Who Files The Private School Affidavit (PSA) And When?

It’s that time of year again, folks! The annual “Filing of the Affidavit”, or what I like to call “Homeschool Independence Day!”

Who needs to file the Private School Affidavit? All private school owners that have students currently enrolled in their school.

How does that apply to “homeschoolers”? In California, there is no special law for homeschooling. Our kids are all either enrolled in a public school, a private school, or being tutored by a credentialed teacher. One option is for a family to create it’s own private school and enroll their children in that school. It’s a relatively simple process and gives parents the most freedom in choice of education style and content. If you have chosen this option, you are required to file that Private School Affidavit with the State of California’s Department of Education.

If you have enrolled your children in something else, like a public charter school, a district independent study, or a private school satellite program, you should not file this form. Basically, if you filled out an “enrollment” form, you are enrolled in someone else’s school. You are a customer of that school and they will do the administration part of the job.

When and where do you file? All private schools file the Private School Affidavit with the Department of Education each year between October 1 and 15th. You can find the link here. The statewide advocacy groups, CHN and HSC have links on their sites that give you detailed instructions on how to fill out that document.

What is the Private School Affidavit? It’s a way for the State of California to know how many private schools are operating in the state and how many children go to them. It is not permission or a license to operate a private school. It’s done in October and not September so that generally people have settled down into the schools for the year and they can get a more accurate count. Filing the affidavit does not create your school. When you decide on a name, create the required documents, and enroll a student, you are creating a school. The PSA is usually after the fact that your school is created.

I might want to pull out of the school my kids are at later this year. Should I file now, just in case? No! There is no need. If you did, your kids would be counted twice, once in the school they are attending and once in the school you are creating. You don’t want that and you don’t need to. Just wait. The link to file is up year round. Yes, the filing period is October 1-15, but if you create your school in November through June you can still file that form then. It’s just that generally schools are formed over the summer and it helps them to try and get everyone to file at once.

So, that’s about it in a nutshell. I hope this helps clear up any confusion about who should be filing the PSA. Now it’s your turn. Go file your PSA and then do something special with your kids to celebrate your independence!

One more thing, if you are in the Yucca Mesa area and would like help filing, please email me at info@californiadeserthomeschoolers.com We can take some time going over it at the Enrichment Club on October 5th!

Happy Homeschool Independence Day!

Our Kindergarten

I’ve been going through some old paperwork and photo files and came across pictures of my kids when we were just getting started with homeschooling. I’ve been thinking a lot about what we used to do for “school” back when my boys were elementary age, so it’s strange that I found those photos. Or is it? I thought I’d post here a bit about what Kinder was like at our house!

We had come across the idea of homeschooling while searching for private preschools. I found the California Homeschool Network and started reading. It just happened to be close to their annual conference, so my Grandpa and I went to check it out. I fell in love with the idea right then! So essentially, the boys have always been homeschooled.

Since Kindergarten isn’t mandatory in California, we decided to not enroll in any school and see how it went. If it went well, we’d continue to file as a private school and keep schooling that way. I’d say that year went pretty well! Do I change things? Yes! Our school always changes according to what is working and what is not. That’s the real beauty of homeschooling in the first place. Each child’s education is tailored to their individual needs. And even though I desperately wanted to play teacher at home, my boys weren’t having it. It wasn’t for them. I had to be honest about my own personality and theirs, and change things up. “School” has evolved over the last eleven years and it still is, but the underlying current is an “unschooling” style that has worked well for the whole family.

Here are some pictures of the first months of “school” at our house so you can get the idea!

When you start homeschooling one child, you start homeschooling the younger kids, too! No one wants to be left out. And you HAVE to have a “First Day of Kindergarten” picture!

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sept-6-034We had a playgroup of kids and Mom’s that came to our house every Monday for the last couple years. It wasn’t a homeschool group, just an evolved Mommy & Me group. Most of us weren’t planning on homeschooling but we didn’t want to send our kids to preschool, so we did this instead. It was wonderful for all of us. Even though only two of us really ended up homeschooling in the later years, we are all still great friends!

sept-6-001We spent a lot of time at the Regional Park in our area. It had a small zoo, loads of trails, a pond, a train, and several playgrounds. Since we lived in the city at the time, it was also a great place to escape the noise of the neighborhood and safely ride bikes!

sept-6-011We took very long walks here, climbed trees and rocks, brought sketchbooks and drew pictures of plants and animals, talked about and explored natural science, not to mention lots of picnics!

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One thing that I’m glad we spent money on was a membership to the big Natural History Museum in LA. It was an hour (sometimes more) drive away but there was so much to do there. Some days we would spend hours in the children’s “hands-on” area. Some days we’d rush through all the mammals and dinosaurs, and then spend an hour looking at the bird exhibits. The best part about it was that the boys came to know that museum, and many others, as a place to play. It wasn’t boring for them. They knew there was a lot of very interesting stuff there and lots of great people that would answer any question they had.

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I remember walking behind them as they came into a giant domed room. My older son stopped in his tracks and was amazed by the ceiling and the sound of the room. They both dropped to the floor to get a better look and made loud and quiet sounds, listening to it echo off the walls and ceiling.

You can’t do this on a school field trip!

They spent several minutes lying there looking at the ceiling and then wanted to draw pictures like it when we got home.

Better than any toys you can purchase and have at home are ones that are available only when you’re at a certain place! The children’s section in museums is worth the cost of an annual membership every time!

sept-6-030So this is how our homeschooling journey began. There was no curriculum, no “school” time, no co-op. There was just me and the boys exploring the world around us while Dad was at work and then sharing it with him at the end of the day. Camping trips on weekends, weekly trips to the library, grocery shopping, amusement parks, stories before naps and bedtime, video games, and movies. That was it. It was a joyous time and a little nerve wracking. We were different. Everyone else was starting school. Kids were being dropped off and crying for Mom. Mom was crying to leave them behind. Kids were coming home with packets of notes and homework. Bedtimes and packed lunches. School clothes and buses. But mine weren’t. We were on, what felt like, a permanent summer vacation. We were happy. They seemed to be learning a lot every day. It was working. Why is everyone not doing this?

 

What it means to “establish” a private school.

Summer is already coming to an end. I really can’t believe it! As the rest of the parents prepare to send their kids off to school, homeschoolers are looking to the new “year” for new opportunities to explore and learn in the world. Of course, we’re still stocking up on the school supplies at the sales since pencils, pens, notebooks, and backpacks are essential for anyone on the go! And who doesn’t want one of those awesome lunch boxes with all the compartments?!

If you have decided to homeschool privately this year, you’re starting to get a bit nervous as well. Is it really this easy to start a small home based private school in California? Is there nothing else to do but pick a name, create a few files, and enroll a student? Can I just send a letter to my child’s old school and request records as the new school?

The answer is YES! Yes, it is! There are two great places to get a walk through on creating your own private school and taking charge of your children’s education, setting your family free from the traditional school schedule and making your own way in the world. California Homeschool Network has some great pages about getting started. Along with reading “Just the Facts”, you should also be perusing their “How to Homeschool” pages that include details about record keeping and choosing curriculum. The HomeSchool Association of California also has great “Establishing Your Own Private School” pages that can help you.

I have noticed one thing that many new homeschoolers get a little confused about when they first start like this and that is the use of the term “establish.” When you establish your school, you pick a name and create the files required by law to keep. Then you enroll a student and communicate with the last school about sending the cumulative file for that student. The only contact your new school generally has with the State of California is when you file the Private School Affidavit. The filing period is October 1st – 15th, so what if you’re starting your new school in August or September?! Take a deep breath! ALL private schools file in October. It is expected that you will not have filed until then. The affidavit is not a permit or license, it’s like a statistics gathering tool. The Department of Education only wants to know how many private schools exist, how many students attend them, and where they are located, hence the legal term “private.” August and September are generally times for a lot of shifting in enrollment, so they wait until October to gather the information when things have settled down a bit.

Do you need to file now and then again in October for the 2016-2017 school year? No. You can start your school today and then wait until the filing window without any problems.

Is there a problem if you have already filed over the summer for the 2016-2017 school year? No. It’s really not a problem, only an extra step (and a very small one at that). You WILL need to file again in October, though. The one you filed online over the summer was for the 2015-2016 school year and it isn’t valid after October 1st of this year.

You are legally a private school in California the day you decide on a name, create the required files, and enroll a student, so go out and do some learning! If you’d like some help or just want to talk it over with a live person, please email me and we can chat online or over the phone. My email is info@californiadeserthomeschooolers.com

Also, you are welcome to download and use the forms I’ve used over the years located by clicking HERE!

Learning Together

Do you do things with your kids or do you take them to do things? I’ve found there is a big difference. As homeschoolers, we have many opportunities to take our children to classes and events that are “good for them” or that we expect them to learn something from. The kids do get something out of those activities but I’ve found that they get so much more out of it when we put aside the ideas of school, put aside the notion of an “educational” activity, and just experience something together.

Take for instance a field trip to the zoo. Which do you think your child will get more out of, an organized field trip with a bunch of children grouped together and led by a docent of the zoo or a spontaneous trip the zoo with the family? I think it’s the latter.

When we attend a “field trip” with a group the parents tend to flock together and chat while someone else leads the group of kids. We can’t help it. Parents want to socialize as much as the children do. We crave it. So when a child needs extra attention, isn’t interested in what the docent is talking about, or just needs to do something else, we don’t notice. We’ve created “school” in a homeschool environment, with the same problems as the local public school.

When we take our kids to the zoo, we are more involved. We can follow our child’s interest, answer their questions (thank God for smart phones), and be there to notice when they’ve found something to pull them into the deeper waters of learning. And the best part is that we are doing it ourselves, right along with them.

We aren’t educators when we homeschool. We are fellow learners with more experience, communications skills, a driver’s license, and some cash. We ask questions. We find new interests and expand our minds. We’re there to show our kids what real life-long learning looks like. It’s so much more than school.

The next time you think about attending a field trip or class, consider attending with your child as if you are the student as well. Show your child through your actions what giving yourself an education looks like. They will be learning so much more than what the tour guide is leading you through.

There Is No “Behind”!

This something that is imperative to wrap our minds around as parents. Homeschoolers are never “behind”. Your children are right where they need to be. We don’t need to compare our kids with others their age. As long as you and your children are happy we are all learning! The goal of education is learning new things, opening our minds to the world around us, not checking off boxes and staying at the level of our peers. We aren’t all on the same path and our education should match our life’s mission. Childhood is for figuring our what that mission is!

Read this and be inspired to change that paradigm! Dear Homeschool Mom Who Worries About Her Child Being Behind

Online Mentoring?!

If you’re just getting started homeschooling this year, or got off to a rocky start last year, and you didn’t get a chance to go to one of the great conferences this summer, Sue Patterson is offering an online 3-month group mentoring program starting August 1st. Check out the link for more details about this awesome opportunity!

Legal Options to Homeschool in CA

To throw a wrench into everyone’s thinking, I’ll start with asking you to wrap your head around the following idea, there is no legal “homeschooling” in California. I know! The term “homeschooling” isn’t in the legal code, so it doesn’t exist but that doesn’t mean that you can’t school at home. The compulsory education law in California states that all children between the ages of 6 and 18 must be enrolled in some kind of full-time day school. To satisfy that law you can enroll your child in a public or private school, or have them tutored. To “homeschool” your children, you will be doing the same thing in a different form. And now there are several forms to choose from. For more details, including the education code, CHN’s Legal Options page is a good place to start. HSC’s Legal page also has great information.

The options you can choose to homeschool are summed up here.

Choose a Private School

 

  • You can create your own private school and enroll only your own children.
  • You can enroll in a private school with a “satellite program.”

Choose a Public School

 

  • You can enroll in a local public school’s independent study program.
  • You can enroll in a public charter school with a home-study or virtual study element.

Credentialed Tutor

  • You can hire a credentialed teacher for the grade your children are in.

There are pro’s and con’s for each option and which one you choose depends on several factors. I’ll get into those in a different post. But first you need to ask yourself things like: What kind of education do we want for our children? How much oversight do we want? What are our teaching and learning styles? I’d recommend looking into different education styles to see what is out there. The neighborhood school is only one way of educating children, a kind of “one-size-fits-all” thing. There’s a nice overview of styles on Homeschool.com about different approaches to homeschooling. Once you have an idea about what kind of homeschooling you’d like to try, you can make a better decision about which legal option to use.

For all the options, except creating your own private school, you’ll be enrolling your kids in a program and that new school will help you get started. The only thing you’ll be responsible for is withdrawing your kids from their current school if they are already going to one. If your kids are not currently enrolled in a school, meaning they are under 5 years old, then there is nothing you need to do at this time.

To withdraw your kids from their current school, you are only changing schools just like if you were moving to a new town. It’s the exact same process. You go to the school office and tell them that you are changing schools and need to formally withdraw from this one so that they aren’t looking for your child when they take attendance. The school is legally required to know what school your children are transferring to. All you need to do is tell them the name and address of the new school. You also may need to tell them the last day your child will be expected at the old school and what day they start at the new school, so have that information ready as well. Even if you’ve chosen to create your own private school, you will go through the same process at this point. You’re done!

If your child has an IEP at their current school, there is a nice article explaining the withdrawal process on HSC’s website.

In the next few posts, I’ll go over the options that are available and link you to some lists of schools that fall under each one.

Report Cards & Transcripts

There are a lot of good websites out there with instructions about how to create your own school report cards and transcripts. I thought I’d add to that with what I did for my school!

Here’s a picture of our elementary school report card.

Report Card Photo

For elementary school, we were always listed as an “ungraded elementary school”. So I didn’t have a 1st grader and a 3rd grader. My oldest was in “Year 3” and the youngest was in “Year 1” at our school. We also didn’t do letter grades, which I believe a lot of public elementary schools are also doing. We used the following scale.

4 = The student has demonstrated excellent achievement of grade level expectations.
3 = The student has demonstrated good achievement of grade level expectations.
2 = The student has demonstrated basic achievement of grade level expectations.
1 = The student is not meeting grade level expectations.

I chose the grade according to how I actually felt they were doing. Our school’s “grade level expectations” were our own and most likely not the same as other schools. That is true for all schools. Grades are very subjective! And generally they were always “meeting expectations”. When I ask them a question from what we are reading and they can answer, they are meeting the grade level expectations of English. If my little guy can play with an orange as he takes it apart and counts the sections, I may jump in and tell him he’s eating 1/8th of that orange. He’s meeting expectations. Their whole elementary career worked that way. There were no tests to grade.

I also left a comment for each child each semester. This is the part that I really put a lot of thought into. I kept a calendar of all the things we were doing and reading each day and a journal where I’d make a note about things I found awesome about them, things that worried me, things I thought they should probably work on. No one saw it but me, but at the end of each quarter I’d sit with that journal and calendar and think of a positive to write for each child. I’d write things like “Jake is an amazing reader and really loves to tell stories with his pictures.” and “Tom’s handwriting ability is really improving.” That was the end of the report cards.

Transcripts for high school I thought would be a bit tougher and at first they were. We still don’t do tests but my kids are always learning and they are learning quite a bit. My secondary school is “unaccredited” and I know that means that my grades won’t be taken for face value by a big university, but they are still real grades and they do count for things like “Good Driver Discounts” for car insurance and entry into community college. They will most likely have to take placement tests for some college classes and that’s fine. If, when the time comes, they are interested in applying to a school that needs a stronger presence, the transcripts will only be the background of an awesome portfolio that doesn’t include tests and averages.

If you are using some sort of curriculum for your home school, you can use the grades and evaluations from that. I recently read a very encouraging article on “The Home Scholar” called “How to Assign Grades without Grading”. I suggest you check it out for your elementary and secondary students!

Here’s a picture of the template I’m using for my sons’ high school template.

HS Transcript with Grades PhotoYou would include each “class” they took. We don’t use a curriculum, but we are taking “Language Arts 1” in Year 9. I see them reading great books, discussing movies and plays, learning new words, writing letters, blog posts, and comments to friends, so they received an A for that class. If one of my kids was very into writing stories and plays, I would call it “Language Arts – Creative Writing.”

I hope this helps ease your mind and give you some ideas about report cards. If you’d like the use this file at your own school, you are welcome to email me at info@californiadeserthomeschoolers.com and I’ll send it out to you!

Faculty List & Enrollment Forms

Welcome to the next post in my “Private School Paperwork” series!

This one is kind of boring but, like I said, I like forms and creating them. You can easily make your own, but if you don’t want to or like to, you are welcome to use mine! All you need to do is email me at info@californiadeserthomeschoolers.com and I’ll send you the file.

Here’s a picture of the “Faculty List & Qualifications” form I made for my school. It’s one of the forms every private school needs to keep in its files.

Educator Enrollment PhotoIn the state of California, private school teachers must be “capable of teaching”. What qualifies one to teach is determined by each school individually. A larger “for-profit” or church school may require a teaching credential or degree, but they are not required to do so by law. Your school can set its own qualifications for its teachers as well. So, did you finish high school? Go to college? Some college? Run a business, work a job, volunteer somewhere? Think about your own resume. What do you think makes you a person qualified to pass along information to your own children? You can put as little or as much information as you please on this form, but I consider it a good exercise to build up our confidence, especially when we are first getting started. Also, it isn’t required that your teachers be finger-printed or have a background check since the only students at the school are related to the teacher.

Once your new private school has a name and you’ve “hired” a teacher, you’re ready to enroll a student! Private schools in California are required to keep certain information about each student at their school. When you enroll in any school, that school creates a file and collects that data for their records. When you transfer from one school to another, that file is requested by the new school and kept with any new records from that school. Elementary school records don’t have much in them when you’re homeschooling privately. Mine have the enrollment form and related documents, attendance records, a list of subjects studied each year, and any report cards I may have generated. If you’re pulling your child out of another school and enrolling him in yours, you’ll be asking for that file and it will be interesting to see what the school kept on file for your child. When I pulled my son from 1st grade after Kinder, there was little there, of course.

The documents that must be on file (Cummulative File) with a student at his school are the following:

-Enrollment form including the legal name of student, date of birth, sex of pupil, and name and address of the parents.
-Copy of birth certificate.
-Entering and leaving date of each school year. This can be on the “report card”.
-Subjects taken during each year. This can be in the form of a “report card”.
-Marks, grades or credits if given. Marks or credits toward high school graduation.
-Date of high school graduation or CHSPE, GED equivalent.
-Health and Immunization Records.
-Attendance Records, indicating every absence of a half day or more.

Here is a picture of my Enrollment Form. Again, you’re welcome to use it if you like, just shoot me an email.

Enrollment Form Photo

How do you create a “Course of Study” without the use of curriculum?

One of the requirements for a private school in California is to have a “Course of Study” for each grade offered. If you are just starting out, that doesn’t mean you need to have one for Kinder through the 12th grade. You can create them one at a time for each year you are homeschooling. The first year we homeschooled was for my oldest son in 1st grade. I created a “Course of Study” for the first year of our school and kept it in my school files. The next year, even though I marked “ungraded elementary” on our Private School Affidavit, I created a new “Course of Study” for 2nd grade and called it “2nd Year”. The third year my younger son enrolled in our school for his 1st year and I already had a 1st year course of study. I checked it over and reformatted it a bit and we were done. I only created one course of study each year because the old ones covered our whole school.

Our family has never used a boxed curriculum, except for a couple years that I bought a Bible Study one. I liked the morning reading over breakfast and then the boys liked doing the craft that went along with it. It introduced a bit of regularity to our early homeschool days that I enjoyed and my boys found comforting. It took us about an hour over breakfast to complete. Everything else at our school was found as it came up over the year through videos, websites, outings, and library books. It made our homeschool very relaxed and enjoyable with plenty of routine and time to drop everything to watch a bug or spend hours at a museum with a sketch pad. The only money I spent was on art/science supplies, museum or park memberships, gas, and toys. I’ll show you what I did!

First of all, I went to World Book’s “Typical Course of Study” page and clicked on the grade I was adding that year. Let’s start with 1st grade. The California Department of Education requires that all private schools offer the same basic subjects as the public schools. That would be English, Math, Social Sciences, Science, Fine Arts, Health, and Physical Education for grades 1-6. You can find a list of these at CHN’s page here and on the CDE here. For each grade, World Book has a detailed list labeled as a Curriculum Guide with all those required subjects included, except PE. I copied it and pasted it into a word document with my school’s name at the top. Like this:

Liberty Academy
Course of Study – Year One

For PE, I just listed regular activities we planned on doing. Daily activities like hiking, biking, park days, sports, roller skating, etc, were all included in our PE course of study. I had jump ropes, assorted balls, hula hoops, and other sports equipment always available. We regularly took walks around the neighborhood and I tried to teach them some of the playground games I played as a kid. Your city’s Parks & Recreation Department is also a great resource for PE!

I kept that “Course of Study” in a file folder on my desk along with my “Attendance Record”. Each day I’d get it out, mark off that they were present and look at the Course of Study to give me ideas of what we could be doing that day. Once a week we’d go to the library. The boys would find a few books that they were interested in and I would pick out a book or two for something in each subject. Those books would sit on the coffee table at home and I made a point of reading from one of them out loud while they ate an afternoon snack. Bedtime stories were also a big part of our school day. They each picked one each night and so did I.

I’ll look at math more closely because that’s the one many people get stuck on and really want to buy a curriculum to help them. It really isn’t that hard, though, especially at the elementary level. You just have to trust that you do know elementary math and can pass that along to your kids. I was one of those people that was math phobic (I believe because of the way I was taught math) and I didn’t want to pass that on to my kids, so I decided to rediscover math as if I had never heard of it. I did buy RightStart math games after hearing the author explain it at a homeschool conference. I felt like a veil had been lifted and I could really see it for the first time! I’ve been in love with math ever since, not in the sense that I could be a math major but in that I can see the beauty and utility of it. I wanted my kids to see math that way and decided against using a typical American math curriculum. We went for discovery instead. How do you do that? You look, play, and discover and share with your kids!

The course of study for 1st grade says, “Compare and describe attributes of shapes.” How easy is that?! “Hey, guys! Look at this ball. Is it a circle? Sort of. Here’s a circle on drawn on paper. It looks different. This ball is 3D. It’s a sphere! And I can throw it at you!” Moving on.

“Skip count by 2’s, 5’s, 10’s.” So many board games use this. And we use it when we’re making sure everyone has the same amount of M&M’s out of the bag.

This goes on and on. You just need to be creative. History can come from movies and stories. English can come from a bedtime story or a Mad Libs game. Science can be a TV show like “Mythbusters”, playing with a microscope, or going to a nature center at a park. Art can be making your own, discovering famous artists on a website or museum, or going to the theater or summer concert series in your town.

The thing to remember is that you don’t need to teach each subject every day and not everything on that list needs to be covered. It’s just a guideline. Most of what is on those lists overlap over several years. Over the course of time, you will get around to offering each subject listed. And it doesn’t need to be a formal lesson to be offered. Just going to a movie covers a lot of real education time with a kid.

What education is in the new blockbuster movie? Or even the $2 older movie during the day? Let’s see.

What time does the movie start? How much does it cost? How do we get there? How long will it take? How long is the movie? In minutes? In hours? Do I have enough money for a popcorn or candy? Which costs more? Less? How much for both?

What kind of movie is it? Who are the characters? What happened in it? Is there a book this was based on? Has this movie been done before? Do we recognize the story from some other movie or book? Plot? Effects? What was the cost of making the movie?

Where should we go for lunch afterward? What kind of food? Where did it come from? America. Mexico. China. India. Let’s look up the culture this food came from on my smart phone. Can we make it at home? Let’s pick something that has all the food groups. Ordering the food. Paying for the food.

Can you help me get home? Which way did we come from? Do you know what street we live on? What landmarks let you know we are close to our house?

See?! The list can go on and on. If you are allowed to follow those trails where they lead the education you are giving yourself and helping your kids find can be amazing. The only thing stopping you is your imagination. And if you’ve just paid a lot of money for a boxed curriculum that says you need to fill out this many papers and read about the civil war today, you’ll have missed out on it.

Some days you will feel like you’re doing nothing at all, but that is far from the truth. Kids are always learning something. Go see what they are interested in at the moment and see if you can join in somehow. If they are looking restless, like they can’t find something to get into, head to the kitchen for some cooking science magic, or the grocery store, or the park for a walk and a climb. Change the scenery for them and they’ll lead you to the magic! Education doesn’t come in a predetermined box. It’s out there in the world. Go get it!