We hope our last post helped your family determine whether homeschooling is the right choice and the reasons for that decision. Now that you’ve made the decision to homeschool, we will take a look at the legal options for private home education in the state of California.

Just over 30 years ago, there was no recognized legal option for teaching your children in your home unless you held a California teaching credential–for each grade you were teaching. Because of the many court battles fought in the judicial system by families and organizations like HSLDA, we now have less legislation regulating how we homeschool our children. (Read more about the history of California homeschooling at HSLDA.)

According to current California law, every child between the age of 6 and 18 must attend public school. Aside from enrolling in a traditional private school campus, the only way to be exempt from this compulsory attendance requirement in California is through one of the options discussed below.

File a Private School Affidavit (PSA)
Offering the most freedom for families, filing a PSA online each October once your oldest child is 6 is the only documentation required to be submitted to the government to homeschool legally in California. You are establishing your home as a private school, with your children enrolled as its only students. You are agreeing to teach subjects similar to those taught in public school and maintain students’ cumulative records (we will discuss what records must be kept in a future post).

As the parent-teacher, you select the curriculum, graduation requirements, number of attendance days required, number of hours in a school day, determine grading criteria, whether or not to do standardized testing, and more. Every decision related to how you school your children can be determined by you. You do not have to turn in any records, samples, or lesson plans to anyone (we will discuss records that you should keep on file in a few weeks).

Join a Private School Satellite Program (PSP)
If the idea of going at it completely on your own is overwhelming, another option is to join a Private School Satellite Program. These programs can sometimes be associated with a traditional private school that offers a home education arm (these were formally known as ISPs) or they can stand alone as their own program comprised of and led by homeschooling families.

PSPs usually charge a family fee or tuition and require certain records to be turned in throughout the year. They may also have curriculum guidelines, grade standards to meet, or testing requirements (actual requirements will vary by program). The biggest advantage of enrolling in a PSP is the accountability they provide. Homeschooling families have someone else they are accountable to in order to stay on track with their record keeping and ensuring they are meeting the requirements of teaching their children at home.

The PSP files a PSA each October for each student enrolled in its program. The PSP also maintains the students’ files and completes any necessary paperwork for them.

Credentialed Tutor
This is the least used exemption to compulsory attendance since it’s the most restrictive and costly (unless you, as the parent, hold a California teaching credential). Families may choose to hire a credentialed tutor to teach their children at home. The teacher must hold the appropriate grade level credential and they are required to instruct the same courses that are required in a public school. There are specific daily and yearly time requirements for the instruction to occur.

A Note About Public “School at Home” Charters
Unique to our state, California allows charter schools to offer public “school at home” options to its residents as an alternative to a traditional classroom setting. While a growing number of families are participating in the charter school system and embrace the public funds offered (for educational materials and experiences to school at home), the students are considered public school students. As such, no exemption from compulsory education is necessary. A future post will be dedicated to further examining the differences between charter schools and private homeschooling.

Final Thoughts
The majority of privately homeschooling families in California are either enrolled in a PSP or file their own PSA. The most important thing to note is that both of these options are free from government oversight. Neither really offers more freedom than the other, and is more a matter of preference. If you feel you need more support and guidance, especially as a new homeschool family, joining a PSP in your area may be the best option. If you feel confident and desire complete autonomy in your homeschool decisions, filing your own PSA would likely be the best fit.

Have questions about PSAs or PSPs? Contact CHEA at 562-864-CHEA (2432) Monday through Thursday between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

We hope you will come back next week as we take a closer look at the differences between charter schools and private home education.

Please note: The information contained in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.