I’m thinking about homeschooling. What are some options?

This is a question I get often.  There are many ways to tackle this type of education.  If you are reading this article, you must be intrigued or open to homeschool at some level.  Here’s what I have learned along the way.  There are three main paths of homeschool pursuit in California.  Here they are!

Option #1:  Fill out your own private school affadavit and become your own private school.

This option is the most challenging, but will afford you the most freedom.  What is required is that you teach the subjects of science, math, english, social science, the arts, health, PE, and keep attendance.  The California Department of Education states that you should also maintain tubulerlosis clearance, teacher credentials, and student immunization records.  This affadavit must be filed with the state of California between October 1 and 15 each year (for families with under six students).  Your registered homeschool is your child’s School of Record (SOR).  During the registration, parents will need to answer some basic questions about the number of students and the school name and address.

This option works best when parents have a strong idea of what curriculum they want to use.  Also, if parents plan on pursuing a religious or alternative curriculum that is significantly different than school standards, this option will give the most freedom.  One factor to consider with this choice is–if your student is in middle or high school, they will have grades or assessments that come from your family.  There are differing feelings on this, but if your student is headed to a high school or college where grades from an accredited school are important, you should consider whether you want to choose this option.

You may not want to reject this option outright though if that is where you are eventually headed but have an early elementary aged student.  In our family, we used this option when my son was in grades 1-4 and my daughter was in grades 3-5.  Having grades come from your family in K-5 probably will have less of these consequences.  When my daughter was in the 6th grade, we used option #2.

Option #2: Sign-up with a private satellite program (PSP).

A private school (satellite) provider is an organization, private school, or a co-op that registers as a private school, and maintains academic records for homeschool families.  The fees could range from $50-200 per year.  Families will generally find a few such organizations in their area.  Sometimes existing private schools will offer this choice for families.  There are a few advantages to this option; the biggest plus being grades coming from a school, and not mom!  Additionally, many providers allow families to use religious (or non-secular) materials.  Often the PSP might only ask for an outline of what you plan on teaching; no work samples or state testing might be required (see option #3).  You must give them your attendance and grades and they will generate a report card coming from them as the School of Record instead of you directly.

An additional perk families might find is these groups often provide homeschool community events.  Many of these programs offer on site courses, playdates, and curriculum/academic guidance if requested, which becomes more important as your child nears high school.

Some PSPs offer homeschool legal defense.  Some might ask that you join the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.  Currently, at $130 per year, families will receive legal defense if an issue should arise about your course of study.  I have heard about issues coming up, generally in the context of what courses colleges will accept from high school.

Option #3:  Sign-on with a public charter school or independent study program.

This option provides some benefits that many families I know appreciate.  How this works:  Families sign-up with a public charter school such as Inspire, Sky Mountain, or a district independent study program, etc.  They are assigned an ES (Educational Specialist) that will meet with them approximately once a month.  Families will give the ES their grades, attendance, work samples, and discuss curriculum choices.  Some of them will provide all the curriculum; you as the parent will only need to monitor your child to see that they complete it.  This option most closely tracks a public school education, which families should consider, especially if they are looking to do schooling in a different way than public school.  Also, due to the government monies, families must complete state level testing (SBAC, etc).  Some of them even have other benchmark testing they ask families to complete.

One of the biggest benefits families appreciate is that they will usually receive a substantial stipend they can apply towards curriculum or classes for their kids.  Again, all of these products and services must be secular.  This money does help families to afford to homeschool.

Next to getting the financial stipend, the most significant strength to this option is that families get more input and guidance about their child’s progress. This option can be advantageous for families new to homeschool that aren’t sure about what grade-level expectations they should have.  The ES will be helpful in providing that information.

Some of these charter schools also 1-2 days of enrichment for your student each week.  We are currently using this option for my 11-year old son in 6th grade.  He attends a 2-day a week classical latin school specialty program tied in with Inspire; he is given all of his materials and they collect his work samples.  This seems to be a good fit for his personality and gives him free time—which I know he benefits from!

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