HOMESCHOOL LEGALITIES 101
CALIFORNIA COMPULSORY EDUCATION
LAW AND EXEMPTIONS
Children are required by law to attend full-time public school or continuation school unless they are exempted. Exemptions include attending a full-time private school. Homeschooling is not specifically mentioned as an exemption, but many people homeschool by establishing a private school in their own home or enrolling in a private school satellite program. Private tutoring by a credentialed teacher is another exemption. Charter schools and public school independent study programs satisfy the compulsory education requirement.
Homeschooling is legal in California. Because the California Education Code never explicitly mentions homeschooling, the right of parents to homeschool their children is open to legal interpretation. However, this is true of many rights not explicitly delineated in the law.
AGES OF COMPULSORY EDUCATION
Children between the ages of 6 and 18 are required to attend school. They must enroll in school for that school year if their sixth birthday falls on or before:
December 2 of the 2011-12 school year.
November 1 of the 2012-13 school year.
October 1 of the 2013-14 school year.
September 1 of the 2014-15 school year and each school year thereafter.
See Education Code 48010
OVERVIEW OF STATE LAW AS IT APPLIES TO HOMESCHOOLING
The California Education Code provides that "each person between the ages of 6 and 18 years not exempted is subject to compulsory full-time education." (California Education Code 48200). This applies to children who turn six on or before December 2 of the 2011-12 school year; November 1 of the 2012-13 school year; October 1 of the 2013-14 school year; and September 1 of the 2014-15 school year and each school year thereafter. (California Education Code 48010).
The private tutoring exemption (section 48224) for children who are instructed for at least three hours each day, 175 days a year by a teacher who holds a valid California teaching credential for the grade taught, and
The private school exemption (section 48222) for children who are enrolled in a full-time private school. There are no laws that establish the minimum standards for the teachers or curricula of private schools. The only legal requirement for private schools is that they file a Private School Affidavit (section 33190) annually with the California Department of Education and that they keep specified records on file (copy of filed affidavit, attendance records, immunization, courses of study offered, faculty qualification, and criminal records summary). If there was any doubt that parents may educate their own children under the section 48222 exemption, a recent California case settled the issue. In, Jonathan L. v. Superior Court, 165 Cal. App. 4th 1074 (2008), the California Court of Appeal for the Second District found that the California legislature had expressly intended for parents to be able to form private schools under this statute and to teach their own children.
These four sections of the Education Code comprise the entirety of statutory law related to homeschooling in California. Again, homeschooling is neither explicitly forbidden nor permitted in California statutory law, but this is true of many rights we enjoy. California families can be confident in their legal right to homeschool their children.
WAYS TO LEGALLY HOMESCHOOL IN CALIFORNIA
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.
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 in-depth information.
1. Establishing Your Own Private School
The PSA is available on the CDE website all school year long except for June 20-July 31 for those who begin homeschooling after the October filing period. Always unenroll from the current school first. The filing period for established schools begins August 1 and should be completed before October 15. File yearly.
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 an annual 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, produce diploma's for their graduates, as well as keep records such as transcripts for your enrolled child. 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.
RESOURCES FROM THE HSC LEGAL TEAM
The HSC legal team provides these two letters which may be useful in informing school districts, attorneys, or others about homeschooling legalities.
Click on the buttons below to 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.
HSC's legislative team keeps an eye on proposed legislation and court cases that could potentially impact homeschoolers. However, 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.