Homeschooling is quickly becoming an option for those who would never have considered the idea years ago. The reasons are many and varied, but here are just a few. One of the main reasons to homeschool is that parents want a safe and nurturing learning environment for their children. With all the scandals in the news today ranging from abuse, violence, bullying, and poor academics, homeschooling has come of age. Another reason for the “back to basics” approach is that many families are finding themselves out of work and with one parent staying home; homeschooling may be a viable option for families. Also many schools such as New City School in Long Beach with their future unknown due to budget cuts test scores, and a redesign of their charter, homeschooling is an attractive choice.
We may think we know what homeschooling is, but upon investigation find that there is more than meets the eye. We all see the stereotypical jokes that mainstream channels like Disney and late night talk shows poke at homeschoolers, but many do not know anything about homeschooling in California. Companies like Disney have begun to court homeschoolers through their movies and offerings at their theme parks. Homeschooling is becoming chic with new names that are being thrown around like “alternative education” and “custom schooling” but the basics are the same. Many don’t consider themselves homeschoolers, but are indeed schooling their children at home and in the community.
The first thing one needs to know is that technically there is no “homeschooling” in California. You have to actually file a private school affidavit (PSA) identifying your home as a private school. This is probably the easiest and most flexible way to homeschool. The second way is hiring a tutor with a California teaching credential. This is the way most child actors and athletes are educated while they work on the set or practice their sport. It can be costly, but is another way. The third is through an Independent Study Program (ISP) or Charter School. Through this option you are still part of the unified public school system and must take standardized tests. A fourth way is by joining a Private Satellite Program (PSP) in which you pay someone with a PSA to keep the paperwork for you. Often times, these programs will offer support in the way of curriculum and guidance in learning styles or even a classroom. Some offer field trips and a range of services based on price. You can pay anywhere from $300 to $3,000 for this service.
The ISP and charter school option have become very popular. There are charters that are part of the public school district which do not have a “brick and mortar” school and are homeschooling friendly. These schools are a way to “homeschool” with the support of a school district. Many like Sky Mountain or Golden Valley have an Educational Special (ES) who is a credentialed teacher who comes to the home at least once a month to support your child in their education. The ES will often suggest curriculum and or strategies to work with your child. What many like about these schools is that your child gets to access funds that are essentially your tax dollars. Each child is allotted from $900 to $1600 depending on the school and whether it is K-8 or high school a semester to purchase curriculum. The positives are that you get to pick what works for your child and have the convenience of working from home. If your child is a math wiz they can zoom ahead as far as they want and don’t have to wait for the class to catch up. If they need more time or have an interest they can focus on a subject more in depth. If they play a musical instrument they can get an instrument through the school and play all day. Funds can also be used on computers, art supplies, and online programs. Another advantage of the public charter schools is that you can also spend your funds on outside classes on the school’s vendor list. This can include physical education classes, art, science, or another specialty. This is a wonderful way to tailor your child’s experience to them. Many learning centers such as Great Educational Experiences (gee!) in Long Beach are vendors and hold classes to supplement and enrich the child’s learning experience. This can be very important if you are new to homeschooling or you are a single income family.
One of the best ways to find out more about homeschooling is to attend one of the two big conferences. The first is the California Homeschool Network (CHN) Family Expo which will take place on July 19-22nd in Ontario and the second is the Homeschool Association of California (HSC) Adventures in Homeschooling which is on August 2-5th in Sacramento. Attending one of these allows parents to attend talks and groups on many topics from learning styles to how to get your child into college. They are both family friendly and have many activities for the children as well. Both have a vendor hall where you can actually purchase curriculum. It was while attending one of these conventions many years ago that I had that “aha” moment while listening to a speaker on gifted children. I now speak at both of these conferences on Empowerment for Children. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org George Castro, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist with twenty five years of experience in the non-profit sector.