In California, the answer to this question may be yes or no, depending on how you decide to do homeschool.
Option #1: Not Tracking with Public School
You do not need to track with specific grade-level requirements for public school if you go with aPSP (private satellite program) — or — if you fill out the California Department of Education Private School Affadavit to become your own private school. Private schools are afforded more freedoms; they do not get state funding. The requirements for both of these homeschool options are that you take and keep track of attendance. Also, you should teach in English, cover core subjects such as language arts, mathematics, physical education, science, and social studies. You must keep immunization records (or record personal belief exemption for students), and maintain a list of courses. Also, compile a list of instructors with their qualifications and addresses. A PSP will maintain these records for you; you need only to get them the information. If choosing a PSP, your student’s transcript would come from “ABC Private Satellite Program,” for example. (A third option is to hire a qualified private tutor to teach your kids.) Check out the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, as they have complete up-to-date information on the requirements in California. Due to highly publicized negative stories about outlier homeschooling families, the requirements are changing, and becoming more onerous as time goes on.
Imagine the complete freedom to this option! In my first 3 years of homeschooling, I chose this option for my kids in elementary school. I decided I did not want to report what we were doing. I did not want anyone to mess with my plans. I wanted to cover subjects such as nutrition, the Linnaean system of classification of living things, birds, architecture, and other subjects that usually are not addressed in elementary school. We went deeper than most public schools delve in these areas. See this article about why and how I decided to homeschool. I kept attendance, made lists of our course of studies, kept shot records, and instead of grades, made portfolios of my kids work. My youngest still looks at these records I put together. (Heck, I reference them even now when I am in need of curriculum writing ideas!)
Option #2: Somewhat Tracking with Public School
If you decide to go with an independent study charter school program (ISP), chances are you may need to more closely mirror public school requirements. This is especially true with respect to the Common Core standards for math and English/language arts. With an ISP, though technically you can refuse to take the SBAC test (yearly test for 3rd grade and above that measures proficiency), it really helps the ISP for your students to take the exam, and results may be factored into the legitimacy of a particular charter school program. These charters would get in trouble, I am sure, if students do not take the test, and there are questions about the adequacy of the education a school offers. These programs receive state funding; in 2017, this amounted to about$10,291 per year per student. Lack of information about their programs via testing may potentially impact charters getting that state funding.
Some charters give families more freedom than others. If your student’s education does not at all align with Common Core curriculum or with a state-level curriculum map, it could present problems for the ISP. In that way, families may experience more pressure to comply with Common Core and other state-level requirements if going with an ISP. See this article on options for homeschooling.
Homeschooling Bigger Picture
One of the reasons many families homeschool is that they believe their kids should learn different information than is being transmitted in public schools. If you are looking for the most freedom, registering as a private school affords the most, and then going with a PSP is next in line.
It is important to keep in mind that curriculum standards change all the time. Educational standards come and go. In fact, history is not really taught in many elementary schools; it’s now known as “social studies.” If you as a parent have a sense in your gut that your children should learn the history of Japan in 4th grade, go for it! This may be important to your family values, and thus vital to include in your homeschool program.
What if we don’t hit some of those grade level requirements. Will my kids be disadvantaged?
Maybe, Maybe not. In my experience, in homeschool we went for those different topics I wanted to teach, and once we learned them, we cycled back to work on “grade-level” requirements, etc. You many find in homeschool there is a lot of space; you can fit more in than you think!
As high school nears, your anxiety may grow.
When my daughter was in the 6th grade, I decided to go with a PSP, so grades for high school admission would not come from, moi. In high school, there are very precise requirements about what is needed for admission to certain colleges. Certain classes, with A-G requirements are required by colleges. Get informed about these requirements! Having a PSP could really help navigate these waters.
Doing it your way, partnering with a charter school, or ——-. There are many ways to proceed with homeschooling. If you want to go with a more contemporary education, go with an ISP. If you want to do things your way, and potentially deviate from current public school education, choose option #1.
I am considering it, but am unsure.
The idea of homeschooling feels like hanging from my ankles!
Doubts. One reason you may be considering homeschooling is what you observe in either public or private school options. Maybe school is not quite working as you hoped. Maybe your son or daughter is not doing well in that environment. Are they getting stigmatized, are they getting in trouble often? Are you disappointed or frustrated with the IEP process and/or level of services rendered? Or—are your kids simply not learning all you think they should? Maybe you have preschool-aged children, and you don’t like what you are hearing about elementary school?
I am here to let you know that all of your concerns ARE valid. Education has changed a lot! You are wise to listen to that small voice you hear in your heart that says, “Maybe I can take my kid/family in a new and different direction.” You must trust yourself and these questions you have. At the very least, they are grounds for exploring the options.
My (lack of) teaching ability. Schools have professional teachers. They know what kids “should learn” in each grade. They know how to teach all the learning styles. How will I ever come close?
From personal experience I can honestly say I am as surprised as anyone that I chose to homeschool. My mother was a full-time art teacher in a private school. She made comments to me like “I am not sure about homeschooling. What about the socialization?” Her words impacted me. Until the conventional school situation did not work for us when my eldest was in the third grade, I was doubtful about homeschooling myself. I only got into it because — I had to get into it.
Work. I have either a full or part-time job. Is homeschool even an option? This is an great thing to be asking yourself, if you have work commitments. If your kids are in middle school and above, it may be doable to work part-time. Here is the truth: Homeschooling is a job. If your work level raises your stress level, your kids may feel that, and approach their homeschool work with stress also. Kids are intuitive. Read my blog article about why I had to stop homeschooling. In truth, your level of stress about homeschooling will probably increase if your kids are stressed, and your family may suffer from ever increasing cycles of stress. It may be the best idea to wait until you are at a point where you can ease up in your work.
Here’s a personal example: This next year I am jumping back into homeschooling in a different way, but I know for it to be a good experience for myself and my boys, grades 4 and 7, I have to let go of some of my work goals. For myself, that looks like not writing another book next year. If I attempt it, I will be driven to do my thing, and not be as sensitive or available to my boys. I don’t want to risk being frustrated and have the experience be a bad one.
If you are unsure if you can handle work and homeschool, you may still want to give it a try. Give yourself one-year to try it, and see how it goes. It really is okay to try it and conclude it’s not working. Even one year of trying it may give you some relief from regretting that you did not try it. Homeschooling is hard, and not for everyone. The biggest driver I can see–if you try it, you must have a strong conviction; this will get you through the ups and downs. (But get support also!)
Homeschool smart…make sure you have a support harness!
I am so intrigued. How can I get more information to figure this out?
Doubts, feeling of lack of ability, and work concerns may be perplexing you. There really may not be a perfect solution to any of your concerns. If you are asking yourself these questions, honor your inner voice and get some answers. It is a sacrifice to perhaps not have the career you want, and the personal space you have come to appreciate with kids in full-time school. But, if you wanted to keep exploring, how could you get armed with information?
One of the joys of parenthood is cycling back to your richest childhood experiences; it’s always rewarding to find the place that you went to growing up—is still as great as you remembered it.
Cabrillo Monument @ Cabrillo Beach, San Pedro, CA
Pre-grunion run walk
Cabrillo Beach is this sort of a rich memory for me. There are 5 things I love about this aquarium:
1. The aquarium admission is cheap and the tanks are filled with healthy looking marine animals. At $1 for kids and $5 for adults, this place is a bargain! While this aquarium does not have the multi-story kelp forest and deep ocean tanks at the Long Beach Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, what it does offer are tanks situated at kids eye-level, filled with unique creatures such as lobsters, living shark egg embyros, bright, pink anemonies, brittle stars, camouflaged flounders, and a variety of sharks; these are sure to inspire and educate! During regular daytime hours, visitors can also touch these creatures in the touch tank located in the back of the aquarium. This tank is open several times each day. Also, many of these animals are located in the auxiliary lab building where they can be touch as well as explored more closely under microscopes. The manageable size makes a visit here efficient; the aquarium can be toured in 2-3 hours.
Amazing Aquarium Tanks
One other feature Angelenos will appreciate–there is plentiful parking that is reasonably priced. Simply walk up to a lot kiosk and pay. The process is a ton easier and less expensive (and less time-consuming) than parking in many other coastal areas.
Nightime on a grunion run!
2. Learn about and witness a grunion run. The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium has been leading grunion run experiences for decades. The evening begins at 8:00; families can go in the aquarium during special late night hours, in this case from 8-10:30 or so. The evening my family went there, there was a food truck in the lot with tasty dinner and snack options. The eclectic well-stocked gift shop is also open—full of books and toys kids are sure to love. At 9:30, hear a presentation by aquarium staff giving an overview of why grunion — small silver fish similar in size to sardines — come ashore to spawn, followed by a vintage 1960s film showing the life cycle. Informational and clear, the film is great for people of all ages. After the film and overview, with new found knowledge of the grunion life cycle, step outside onto the courtyard, and in small jars, hatch grunion eggs yourself. At 10:30, gather for a walk to the beach to see these small silver fish come ashore. This event occurs in spring and early summer. Click here for more information about the aquarium’s grunion programs.
Hatching Grunion Eggs
3. The aquarium offers quality marine biology summer camps that are true STEM! The aquarium has a wonderful lab space where campers can touch research specimens, explore them more closely under a microscope, and visit the facility and nearby tidepools and salt marsh areas with enthusiastic marine educators. The camps are 3 hours in length, and will expose young kids in TK-8th grade to various facets of marine biology and more. Click here for more information on summer camps.
I am so excited about Great Homeschool Convention in Ontario, June 13-15, 2019. Stop by booth #329, Carrier Shell Curriculum, for a California-oriented craft activity, an awesome Raffle (where you too can enter to win your very own carrier shell and craft pack), ask questions about our next unit study curriculum due out in fall 2019, get info about Christine’s California history class at FUNdamentals in Arcadia, AND…there may be some (real-fake) gold-dust for kids. SEE YOU THERE!
Earth Party! An Early Introduction to Carolus Linnaeus and the System of Classification of Living Things Unit Study (Grades 1-4)
Why have we written this curriculum?
Sometimes during childhood we are introduced to new concepts at surprising times. One such memory in my childhood was going on a ride, “Adventure Thru Inner Space” at Disneyland in Tomorrowland. After boarding an “Atomobile” omnimover, I entered a snowflake, then a molecule, and finally an atom. I am sure I had no idea what an atom was—what was that strange circular shape? Yet, in a multi-sensory way, now I had some knowledge of something incredibly small, that was all around me; I did not have the words for it at the time.
Adventure Thru Inner Space @ Disneyland
It is our hope this curriculum – Earth Party! An Early Introduction to Carolus Linnaeus and the System of Classification of Living Things Unit Study – will be that introduction — that going inside the atom — a bit strange, a bit foreign — but a horizon broadening experience for both you and your students.
Join author and artist Christine Echeverri at this FREE fun community fair in Northeast Los Angeles at Sycamore Park in Highland Park. At Christine’s booth, participants can make a craft creating space for urban wildlife as they learn about living close to wildlife in Los Angeles. There will be other activities for families to do as well; look for stages with performances, food, and community resources. The Family Fun Area will go from 1 to 5 on Sunday, June 2.
Teachers stop by also! There will be history and architecture resources on hand for teachers to explore.
If you family has not gotten to California history yet in homeschool, this one’s for you! FUNdamentals offers Wednesday classes for homeschool students, grades K-12. See this post with more info about the program.
Christine Echeverri will be teaching the class based on her recently published California Out of the BoxCalifornia history curriculum. See flier above for more information.
One aspect you will find with California Out of the Box is at each step, learning is anchored in story. As I have gone to homeschool events and conferences, many have asked how I tackle the California missionsperiod.
The missions unit in California Out of the Box begins in the late 1700s with Friar Juan Crespi’s journal account of their overland team traveling north through Los Angeles, observing tar marshes. This image will be familiar to students, as they just learned about the La Brea Tar Pits and Pleistocene animals found in Los Angeles.
As students hear this narrative of the Sacred Expedition team coming up from Loreto, Mexico, they will follow the progress on the map coming from Mexico to San Diego, and then north. They will look at a map of the Americas showing Spain’s dominion, a map of Nueva and Baja California, a Mexico map, and a map showing the 21 California missions, and one zooming in on the bay area, the setting for the historical fiction book Valley of the Moon: The Diary of Maria Rosalia de Milagros. See this blog article for more about this wonderful book. Each historical fiction book in the curriculum grounds mapwork and other activities.
After following the padres trip through San Diego, students will dig deeper into the place of San Diego through the story “A-Birding on a Bronco” from Stories from Where We Live: California Coast which recounts an end of 19th century author’s adventure on horseback, birdwatching. (See this link for a previous article on this book.) Students will get placed in the San Diego chaparral in this descriptive short story.
Screenshot from Missions Resource Center
As students read Valley of the Moon and hear about the character Maria Rosalia, they will hear more about both her current experience on a rancho and looking back at her time living at a mission. Using Google Images, students will look for pictures of the missions, having a discussion about forms of architecture (adobe walls) and similarities seen at the missions (crosses, mission bells). Then using the Missions Resource Center website, students will explore one mission of their choosing in a 1-3 paragraph written piece; they are encouraged to show pictures as well. No make-a-model-mission project in this curriculum!
One of the aspects I find useful in historical fiction books are the historical notes that authors often provide, which tell a brief story of the broader narrative. The fiction authors used in our curriculum have gone to great lengths to research their book.
Missions and the Californios
Working their way through Valley of the Moon, students will explore the concept of the californios, early Spanish and Mexican immigrants who had strong identity with the land of California, initially through the patronage of Spain and then Mexico.
Additionally, as the missions are a pivotal moment in California history, students will add to their timeline important dates like the first mission, Sacred Expedition, Mexican independence, and missions secularization.
Continuing on, students will consider Sutter’s Fort, the Bear Flag Revolt, and witness 1850 California statehood. Additionally, they will learn about Dia de los Muertos, Las Posadas, and more! (These important celebrations will be the subject of another article!)
California Out of the Box History Class @FUNdamentals in Arcadia, CA
Join Christine for this weekly FUN class in 2019-2020 for students in grades 3-6. Christine is excited to join the FUNdamentals team. The class will meet Wednesdays from 2-3:30 at the Hills Church in Arcadia. Click here for the course description. Families interested in this class need to register with FUNdamendals prior to signing up for class.
Build Your Bundle
California Out of the Box will be available for sale May 15-22 as a part of an awesome Cathy Duffy Approved Bundle. Shop in May to get amazing discounts on lots of great curriculum resources!