by Rebecca Kocsis & Katie Julius
A homeschool community can make all the difference for both you and your children. It can provide support, encouragement, resources, friends, and educational opportunities. Finding a homeschool group that fits your family’s needs can be a challenge sometimes. Maybe the groups in your area just aren’t a great fit for you (for any number of reasons). Maybe there aren’t any groups in your area. While this may be discouraging, at first, to those seeking a homeschool group, there is a solution – start your own!
That might sound a bit overwhelming, especially if you are new to homeschooling, but it’s not an impossible feat. And, from personal experience, it’s worth it. There are a lot of factors to consider, so let’s dive in.
So, you want to start a homeschool group but aren’t sure where to begin? What do you need to consider before you start recruiting families, collecting money, and meeting for classes? Whatever your reason for choosing home education and desiring to start a homeschool group, we hope you find this article helpful.
We hope this information will help guide you through the process of establishing your own homeschool group in California as you seek to support your own children’s education and that of other families.
For specific information regarding exemptions from compulsory attendance laws, see CHEA’s “Options in Homeschooling.”
Types of Groups
There are three general types of private homeschool groups in California: Private School Satellite Programs (PSPs), support groups, and co-op classes. There is some overlap between them as PSPs and support groups offer many of the same social and educational activities. Families who participate in co-op classes can also be part of a PSP or a support group.
For our purposes, the difference is this:
- A PSP files one affidavit on behalf of all its members. Each student enrolled is considered a private school student. As a private school, PSPs are required by law to maintain their students’ cumulative records. Enrolled students are in compliance with compulsory attendance laws, so there is no need to file a Private School Affidavit.
- A support group does not file a Private School Affidavit (PSA) on behalf of its members. Instead, each member’s family chooses to file its own affidavit or to join a local PSP. The members are considered to be private school students but are not all enrolled in the same school.
- A co-op is an organization formed for the purpose of regularly offering classes or group learning to homeschool students. Sometimes parents are enlisted to teach, but not necessarily. It can be volunteer based or a for-profit venture.
Common services provided by PSPs are record keeping, high school transcripts and diplomas, parent/teacher training meetings, and other school services. In most cases, families are required to be accountable to the leaders or administrators of the PSP, at least by turning in certain records, or by having periodic contact with an administrator or another member of the leadership team.
A strength of PSPs is that, because the PSP is a school with a reputation to maintain, there is typically a greater degree of accountability. This provides support for families that may struggle with paperwork on their own. PSPs also provide structure for families that may struggle with consistency, while also allowing for a great deal of autonomy and flexibility. Also, since the private school affidavit is filed by one administrator, the enrolled families have more anonymity with government school officials.
Support groups do not provide record keeping services, though there may be experienced homeschoolers in the group who are willing to help individual families with their own records. Curriculum counseling and parent/teacher training seminars may be available through the group, but there is usually no direct accountability to group leaders for records or actual teaching. A strength of support groups is that, because there is no direct accountability to an administrator outside the family, parents have more freedom to teach their children in accordance with their own values and direct leading from the Lord.
Each of these types of groups usually strives to offer support to homeschoolers by offering fellowship, field trips, park days, special events (like promotion nights, science fairs, etc.), group classes, seminars, moms’ nights out, and any other activities that members are interested in organizing.
As homeschooling continues to grow and attract new people with new ideas, other kinds of groups are becoming popular: co-op groups, offering classes one or two days per week; theme groups, involving families who all use similar teaching materials or educational philosophy; age-segregated activity groups, providing social events for teens or for tots; and a variety of other specialized groups.
CHEA of California allows different kinds of groups to join our Support Network—as long as the groups meet our overall membership requirements.
There are many ways parents can bring homeschool families together and provide opportunities for support. We do not recommend one type of group over another, but trust that each family can best determine what will meet their needs. CHEA does not administer or oversee individual groups. However, we consider it a privilege to help you get established.
Whichever type of group you have, be sure to take time at the very beginning to make clear decisions about how the group will be run. Will you have an elected governing board who makes decisions? Will church leadership be solely responsible? Will your group simply be accountable to church leadership? Or will it be autonomous? Will members vote on important decisions?
Writing down the decisions made about how your group is run is not an easy task, but it is a vital one. Having a written document which explains basic policies means there will be no arguments about what the policy is. You may have many discussions during the upcoming years about whether or not to change your policies, but at least everyone will have the same starting point.
There are four basic governing documents your group needs. These are usually best kept as simple as possible; lengthy constitutions can cause your group to become a bureaucracy with so many channels to go through that nothing can be accomplished.
1. Statement of Faith – what you believe
2. Mission Statement or Statement of Purpose – what your purpose or focus is
3. By-Laws, Constitution, or Operating Structure – how decisions are made and who makes them
4. Policies – rules governing different situations that could arise in your group
There are many other important details to starting a homeschool group. We invite you to join us for our Starting a Homeschool Group virtual meeting on Wednesday, July 14 at 2:00 p.m. where you can get more information, discuss with other parents interested in starting their own group, and ask questions of veterans who have gone through the process before. This virtual meeting is free. Registration is required.