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Children are exempt from compulsory attendance if they "are being instructed in a private full-time day school by persons capable of teaching." (§48222) A private school has been defined as "any school, whether conducted for profit or not, giving a course of training similar to that given in a public school at or below the twelfth grade, including but not limited to schools owned or operated by any church." (Vehicle Code §492.) This broad definition includes home-based private schools as well as private school cooperatives and private school satellite programs. Whereas some of the private school programs operated by others may benefit some families, many families establish their own private schools. This section discusses how to do that.


A private school is established by following the requirements in the Education Code. Once the school has been established, it must file a private school affidavit annually (§33190.) This affidavit does not establish a school; it merely lets the California Department of Education (CDE) know that a school has been established. Any individual may establish a private school in any location without a teaching credential or a business motive as long as he or she follows these statutory requirements.


Children in private schools in California are not required to take any standardized tests. The legislature has clearly chosen to let parents determine whether their children are being educated satisfactorily.


All California private schools, those home-based and those not, are required to keep the following records:

  • Attendance records (§48222)

  • Courses of study offered (§33190)

  • Faculty qualifications (§33190)

  • Criminal record summaries (§§33190 and 44237)

  • Immunization records or waivers (Health and Safety Code §120335.)

  • The private school affidavit (formerly known as an R-4) (§33190)


We recommend that you keep these records in two separate binders. The first binder should hold the records that a government official, such as an attendance officer, is legally entitled to see without a warrant or a subpoena: a copy of the filed private school affidavit, your attendance records, and a letter verifying that the children are enrolled in and attending the school. The second binder should hold all of the other required records identified in the list above: courses of study offered, faculty qualifications, criminal record summaries, and immunizations records or waivers. Although you are required to keep these, no public official is entitled to see them without a subpoena. In fact, we believe that many of these records cannot even be seen with a subpoena. However, the law requires you to have them, and you are signing, under penalty of perjury, that you do have them.


Homeschoolers often keep additional records such as the work completed, and we recommend that you do keep sufficient records to help you substantiate work completed in case the student transfers to another school or needs transcripts for college applications. However, these records are not legally required and should not be volunteered to any government official.


Probably for reasons having to do with the separation of church and state, the California statutes are very clear that the government has no right to inspect any private school teacher qualifications, student work, curriculum or the like. Local health and safety ordinances may apply to larger schools, but understand that no one is entitled to see or inspect anything relating to your school other than what is explicitly stated in the law.

UPDATE 6/2023: 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. 

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