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November 1, 2021

5 min

Jana Sosnowski

How To Homeschool In California

If you’ve been considering homeschooling and aren’t quite sure how to get started, this post will give you enough information and options to make an informed decision about your child’s education. You may consider this one of the most important decisions you make as a parent, and Method is happy to help you find the right fit for both you and your child.

Homeschooling is an option in the state of California (and many other states) that allows you to keep your child at home during the hours they would typically be in school. There are many reasons parents choose to homeschool and several ways to legally homeschool your child.

The three most common options for homeschooling in California are:

  1. The Private School Affidavit, or PSA.
  2. Online school, or school at home.
  3. Virtual independent study.

Private School Affidavit

The Private School Affidavit provides you with the most freedom and the least oversight. As the parent, you file a PSA directly with the California Department of Education. This yearly record lets the state and your local school district that you have opted to school your child at home. Once you do this, you take full responsibility for the education of your child, including record keeping and curriculum selection. A PSA is not necessary if you plan to enroll your child in a charter school, even if the charter school is primarily online.

Online Schools

Online schools replicate traditional schools in hours of instruction each day and subjects taught. Students will often spend 6-8 hours on their computer, learning in virtual classrooms. This option means parents will not have any responsibility for curriculum selection or instruction. For the most part, your experience as a parent will be very similar to your experience with your local district school. You’ll receive updates about your child’s progress and your child will be taught by a credentialed teacher.

Virtual Independent Study

Virtual Independent Study schools provide a certified teacher to oversee your child’s education, options for curriculum, and a flexible schedule of classes and live instructional support. This option works well for parents who need the support of a teacher but don’t want their child to spend the entire day at a computer. With this approach, the parent is required to take on a more active role in their child’s education. Virtual independent study schools are often charter schools, which means they follow many of the regulations that typical public schools are required to adhere to.

Elements of Homeschooling

When you are first thinking about transitioning to homeschooling, it’s important to consider some key aspects of the education experience. Once you determine what will work best for your family, you should be able to choose the type of homeschooling that will fit best with your lifestyle.

Before selecting, you will want to think about:

  • Your child’s long-term goals
  • Your own desire to be involved
  • The type of curriculum you prefer
  • The type of support you will need
  • How much you rely on school for your child’s friendships

Long-Term Goals

When making the move to homeschooling, it’s important to consider your end goals. If you have younger children who may eventually return to a traditional school, you’ll want to ensure that you are utilizing a homeschooling option that aligns to California state standards so your student will not struggle to re-enter school.

If you have a college-bound high school student, you’ll want to ensure that the option you choose features UC a-g approved courses and that the school is WASC accredited so the diploma will be accepted anywhere.

Beyond these logistics, you will also want to consider your lifestyle and, depending on the age of your children, the availability of childcare. You will also want to consider the learning needs of your child - can they sit still for long periods of time, do they do well with rote memorization, how much time do they want to spend on outside activities.

Parental Involvement

Options for parental involvement range from full control to no control. Your personal comfort with schooling, your work life, and your overall lifestyle should be considered when thinking about homeschooling.

If you file a Private School Affidavit with the state of California, you are your child’s sole teacher. This means you will need to select all curriculum and provide all learning experiences for your child.

A full-day online school will include a teacher who will have the primary responsibility for your child’s learning. You will find this experience like a traditional school in that the teacher is providing instruction and giving students feedback.

In a virtual independent study program, the parent serves as Learning Coach and works in partnership with credentialed teachers. Teachers will still provide instruction, grading, and feedback, but there is a 50/50 partnership between the parent and teacher. The Learning Coach plays a critical role in Virtual Independent Study because they are the person who spends the most time with the student. While instruction does not fall solely on the shoulders of the Learning Coach, it is important for the Learning Coach to be aware of the student’s progress and the expectations for learning.

Curriculum

The Great Schools Partnership defines curriculum as: “… the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn, which includes the learning standards or learning objectives they are expected to meet.” As a homeschooling parent, you may become more familiar with curriculum and curriculum options than you would if your student was in a traditional classroom.

If you take a PSA approach to homeschooling, the entire curriculum your student experiences is your decision. Opting with an online school will mean that all your curriculum is often pre-selected. Teachers may use a combination of curriculum created for online use and traditional textbooks.

The virtual independent study option will provide a hybrid of pre-selected and curriculum options depending on the charter your child enrolls with. Some virtual independent study will allow you to select all your curriculum using an approved list. Other virtual independent study options will provide a pre-selected curriculum, usually via online platforms.

Parent Support

While you’ve learned a lot about what support the parent must provide to the student based on the type of homeschooling you opt for, it’s also important to note that homeschooling options provide varying levels of parent education and support.

The PSA parent will have to learn on their own – researching curriculum or programs and finding support networks. An online school will provide many of the supports a traditional school provides - back to school nights, open houses, parent newsletters, and parent-teacher conferences.

A virtual independent study model will generally offer more opportunities for parent education because of the reliance on the parent to serve as learning coach. This may include training on curriculum, training on tech platforms, support for social-emotional learning, and topics that parents express interest in.

Socializing

When considering homeschooling, one of the first questions that arises is how students will socialize. Without the built-in meeting place of a daily classroom, parents often worry that their children will have no friends or lack the basic skills needed to socialize with other children. This is a valuable concern and will take some coordination on the part of the parent to create as many interactive opportunities as desired.

Filing a PSA means that your child’s activities and interactions with other children are completely up to you. Utilizing an online school will require you to find after school options for your child to participate in. Activities may include sports, service groups, or other enrichment programs in your neighborhood.

When you opt for a virtual independent study program, the more flexible instructional sessions allow for activities within the school day. Many virtual independent study programs will provide field trips and in-person activities for enrolled students. This allow students to develop friendships with the students they are in classes with.

Making a Decision

One of the most critical decisions you make as a parent is how you educate your child. Finding an option - or several options - that contribute to your child’s overall education is a large part of the challenge. Consider your goals in homeschooling along with the support you need, and a holistic approach to education is possible no matter the homeschooling option you choose.

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