Homeschooling Basics

Recently, I received a message via Facebook messenger, asking about HOW to even start the process of homeschooling. She mentioned that she was having a hard time finding good resources about TRYING to get going on this journey of homeschooling, and more specifically unschooling. She said she happened to meet someone who helped set her in motion and in the right direction, but still felt lost. She completed the PSA, but doesn’t know what to do now. What I’ve realized after reading her message was that once we start homeschooling, we forget we had a zillion “simple” questions that we had a hard time finding answers to. Prior to taking the leap into unschooling, I read so much about curriculum, standards, styles, setting up your home for school, etc. that it does make it difficult to get started! Add that to the fears you may already have about it, questioning your own abilities and adequacy, and it can be quite a scary adventure to embark on. So here are some questions she asked:

Do I wait for some sort of license?

How do I remove my kids from the schools they are in now?

Is this (the PSA) something I file yearly?

Are our attendance issues going to be a problem when I try to take them out of public schools?

Please note, we are in California, so this post is going to pertain to the requirements set by our state. Each state’s requirements vary, and some are really strict and difficult to homeschool in. Fortunately, it is a fairly simple process for us Californians!

An additional warning that I have is that I am a first time home/unschooler. This is my first go at it, and I am still learning a TON myself. The fact of the matter is that it is hard to find clear cut answers. One question I had researched for what felt like FOR-E-VER was: does my kid have to be “in school” for a certain number of hours per day? Why would I ask this question? Well, because kids start and end school at weird times such as 8:32 am and get out at 2:54 pm. We are also conditioned by the current school system that kids are supposed to be in school for X amount of hours, and learn these very specific things at this particular grade, etc. In my head right now, I hear my son’s kindergarten teacher saying: Kids in California should read [insert state standard here] by the time they go to 1st grade. So, it’s no wonder we are lost and very much confused. Hopefully this post will help some iron out the very basics of questions so that you know what it takes JUST to get started, and what that process looks like.

 

  1. Do I wait for some sort of license?

This question arises after you have filed your PSA. Once you’ve filed your PSA (Private School Affidavit), you will need to print it out. I printed two copies: one to keep filed away, and one to keep nearby in case we have a home visit. After you have successfully filed your PSA, you should receive an email indicating that your file was successful, your PSA number, and that there is nothing else you need to do. The email will also tell you that it is not a license to operate as a homeschool, however, you absolutely MUST complete this to operate as a private homeschool legally. The language is confusing, but just go with it.

  1. How do I remove my kids from the schools they are in now?

If you have already started the school year, there should be a form available at your child’s school’s office to transfer them to another school. You may want to contact your school’s district office to be clear on that, but to my knowledge, it is simply a transfer form. We finished out the school year, but we still had to submit the form that is given out every year that indicates where your child will be enrolled for school the following year. Once again, check with your school’s district office to be clear on what they expect, but know that YES, you can start to homeschool after you’ve already started your school year.

  1. Is the PSA something to be filed yearly?

Yes! The dates to file are from October 1-15th every year, and you are to file online. If you decide to homeschool after those dates, you apply when you start homeschooling. If it’s your first year homeschooling, and you are starting your homeschooling year in August, for example, you will wait to file your PSA until October 1st-15th. The districts know that you are not allowed to file before that time, so you do not have to worry about truancy officers or anyone coming to your door wanting to why your child is not at school. This is assuming you enrolled them into YOUR homeschool, and the district is aware of that via the enrollment form you were supposed to complete and give back to the school during the standard enrollment period.

  1. Are our attendance issues going to be a problem when I try to take them out of public schools?

Great question, and unfortunately I do not have a clear cut answer for that. My son had attendance issues in both kinder and 1st grade. He simply did not want to go to school! So every morning was a war zone in our home, he was often late, and did not care. In between the battles to get him to school, he got sick a lot while attending public school, hence more absences. So far, his attendance issues have not brought on any problems, and I hope it stays that way, however, I cannot guarantee that will be the case for everyone.

  1. Does my kid have to be “in school” for a certain number of hours per day?

Short answer: no. California does not have time requirement, but they do require that your child be enrolled for school for a minimum of 180 days. As an unschooler, this is kind of ridiculous because we believe learning happens every day and all throughout each day, so you never break from learning, right? Some traditional homeschoolers take the same viewpoint, while others do have winter breaks, summer breaks, etc.; so if you do that, make sure your school’s calendar year has at least 180 days of “schooling.”

As mentioned previously, California does not make it difficult to homeschool or unschool your child/children. Homeschooling and unschooling allow you to tailor your child’s education in a way that suits them best; you have full control over the curriculum and structure of your school. You do have to track attendance, track your PE minutes requirements (200 minutes of PE across ten days of school is the minimum requirement), and you should have examples of your child’s work to show that schooling is actually being done. I have attached copies of how I track attendance and PE if you need some ideas.

 

Good resources that I found were HSLDA and California Homeschool Network. Regardless of state, they can help you navigate your homeschooling journey, and they lay out the details for you. Personally, I preferred the step-by-step guide provided for free download by California Homeschool Network. It’s located on the home page, you scroll down just a tad and it should be on your right hand side; it’s called Just the Facts! I printed that guide and have found it to be of great value to me. I periodically check it just to make sure I’m not missing something.

So, that is all I have for now! Please feel free to send questions my way, and if you have more specific information to some of the questions above, please let me know so I can update this post and provide the most comprehensive and up to date information as possible! Attached are two example documents: the first is how I track attendance and PE minutes, the second is an example of a school calendar.

Example Attendance Tracker

Natural Learning Center

Advertisements

New Math Template and Why I Track Progress

I loved math facts and being timed in elementary school. It was always a race against myself, and I could not wait to see how much I improved each week. I loved them so much, that my fifth grade teacher was so kind as to supply me with a regular and generous (by generous I mean hundreds) supply of math facts well into my teenage years! I had been looking for a worksheet like those math facts, but wasn’t satisfied with what I was finding, so I created a simple worksheet via excel: Addition Math Facts ‘A’. This worksheet can also be found under the “Templates” tab.

The reason I felt the need to create this is because Jay is at the end of the 1st grade and is struggling with single digit addition.  Very simple addition requires him to count on his fingers. I’m not sure if this is normal or not, but I do want him to become very comfortable and familiar with basic addition. So here’s how I am using the worksheet:

  1. Time him once a week. I let him go as long as he needs to and I turn the timer off once he is done.
  2. Count all the correct answers (privately, so he doesn’t see what he got wrong);
  3. Record the date, his time, number of problems correct, the percentage of correct and completed problems, and the next date of the timed worksheet.

Some unschoolers may have a problem with worksheets, and I can understand. It seems that it goes contrary to the method, and I think I agree. I also understand that homeschooling in any method you choose should be flexible and suitable to your family, personal preferences, and educational choices. One thing I do enjoy about a worksheet, is that I am quickly able to identify thinking patterns on the sheet of paper. It helps me identify the underlying problem very quickly so I can better help him.

Why am I tracking? A few reasons:

  1. For myself. I enjoy seeing where someone has started, where they are and where they are heading. Tracking allows me to stay on top of things, personally, and helps me quickly identify learning patterns, problem areas, thinking processes and progress. It teaches me more about my son’s learning style, habits, and behaviors in different situations. For example, when he was three years old, I was trying to teach him how to identify each letter in the alphabet, and I was tracking his progress (ridiculous, I know! That’s a whole other post about what not to do). I quickly learned that when a new or hardly shown letter was added into the mix of letters he knew very well, he would shut down and start saying any letter, even when it came to letters he knew. I could see immediately that it was a major, instant source of frustration to learn something new. When that happened, I would always fall back on the letters he knew very well to build his confidence to keep working with the new letter. I also learned how he correlated letters according to their shape and characteristics. For example, he would call a “w” “m” or sometimes an “upside down ‘m'”, mistake c for e, ‘d’ would be called a “backwards ‘b'” and so on.  It was very helpful to track and see how he reacted to learning something new (highly unfavorably), and how he viewed and thought about the letters he was learning.
  2. For him. Every week I plan on showing him how he has improved. I am hoping this will be a motivator for him and show him that time, practice and concentrated effort pay off!
  3. School records in case I ever get audited. But mostly for me. It’s just how I function!

Anyway, these are the things I am doing now. I don’t know that they are things I will keep with me on this journey, or if I will drop them as we go along. I’m unsure right now, and that’s the beauty of it; we can switch up our plans and ideas at any time to something that may work better!