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The California geography, climate, and lifestyle offer an abundance of educational opportunities for families who wish to learn at home. And because California parents helped to pioneer modern-day homeschooling, the resources and support are abundant. This guide will help you find the information you need to homeschool successfully in California.
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Disclaimer: Please note that this information does not constitute legal advice. The reader should evaluate all information in regard to his or her own circumstances and determine independently whether this information is accurate and applicable.
Note: Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory in California. In 2013, a child must enter into the first grade in September if his or her sixth birthday falls on or before October 1st. In 2014, and every year thereafter, a child must enter into the first grade in September if his or her sixth birthday falls on or before September 1st. If your child is of school age, the following information is pertinent.
If you want to homeschool in California you should know that homeschooling is legal in California, just as it is legal in all 50 states. There isn't a law that specifically defines or addresses homeschooling in California. California has a compulsory school attendance law. That means that every child that is of school age must be enrolled in public school unless they fall into one of several exemptions detailed below.
To pursue home education, familiarize yourself with the state requirements as specified in the California Education Code. The sections of the Ed Code that are of significant importance include sections: §33190, §48222, §48224, §51210, §51220, and §51745. You can locate the text of these codes in public libraries or on the Internet. Click on "Education Code" and then hit the "Search" button. A new page opens with all of the Ed Codes listed. The codes detail the following methods for exemption from compulsory attendance at public schools:
1. Private Instruction by a Teacher or Tutor
[See Education Code §48224]
Children can be instructed at home by a private tutor or teacher with a valid CA teaching credential for the grades being taught. Instruction must occur for 3 hours a day for 175 days each year in the branches of study required in the public schools. So, if you are a parent with a valid teaching credential as described above, or if you hire a tutor with a valid teaching credential as described, your child may be taught at home for the hours and days indicated.
3. Private School Satellite Program (PSP)
[See Education Code §33190]
Note: Formerly called Private School Independent Study Program (ISP)
You may enroll your child in a home study program of a private school. These programs act as administrative "umbrellas" for each of the member "family-sized" private schools that enroll.
Paragraph 2 of Education Code §33190 provides that "whenever two or more private schools are under the effective control or supervision of a single administrative unit, such administrative unit may comply with the provisions of this section on behalf of each of the schools under its control or supervision by submitting one report." (The word "report" refers to the Private School Affidavit, formerly known as the R4 form.)
If you enroll in a Private PSP it acts as an administrative umbrella for your family's private school. The private PSP files the Private School Affidavit annually and keeps required records on file such as attendance records, health records, and an outlined course of study for each student. They may also keep track of cumulative files, grades, transcripts, and test results (if any). In exchange for this paperwork service, you pay a tuition of about $250-$400 per year.
Then, typically, you take responsibility for your child's education and select and purchase your own curriculum (if any).
Some private school PSPs are quite flexible, others are rigid. Some of these schools have additional requirements such as monthly campus visits and teacher counseling. Some may require you to use a particular methodology or curriculum. The programs vary widely.
There are private PSPs that offer additional services such as counseling, curriculum development, coop classes, field trips and more. Additional fees may be charged for these services. Because the programs vary, it's a good idea to request references, and in lieu of that, ask members of your homeschool support group if they are familiar with the program.
There are many private PSPs and Administrative Units throughout California. You can enroll in a PSP located ANYWHERE in California. You can find the names of these private schools online, including at Homefires, and in some homeschool publications such as The California Homeschool Guide (1-800-327-5339). Here are some that have been recommended by California homeschooling families:
There are private, OUT-OF-STATE Independent Study Programs that provide correspondence courses and curriculum. Unless the school maintains an office in the state of California and files the Private School Affidavit (formerly R4 Form), enrolling in their program WILL NOT satisfy the legal requirements for public school exemption. It's okay to enroll in an out-of-state ISP to get and use the curriculum, but it will not cover you legally unless the school complies with California law. If it has not filed an affidavit, then you must either enroll in a private ISP established in California or establish your own private school and file an affidavit.
The least restrictive method for homeschooling is to teach your children without being involved with a school district or any form of government schooling. You can establish your own private school in your home. In California, private school teachers are not required to have teaching credentials. Once you establish your private school you must file a Private School Affidavit with the CA Department of Education between October 1st and 15th annually. As a private school, you are required to maintain certain records (see list below) and must comply with the CA Education Codes that pertain to private schools. Again, Private School Affidavits must be filed annually between October 1st and 15th.
Homefires Journal Discussion List
The California Department of Education (CDE) requires that all Private School Affidavits be filed between October 1st and 15th annually.
The CDE prefers that you file The Private School Affidavit ONLINE between October 1st and 15th.
To receive a paper PSA, please send an e-mail request to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those without Internet access may request a paper form by calling 916-445-7331.
Paper PSAs and statements with all required components must be postmarked after October 1, annually and mailed to:
Title II Leadership Office — Private Schools
California Department of Education
1430 N Street, Suite 4309
Sacramento, CA 95814
Paper affidavits will be mailed out beginning in late September.
► Schools with Five or Fewer Students, and New Schools access the online affidavit from the Private Schools home page and file online. Just follow the simple instructions at the website.
► Schools with Six or More Students
The CDE mails passwords to schools with six or more students who have previously filed an affidavit. Passwords allow private school officials to access and update their affidavit online.
Questions about the Private School Affidavit may be directed to: Title II Leadership Office by phone at 916-445-7331 or by email to: E-mail.
Private School Record Requirements:
If you establish a private school in California you must comply with these requirements:
If you homeschool through the Private School option, while you must offer these subjects, how you propose to cover them in your outline, and what materials you use, will be entirely up to you. Choosing a course of study and developing a curriculum will vary according to your personal philosophy and educational style. It will also be strongly influenced by your child's, needs, abilities, and unique learning style. Recent research indicates that people learn in very different ways and that there are many different kinds of intelligences. Tailoring your curriculum to your child's learning style will make the job of learning together much more effective and meaningful. California authors Victoria Kindle-Hodson and Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis wrote a book titled Discover Your Child's Learning Style that includes a learning profile assessment that you can use to determine how your child learns best.
Many parents are concerned about making sure that their children learn what most traditionally schooled students learn at each grade level. You may find grade level expectations for preschool through grade 12 at the World Book Encyclopedia Website.
In addition to the state's record requirements listed above, state homeschooling organizations recommend (but this is not mandated by law) that you maintain records that provide proof of instruction and samples of your student's work each year. For example, a teaching agenda or plan book; a journal indicating accomplishments in areas of study each day; the results of tests administered, if any. Some families just put everything their child does in a big box including artwork, poems, copies of written thank you notes, workbook pages, art projects, science projects, etc. Other families create yearly detailed albums (like scrap books) with photos of each field trip, coop class, art project, science experiment, etc. They also include samples of written work, math worksheets, and a bibliography of books read throughout the year. These become keepsakes (like yearbooks) that record the child's studies and interests year after year, and reassure you that you are indeed learning. Plus, they are useful when it comes time to construct portfolios or transcripts for college admission.
The freedom to educate our children without government surveillance or intervention comes with the price of constant vigilance to protect our rights from eroding away. If you don't currently belong to a state homeschool organization that monitors legal and legislative issues as they pertain to homeschooling, then please join one today. They include:
In California, for students enrolled in public schools or public charter school Home Study Programs, the CA State Board of Education mandates standardized testing for all students in grades 2-11. Students are tested in reading, spelling, written expression, language mechanics, and math. Test results are used to measure a school's performance and compare students across a national standard. California Education Code 60615 - Testing Exemption provides that parents can exempt their child from testing by requesting it in a letter to the principal. School districts cannot solicit this exemption, but may inform parents of this right if the parent objects to testing. If you have a child that you do not want tested for any reason, simply request that in a letter to the principal of the school.
Testing is not a requirement for private schools in California. Some parents choose to administer tests for evaluation purposes and keep the results in their child's permanent records. Here is a list of some of the tests available and resources for acquisition:
Note: Test suppliers may require the test administrator to have a 4-year college degree or other qualifications. Family Learning Organization offers the most flexible terms and conveys a more relaxed attitude toward testing.
The California High School Proficiency Examination or CHSPE. Passing the CHSPE, which is administered twice a year, earns the equivalent of a high school diploma in CA. Students are eligible to take the CHSPE if, on the test date, they are:
The CHSPE exam is administered three times a year. For information & registration contact: California Proficiency Testing, or 1-866-342-4773.
(Note: The CHSPE is NOT the same test as the California High School Exit Exam required of public school students.)
The GED - Passing this test is considered by CA law to be equivalent to a high school diploma for purposes of employment by all state and local public agencies. In California, applicants must be within 60 days of their 18th birthday to qualify to take the test (and in some special cases, may be 17 years old - check the website for details). Contact the GED Program Coordinator at 1-800-626-9433 or visit the website at: California Department of Education
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