How to Independently Homeschool in California

I've mostly written about my fiber exploits here, but I'd like to take a moment and explain a few thing about how we homeschool. With California's new vaccination law going into effect in the autumn, several families are seriously contemplating homeschooling for the first time. There are many ways to homeschool legally in California, such as using homeschool programs at charter schools, joining a homeschool co-op, or even getting a teacher's credential (more info on these methods in the links at the bottom of this post). The method we've chosen as a family is homeschooling independently, so that's what I'm going to talk about here. This post will have links to help you get started on your own research, as well as a small breakdown of how I organize every week. I'm hoping to write another post soon about our daily life as homeschoolers; but this post is meant to answer questions about how to get started!

If you're going to homeschool independently in California, the most important thing is to file the Private School Affidavit (PSA) (for excellent step-by-step instructions on filing the PSA, visit this link). This tells the state that our little family is its own private school, we named ours Avalon Academy after my favorite book. We're allowed to have our own rules, though it is recommended that we keep attendance and samples of schoolwork throughout the year. I also keep a copy of the PSA on hand, just in case. I use a standing file box, one for each year; the PSA goes in the front, and samples of schoolwork go in the monthly folders throughout the year. I like these file organizers from Smead because I can write the month names on by hand, which suits the school year (as opposed to the calendar year), but you could use anything you want for the same purpose.

I use a weekly planner from Moleskine to organize our school plans: social events, weekly goals, and lesson planning all goes in here. I only have one child in official school, so I use the large size; but next year, I'm going to upgrade to the extra large version for the 2016-2017 school year. I like how these planners have the week days laid out on the left hand side, with lines for notes on the right side; this allows me to use shorthand for activities in the weekly layout, with longer explanations on the right (if necessary). I also like to use a different poem or song for our daily circle time every week, so I include those in the notes on the right. And because I'm clearly OCD/insane, I love to use different pen colors for different subjects: blue for math, green for science, pink for art, orange for hikes or outside time, and black for most everything else. These Papermate Flairs are my jam.

As far as our weekly activities, it varies by the season and the subject; but overall, I like to do short, good-quality sessions throughout the day (I love me some Charlotte Mason). My kids are the most receptive to school in the mornings, so the bulk of our schoolwork is done by 10:30am or so. As they get older, we'll have more hours dedicated to inside schoolwork, but for now this works very well for us. We have circle time every morning, which includes songs, finger plays, poems, or whatever I've decided will focus the kids' attention and set the tone for our day. Then we dive into handwriting, since this is my daughter's least favorite subject, and I like to get it done while she's still fresh.

After handwriting practice, we take a break for playtime (play is by far the biggest "subject" in our homeschool). Sometimes we'll go for a morning walk, or play some musical instruments, or I'll just let the kids have free play time. Then we have lunch, and after that we do another school session. Usually this means math or science or reading, but it depends on the week's plans and goals.

We also do a bit of unschooling, so this loose planning style leaves lots of room for diving into different subjects the kids are into. Last year we learned a lot about space, and this year we've learned about horses, dinosaurs, and trains. Next year, I'm going to devote time to different composers, as well as more poetry and literature. I try to set realistic goals and then be flexible; I've found that we almost always get everything done this way, and my daughter still has some choice about what we do each day. It works for all of us!

For more information about homeschooling independently in CA, here are some extra links. Please ask me any questions you may have in the comments!

Private School FAQs (from the CA Dept of Ed)
Filing the Private School Affidavit (from the CA Dept of Ed)
Selected California Education Codes (from the CA Dept of Ed)
Ways to Homeschool in California (independently or otherwise)
Homeschooling in California (HSLDA)