Whether you’re new to homeschooling due to the coronavirus or you have a child who’s just reached compulsory attendance age, you likely have plenty of questions about how to homeschool. While there are a handful of options for how to homeschool in California, many charters are packed going into the fall of 2020. So, understanding how to file a homeschool PSA is a necessary step toward your independent schooling journey!
What is a Homeschool PSA in California?
The short answer is, a homeschool PSA is a Private School Affidavit. It’s a form you file when you decide to start schooling your child without the help of a formal school system.
The PSA a document that fulfills parents’ legal obligation to provide their kids with an education outside of the public school system.
You can navigate to the California Department of Education’s website for all the official information on Private School Affidavits. But, I’ll break down everything that I’ve learned over the years about the PSA, including some helpful FAQs.
What Does It Mean When You File a PSA?
When you file a homeschool PSA in California, you’re essentially establishing your own private school.
You’re saying that instead of sending your child to public school for an education, you’ll be following the state standards and educating your student at home. While you’ll have plenty of flexibility in terms of how you educate your child, the state standards do still apply.
You’ll fill in the form with your students’ information, administrative information (designating your spouse as the principal is kind of fun!), and come up with a school name. Get creative here, because it’s your legit school name and will be on your official forms (if you create any!).
Can My Student Graduate Under a Homeschool PSA?
Yes, your student can graduate under a PSA! Basically, as the administrator of your private school, you decide when your student has fulfilled the state standards and is ready to graduate from high school.
You’ll need to back up your assertion that your kiddo is ready to graduate with documentation, however. Because while a school official may not knock on your door often, it’s a possibility. And if your school is ‘audited,’ so to speak, you want to have proof you’re teaching and that your student is learning.
Who Should File a PSA for Homeschooling in California?
The question of who should file a PSA for homeschooling in California has a pretty straightforward answer. Basically, two groups of people will need to file:
Families who are homeschooling without enrolling with a charter or online/virtual school (both of which are public schools).
Families that are leaving the public school system, whether at the end of the school year or mid-semester, etc.
Of course, while many families file this type of document, there’s a short list of others who must file a PSA, too. Per the California Department of Education, private online and virtual schools must also maintain the appropriate paperwork.
Private school satellite programs are held to the same standard, as are traditional private schools and nonpublic nonsectarian schools. If you’re enrolling your child in any of those programs, however, you won’t file the forms. The school will handle everything!
How Do I File a Homeschool PSA?
Actually filing the PSA is easy, though it can feel intimidating! The California Department of Education offers an entire page of instructions on how to fill out the form, and you’ll complete items like:
- Your school name
- The county you live in
- Your school district (based on address)
- School type (co-ed or otherwise)
- Any special education offerings
- Whether your school offers a high school diploma
- What grade levels are offered
Some of it feels a bit silly, to be honest. For example, you’re asked to designate whether your school is “day only,” “residential only,” or “both.”
Ready to file your PSA? Visit the State’s PSA page to get started.
When Can I File a PSA in California?
In terms of when you should file a PSA, there’s a specific filing start date and rules about when kids must start school.
When to File: October 1st!
Technically, the filing period for a PSA in California starts October 1st. But, the State also says this:
“The statutory filing period is October 1 through 15; however, the filing system remains open throughout the school year to accommodate new schools. The affidavit covers the reporting period of October 1 through September 30.”
So, if you’re pulling your child out of school mid-year, you can file immediately. Some families who feel a bit nervous about “missing” the first couple of months of school may also file earlier than October if they plan to homeschool for the fall.
When to File: Your Child’s Age
In addition to the calendar guidelines on filing, it’s also important to know when you need to file based on your child’s age. That is to say, you might not need to file a PSA (even if your child was already enrolled in public school) if your child is under the age of compulsory attendance.
For California, kids who are between the ages of six and eighteen must be enrolled in school, says the State Department of Education.
So, technically, a kindergartener who isn’t six yet won’t need a PSA this fall (unless they turn six before school starts). There’s a grey area here, though, because different districts have different cutoff dates. You probably know about this already if your child was enrolled in TK (transitional kindergarten), because birthdays become a sticking point when enrollment time comes around.
Basically, unless your child is six by the cutoff date for your school district, you don’t need a PSA. But, filing one doesn’t necessarily hurt, if you feel nervous about going without!
What Should I Do After I File a PSA?
According to the California Department of Education, your responsibilities as a private school include maintaining records of your students’ work and attendance.
First and foremost, you should print out your PSA and keep it in a binder or somewhere handy. There are also other requirements under the private school code, some of which include:
- Logging attendance and any “absences”
- Areas of study covered
- Documenting any tutors who offer instruction
Keeping a daily log of what you do or saving your child’s assignments might be enough to fulfill requirements. Of course, you can get as formal as you’d like with your documentation if it makes you feel better!
FAQs on Filing a Homeschool PSA in California
Families who are new to homeschooling (or just new to schooling independently, outside a charter) likely have more questions about PSAs. Here are some FAQs that might be helpful along your journey!
Who Will Check in on My Private School?
Generally, most families that file PSAs don’t have anyone “checking in” on them. Unlike enrolling with a charter, establishing your own private school means you can teach how (and when) you want.
As long as you’re covering the material at grade level (and keeping good records of it!), you shouldn’t have any official visitors checking out your school.
That said, the State can drop in if they want. There’s also a State private school search tool, which could include your family’s information as a private school ‘campus.’
If you’re concerned about oversight, it might be worth checking out the Home School Legal Defense Association or a similar organization that offers legal advice and representation.
What If My Child Has an IEP or Special Needs?
The State website doesn’t offer a ton of information on homeschooling kids with special needs under a PSA. They do note, however, that kids with special needs/IEPs are eligible for services even as homeschoolers.
Still, the site also says this:
“Parents intending to school at home whose students have been identified as eligible for special education services under an individualized education program (IEP) or identified as truant should communicate directly with the school district to satisfy all requirements before pursuing schooling at home.”
Depending on when and how you start homeschooling, as well as any legal issues, it might be worth consulting the HSLDA for advice.
What Happens If I Change My Mind?
The short answer? Nothing! You can file a PSA at any time and change your mind at any time.
For example, I filed a PSA when my older son (he’ll be a fifth-grader this fall!) turned six. He turned six (compulsory attendance age) in May of 2016. I filed our PSA by the deadline (October) so we were “covered.”
Then, we took a chance on a meeting with Visions in Education. I wasn’t sure I wanted to work with a charter because of all the reporting requirements. It sounded like a drag! But we met our teacher (love her!), learned all about the school, and decided to enroll.
So, we enrolled with Visions a couple of months into the school year, and that effectively voided our PSA. No big deal!
While many charters are full due to higher enrollment after coronavirus hit, if you get into one, your PSA isn’t in effect anymore, and you’re all good for the school year. If things change the next school year, you have the option to file a new PSA.
How Does My Child Graduate from a Home-Based Private School?
This is especially relevant if you have a high school-age teen who’s about ready to graduate. But with so many public schools tweaking their graduation ceremonies due to COVID-19, your teen may not mind as much about getting all the pomp and circumstance of a legit graduation ceremony.
The good news is, lack of formal celebration aside, graduating a student from your private homeschool is easy! You create a DIY diploma, and you’re done. I’ve read on social media about plenty of families that create an official diploma for their child, complete with their school name and even a valedictorian award. It’s up to you how to handle this, or how big to go when writing up your documents!
Your child can also take High School Equivalency (HES) tests like the GED or HiSET for college admission, says the State website.
How Do Transcripts Work with a PSA?
While a public school (site-based or charter) will provide you or your student with transcripts, establishing a PSA means you’re in charge of your own!
It can sound a bit intimidating, but the good news is that you can create the transcripts any way you want. Plenty of free templates are available online, but you can also outline your own paperwork (and even make a letterhead for your private homeschool!).
And, when it comes to college admissions, the transcripts are a necessary aspect, but not necessarily a dealbreaker. Meaning, plenty of kids have gotten into college with homeschool transcripts. From what I’ve read online, test scores are usually more important to colleges than high school transcripts.
How Do I Know What to Teach?
As a private homeschool in California, you still need to teach to the state standards. How you do so is up to you, but technically, you should maintain records that show your child is learning and can demonstrate the standards.
The California State Board of Education offers PDF downloads of all the state standards, in both English and Spanish.
Since we homeschool under a charter (and fingers crossed it stays that way!), we also get easier to read docs from our school. The schools call these “I can statements,” and they’re formatted in statements that the child would say.
For example, for kindergarten, one statement might read, “I can count from 1 to 20.”
With a quick Google search, you can find “I can statements” written by people who have interpreted the CA state standards. I’m hesitant to link to any here, because I don’t know how trustworthy the sources are. However, many school districts also provide these statements, and those might be helpful links for parents to check out!
As for what the state says about helping parents with teaching, there’s this:
“The CDE does not provide guidance on how to home school; however, a lot of information on all aspects of home schooling is available online to assist those who are educating their children at home.”
Helpful, right? Fortunately, there’s also a page with “curriculum frameworks” that you can click through for some guidance. This is especially helpful if you’re new to homeschooling altogether! The State has also added resources for distance learning, too.
How Often Do I File a PSA?
If you file a PSA this fall, you’ll need to file another next year. When I filed ours, I printed out all our documents so I knew what I’d written in (thanks, mom brain!). If we were going to do another the next year, I’d copy the info over, just changing the kids’ grade levels as applicable.
But what if you file a PSA, then enroll in a charter, then leave the charter? Or maybe you complete the PSA, go back to public school, then pull your child back out. In those cases, you don’t have to file a new PSA each time.
The paperwork ‘lasts’ for an entire school year, so you don’t need to worry about it again until October of the next calendar year.
Final Thoughts on Filing a Homeschool PSA
It might sound complicated on the surface, but filing a homeschool PSA isn’t that tough. A few clicks, a bit of creativity (your school name is important for student morale, right?!), and you’re golden.
Do you have questions for me about filing a PSA? Or do you have suggestions as a parent who’s been there? Leave a comment below!
Also, please keep in mind that I’m just a parent who’s read a lot about homeschool PSAs. I am not, nor do I claim to be, a legal expert or authority on this topic! If you have specific questions about your situation, please consult the HSLDA or a similar organization for expert help!