ALERTS & ADVISORIES
HOMESCHOOL LEGAL 101
There are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschooling families, and there are numerous legal options to choose from when determining the best educational option for your children. We hope this overview of your options will make the first step of the journey easier. We welcome you as you join us on this exciting voyage. Click on the BUTTON below for in-depth information on homeschooling legalities.
Establishing Your Own Private School
Private School Satellite Programs
Public School Independent Study Programs
Public Homeschool Charter Schools
Tutoring via Credentialed Teacher (not a school)
Read more below for more in-depth info.
The HSC legal team provides these two letters which may be useful in informing school districts, attorneys, or others about homeschooling legalities.
Read our legal FAQ's, a Legal Brief regarding the legality of homeschooling, and about the success of a 2008 case involving homeschooling that nearly made it law that parents must hold a teaching credential to homeschool.
1.Establishing your Own Private School
The PSA is available on the CDE website all school year long for those who begin homeschooling after the October filing period. Always unenroll from the current school first.
2. Private School Satellite Programs
In addition to the private schools operated by one family for its own children, there are a number of other types of private schools that offer homeschooling programs. These schools range from the cooperatives mentioned above to for-profit PSPs that file paperwork and collect records for a fee, to site-based day schools that offer independent study, to distance learning programs. Private satellite programs (PSPs) fall under the same legal option as establishing your own private school. The administrators of the PSP file the private school affidavit. Homeschoolers who choose this option should also read Establishing Your Own Private School to understand how private schools are established and what is required of them.
Private PSPs vary widely in offerings, philosophy, and structure. Some offer complete curricula and home study assignments; others serve only as administrative record keepers for independent homeschooling. Some families appreciate the structure, the record-keeping, and the anonymity the private PSPs may offer.
Private out-of-state PSPs, while useful for curricular support, only satisfy the legal requirements for public school exemption if the school has filed its own affidavit in California. If you enroll in an out-of-state PSP, you should make sure that the school complies with California law. If it has not filed an affidavit in California, then you must establish your own private school and file an affidavit or comply with the law in some other way.
3. Public School Independent Study Programs
Enrolling your child in a public school independent study program is the legal equivalent to enrolling him in public school. These are the "home study" programs offered by many school districts. Public ISPs vary widely from school to school in the level of control they exert over their students and the services they offer. Many districts offer no independent study options, and in many other districts, the ISP is true to its historical roots - it is remedial in nature, or is intended for delinquent students.
These programs can be appealing for a wide variety of reasons. Some offer children the chance to compete on a school sports team or give ongoing social opportunities and classes. Some families prefer the structure or guidance provided by a credentialed teacher, and some schools provide the curriculum (and may require assignments, worksheets, grades, and standardized testing). Some school districts offer "split-site" options, where students can attend a few classes at the local school and the remainder through independent study.
Public ISP students cannot be given advantages that are not available to the other students in the district. For example, ISP students cannot be offered music lessons if the other students in the district are not also offered music lessons. On the other hand, public ISP students should be given access to many of the same things that other students in that same district have, such as sports teams, field trips, libraries, and, in some cases, the opportunity to enroll in classes.
If your local district does not have an ISP and you wish to homeschool using this option, you can request an inter-district transfer to a program within your county or the county immediately adjacent to yours. Transfers are at the discretion of the district and are not automatically granted. If you are denied a transfer, you should be given information about an appeal at the time of the denial. Appeals are heard by the CDE. However, an appeal might not be granted, and you may need to consider another homeschooling alternative.
4. Charter Schools
The newest method of homeschooling is to use independent study, distance learning, and homeschooling programs developed by various charter schools throughout the state.
Charter schools are state-funded. They may be operated by nonprofit organizations, private businesses or individuals, or even public school districts or county education departments. They operate under a charter granted to them by a public school district, a county board of education, or the state.
There are different kinds of charter schools and a subset of them offer independent study programs in which children are primarily taught at home. These can also vary a lot. Some require the use of an online school program. Some require attendance at a certain number of in-person classes. Some do not have any required attendance other than some kind of regular meeting, usually monthly, with a credentialed teacher. Some offer learning resources for parents to choose from within a budget. Some charter schools offer students the opportunity to compete on public school sports teams, while others are only distance learning programs using the Internet. They all require standardized testing and reporting, usually with work samples to a credentialed teacher.
They are publicly funded so, in that sense, students are public school students who are being primarily educated at home by their parents.
In some other states, there is a legal definition for homeschooling and enrollment in a charter school program is legally not homeschooling. In California, however, we do not have a legal definition of the term homeschooling and so using a charter program is just one of the various ways to homeschool here.
Charter schools are limited to serving students in their home county or contiguous counties. As with all programs, you will need to thoroughly investigate the program in order to determine if it will meet your needs.
Further information on charter schools can be found at
Parents with a valid teaching credential can act as tutors for their children, or parents may employ a credentialed teacher. However, tutors and parents who choose to tutor their own children must fulfill all of the requirements of §48224:
The California Department of Education states as follows with respect to the credential requirement:
"Because the tutor must provide instruction in all branches of study required in the public schools, the Multiple Subject Teaching Credential satisfies the credential requirement at all grade levels. The Single Subject Teaching Credential is not sufficient at any grade level. The Multiple Subject Teaching Credential is valid for kindergarten through grade twelve in self-contained classrooms, whereas the Single Subject Credential authorizes teaching a special subject only, such as math or English. Further credential information is available from the California Commission for Teacher Credentialing (Outside Source) Web site.
The credentialed tutor may be the parent or any person employed by the parent. A tutor is not required to file the Private School Affidavit."
Children must be instructed in study and recitation. The definition of "study and recitation" has not been given, but quite possibly would not include someone with an unschooling style of instruction.
Children must be instructed for at least 3 hours per day.
Children must be instructed for 175 days each calendar year.
Instruction must be offered between the hours of 8 o'clock a.m. and 4 o'clock p.m.
Instruction must be in English.
Instruction must include the branches of study required to be taught in California public schools (see §§51210, 51220, 51220.5, and 51221)
Tutors are not required to file with the county or state or to keep attendance records. However, we strongly recommend that they keep sufficient records to show that they have met the requirements of §48224 listed above. This would mean maintaining attendance records of the days and hours of study, a record of the course of study, and evidence that the tutor is certified for the grade level of the student or students being taught.
Many credentialed teachers who homeschool their children establish private schools instead of tutoring their children because of these restrictive requirements and because certain benefits may be available to private school students, but not to tutored students (for example, concurrent enrollment in community colleges). Still, the tutoring option gives credentialed teachers another avenue to consider when choosing the best homeschooling option for their families.
One of the most effective ways to participate in making sure that homeschooling remains a legal option in California is for homeschoolers to visit their own legislators. We are told by people who have worked on legislative matters for a long time that legislators really like to have a face to associate with a cause. Giving your legislators a family to think of when they think about homeschooling will help when the time for a vote on homeschooling comes up.
This documentary answers some of the most common questions about homeschooling.
What is homeschooling?
What is a typical homeschooling day like?
What about college?
Do homeschoolers socialize?
What are the benefits to homeschooling?