California

California has four homeschool options.

  • Private school: Parents may operate a homeschool as an individual private school. Parents must file annual notice with the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, be “capable of teaching” (officials have no authority to determine whether or not a parent meets this requirement), provide instruction in “the several branches of study required in public schools,” and keep attendance and various other records. There are no hours of instruction or assessment requirements.
  • Private school satellite program: Parents may homeschool as a satellite of a supervising private school. The requirements are the same except that parents enroll their children in the supervising private school rather than filing with the state.
  • Private tutor: Parents may homeschool under the private tutor law, which requires a teaching certificate and 175 days of instruction in “the several branches of study required in public schools” but has no notification, bookkeeping, or assessment requirements.
  • Independent study program: Parents may educate their children at home through “independent study” programs operated by public or charter schools.

Most homeschoolers have traditionally used the first two options, operating their homeschools as private schools or enrolling in an umbrella school. However, an increasing number of children are being homeschooled through independent study programs.

(1) Private School

In the absence of a homeschool statute, homeschools may operate as “private full-time day schools.” See Cal. Educ. Code § 33190 and Cal. Educ. Code § 48222.

Notification: Between October 1 and October 15 of each year, parents must file an affidavit with the Superintendent of Public Instruction. This affidavit must include their names and address, their homeschool’s enrollment by grade, the number of teachers (i.e. individuals providing instruction), a statement that the required records are being maintained at the stated address, and an assurance that criminal record. See § 33190.
Qualifications: Students must be instructed “by persons capable of teaching.” See § 48222. Local and state education officials have no authority to determine who is or is not “capable of teaching.”
Days or hours: None.
Subjects: Instruction must be given in English and must cover “the several branches of study required in public schools.” See § 48222. See also § 51210 and § 51220.
Bookkeeping: A record of attendance must be kept in a register. See § 48222. Parents must maintain a record of the courses of study offered and the names, addresses, and educational qualifications of each instructor. See § 33190.
Assessment: None.
Intervention: None.
Other: Private school employees must have criminal background checks. See § 44237. However, this does not include parents working with their own children.

(2) Private School Satellite Program

In the absence of a homeschool statute, homeschools may operate as satellite programs of supervising private schools. See Cal. Educ. Code § 33190 and Cal. Educ. Code § 48222.

Notification: Parents must enroll their students in a private school satellite program.
Qualifications: Students must be instructed “by persons capable of teaching.” See § 48222. Each supervising school determines what this means and sets its own requirements.
Days or hours: At the discretion of the supervising school.
Subjects: Instruction must be given in English and must cover “the several branches of study required in public schools.” See § 48222. See also § 51210 and § 51220.
Bookkeeping: A record of attendance must be kept in a register. See § 48222. The supervising private school must maintain a record of the courses of study offered and the names, addresses, and educational qualifications of each instructor. See § 33190.
Assessment: At the discretion of the supervising school.
Intervention: At the discretion of the supervising school.
Other: Private school employees must have criminal background checks. See § 44237. However, this does not include parents working with their own children

(3) Private Tutor

Students may be “instructed in study and recitation” by a private tutor. See Cal. Educ. Code § 48224.

Notification: None.
Qualifications: “The tutor or other person shall hold a valid state credential for the grade taught.” See § 48224.
Days or hours: Instruction must take place “for at least three hours a day for 175 days each calendar year by a private tutor or other person.” This instruction must be offered between 8 o’clock a.m. and 4 o’clock p.m. See § 48224.
Subjects: Students must be instructed “in the several branches of study required to be taught in the public schools of this state and in the English language.” See § 48224. See also § 51210 and § 51220.
Bookkeeping: None.
Assessment: None.
Intervention: None.
Other: n/a

(4) Independent Study

Students may enroll in independent study programs through a public school district or charter school. These students are technically public school or charter school students. See Cal. Educ. Code § 51745.

Notification: Parents must enroll their children in an independent study program operated by a public school district or charter school.
Qualifications: As required by the program.
Days or hours: As required by the program.
Subjects: As required by the program.
Bookkeeping: As required by the program.
Assessment: As required by the program.
Intervention: As required by the program.
Other: n/a

Services Available to Homeschooled Students

Part-time enrollment: Because state law is silent on the subject, whether or not to allow homeschooled students to enroll in public school classes is up to the school district. Some districts may not allow a homeschooled student to enroll part-time unless they are willing to participate in the district’s Independent Study Program.
Athletics: According to Rule 301 of the California Interscholastic Federation’s bylaws, homeschooled students are not eligible to participate in public school athletics. In contrast, students homeschooled through an Independent Study Program are eligible to participate in public school athletics. See the bylaws for more information.
Special needs: Students homeschooled under the state’s private school law are eligible for special needs testing in their local public schools, and may also have access to special needs services offered through these schools. Independent Study Program students are eligible for special needs testing and services through their district. 
Other: n/a

Background:

California has never passed a homeschool statute. That does not mean, however, that homeschooling does not have a history—legal and otherwise—in that state. While early homeschoolers generally argued that they were operating individual private schools, or as satellite programs of private schools, some school officials objected and there were squabbles over interpretations of the law. In 1986, a municipal court ruled in People v. Darrah and Black, et al, that the state’s requirement of a “person capable of teaching” and “private full-time day school” were constitutionally vague and therefore unenforceable. In 2008 the California Supreme Court abruptly threw the legality of homeschooling into question with In re. Rachel L. In the face of severe criticism, the court agreed to rehear the case and settled the legality of homeschooling in In re. Jonathan L.

Resources:

Selected California Education Codes

Private Schools Frequently Asked Questions

Filing the Private School Affidavit, California Department of Education

Independent Study, California Department of Education

California, International Center for Home Education Research


This overview is for informational purposes only and does not constitute the giving of legal advice. Page last updated September 2015. 

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