Homefires - The Journal of Homeschooling OnlineHomefires - The Journal of Homeschooling Online
Homeschooling — California Style

California Style!

Want to Homeschool in California?

Parents in California are no different from parents everywhere - they are dedicated to finding the best educational environment for their children. Many have found that the best place for learning - is at home.

It is estimated that there are 160,000 to 250,000 homeschooled children in California, with a projected increase of 7-15% per year. Homeschooling in California may have begun with the stereotypical image of religious fundamentalists and fringe element hippies, but today the booming growth is among mainstream parents, who find home education less radical than what is offered as "education" on some public and private school campuses.

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.

You may click on a link below to jump to the specific section of this page:

The Ways To Homeschool In California

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.

San Francisco Bay Homes - Cliff Keith and Team

2. Independent Study Program (ISP) a.k.a. Home Study Program (HSP) through Public Schools:

  1. Your Local Public School District
    [See E.C. §51745]
    Parents can teach their children at home by enrolling in the public school district's ISP or HSP. Parents act as teacher's aides, supervised by the program teacher. The program teacher works with parents to develop a course of study for the student that is in line with state requirements as determined by the teacher and school district.

    Parents and students typically meet with the program teacher once-a-month. The teacher reviews the student's work, collects samples of work, provides resources and study materials, and administers tests, grades, and diplomas. To find out if your school district offers a home study program, simply call your local district and ask -- some do, and some don't. These programs vary widely from district to district in terms of structure and flexibility. It will be helpful in selecting such a program to talk to other parents whose children are enrolled. Ask the program teacher for references. In lieu of that, find a local homeschool support group, or online discussion group, and ask the members for their opinion of the program.
  2. Public Charter School
    All charter schools in California are public schools. Some public Charter schools now offer Home Study Programs. The Charter School must be located in your county or in a county that is adjacent to your county in order for you to enroll. They assign a facilitator in your area who works with you to establish a course of study for your child. The facilitator meets with you once-a-month to discuss progress and collect attendance sheets and samples of the students work.

    Individual Charter school programs may provide educational credits (of up to $2,000) to be used toward the purchase of consumable educational curricula (workbooks, textbooks, science kits, etc.) from a list of approved vendors. In some cases, educational credits may be applied toward music, art, P.E., science lessons, etc. Many of these programs now require standardized testing, and return of textbooks and other materials at the end of the school year. The resources, structure, and flexibility of these programs vary widely. It will be helpful in selecting such a program to talk to other parents whose children are enrolled. Ask the facilitator for references. In lieu of that, find a local homeschool support group or online discussion group, and ask the members for their opinion of the program.

    You can find more information about California Charter Schools at The California Network of Educational Charters (CANEC) website. Unfortunately, in the directory provided at this site, it isn't clear which schools offer home study programs. You must call or visit the website of each individual school in order to find out if they have home study available. Fortunately, Homefires has done that work for you. We have prepared a list of Charter schools in California that offer Home Study Programs.

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:

  • Baywood Learning Center, Oakland, CA — A private, alternative educational facility specializing in serving the emotional and educational needs of gifted/sensitive children and their families, with child directed learning and appropriate acceleration. BLC offers Parent Support Groups, talks and seminars, social opportunities, a la carte classes, testing clinics, part-time enrollment, teen programs and concurrent college enrollment options. Phone: 510-228-5961
  • Excellence In Education Academy, Monrovia, CA — A private, secular PSP, offering everything from record keeping to customized curriculum development. The Directors, Martin and Carolyn Forte, are veteran homeschool parents who helped found the California Homeschool Network. They have experience helping families transition out of public schools. Phone: 626-357-4443.
  • Learning Success Institute, Ventura, CA — This PSP is run by the authors of the popular and rave-reviewed book, Discover Your Child's Learning Style. Program includes learning assessment and coaching. Phone: 805-648-1739.
  • Cedar Life Academy — provides California families who wish to home-educate their children with paperwork assistance, maintenance of school records required by the state of California, and homeschool mentoring. Director Karen Taylor, is a veteran homeschooler and longtime leader in the homeschool community. Located in Oak Hills, California, Cedar Life Academy does not require parent meetings or testing. Friendly regular communication is offered so that no one is homeschooling in isolation. For those families who previously had a child enrolled in another school, Cedar Life Academy will request the school records. Phone: 866-961-2504.


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.

4. Filing a Private School Affidavit (PSA) for exemption as a Private School.
[E.C. §33190 & §48222]

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.

Procedure for Filing Private School Affidavit:

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.

Get the online PSA here!

To receive a paper PSA, please send an e-mail request to: privateschools@cde.ca.gov.

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.

Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to fill out the Private School Affidavit.

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:

  1. Maintain a copy of the Private School Affidavit (PSA).
  2. Faculty record. List faculty members and teaching qualifications. Teachers do not have to be certified to teach in private schools in CA. This is essentially a record of your education, life experience, and work history or your resume.
  3. Keep attendance records for each child. (You can purchase attendance sheets at your local teacher supply store.)
  4. Keep a California School Immunization Record on file, and one of the following: Report of Health Examination for School Entry or Waiver of Health Check-up for School Entry. The forms are available from your county health department. Some pediatricians have these forms as well.
  5. Outline your student's curriculum each year. Create a simple outline of your plan for covering the subjects required for each of your students. You must offer the subjects required by the Education Code as follows:
    • Grades 1-6: English, Math, Social Sciences, Science, Visual & Performing Arts, Health, Physical Education, and other studies that may be prescribed by the governing board.
    • Grades 7-12: English, Social Sciences, Foreign Language, Physical Education, Science, Math, Visual & Performing Arts, Health, Applied Arts, Vocational-Technical Education, Automobile Driver Education, and other studies that may be prescribed by the governing board.

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.

Homeschooling — California Style

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.

Protect Your Right To Homeschool Independently
By Filing The Private School Affidavit!

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:

Testing In California

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:

  • California Achievement Test (CAT) -- CAT is a standardized, nationally-normed test, and is accepted in most states. You can purchase it from Family Learning Organization.
  • Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) -- CTBS tests all academic areas including Reading, Language Arts, Spelling, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Reference Skills. Tests can be administered by parents. You can purchase the test from The Sycamore Tree.
  • SATs -- For information on SAT testing visit the CollegeBoard website.

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:

  • at least 16 years old, or
  • have completed at least one academic year of the 10th grade, or
  • are enrolled in the second semester of 10th grade.

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