The Complete Guide to California Homeschool Regulations

Understand all the options, requirements, and benefits of home education in the Golden State
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Not many states can beat California for rich experiences in nature, culture, and history. Homeschoolers here will find unending adventures, from the grandeur of Yosemite to the crashing waves of Big Sur. You can ski in the morning and surf at sunset without leaving the Golden State. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego are overflowing with offerings in art, music, history, and culture. 

So, it’s a bonus that California offers several options for home education, both privately (traditional homeschooling) and through public institutions. This guide will equip you to understand them all.

Table of Contents

Option 1:

Option 1: Homeschool as a Private School

Like many other states, California does not have laws that specifically govern “homeschools.” Instead, families wanting to homeschool may establish a private school by filing a Private School Affidavit (PSA) with the Superintendent of Public Instruction and meeting all other statutory requirements for private schools.

“What are these requirements?” you ask. Let’s review.

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A. File a Private School Affidavit

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When to File Your PSA

This statement must be filed each year for as long as you wish to continue homeschooling or as long as your child is subject to compulsory attendance. The statutory window for filing is between October 1 and October 15. However, the filing system is active from August 1 to June 30 to accommodate homeschools established at other times of the year. If you move to California or withdraw your child from a different public or private school mid-year, you should file your PSA right away. If you establish your homeschool in July, you must wait until August 1 to file.

What Information Does a PSA Include

You can access California’s Private School Affidavit filing system online, and it will walk you through entering all the necessary information about your private school. Here is what you should be prepared to enter as mandated by law:
“(a) All names, whether real or fictitious, of the person, firm, association, partnership, or corporation under which it has done and is doing business.”

This will be the name of your school. It is what you will use in official correspondence and the name you will put on your child’s transcripts and parent-issued diploma. So, consider it carefully. 

Choose a name that will grow with your child and, for convenience, one that is not too long. Do not use the name of the local school, your curriculum, or your homeschool support group. Your school name should be uniquely yours.

“(b) The address, including city and street, of every place of doing business of the person, firm, association, partnership, or corporation within the State of California.”
For homeschoolers, this is your home address.
“(c) The address, including city and street, of the location of the records of the person, firm, association, partnership, or corporation, and the name and address, including city and street, of the custodian of such records.”
Again, for homeschoolers, you will likely keep your records at your home, and you are the custodian of them.
“(d) The names and addresses, including city and street, of the directors, if any, and principal officers of the person, firm, association, partnership, or corporation.”
Parents or legal guardians are typically the directors and principal officers of homeschools. This just says who runs the show!
“(e) The school enrollment, by grades, number of teachers, coeducational or enrollment limited to boys or girls and boarding facilities.”

Remember that this affidavit is for all private schools in California, not just homeschoolers. So, don’t overthink it. You can put “coeducational” even if you only have boys. You don’t have to mark “boarding facilities” even though your kids sleep where they study. 

Many homeschool legal advocacy groups recommend NOT listing children who have not yet reached the compulsory age of attendance, even if you already homeschool them. You are not required to list them, and doing so may create additional legal obligations on your part since there are different laws for establishing preschools.

“(f) That the following records are maintained at the address stated, and are true and accurate: (1) The records required to be kept by Section 48222. (2) The courses of study offered by the institution. (3) The names and addresses, including city and street, of its faculty, together with a record of the educational qualifications of each.”

So, what is all of this? Well, the first thing to notice is that this is just telling you to “maintain” these records. You don’t actually file them with your PSA. 

Section 48222 states that,  “The attendance of the pupils shall be kept by private school authorities in a register, and the record of attendance shall indicate clearly every absence of the pupil from school for a half day or more during each day that school is maintained during the year.”

So, you need to keep attendance and record when your child misses half a day or more.

“Courses of study offered” is essentially a list of the subjects you will be studying. (More on those requirements to come.)

And the faculty, presumably, is you (or whichever parental unit is providing instruction). If you supplement your homeschool experience with tutors, private music lessons, or other outside activities, you do not need to list those providers. In fact, listing “faculty” other than the parents of the students will create additional legal requirements such as conducting FBI background checks.

And what about “educational qualifications”? This makes a lot of homeschoolers nervous, but don’t worry! California does not require credentialed teachers in private schools, including homeschools. The law says you must be “qualified to teach.” (More on this to come, too.) You are qualified to teach your children. Many parents fulfill this record-keeping requirement by simply putting a copy of their resume with their school records.

And finally,“(g) Criminal record summary information has been obtained pursuant to Section 44237.”

This statute requires an FBI background check, fingerprinting, etc. for private school employees. But it also states, “(4) This section does not apply to . . . a parent or legal guardian working exclusively with his or her children.” This is why you should not list anyone but the parents under “faculty.” 

IMPORTANT: In addition to these records, you are required to keep a copy of your PSA for a minimum of three years. So, make sure you hit save and print when you file it!
(California Education Code, Section 33190)

B. Track Attendance

As a private school in California, homeschoolers must keep track of attendance. They do not, however, need to report attendance to the district. 

Your records must, “indicate clearly every absence of the pupil from school for a half day or more during each day that school is maintained during the year.”

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Compulsory Age of School Attendance in California

Children in California must attend a school, public or private (including homeschool) between the school year in which they turn 6 by September 1 and their 18th birthday. 

Most homeschool legal advocacy groups believe that a parent-issued diploma graduating a student from high school is enough to exempt them from these requirements.

Days/Hours of Instruction

Public schools in California must provide 180 days of instruction per school year, with charter schools and some select districts providing 175. This gives you an idea of what to shoot for. But instructional time is a bit more complicated than that, especially when you are trying to figure out what you should count as a “half day.”

California public schools must provide minimum hours of instruction, based on the grade level of the student, as follows:

Divide these hours over the number of days in your school year and that will give you an idea of what would be reasonable to accept as a full or half day. 

Remember though, these requirements are for public schools. California homeschoolers are only subject to private school statutes, which do not specifically define what constitutes full-time instruction. It is generally understood to be enough time to cover the required subjects to the same degree of depth that they would be in public school.

(California Education Code, Section 48222 & Section 48010)

C. Teach the Required Subjects

Homeschooling under a PSA affords parents a great deal of freedom to choose what subjects to teach. The law does require instruction to include courses commonly taught in public schools. Additionally, you must maintain a list of the courses your private school “offers.”
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For reference, here are the areas of study public schools are required to offer (not necessarily teach) to every student:

Grades 1–6

Grades 7–12

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D.Instruction Must Be in English

Instruction must be given in English—plain and simple.

E.Instructors Must Be “Capable of Teaching”

The private school statutes say instruction must be given by teachers “capable of teaching.” The law does not get more specific than this. Again, you are capable of teaching your children.
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F. Keep Immunization Records

All schools, public and private, are required to keep immunization records for each child or their exemptions. This does not mean, however, that homeschooled students must be immunized. In fact, most are exempt. 

Students who participate in home-based instruction, whether through Option 1, 2, 3, or even charter school students who are enrolled in a home-study program, are not required to be immunized. This is true even if your child participates in co-ops, group activities, or private classes outside the home.

If your child is enrolled in a public or charter school program that is a hybrid of home and classroom-based instruction, they will likely need to be immunized unless you obtain a medical exemption. California no longer recognizes personal belief exemptions for immunization.

(California Health and Safety Code, Sections 120325–120375)

G. Keep a List of Courses of Study

Maintain a list of the courses your private school offers. (see above)
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H. Keep a List of Instructors

You are required to maintain a list of instructors along with their addresses and qualifications. Again, to avoid the need to conduct FBI background checks and more, instructors should be limited to the student’s parents or legal guardians, i.e. you. Listing your qualifications is as easy as keeping a current copy of your resume on file. 

If your child has a soccer coach, or a math tutor, or a violin instructor, they do not need to be listed as they are not employees of your “private school.”

Homeschoolers under Option 1

Other Benefits for California Homeschoolers

There are not a lot of explicit benefits for homeschoolers under Option 1 except that you have a great deal of freedom to craft the educational experience that’s right for each child in your family. Two areas homeschoolers frequently ask about are public school accessibility and special education. 

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Public School Access

Like many states, there is no law in California giving homeschoolers the right to participate in public school classes or extracurricular sports and activities. When this happens, it is up to each individual school or school district to decide what they will allow. Thus, policies vary. However, the California Interscholastic Federation prohibits homeschoolers from playing on public school teams, making it difficult for participating schools to allow them.

Special Needs Children

California does not place any additional requirements on homeschoolers who have children with special needs. But being classified as a “private school” means you are entitled to federal funds set aside for private schools for assessments and accommodations, this thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
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Dual Enrollment

As bonafide high school students in a California private school, homeschoolers are eligible for dual enrollment in community colleges and can earn credit toward their high school diploma and college degree concurrently.  

Homeschoolers follow the same process to apply for dual enrollment that a public school student does.

Option 2:

Option 2: Homeschool under a Private School Satellite Program

One step removed from creating your own private school is to homeschool under a Private School Satellite Program (PSP or PSSP). PSPs are created using the same Private School Affidavit and are subject to the same requirements. The difference is that they serve multiple families instead of just one. 

There is a wide variety of PSPs to choose from! Some only provide administrative services, like filing the PSA and issuing a diploma. Others provide curriculum, record keeping, field trips, and extracurricular activities. Most charge a fee to join depending on the depth and breadth of services offered.

Some benefits of joining a PSP include:
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Option 3:

Option 3: Homeschool with a private tutor

The third option for homeschooling in California is using a private tutor. This option frees you from certain obligations but imposes others, the main one being that the tutor or teacher must be credentialed. The Multiple Subject Teaching Credential satisfies this requirement for all subjects for grades K through 12. 

Unless you the parent are a credentialed teacher, it may be expensive to hire one—this option’s main drawback. The upside is that using a credentialed teacher means you do not need to file a PSA or otherwise report to the state. Additional requirements are:

Because of these restrictive requirements, even parents who are credentialed teachers often choose Option 1 or 2 anyway. Additionally, this option may not offer certain benefits like dual enrollment.

While there are no record-keeping requirements for this option, the teacher would be well advised to keep most of the same records that private schools are required to keep, including attendance and course lists. 

(California Education Code, Section 48224)

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Two Public School Options for Home Study in California

Many self-identifying “homeschoolers” in California actually use none of the three options explained above. So, how is that possible?

Public school independent study programs

Public School ISPs

Some California school districts offer independent study programs or hybrid (half classroom, half home-study) options, but their availability and structure vary widely. Some exert a great deal of control and oversight while others are minimal. 

Similarly, benefits and services provided may vary. Major benefits include:

If your district doesn’t offer an ISP, you may be eligible for transfer to another district in the county or a neighboring county.

Charter school independent study programs.

Charter School ISPs

Many public charter schools in California also offer independent study or hybrid models. The benefits and drawbacks are similar to those for public school ISPs. Your child is technically a public school student. You must comply with the regulations set by the particular charter school you belong to. All of them require standardized testing, reporting, and work samples provided to a supervising, certified teacher. Benefits vary widely depending on the charter. 

The big draw to this option is that, often, parents are given a stipend of public funds to spend on approved educational materials, curricula, and even classes or activities provided by approved vendors.

Financial Resources for California Homeschoolers

California does not have a voucher program. So, homeschoolers must finance their children’s education themselves. Researching your options under a PSP is one way to make your educational dollars stretch, by enrolling in a satellite program that offsets fees with benefits and services provided. 

Access to state funding is one reason so many parents choose to homeschool through a public charter ISP. There are limitations on how and where the money can be spent. For example, public funds cannot be spent on religious materials. But many families receive a stipend of around $3,000 per child/per year for approved services, materials, curricula, and activities plus access to whatever resources the charter school itself provides.

CALIFORNIA IMMUNIZATION REQUIREMENTS

CALIFORNIA PARENTAL HOMESCHOOL RESPONSIBILITIES

CALIFORNIA HOMESCHOOLING STATISTICS

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Because California classifies homeschoolers as private schools, it is difficult to obtain exact numbers. However, nearly 60,000 students reported homeschooling in 2021-22 and actual figures are likely quite higher.
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The U.S. Census Bureau estimates indicate that 8.6% of all families in California homeschooled in the spring of 2020, much higher than the national average of around 5.4%.
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Homeschooling in California increased by 78% between 2017 and 2022.

Sources

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