Every US state has its own homeschooling laws, California included.
So if you’re a resident of The Golden State and are either thinking about homeschool, or indeed have already got a semester or two under your belt, you’ll need to know California homeschool law inside-out.
The thing is, there’s a lot to learn and the stakes are pretty high if you get it wrong!
To help you make sense of the detail, we’ve put together this beginner’s guide explaining everything you need to know about homeschooling in California. We’ll also point you in the direction of some really valuable support systems, to make homeschooling in California all the easier to understand.
Let’s get started…
How do I start homeschooling in California?
According to California’s local state laws, homeschoolers have five options for teaching children at home:
- Receive permission to establish your own “private school” in your home
- Enroll in a private school satellite homeschool program
- Hire a certified private tutor, or become certified yourself
- Use a public school independent study option
- Enroll in a public charter school for homeschoolers
Of these five, one of the most popular options is to enroll in a public charter school for homeschool students. A public charter school is different from other schools in the area, as it is independent of the local school board. This means teachers and parents can co-create a year-round syllabus, source their own materials, and construct their own lessons without a great deal of outside interference. Even better: this schooling option is free, and offers a yearly stipend to cover any extra schooling costs that come up.
Of course, it’s not strictly homeschool, as your child will still be going to an outside facility. But it does provide a lot of the flexibility and customization that homeschooling allows, but with less pressure on the parents. To find out more about public charter schools in California, head to the California School Directory.
What are the laws in California around homeschooling?
Whilst public charter schools are a popular choice, they aren’t for everyone. And some parents will opt for a more pure-breed-style of homeschooling.
In this case, establishing a “private school” at home, or homeschooling with a private tutor, are great options. Here’s what you need to know about doing both on the right side of the law…
Enlisting as a private school (where the parent acts as a teacher)
To enlist as a private school, each year parents are required to file a private school affidavit stating they wish to homeschool their children. Parents are in charge of sourcing all curricular and instructional materials that they’ll be using to teach lessons, and there are no state laws regulating curriculum or basic learning requirements. However, the state does mandate that parents teach the courses commonly taught in public schools, e.g. math, science, social studies, language, health, etc.
For this option, parents don’t need to have teaching credentials themselves, but they do need to be considered “capable” of privately educating their children.
In order to operate as a private school, the state requires you to keep certain documents on hand:
- A copy of your Private School Affidavit
- Attendance records for all students — a simple marked calendar will do
- A list of the courses of study taught at your homeschool
- Teachers’ qualifications — whether it’s the parents or an outside tutor
- Immunization records and waivers
While these are the only documents required by law, it’s helpful to establish a good system for record-keeping. If you wish to send your children back to a mainstream school in the future, you may need to provide examples of the lessons they did while being homeschooled. Similarly, homeschooled high school students may need good transcripts and proof of education when applying to college.
Homeschooling with a private tutor (where parents, or a hired hand, act as a teacher)
Instead of listing as a private school, parents can either obtain a California teaching certificate and teach as a private tutor, or hire in a professional private tutor to give lessons each day.
Legally, students must be taught for at least three hours a day between 8am and 4pm, for 175 days each year. But families homeschooling under this option are not required to report any information or progress reports to the state.
When it comes to designing syllabi, you can use the California Curriculum Frameworks to ensure you’re matching what’s being taught in mainstream schools. It’s also important to independently assess your students’ progress and ensure they’re meeting the state standards for each grade level.
What homeschool associations are available to help with homeschool law in California?
There are a number of homeschool associations available in California to support parents who choose to privately educate their children.
These associations serve to offer legal and social support for homeschool families, and provide a wealth of information to ensure you have all your bases covered. It’s a good way to keep abreast of the latest news and any legal changes that may impact your homeschooling methods.
The three main associations in California all have different focuses, so you can choose whichever one best suits your needs and values.
California Homeschool Network
This association is designed to be accessible by every homeschool family across the state of California, regardless of religion, worldview, or ethnicity. It is an independent organization, run by volunteers, with the aim of preserving educational freedom. According to their website, they aim to inform and empower homeschooling families, foster a community among home educators, and respond to any legislation that could pose a threat to homeschooling.
Members of the CHN are invited to regular events, and get access to a huge wealth of information about homeschooling in California. They also receive an ID card to qualify for discounts at some stores.
HomeSchool Association of California
The HSC prides itself on being a multi-pronged association that provides a number of services to members. It’s an inclusive non-profit which aims to honor families’ choices in homeschooling, while empowering them with access to as many resources and support networks as possible. The HSC organizes events for homeschool families to socialize and holds an annual conference.
The information on their website is available to all homeschoolers, whether you’re a member or not. Members receive certain benefits and discounts on events.
Are there homeschool support groups in California?
Luckily, homeschool parents have an excellent support network available to them in the state of California. If you’re confused or overwhelmed about any of the practicalities of homeschool, chances are these parents have been there, done that.
Being connected to a homeschooling community is one of the most important parts of educating your children at home, and many parents report it as necessary for having a positive and satisfying homeschool experience.
Support groups are designed to be a way for parents to share information, learnings, and advice. Many groups also organize meet-ups and activities — some educational and some just for fun!
Most areas in California will have already-established groups, both virtual and physical, that you can join. It’s a great way to ease yourself into homeschooling, as you can surround yourself with experienced parents who will be able to offer support and advice. Most groups are run through Facebook, which makes it easy to keep in touch. You can find a list here of some local California homeschool groups.
Remember: socialization is an essential part of homeschooling, and it’s beneficial for your students to spend time with other homeschooled kids, in and out of class. There are plenty of homeschooling co-op groups in California you could join, who regularly hold classes or organize field trips. The best way to find one near you is to go through a local homeschool support group.
California is a great state to homeschool in, just make sure you’re aware of your legal requirements first
Of all the states, California is one of the best for homeschooling. Here, parents can really flex their creativity and design fun, engaging, and effective ways of teaching.
But when you’re in the process of setting up your homeschool set-up, it can seem like a lot of work to get started. Just keep calm, and methodically work your way through crossing the Ts and dotting the Is.
So long as you brush up on the California homeschool laws, and link up with an association and social group, you’ll have all the resources you need to provide your children with an excellent homeschool education.
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Link will appear as California homeschool laws — a beginner’s guide: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, March 20, 2020