I. Compulsory Attendance
Any discussion of homeschooling must begin with the compulsory attendance requirements in California. All school-age children must attend school or they are truant, and can be forced by the government to attend school. The California Education Code states: "[A]ll children between the ages of 6 and 18 must attend a public full-time day school unless otherwise exempted." (§48200 ) This compulsory attendance requirement has two statutory exemptions: First, the private tutoring exemption for children who are instructed at least three hours each day, 175 days a year, by a teacher holding a valid California teaching credential for the grade taught (§48224); and second, the private school exemption for children enrolled in a full-time private school (§48222). Any child who will be six on or before December 2 of the school year is subject to the compulsory school requirements (§48010).
While we are aware that some homeschooling families choose not to use any of the legal options, we think that unwise. If a family homeschooling using a legal option is investigated for truancy, the case usually closes once proof of the child's attendance at a legal school is provided. If there is no proof, then the truancy action can escalate. Many people believe that the government has no right to regulate them or require their children to attend school, but relying on constitutional claims for a defense would be very expensive and time-consuming. Since the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that the states do have a compelling interest in insuring that their citizens are educated, and since states may adopt reasonable regulations to insure that their compelling interests are met, we certainly would be skeptical that these constitutional claims would make a winning argument.
Homeschooling families in California comply with the compulsory attendance law in one of five ways:
- They establish a private school in their home (§48222 exemption).
- They enroll their children in a private school that offers an independent study course (§48222 exemption).
- They hold, or employ a private tutor holding, a California teaching credential for the grades and subjects being taught (§48224 exemption).
- They enroll their children in a public school that offers independent study (public school).
- They enroll their children in a public charter school that offers independent study, distance learning, or a homeschool program (public school).
There are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschooling families, and there are numerous legal options to choose when determining the best educational option for your children. We hope this brief overview of your options will make the first step of the journey easier. We welcome you as you join us on this exciting voyage.
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Reprinted with the permission of the HomeSchool Association of California. © 2007–2008 by HomeSchool Association of California. All rights reserved.