by Katie Julius
I love shopping the back-to-school sales for all the fun organizational items I can find. Ensuring my calendar is properly color coded according to person or activity is of great importance. I sometimes spend more time making my “to do” list than actually accomplishing the tasks on it.
If you are anything like me, this post, about record keeping for private homeschoolers, will probably excite you and get your organizing juices flowing. But if not, don’t worry! While there are specific records you need to keep as a private home educator in California, the list of required documents is not unbearably long and this post will help to ensure you have all the records you need.
DO I NEED TO KEEP EDUCATIONAL DOCUMENTS?
If you file your own Private School Affidavit (PSA), you will need to keep the documents required by law that are discussed below.
If you are part of a Private School Satellite Program (PSP), your school administration will keep these documents on file for you, though they may require you to submit some of the documents to them. PSP families may be asked to submit records or documents above and beyond these requirements as each private school can determine what is necessary for their school. If you are part of a PSP and have questions about what is required of you, you should contact your leaders directly.
If your child is enrolled in an independent study public charter school program, they also keep all your records, but may require you to submit some of your records or documentation, Families enrolled in these programs should direct any questions about record keeping to their school.
REQUIRED DOCUMENTS (CA Ed Code 33190 & 48222)
All of the documents listed below are required to be kept on file by every private school in the state of California. Since homeschooling families who file a PSA are considered a private school under the law, they must keep these records as well. For examples of these and other documents, visit the CHEA website. You can also find them, along with other valuable information about homeschooling in California, in The California Homeschool Manual available for purchase from the CHEA Store (CHEA members receive a 10% discount).
- A copy of your PSA that is filed each year between October 1-15 or when you begin schooling your children. You only need to file a PSA if you have children of compulsory attendance age (6 and older by September 1). When you file, be sure to print a copy of the confirmation, which includes the entire form, for your records. The information in this document fulfills several of the required pieces of information schools must keep on file. I keep a PDF copy on my computer (which is also backed up on a “cloud” service) in the event the paper copy is lost or destroyed.
- Attendance Register. The law states that any absences must be recorded for each student. This can be as simple as using an inexpensive calendar and marking any days your students did not participate in any learning activities. If you’re a bit more tech savvy, you can create a document. I created an Excel spreadsheet where I mark each day students are present, and added in formulas so it calculates the total number of days we have homeschooled that year. At the end of the school year, I print the record and file it with the rest of the documents from that year. Whichever way you choose, be sure to keep the record up to date.
- List of Faculty and Their Qualifications. This is a list of those who teach at your school (you!). Qualifications include any of your schooling (GED, high school diploma, college degrees, or continuing education such as conferences or classes). Be sure to include both parents if they will both be participating in instructing, even if it’s for one specific “class” (woodworking, auto care, golf, etc.) In California, you are not required to hold a teaching credential to teach in a private school. The law says you must be “capable” of teaching. As we discussed in a previous blog post, as their parent, you are qualified and capable to teach your children.
- Course of Study. A course of study is simply a list of the courses or topics you will be studying each year. Some include a brief bulleted list of educational goals while some just list the area of study for each subject (i.e. British Literature, U.S. History, Zoology, Algebra). Some may also include the primary text that is being used. My course of study lists each main subject and the curriculum we are using for that subject. For subjects such as physical education or fine arts, I list the activities or classes that fit under those subjects (dance class, soccer, etc.)
- Immunization Records (Form CDPD-296). Even if your child is not fully immunized, you must keep this form on file. If the child has no immunizations, just keep a signed blank form for each child. (CA Health and Safety Code 120375)
- Health Examination for School Entry or a signed waiver (within 90 days of entering first grade). This form should be completed by your family doctor or pediatrician for each child upon their entrance into first grade. If you wish to opt out of this examination, you should fill out and sign the waiver and keep it on file in place of the examination form.
While these documents are not required by law, the more documentation we have the better. This would be of great benefit if we ever found ourselves needing to prove that our students are learning and making progress while being taught at home.
- Work Samples. Since there is no law requiring work samples be kept, you are free to determine how often and which subjects to include. However, the California Education Code does require that subjects commonly taught in public schools also be taught in private schools as well. These typically include language arts, math, science, social studies, health, fine arts, and physical education. Each month, I pull a sample from the four core subjects (language arts, math, science, social studies) and include a sample or two each year from our other subjects. If it’s too bulky to fit in a file or folder, I take a photo and print it to include in that year’s file.
- List of Curriculum Used. We include this in our course of study, but if you choose not to and want to keep a record of the curriculum you use, you can do so separately. This can be helpful if you have multiple children and want to refer to what you used with previous children.
- Lesson Plans. If you use lesson plans (either planning ahead or writing what students complete each day), you can include these in your files. It is an easy way to keep a daily record of your child’s learning.
- Progress/Report Cards or Transcripts. Progress and report cards are not required, though a transcript of completed courses for credit toward graduation should be kept for high school students. Since we don’t put numerical or letter grades on our learning in elementary school, I choose to do a quarterly or semesterly progress report that includes a brief paragraph about what my student accomplished during that time period. I also mention areas where extra attention or work may be needed. Again, this is not a requirement, but maybe something you can use to help document your children’s learning.
- Standardized Test Results. If you participate in standardized testing, you can include these records in your student’s files. Standardized testing is not required of any student in the state of California.
Any other documents that demonstrate your child is receiving an appropriate education in accordance with California law. These could include field trip logs, reading lists, writing portfolios, extracurricular activities, etc.
HOW TO ORGANIZE RECORDS
As I mentioned before, I keep both hard and digital copies of the required records. On my computer, I have a digital file for each school year where I keep all my digital copies. I keep the paper copies in a three-ring binder in sheet protectors. I then keep a separate file box with a file for each year with student samples and my non-required records.
Some families I know use a social media account to document their learning with a specific hashtag. They use an app or website that pulls all their images with that particular hashtag and compiles it into a photo book. Another family I know prints a family yearbook that includes their school activities along with other family events. Both of these are less traditional options to document your children’s education but may be something that is easier for some families to do.
However you choose to keep or organize your records, it is important to have them readily available in the event that you are asked to produce them by a school official or government agency. In a world where our freedoms are becoming fewer and tighter, it is vital we follow the law to protect our families.
If you have any questions about homeschool record keeping in the state of California, you can contact the CHEA office at 562-864-CHEA (2432) Monday through Thursday between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
To order your copy of The California Homeschool Manual, please visit the CHEA Store.
For free sample and blank printable homeschool record keeping forms, please visit the CHEA website.