HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) is a nonprofit advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms.
What options are available for homeschooling in California?
- Private School Affidavit (PSA): The Private School Affidavit may be filed online at the California Department of Education website from October 1st to October 15th of every year. Schools that are created after the filing period should file at the time the school is established. You bear responsibility to adhere to all private school laws and maintain records. California mandates that certain subjects such as reading, social studies, math and science be taught when you file the Private School Affidavit. Hiring a certified private homeschool tutor also falls under this option (Cal. Educ. Code §§ 33190, 48222, 48224.)
- Public School Independent Study Program (ISP) or Charter School: If you register with a public school ISP or Charter School, your child is still enrolled in public school but instruction is delivered at home. You are considered a teacher's aide and will be assigned a credentialed teacher to oversee your program. You will need to keep the records required by the program you enroll in. The amount of freedom you have in choosing what to study depends on the program's policies and your assigned teacher. Materials are available on loan. Support systems are offered to varying degrees, depending on the school. Parents are asked to sign a contract agreeing that they will allow their child to be tested. Public programs will not offer religious materials and any religious instruction must be after the recorded school hours. Please see your School Liaison Officer for a list of home charter schools or information on independent study in your area (Cal. Educ. Code § 51745.)
- Private School Satellite Program: A PSP is a private school which has filed an affidavit. 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). A small tuition fee will be charged for administrative and paperwork services. When you sign up, you become a teacher in that school. Your name and address do not appear on the affidavit, but the PSP is required to keep a listing of each teacher and his/her qualifications. Some PSPs offer a newsletter and activities like park days and field trips for their members. Some PSPs offer curriculum packages; guidance and requirements vary with each school (Cal. Educ. Code § 48222.)
- Correspondence and Virtual Schools: K-12 Online schools can be public or private depending on the route you choose. The programs work much like Options 2 and 3, however the teacher is online and they keep all the school records. Amount of freedom and support varies on the program and if it is public or private.
NOTE: There are private, Out-of-State Independent Study Correspondence Programs and curriculum. Unless the school maintains an office in the state of California and files the Private School Affidavit (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 the R4 Affidavit yourself (Cal. Educ. Code § 51745; Private: Cal Educ. Code § 48222.)
Can I begin homeschooling mid-year? Under California state law, parents are permitted to begin homeschooling mid-year. Parents should be cautioned however, that pulling your child out of the classroom to homeschool mid-year can be difficult and stressful. Transitioning from public school to homeschooling involves several different aspects of planning to make the process as smooth as possible.
Is my child required to follow the California State Standards? Private Schools are not required to follow the state curriculum standards and parents who file an R4 Affidavit will have the most freedom in curriculum. All public schools including home charter schools are required to follow the state curriculum standards to the minimum. Parents have the option of course to teach above and beyond the state standards.
Can our family take a vacation when we want during the school year? This will vary depending on what option you choose. Public Charter Schools and Online schools follow school calendars and have timelines for state testing requirements. Some Independent Study Programs and Home Charter Schools will allow flexibility and student work to be faxed or emailed while on vacation or visits and will work around your family’s needs. Private homeschool instruction has the most flexibility.
Does my child have to take the STAR tests? STAR testing is administered by all California public schools, including home charter schools, however, parents have the right to excuse their children from some or all of the STAR tests by providing written notice to school officials. Private schools do not have to administer the test, including home private schools (Cal. Educ Code 60615).
How many hours is my child required to attend to their studies? Three hours, 175 days a calendar year is the minimum requirement for California, however, many public home charter schools require at least four hours of instruction. Religious instruction does not count toward the minimum hours. (Cal. Educ Code 48224).
Can my child participate in my neighborhood school sports and activities? Your child must be enrolled in an independent study program through their zoned school district to be eligible to participate in sports for that school. Many families enrolled in home charter schools join sports or participate in sports offered by other community programs. The Navy offers a wide variety of social and sports activities though Child and Youth Programs. Military families should contact their School Liaison Officer or Child and Youth Programs office to find out more about how to get their child involved.