Homeschooling in California: Beginning the Journey

With growing opposition to Common Core, the number of families that are choosing to homeschool is growing exponentially.

As a veteran homeschool mom, I know first hand that making the choice to homeschool is both exciting (it opens a whole new world giving you the freedom to do what works best for you and your family) and intimidating (your child’s education and future is truly in your hands).

No matter when you choose to take this journey (whether your child is just a toddler, is in the midst of third grade, or has just entered junior high), I want to reassure you that you can do this.

You CAN homeschool successfully.

I have had the privilege of homeschooling (thus far) in two states, initially in Oregon and presently in California.  I am familiar with the laws in both states and will be writing about each over the next few weeks.

homeschooling caliBeginning the Journey – How do I homeschool in California?

When we first moved to California, I debated the pros and cons of the homeschool choices available to me:

  • Establishing your own home-based private school (R4),
  • Enrolling in a private school that offers independent study (PSP),
  • Using a public school independent study program (ISP) or charter school that caters to homeschoolers or,
  • Using the tutorial option (if you have a credential).

Facilitated Homeschooling

For those just getting started in homeschooling or whom simply want someone to guide them along the way, I would suggest any of the three latter methods (private school, charter school, or hiring a tutor). As each school is very different in their approach and what they have to offer, you will want to learn about the specific options in your local area.

Compare and contrast the programs they provide. Some will assign you the curriculum materials they have adopted for your child’s grade level, some will purchase on your behalf the curriculum you choose, and others will provide you with a monthly stipend. Some charters will also provide 1-2 days of enrichment activities (art, science, music, language, etc.) and quarterly field trips.

If possible, meet with the facilitators and find out just how much freedom or flexibility you will have.  How often are you required to meet?  What kind of student work or documentation is required?

Be aware that charter schools are in fact public schools. As such, as a student enrolled, participation in the Common Core exams will be expected. Presently, it may be possible to opt out of these exams. Be sure to read all the materials before signing enrollment contracts.

When we first moved to California, I was intrigued by the myriad of opportunities. Each of these options appealed to me in different ways, but in the beginning, we opted to partner with a public charter school (or umbrella school).  I selected one in which I felt would best meet our needs and I met with the facilitator one afternoon.  I liked her right away and the kids were excited for the weekly enrichment day.

Within a few months, however, we discovered that an umbrella school was not the choice for us.  We had become too accustomed to doing things our way and I felt constrained by the requirements expected of me by the state. The busy work was killing us! 

Unbeknownst to us, many of the enrichment day activities were gobbled up with testing requirements of one sort or another.  We thereby opted to return to what we were accustomed to – doing it on our own – and I thereby filed an R4 to establish our own home-based private school.

Other homeschool families I have spoken with since have shared their experiences with umbrella schools (whether private or public charters). Everyone has a different story – some love the guidance and support. Others, like me, felt constrained by the requirements.

What is important is that you find a match for your needs.  Find what works best for your family. 

Independent Homeschooling

Undoubtably, if you choose to homeschool independently, you will have more freedom. Filing an R4 is a pain-free, simple form that is completed online once each year in early October (or upon disenrolling your child from another school).  It takes just a few minutes; you simply list the number of students that will be enrolled and what the grade range.  There is no need to denote what curriculum you are using or to specify what courses you plan to teach.

Establishing a home-based private school can at times be a little daunting but it is also a very rewarding option. Though you are technically on your own, there are so many resources available today that help is just around the corner.

I will talk more about choosing curriculum and finding resources again next week, Homeschooling in California: Choosing Curriculum & Finding Resources.

To learn more about the specifics of each homeschool option in California, you may also be interested in the California Homeschool Network’s How to Homeschool 

About Eva Varga

Eva is passionate about education. She has extensive experience in both formal and informal settings. She presently homeschools her two young children, teaches professional development courses through the Heritage Institute, and writes a middle level secular science curriculum called Science Logic. In addition to her work in education, she is an athlete, competing in Masters swimming events and marathons. In her spare time she enjoys reading, traveling, learning new languages, and above all spending time with her family. ♥