In today’s installment of Homeschooling in the 50 States…and Beyond!, I am pleased to bring you Angie’s experience homeschooling her children in the state of California.
Angie is a Christian wife and the mom of 15-year-old triplets. She’s been homeschooling for 11 years. Check out her blog at Simple Healthy Mom where you’ll find encouragement for your faith, family and health journey!
Please note that these experiences, while they may discuss state requirements, are not legal advice, legislative summaries, or compliance recommendations. I encourage you to do your own research on your state’s current homeschool laws and seek help from official sources if necessary. The Home School Legal Defense Agency is a great place to start though you may find a more state-specific organization that you prefer to work with.
“We are thankful that we live in a country where we have freedom to home educate our children! We’ve homeschooled for 11 years so far; the first five years in Texas and the past six in California. Before moving to California I had concerns that it might not be a very homeschool friendly state, but I’m pleased to report that we’ve had a very good experience!
While Texas could very well be the best and easiest state for being a homeschooling family, California doesn’t require too much either.
There are three basic ways that families in California can structure their homeschools:
- Homeschool independently.
- Enroll in a homeschool “umbrella” school (aka Private School Satellite Program or PSP)
- Enroll in a charter or public school homeschool program
Since we’ve actually tried all three of these options, I will briefly outline what I’ve learned about each, giving you the pros and cons as I see them.
Option 1: Homeschool Independently
This is how we started homeschooling in California, and is what we’ve gone back to after trying Options 2 and 3. The process for getting your homeschool set up this way is very simple. You just need to go online and fill out the Private School Affidavit with the state October 1-15th each school year. The HSLDA website has clear instructions for how to do this here.
Pros: Flexibility! You get to totally make your annual school schedule to fit your family’s travel, work, or other activities!
Cons: You feel a little vulnerable because filling out the form requires you to disclose to the state the names and the ages of all your children that you’ll be homeschooling. However, we’ve done this for several years and know other families who do the same with no problems.
Option 2: Enroll in a Homeschool Umbrella School (PSP)
These schools have a lot to offer and can be a real benefit if you enjoy taking advantage of everything.
Pros: Enrolling in one of these schools allows your family to have anonymity with the state since the school simply reports the total number of students enrolled and not specific details like names and ages. They will also maintain records for you which helps organizationally. The school we were enrolled in offered class days, standardized testing, ID cards, lots of extra curricular activities (like field trips and social events), as well as support for parents in the way of informational meetings and resources.
Cons: The cost. We are a pretty independent homeschooling family and my kids never really enjoyed going to the class days. We found we weren’t going to any of the events offered and weren’t involved in any of the clubs or sports teams. When we downgraded our membership to the “basic” level (minus class days), we realized we were still paying the school about $700/year just for record keeping which was something I was actually responsible for entering into their online system. We decided it ultimately worked better for us to go back to Option 1: Homeschool Independently.
Option 3: Enroll in a Charter or Public School Homeschool Program
***I want to start by sharing the reason why we tried this option, as it is the biggest negative that we’ve found as far as homeschooling in California goes. Our boys have always played Little League, all the way through the Pony level, but in our area that is where community baseball ends and then boys either play high school baseball or travel ball. It’s a state-by-state decision as to whether or not homeschoolers can play sports with the public schools and the state of California does not allow homeschoolers to play sports with the public school. A public high school principal we know informed us that they have a homeschool program that would make our boys 100% eligible to play sports, since they would technically be enrolled in our local high school. We made the decision to give that a try, but only stuck with it for five weeks before deciding that it was not a good fit for our family.***
Pros: Fully accredited and free. Some of these programs will even give the students computers and/or a monthly allowance that can be used toward enrichment (music lessons, outside classes, supplies, etc.) Some programs will allow some flexibility as far as curriculum choices.
Cons: Lack of flexibility in terms of schedule and curriculum!! The biggest deal breaker for us with the public school homeschool program was that it ruled our schedule every week. We had to constantly run down to the high school to either meet with teachers, turn in work, or take tests! It was almost every day! Also, having to follow what six different teachers outlined for the assignments was at times confusing or frustrating!
We have a family business that usually doesn’t require our teens to help, but there are jobs that come up that do require all hands on deck. I am thankful that we have this built-in work experience and I consider working together as a family one of the most valuable parts of my children’s education. However, the five weeks we spent enrolled in this public school program happened to be during a very busy time for our business and we had no choice but to pitch in while continuing with all the school work and meetings. Normally, when work responsibilities arise, I simply adjust our homeschool schedule to accommodate the addition, making sure all the school work still gets finished without overburdening us. Not having that flexibility caused our schedule to be beyond hectic. Our boys were staying up late at night trying to get everything done. We were missing church to make time for school assignments and I was even losing sleep worrying about due dates! I felt like my joy had been taken away and all I wanted was my old life back! Since we also weren’t thrilled about the public school’s baseball program, we decided to go back to Option 1 again!
Things We Have Enjoyed While Homeschooling in California
The first year we homeschooled in California we had a blast studying ocean science using Apologia’s Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day curriculum! We frequented the tide pools at the beach and visited the Birch Aquarium and Sea World!
We’ve taken part in co-op classes that a friend offers in her home. She taught an “Excellence in Writing” course and we’ve also done science labs together.
Our church has a Christian school that allows homeschoolers to take private music lessons with their teachers. Our children have also joined the school’s band and orchestra. This has been a huge blessing for our children’s musical education and has been very affordable financially.
Our church also has a homeschooling families ministry which offers field trips, curriculum swaps, social opportunities, and support for parents.
Like many families, we take homeschooling year by year and prayerfully follow the Lord’s leading in regards to our children’s education. I don’t have all the answers for how to do things exactly “right” and I’m still looking to God to direct our path in the years to come! Homeschooling is another area of our life that we get to live by faith and watch our God be faithful! Regardless of the state in which we live, we can rest in His sufficiency! God bless your homeschool!
Read more about homeschooling from Angie in her post Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms: You are Enough!“
Have any of you homeschooled in California? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear about your experiences.