How to homeschool in California

Here's what you should know about California homeschooling options, legal requirements, restrictions, and record keeping.

Disclaimer: the information provided in this article is intended for research purposes only. Individual family needs may differ. Please contact your local Department of Education for more information.

How to homeschool in California? Or maybe you're planning on moving to the Golden State? Whatever your current situation, if you plan to homeschool in California, you should research the requirements and options available before you embark on your homeschooling journey.

Homeschooling rules and opportunities vary widely by state, so if you've lived in a different state for a while, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with how homeschooling is done in California. 

You may be wondering, 'can I homeschool in California?' Or 'what are the homeschooling laws in California?' Here's a brief outline of how homeschooling works in this state. We've covered everything you need to know to start homeschooling in California and pointed to resources that can help you on your family’s learning journey. 

1. California homeschooling state laws

The great news for parents who want to homeschool is that homeschooling in California is an easy and widely accessible option. California's public charter schools provide the easiest route to homeschooling – but not all brick-and-mortar charters have a homeschooling option. Many of these schools are geared toward homeschooling and even encourage this option with a stipend. Charter schools are free.

However, charter schools aren't the only option open to parents who want to homeschool in California. Public schools that offer independent study are another option. If you prefer to educate your child privately, you have several options that are even more flexible. 

You can send your child to a private school that offers a so-called satellite program, the equivalent of independent study in a public school. You can also hire a private tutor with California-based teaching credentials.

Or you can set up a private school in your home by filing for a Private School Affidavit (PSA) with the California Department of Education. The California Education Code also requires keeping certain records, though you won’t need to submit them to the state. These records include your completed PSA, attendance and absences, courses of study, etc.

Keeping effective homeschooling records is also recommended to make it easier to create future transcripts.

Setting up your personalized private school in your home may sound intimidating, but you can certainly do it with some preparation. Learn more about how to use charter funds and how charter school families use Outschool.

2. California state standardized testing prep

If part of the reason you opted for homeschooling is that you and your child were finding testing requirements stressful, there is good news.

Typically, standardized testing is not mandatory in California, however, homeschool charter schools may have their own testing requirements.

Students in chartered schools are usually subject to what's known as the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) Assessments

These are the standardized tests used across schools in the state and focus on writing, critical skills, and problem-solving. More specialized tests can also be taken for specific subjects in science, English, and math.

Even if you go down a homeschooling route that doesn't require testing, it may be a good idea to take them anyway. At some point, your children will encounter the testing system, particularly closer to college admission age. 

Many parents opt to have their children take state tests yearly to help measure progress and identify gaps in their homeschooling curriculum.

3. How to remove your student from  the California-state public school system 

If you’re considering transitioning from traditional schooling to homeschooling, it is important to know that you cannot just keep your kid at home. Legally, a Californian school can classify a child as truant after a three-day absence, so avoid just not attending school. 

The correct way to take your kid out of a Californian school is by writing to the school about your intention. You must do this within 1-2 days of your kid not attending school to avoid truancy charges. 

You will then need to send another letter to the school once you get your private schooling affidavit confirming that your kid is now enrolled in a private school in your home or is being homeschooled by other means (e.g., the chartered school option). Once you've done this, you can request your kid's school records, known as the cumulative file.

It's essential to ensure the school closes the file they have on your child. Some schools can be slow in producing the file, so you may need to write to them again after six weeks if they don't send it. 

4. How to find California state co-ops and homeschool groups 

If you're new to homeschooling, it can be a lonely journey at first. It's important to seek out homeschooling groups and state co-ops to get the support you need as a homeschooling parent. Some homeschool groups are geared purely toward academic performance and comparing notes on curricula.

Others are more informal and provide opportunities for play dates and field trips. They're also perfect for making new friends both for parents and children. The best way to find homeschooling groups and co-ops these days is via Facebook. 

5. How to add socialization to your homeschool

Homeschooling is rewarding, but it's not without its challenges. The biggest for most parents and children is the lack of socialization. Fortunately, there are ways you can incorporate socialization into your homeschooling routine. We've mentioned co-ops and homeschool groups as ways to add social activities to your curriculum, but these tend to be more general social activities like play dates.

If you want more special-interest activities geared toward your child's inclinations, whether it's arts, physics, or a language, then Outschool's interest-based classes are worth looking up. These are more focused, which can be a wonderful thing for kids who are more introverted and struggle with traditional forms of socializing. 

6. Frequently asked questions

Homeschooling laws by state

Homeschooling laws vary by state. Start here to see the relevant rules for each area. 

What now?

Not sure where to begin? Read our How to Start Homeschooling ebook to answer some of the immediate questions you may have. 

How to choose a curriculum

Putting together a curriculum for the first time can be a daunting experience, so you should take advantage of all the helpful tools you can find.

Although, as a homeschooling parent, you have considerable freedom to set your own curriculum, it's still a good idea to consult the official school curriculum framework outlined by the California Department of Education. Use it as a starting point, and then tweak yours based on your child's needs and abilities. 

How to supplement and outsource your homeschooling

Once you've put together your curriculum, you'll want to look into ways to supplement your homeschooling. 

Just because you are your kids’ primary teacher doesn’t mean you have to be their only teacher. 

Many kids will benefit from a new approach or learning from someone excited about the subject. 

Likewise, many parents don’t feel comfortable teaching every single subject themselves. Can't remember anything about eighth-grade math? We don't blame you! This is where Outschool can step in, with tailor-made classes in any subject where you want support in your homeschooling. For example:

Make your kids part of the process. See what they respond to, what gets their wheel turning, and what works for their unique needs. Because the more engaged they are, the more they’ll learn

Can I legally homeschool special needs or neurodiverse kids?

The short answer is: yes, you can. The longer answer is that different states will have different laws and requirements for homeschooling children with special needs. The curriculum will, of course, need to be different. Start by finding out more on the HSLDA website or get more information on how to find curricula for gifted and talented, neurodiverse kids.

Homeschooling inspiration

Need more inspiration? Find ideas and help on the Outschool blog and learn more about Outschool's homeschool classes. Or download our how to start homeschooling eBook.

Outschool Staff

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