Legal Options for Homeschooling in California

There are three basic options for how to cover the legal aspect of homeschooling. None of them are necessarily better than another—it’s a matter of what fits your family. You can change fairly easily from one choice to another from year to year.

The founders of Urban Homeschoolers have used all three of these options during their combined 25 years of homeschooling, depending on needs.  Here they are, in a nutshell:

Option 1: Private School Affidavit (PSA) 

This involves filling out an on-line document with the state each year.  You basically create a private school, with your children as students.  Since private schools in California are not required to follow specific curriculum, you have a lot of freedom. And since they don’t require private school teachers to be accredited, you don’t have to be an accredited teacher.

Although the state mandates that certain subjects, such as reading, social studies, math and science be “taught,” when you file the Private School Affidavit, you have freedom in deciding what specific topics are covered, as well as how and when to cover them.  This freedom can be overwhelming for some families new to homeschooling, and can lead to decision-making overload.  For others, the ability to let their children learn at a natural pace, in an interest-based way, is a wonderful choice. The Affidavit is filed between Oct 1-15 each year.  HERE is the link.

Pros:  If your elementary school aged child gets interested in a topic normally covered in high school, like biology, let them at it!  If your child is gifted, or if they have a learning disability (or both!), they can learn at their own pace, without feeling measured or judged, AND they are free to learn in the way that is best for them.  If your child gets obsessed with a subject, like the solar system, or the Middle Ages, they can spend as much time on that subject as they want to.

Cons:  There is no built-in support system.  There is no monetary help.  There is no mandated grade-specific requirements.  You must do your own record-keeping.

Option 2: Private School Satellite Program (PSP)  

This is simply a private school that caters to homeschoolers. They require a tuition fee to enroll.  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. The administrator will remind you to turn in the required attendance records and course of study. Some PSPs offer a newsletter and activities like park days and field trips for their members. Some PSPs offer curriculum packages. The amount of both guidance, and requirements vary with each school. 

Pros:  Legal responsibility belongs to someone else.  Some support may be available, depending on where you enroll.  There may be a support group.

Cons:  There is a tuition for enrollment.  PSPs vary wildly in their focus, freedom, and support.  Research carefully to find the right one for you.

Option 3:  Public Homeschool Charter Schools  

When you register with a public school ISP or Charter School, your child is still officially in public school, but there is no requirement to attend at a physical building. You will be assigned a credentialed teacher to oversee your program. You will meet with this teacher about once a month, at which time you will turn in work samples (usually one per subject, per month).

You will be given a ‘budget’ each semester to spend as you please on classes (both for core subjects and extracurricular), curriculum, craft materials, etc.  You must use the budget with ’vendored’ businesses, of which there are many in Southern California.  These are businesses that have made an agreement with the Charter to accept payment on behalf of the student.  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 with your assigned teacher.  Many families who choose this option ask around to find a Charter and teacher that they think will be a good fit for their educational philosophies.  Many Charters encourage participation in the public school anonymous end-of-year testing.

Pros: You receive a budget to use for your child’s education. It can be used for core subject classes, extracurricular classes, materials, curriculum, etc. You have a teacher assigned to your child to answer questions, and help solve dilemmas.

Cons: Some may find that this option does not offer enough freedom, and some find the requirement to turn in monthly work samples arduous.  Public homeschool programs do not recognize religious-based teachings, and will not count those as educational progress.

To view a list of the charters UHS works with, click here.