Guide to Homeschooling in California
If you’ve recently made the decision to homeschool your child, congratulations! Homeschooling is a wonderful option for families who wish to make decisions regarding the content, structure, and timing of their children’s education. Right now, you are probably researching curriculums, pondering educational philosophies, and planning exciting field trips, but before you go too far down that road, take some time to think about the state of California requirements for homeschooled students. Many parents aren’t aware that every state has its own guidelines for homeschooling, and they can differ widely. Here in California, there are some specific rules that you must follow (and a lot of options to choose from) in order to legally homeschool your child. But don’t worry! These laws can actually help you make sure that your child is receiving the rigorous, high-quality education that they deserve.
Homeschooling in California Options
There are five primary types of homeschooling in California. Picking the one that’s right for your family is the first key to homeschooling success. Here, we will walk through all your options.
Homeschooling in California: Starting your own home-based private school.
This option is what most people think of when they envision traditional homeschooling. In California, families do this by literally opening their own school. This is done by filing a Private School Affidavit with the California Department of Education (due yearly between October 1 and October 15). Parents chose a name for their school (a fun chance to be creative!) and outline various elements of their home-based school, including what grades you teach, if you have special education students, and if you are a co-ed or single-sex school. Once this is complete, homeschooling parents are required to keep track of attendance, curriculum, faculty “qualifications” (no formal qualification is necessary for parents to teach their children) and immunization records or waivers. Homeschools must offer courses that fit the age-appropriate “branches of study.” Don’t be intimidated by the list, though. Many popular homeschool curriculums fit the bill including Study.com, which offers a variety of homeschool curriculum options that can easily check all the boxes on the California branches of study!
California parents do not have to submit any yearly testing or portfolios. Still, it is a good idea to keep records of your child’s work in case you ever decide on a different schooling option, or when they graduate and are looking to apply to colleges and universities.
Homeschooling in California: Enrolling your child in a private school that has a home-based satellite program.
There are many private schools offering “Private School Satellite Programs (PSSPs)” In these programs, the parents are responsible for actually teaching the students, but the schools are available to offer additional resources, support, and testing if the child needs it. These PSSP programs are great for families with gifted or special education learners because some offer individualized learning plans, suggested course materials, and even optional online classes taught by the school. Some of these programs also offer sports and social activities. If you want to homeschool but still have a connection to a traditional school, this might be a good option for you.
Homeschooling in California: Enrolling your child in a public charter school.
This is a unique California option that might be a great choice for both your child’s education and for your budget! Public charter schools will give parents money (about $2,600 per child) to spend on their kids’ educational materials. Yes, you heard that right! You can use the funds to buy curriculum materials (like a membership to Study.com, schoolbooks, and other traditional school supplies), but you can also fund private music lessons, field trips, laptops, educational subscription boxes, and more. The charter school will often have a teacher available for support or advice, but the decisions about what and how to teach are left up to the family.
Homeschooling in California: Hiring a California-certified teacher (or being one yourself).
If a parent happens to be a CA-certified teacher, or the family can hire someone certified in the state of California to act as a teacher or tutor, this can be a very appealing option. The state of California considers this an independent study option. The student must receive 3 hours of instruction a day for at least 175 days a year in the California branches of study, but you don’t have to worry about filing the private school affidavit if you choose this option. No additional testing or reporting is required.
Homeschooling in California: Enrolling your child in a public school offering a home-based study program.
This option mostly includes online schooling programs, where the curriculum is set by the school, and instruction is either live or recorded by teachers. The student completes and turns in work online, which is graded by the school. This option allows the child to learn from home, and for parents to monitor more closely what is being taught and how the student is engaging than in a traditional school. With this choice, parents don’t necessarily have to plan lessons, instruct, or assess student progress.
Homeschooling in California: Which Option is Right for You?
California’s homeschooling options are extensive! This is a great thing for families because there’s a choice that will work for every learner’s unique needs and circumstances. To decide, start by thinking about how much actual instruction and planning you want to take on; if the answer is “none” or “not much!” then an online public school or PSSP program might be your best option.
If you are (or already have in mind) a certified teacher, then the independent study option might involve the least paperwork and be your best choice. The public charter school is great if you have enriching (but expensive) plans for field trips, private lessons, or educational technology — that $2,600 can go a long way to fund those big plans! And of course, completing the Private School Affidavit and opening your own homeschool gives you complete control over all aspects of your child’s education, if that’s what’s most important to you.
Homeschooling in California – Finding a California Homeschooling Support
Given that California has such specific homeschool options and regulations, it can be helpful to get support from other homeschooling California parents by joining a local online community. Whether you connect online or in-person, support groups can help you and your learners make educational and social connections with other families who have joined the larger homeschooling community.
As you consider your family’s priorities and make a choice about homeschooling in California, remember that one great thing about all these diverse paths is that none of them are permanent. Families can use different options year to year and are permitted to re-enroll children in their local brick-and-mortar public school at any time. Homeschooling truly is a journey that the whole family takes, and by understanding the California laws and options, you can ensure that your family makes it a memorable one, together.
Find more information about getting started with homeschooling throughout our site!