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Homeschooling Legal FAQ

— Homeschool Association of California
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

What is the compulsory education law?

California's compulsory education law (Education Code § 48200) requires each person between 6 and 18 years of age to attend public, full-time day school, and requires their parents or guardians to send them, unless legally exempt. Parents who homeschool their children do so under one of these exemptions. The different exemptions can be found below under the section "How do I go about homeschooling legally?" Unless children are enrolled in a public school program or are exempt, they are truant. Complying with this law is essential.

Is homeschooling legal in California?

Yes, homeschooling is legal in California. There has never been any question that homeschooling is legal in California using a public school independent study program, a public charter school, or by tutoring your own child if you have a credential for the grades taught. Independent study programs through the more established private schools have also not been questioned. In the past, the California Department of Education (CDE) questioned independent homeschooling, and stated that homeschooling by establishing a private school in an individual's home was not authorized in California. This is no longer the case. The CDE is not taking a position on the legality of homeschooling. It continues to be the responsibility of the local school districts to determine if a private school has complied with the statutory requirements for establishing a school. Although homeschooling is not specifically permitted by statute and the word does not appear in the Education Code, it is not illegal as long as the homeschooler complies with one of the legal requirements for attendance in a public or private school or is tutored.

How do I go about homeschooling legally?

There are several exemptions from California's compulsory education law which provide homeschoolers with a variety of alternatives for homeschooling. You can:

  • Establish a private school, which involves taking some simple steps. A teaching credential is not necessary. Once the school is established, file a private school affidavit form.
  • Join a private school ISP, if it has filed its own private school affidavit in California. If it has not, then you must take all of the steps to establish your own private school and must file the private school affidavit.
  • Join a public school ISP (Independent Study Program), in which case your child is enrolled in public school.
  • Join a Charter School Homeschooling Program, in which case your child is enrolled in public school.
  • Employ a credentialed tutor; or, if you have the appropriate credential, you may be the tutor yourself.

You may decide which option best satisfies the current needs of your family. As your needs change, you may choose to use a different option. A full explanation of each option is available at http://www.hsc.org/chaos/legal/

Do I need a California Teaching Credential in order to teach my children at home?

When children are enrolled in some type of public program, their work is supervised by credentialed teachers. Most of the teaching, of course, is done at home, but parents do not need credentials themselves. Homeschooling parents who are using the private school option do not need a California teaching credential. The statute says, very plainly, that the teacher in a private school (meaning any private school, large or small) must be "capable of teaching". It is obviously a very vague requirement, but we generally believe that anyone of reasonable intelligence and mental health who can read and write in English, even if they do not have a high school or college degree, may be "capable of teaching." Many homeschool teachers attend education conferences, read educational materials, and locate the resources they need in order to meet the "capable of teaching" requirement. In fact, teachers in giant parochial high schools don't need to hold credentials, either. They have to be "capable of teaching," and it is left to the private school administrators and the schools' customers to decide if they are. However, if you are using the tutoring option, you must have a valid California teaching credential for the subjects and grade levels of children that you will be teaching.

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