling in California

What do Ansel Adams (photographer), Louisa May Alcott (author), Benjamin Franklin (statesman, inventor), and Todd Lodwich (Olympic Skier) have in common? They all received their education through a type of homeschooling.

Investors are so convinced, that homeschooling becomes a trend in the future, that they invested $3.7 million in Primer, just last month.  (May 2020).

The modern homeschool movement began in the 1970s, with it being legal in every state. Some states were regulated, and some were not. In the 1980s, homeschooling changed as the view of public schools changed. Most of these views were based on religious beliefs. Public Schools-bad, Homeschool-Good. Legal battles began, and homeschool participants began to switch the view from local control to state control as they began to fight for less regulation and more freedom and choice. At this point in history, there were 50 different states with 50 different views of homeschooling. Peace came in 1989-early 1990s.

Currently, homeschooling still looks very different amongst the 50 states. There is a range of regulations, with five states having high regulations and sixteen states having low regulations. Eleven states don’t even require parents to notify the local school or state department of education that their child is in homeschool. Eighteen states have moderate regulations.

California is one of these low regulation states despite the rumor that homeschooling in California is illegal. Almost 200,000 students are in homeschool in the state of California, out of the seven million total students. This number grows every year as the state of public education changes.

1. Choose Your Way to Homeschool

Although California statutes do not exactly permit to homeschool (also known as home-based education and home-based study), there are four ways to homeschool in California. These four ways are:

  1. Through an existing private school
  2. Through a public charter or independent study program
  3. By opening a private school in their home by filing a Private School Affidavit
  4. By hiring a certified teacher or tutor

No matter which way homeschooling occurs, it is important to follow state requirements and law to attend a legal school. It is also essential to research all of these ways when choosing the correct one to fit a family. Other aspects to consider involve the alternative diploma equivalency tests for not attending public school and the requirements for specific colleges, universities, and technical schools. One way of homeschooling may be better than another form of homeschooling to meet these requirements and pass these diploma equivalency tests. There is not a best way or better way for homeschooling a child in California. You just have to find the best option for the homeschooling for your family.

Homeschooling Through an Existing Private School

Many private schools have satellite programs for home-based study. A private school satellite program (PSP) is a private school that has filed a private school affidavit. The parent is the teacher. The requirements of the PSP will vary depending on the school and the private school director. The parent will have to provide homeschooling statistics such as attendance, grades, and course of study. A perk to being part of a PSP is that it offers group field trips, events, and activities which are essential for socialization for children. It prevents them from feeling isolated.

When seeking a PSP to join, there are essential questions to ask. First, ask the director if they have filed for an affidavit. Parents have to do this to legally homeschool. Second, ask what the school requirements are. Following these requirements will be necessary. Finally, ask what services they offer. Generally, joining a PSP will require money, and it is vital to know what assets you will receive. Being part of a PSP provides excellent benefits and resources when homeschooling children.

Homeschooling Through a Public Charter or Independent Study Program

The first part of this option is to homeschool school through a public charter school. The benefits of choosing a public charter school included flexibility and catering to home-based education. A considerable advantage is that the public charter school offers typically instructional funds to pay for curriculum, materials, classes, lessons, field trips, and more. Not all public charter schools offer this, though, so be sure to research before choosing. With the public charter school, you are more of a teacher’s aide than the teacher.

You will receive guidance and support from a state-certified teacher. A positive aspect of public charter schools is that they offer plenty of homeschool options to find the best that works for the family. A negative point of public charter schools is that technically it is still a public school and, therefore, may have more requirements than other home-based education options. These requirements may include standardized testing and the required number of hours.

Homeschool Through an Independent Study Program (ISP)

The second part of this option is to homeschool through an independent study program (ISP). In an ISP, a teacher guides the student but doesn’t take classes with other students. It is a voluntary program, available kindergarten through 12th grade, and for a student’s specific needs, interests, and abilities, and it is the parent’s and student’s choice to attend. It is not an alternative curriculum. The students that participate in ISP have to meet the same requirements and objectives as students in the traditional public school. The school has to make the ISP equal in quality and quantity as to those in a conventional school.

Not all districts or charter schools offer an ISP, and the school can not force a student to enroll in an independent study program. There are a variety of formats for an independent study program. An alternative school or program of choice can offer the ISP, through charter schools or online classes. Much like the charter school, this option is still through a public school and will have requirements that other home-based education options do not have.

Homeschooling Through a Private School Affidavit

The final way to homeschool a child in California is through the filing of a private school affidavit (PSA). The parent must file the affidavit with the California state department of education. The purpose of the testimony is to inform the state of California that the child is exempt from mandatory public school enrollment and attendance. There is an online application, available October 1-15, to file a PSA, and a copy must be kept at the private school (home) for every year that homeschooling will be taking place in that home.

Parents do not have to report to the local school district; however, to prevent confusion and pestering by the local area, parents might notify the region that they intend to homeschool or privately educate. Public schools may require proof of filing for the affidavit before withdrawing their child from the school.

When homeschooling with a PSA, parents must keep strict attendance records. They must be kept in a register and indicate every absence that was for ½ a day or more. Parents must provide all curriculum, STEM curriculums, materials, supplies, and other expenses as there is no stipend offered by the state. Filing for a PSA seems like a long, overwhelming process. However, it is not. Once the filing is complete, parents have many freedoms. The teacher has full choice over the teaching program. There is also no standardized testing. Despite this lack of financial support, filing for a private school affidavit is common and one way to homeschool in the state of California.

2. Hire a Homeschooling Teacher

One way the state of California allows for home-based study is through the hiring of a private certified teacher or tutor. This certified teacher/tutor must hold California state teaching credentials. When hiring this teacher, the teacher may only teach topics within their field. For example, if you hire an American History teacher, then they can only teach American History to the student. If the teacher is certified kindergarten-third grade, then that is the only grade level the teacher can teach.

If a parent is a California state-certified teacher, then he/she can be the private teacher in their homeschool. When homeschooling this way, the tutor/teacher must teach three hours a day between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:00 pm. They must teach 175 days out of a school year. Hiring a teacher/tutor can be costly. Expect to pay $30-$40 an hour but could be as high as $85 an hour depending on experience and subject.

3. Read the Basic Requirements for Homeschooling in California

Even though there are four ways to go about legally homeschooling in California, there are basic requirements that you have to follow in every way. Students have to receive an education from a legal school starting at the age of six and to go until 18. Kindergarten kids and kids who turn six after September 1, do not have to attend first grade until the next school year.

Another requirement is if the child is attending a home-based school, a private school affidavit must be on file with the state for that school. Homeschool teacher have to keep some records while homeschooling. The records include the attendance records, course study records, a list of faculty names and addresses, and immunization records/waivers. There is no need for hiring faculty. However, the last requirement is that all homeschool teachers must be “capable of teaching,” and the parent determines this.

Homeschool or Public School?

Many families in California and all over the nation look at homeschooling every year to see if it is something that their family would benefit from. Even once families start homeschooling, they ask themselves every year if it is something they wish to continue. It is essential to base any decision on what is best for the family and the child/children. A common practice after homeschooling for a few years is to return to public school.

To ease the transition, be sure to keep ample records of student performance as proof of what the child/children have completed. Sometimes, schools require additional assessments or evaluations to ensure the student is in the proper grade. Momforallseasons shares seven lessons she learned when they sent her homeschooled daughter to public schools.

When deciding if homeschooling is the right choice for a family, the first place to begin is research and figure out which way of homeschooling is best.

The California Homeschool Guide – Second Edition is a great resource when homeschooling in California. This book is from Karen Taylor, in conjunction with the California Homeschool Network, a non-profit organization supporting homeschoolers in California.

Conclusion

Whether you choose to homeschool through a private school or a public charter school or independent study program or a private school affidavit, it is crucial to stay calm. Try not to get overwhelmed and research before making any choices. Sitting down and talking with the family about the right decisions are very important. You can also speak with friends or other people who homeschool.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, check out Intoxicated on Life. They offer numerous resources on simplifying homeschooling, homeschooling multiple children, and how to transition from elementary age to middle school age to high school age teaching and homeschooling.

Great Homeschool Conventions holds a homeschool convention every year in California to provide numerous resources specific to California. Homeschooling in California is not much different than other states.

Remember, California is a low regulation state, and they offer four ways for a home-based education that should fit anyone’s needs and budgets.



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