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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.