Four legal ways to homeschool exist in California. Having used all of them except tutoring, I’ve learned to keep a relaxed and open attitude. For example, the decision to use a private school may work for a season, but it isn’t set in stone. It’s fine to switch to a public school for a while, if that works best for your family. Or, if you’re facing a disrupted school year, go ahead and run your own private school. You’ll have more freedom to create courses out of the interruptions. The important thing is to remain flexible. There’s no right or wrong way for everyone to homeschool.
Private School at Home
California has no homeschool statute, meaning homeschools are not distinguished from private schools legally. The most independent way to homeschool in our state is to file an annual private school affidavit with the California Department of Education. The affidavit informs the state that you are a private school. You specify the number of children in your school and their grades, your location, and some other basic information. Your affidavit must be filed with the Superintendent of Public Instruction between October 1st and October 15th of each school year. This form can be filed online (see the link above). Be sure to file within the established timeframe, because you don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to your school.
If you operate your own private school at home, you are free to select your own methods and curriculum. California has four simple requirements for private schools:
- The instructors must be capable of teaching. (You are – don’t worry!)
- The instruction must be in English.
- The instruction must be in the several branches of study required in public schools. (Note you don’t have to teach them all at once. You can focus on science for a while, or whatever you like.)
- Attendance must be kept in a register. (I just use a page from an analysis pad, which I fill out in writing.)
Besides that, you are free to teach how and when you want. You’re a private school, and you make the decisions. You can plan your own schedule, choose your methods and days off, take a field trip to Alaska – anything!
For More Information
There’s a wealth of help and information from the pros at the Home School Legal Defense Association.
The HomeSchool Association of California (HSC) provides legal and other information to California homeschoolers.
The California Homeschool Network exists to protect homeschooling rights in California.
Updates and news are available at the Christian Home Educators’ Association of California.
For help with high school record keeping and college preparation, visit The HomeScholar.
Private School Satellite Programs
You can also enroll your child in a private school satellite program (PSP). Your child becomes an official student of the private school, but may or may not attend classes. Your home is the “satellite.”
Technology has allowed many variations on this theme; students can enroll in a school thousands of miles away, and all documents are transferred via the internet or emails. Some families take advantage of distance learning classes, or attend weekly classes if the school is local. Others enroll simply for the help with administrative record keeping. A private school satellite program may be run by a large, well-established school, or by a veteran homeschool family reaching out to the homeschool community. The program may offer advice and direction with curriculum planning, leaving the final choice of curriculum and method up to the parent. The drawback, of course, is that this option costs more money than running one’s own private school.
For More Information
See the links at the Private School Satellite Programs page, under Local Resources. A Google search for Private School Satellite Programs yields many results.
Public School Options
Many families take advantage of the funding provided by public school options. In this case, your child is enrolled in a public school independent study program and/or a public charter school. He or she is officially a student of that school, and the school keeps the student records.
Parents exchange an amount of freedom, which varies from school to school, for funding, which also varies. Some schools offer a limited selection of approved curriculum, while others allow much more parental choice. Some offer classes on a campus, others fund classes taught by a variety of approved, independent vendors. Some cover basic school supplies, such as paper, ink, and even computers, as well as sports programs and music lessons.
Students enrolled in a public school option usually are required to meet regularly with a credentialed teacher. This teacher oversees the child’s work and provides valuable input and direction. State testing is also required by some schools, which helps prove their viability to the state.
One sticking point for many families is the non-sectarian curriculum requirement. No religious instruction is recognized or provided by the state, and religious curriculum is not allowed. Of course, families are free to provide religious instruction outside of school. It simply cannot be recorded as school work. This restriction applies to classes, too; instruction affiliated with a religion is not funded or recognized by a public school.
For More Information
See the links at the Public School Options page, under Local Resources.
To my knowledge, this option for homeschooling in California is rarely used for an entire homeschool program, presumably because of the expense. However, many homeschooling families use tutors on a limited basis from time to time. Tutors can be especially helpful during the high school years, providing guidance and specialized instruction.
Some public charter schools will pay for tutoring as part of the student’s funding. Ocean Grove Charter School, in particular, has a long list of approved tutor vendors. Tutoring can also help to lighten a homeschool parent’s workload.
For More Information
See the links at the Tutors page, under Local Resources.