School Options for California

Did you know there is no legal option to homeschool in California! Shocked? Are you wondering how it is that so many families legally and safely homeschool in California? Read on to find out what the legal options are for education in the state of California.

First, there are only two school options for California: Public school and private school.

Under both public and private school are ‘on-site’ and ‘off-site’ options. This means you can attend a brick and mortar school under both options. But, you can also be enrolled in an in an ‘off-site’ option for both.

Let’s break it down by starting with public school.

The most common type of school option in California is ‘on-site’ public school. It’s free, local, effective and safe. It’s usually just down the street and there are many perks to this option. It’s your local public school! Local public schools are funded by the state. The perks are that these schools are free and your kids are taught by certified credentialed teachers. The conveyor-belt system of education has been around for over a hundred years and overall has raised the literacy rate in this country to the highest point it has ever been! Educators continually gather together to improve education and graduation rates.

But suppose the on-site model of education doesn’t work for you. For a number of reasons (illness, bullying, talent, giftedness, travel, young professional), a student may not be able to attend school regularly and may need to find another option. The ISP option (Independent Study Program) may be the perfect fit. ISPs are run by the school or school district. You receive all the books and material you would normally get if you were going to school, except you don’t have to attend school. You can work on your school assignments from home or anywhere else. Parents teach their children, but they are overseen by a credentialed teacher. They meet often (typically once a month) to turn in samples of their school work.

Want more freedom? Consider a charter school. Charter schools can be on-site, off-site or hybrid. Each charter school has its own flavor, catering to a unique set of students. The on-site charter schools may be particularly inclined to one educational philosophy or another. The perks are that charter schools are that they are free and usually provide a unique educational experience. They still are funded by the state and are obligated to follow state standards and are not allowed to teach any religious curriculum.

Want more flexibility? Try a hybrid school. These are also charter schools and they offer both on-site and off-site education in the form of classes at a facility 2-4 days a week, while the rest of the instruction is done at home. These schools are also state funded and have to follow the rules mentioned above.

Still want more flexibility and freedom? Try and off-site charter school that provides instruction funding for curriculum and classes. These types of schools are gaining in popularity because families are allocated a certain amount of money to buy educational material pre-approved by the school. The perks are greater freedom of choice when it comes to curricula, however, students are still required to meet state standards and take state and school tests. Students are taught at home by parents or by hired tutors, but they still meet monthly to turn in samples of their work to a credentialed teacher who oversees their work.

Do you have a teaching credential and want to teach your own kids? You can choose the Private Tutorial Program. This only works for the grades you are credentialed to teach. If you have a multi-subject credential, you can teach your kids through 8th grade. If you have a single-subject credential, you can teach that particular subject to your high school student.

Want this option but you are not a credentialed teacher? Don’t worry. You can hire a tutor to teach your kids under the Private Tutorial Program.

Not enough freedom yet? Still want more flexibility and freedom? Maybe a private school option is what your are looking for?

In the private school option, you still have on-site and off-site educational options.

Let’s start with on-site options. These schools include religious private schools, college prep schools and other private schools like Montessori and Waldorf. The perks of these schools are that they are highly specialized in a particular educational method or they include religion which cannot be taught in public schools. Another perk is that all the education is taken care of by the school and teachers. The biggest downside is usually the cost. Tuition fees for private schools can be very steep.

Looking for a cheaper private school option? Try a PSP. In the Private School Satellite Program, you can choose from high-end full-service private schools that will provide a tutor and all the material you need in order for you child to be educated. This is a great option for child actors and other young professionals. The parent doesn’t need to teach his or her child, the PSP will take care of everything if that is the kind of school you chose.

Doesn’t sound like a cheaper option? It’s possible that full-service PSPs can be more expensive that on-site private schools. But, a PSP can also be an affordable option if the school does not provide so many services. You can find PSPs that offer minimal services, such as only filing paperwork for your family, so you can school your child however you’d like. These kind of schools are very affordable costing less than a few hundred dollars a year. But they provide no curriculum and (perk) no oversight.

Want an even cheaper option? How about you file your own paperwork and become your own school?! Yes, you can become your own school by filing your own PSA. A Private School Affidavit turns you into a teacher/administrator and your child into a student! It’s free and you have no oversight from the state other than filing¬†an attendance sheet and report card. You have to file your paperwork yearly for students 6 years to 18 years. The perks are absolute freedom of choice in education!

Want to download a visual copy of this blog post? Click here.

The following chart is a revision made by Saadia. Much thanks goes to her for taking my original chart and making it user-friendly and color coded!

Choices in Education Flowchart - New Page

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